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The Escape Club

Chapter Text

It was supposed to be simple. After all, they planned this heist for months! They were supposed to just sneak in, retrieve what they want, and get out. At first, everything was going to plan...but he should have known that nothing ever goes according to plan.

Wilmer, damn him, got cocky and decided to fire his gun out in the open, killing the security guard in the process!

“He saw us!” the blonde man insists. “He had a phone in his hand! He was going to call the cops!”

“That was a candy bar, you dumbshit!” Willy snaps at the wheel. “What part of slow and quiet did you not understand?”

Wilmer shrugs. “That’s not how I roll!”

“Enough!” Nicholas shouts, quieting his men down. He turns to Willy, who, on command, punches the ignition and drives from the museum, leaving hellfire in their wake.

“Boss?” a low voice says from the back seat. Nicholas turns around to face the tech man of the group, who is currently fiddling with his tablet.

“What is it, Benjamin?”

“The guard must have set off an alarm of some sort, because the LAPD detected our presence and have us pinned!”

That is not what Nicholas wants to hear! “FUCK!” he yells, hitting the dashboard. Everyone else goes silent. Nicholas looks down at the black bag in his lap. He has worked too hard, planned so much, and sacrificed everything to get his hands on his prize. It’s not going to be taken away from him!

Willy turns to his leader. “What’s the plan, Nicholas?”

Nicholas glances at each member of his team, who look to him for answers. They have no choice. They need to ditch the vehicle and seek shelter for the time being.

Nicholas looks back at Benjamin. “Anything nearby where we can shack up until tomorrow night?”

Benjamin taps away at this tablet, searching for anything he can find. At last, the tablet pings on a destination. “This will work! Not only is it big enough to hide, but it’s the last place the police will look.”

Nicholas stares at him, waiting for the name.“Where?”

Benjamin flips his tablet around and shows his boss their new hideout. “Everlock High School.”

Wilmer glares at Benjamin. “That’s the best you could come up with? A damn school?”

Willy holds up his hand, shutting the blonde man up. “No, that seems like a good place. As Benjamin said, it’s the last place they would look.” He checks the clock on the dashboard. “It’s almost four A.M., so today’s Saturday. The school is closed for the weekend. No one will be there, especially not at this time of year.”

Nicholas nods in agreement. “Sounds like a plan. Benjamin, how far are we from there?”

After more tapping, the techie has an answer. “It’s about fifteen miles away. There’s a deserted area in five miles where we can ditch the car. As long as we are careful and cautious, we should be able to reach the school by early afternoon.”

Nicholas would rather not be seen in broad daylight, especially if the police are now looking for them. But there’s nothing else they can do, and the high school’s their best option. Once night falls, they’ll find another getaway vehicle but for now they need to lie low. “Alright,” he decides, “it will have to do. Benjamin, link us to the place where we can torch the vehicle and map out our way to Everlock High School!”

“On it!” Benjamin says with a thumbs up.

Wilmer slumps in his seat. “I always hated school!” he grumbles.

The other men ignore him.

Nicholas grips the bag containing his prize. They’re almost one obstacle away from their jackpot. They just have to hide out in an abandoned high school for the day and make their getaway that night. After all, like Willy said, who goes to school on a Saturday?

Chapter Text

Nikita isn’t sure what’s worse: spending Saturday in detention, or just getting caught in general. Maybe both! the Rebel ponders as she looks out the window. Either way, her mom driving her to school sucks hard!

The car ride is deathly quiet. Mrs. Dragun refuses to play any music, making the silence even more dense and intimidating.

Oh yeah, Nikita observes as she rests her head against her hand, Mom is definitely pissed!

Honestly, what can she say to her angry mother?

Hey, I’m sorry Lucy got what she deserved?

A smirk crosses Nikita’s gloss-coated lips. The blonde can still hear Lucy’s shrieks when her hair started coming out thanks to the Nair Nikita put into her shampoo during gym class. It was absolutely hilarious, plus the redheaded skank had it coming.

That’s what happens when you come after my friend, bitch!

Nikita continues to smile as she stares out the window.

When Lucy and her minions ambushed Gabby with paint and feathers on Wednesday, Nikita couldn’t control her rage. She wanted the crazy cheerleader to pay for what she did to Gabby, so of course Nikita was going to plot revenge. The plan was executed perfectly, and Nikita would have gotten away with it had Colleen Ballinger not ratted her out!

Now, here’s Nikita Dragun, about to spend her Saturday at school rather than go to the mall. But honestly, it was worth it!

As for that tattle-tale Colleen, the bitch will get what’s coming to her on Monday!

Mrs. Dragun turns the car into the school lot, pulling up to the drop off. As soon as Nikita sees her turn off the ignition, the teen knows she’s about to get berated hardcore!

Nikita takes a deep breath, looking down at her white knee-length boots.

Here we go!

“I will ask you this once,” Mrs. Dragun says in a low and cross tone, “will this be the first time you will have Saturday detention or the last?”

Nikita sighs, twirling a lock of her blonde wig.

“Last,” the Rebel mutters. She really doesn’t want to have to deal with this!

“Excuse me?” Mrs. Dragun stares at her daughter, eyes glaring. Nikita nearly shrinks back as her mother gives her the look. If there’s one person Nikita doesn’t want to piss off, it’s her mom!

So the blonde looks back and gives her best “I’ll be a good girl” smile. “It will be my last,” Nikita answers again, making her voice sound as genuine as possible.

Mrs. Dragun appears to buy it. She nods her head and turns the car back on. “I’ll pick you up at four, and I better see you there, young lady! You’re still grounded!”

Nikita nods her head as she picks up her handbag and opens the car door. While stepping out, she notices that her pink dress is all wrinkly from fidgeting around in her seat. Nikita smooths it out and adjusts her black leather biker jacket. “I’ll see you later, mom,” she replies before closing the door and waving goodbye.

Mrs. Dragun returns the gesture, then pulls out of the lot.

Once she’s out of sight, Nikita’s smile turns into an annoyed frown. Nikita loves her mom, but she can be so over dramatic. With a huff, the blonde makes her way to the school.

Today is going to suck so hard! Nikita’s mind groans.

“You too, huh?”

Nikita looks to her right and lo and behold, she sees her best friend, Manny, running towards her.

Nikita’s anger disappears and is replaced with pure happiness. You’ve got to be kidding me!

“I thought you got suspended, girl!” she squeals, hugging her friend.

Manny purses his lips, his makeup providing a glow. “Oh, please! My parents managed to reduce my sentence to six hours Saturday detention.”

As if he weren’t gay enough, Manny twirls around, his green jacket and shirt flowing in the wind, then ends in a pose with his jeans stretching to show his broad figure.

“Thank God!” Nikita feels so much better now that she knows that she’s not going be alone in this torture-fest. With Manny by her side, Saturday detention is going be less dreary!

--

Today began with both a low and a high for Joey. The low: his parents are still very angry with him, so part of Joey’s punishment is to walk the two miles to school.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen!

Luckily, the high is Joey’s boyfriend, Daniel, secretly picking him up and driving him over. To buy time, the couple stopped at Starbucks before arriving to their destination.

Seeing Everlock High School, Joey groans. Not even his chai latte is helping. “This sucks!”

“Well,” Daniel muses in the driver’s seat, “next time don’t plagiarize a paper, sweetie, or if you do, at least try to cover your tracks!”

True, the Savant thinks as he finishes the last of his chai. It still sucks that he has do detention on a Saturday of all days! It’s the day Joey sleeps in till noon and does absolutely nothing!

Hey, at least you weren’t suspended, or even expelled! Plus Daniel was kind enough to get you out of the two mile walk of shame!

That’s also true, Daniel did do that! It’s one of the reasons Joey adores his boyfriend! He turns to Daniel with an appreciative smile. “Still, thank you for doing this! I would have died walking those miles.”

“Oh honey, don’t be so dramatic, two miles is nothing!” Daniel bemuses before giving Joey a kiss on the head. “But really, anything for you!”

Joey moves towards his boyfriend of two years, giving him the most loving kiss he deserves. Daniel kisses him back, and the two make out for a bit. Joey wants it to go on forever, but Daniel pulls away and points at the clock in his car. “It’s 9:55, time to text your folks and get this shit over with!”

Dang it! The blonde sighs and nods his head. He pulls out his phone and sends a text to both parents that he arrived. They appear to have bought it, and they text Joey to call them at the end of the day to pick him up.

Joey turns to Daniel, giving him one more kiss. “I’ll see you on the other side.”

Daniel smiles.“Always.”

Joey gets out of the car and turns back to Daniel. “I love you,” he mouths to him.

Daniel grins through the window and mouths “I love you too” back.

Daniel then drives away, and Joey makes his way to what will be the most boring six hours of his life.

--

The car ride wasn’t too bad. Matt and his father picked Rosanna up from her house, and the ride to the school was mostly the two teens talking with excitement about their weekly movie night (which will be at Matt’s house tonight).

Yet, despite the smiles, Matt isn’t happy...at least, not fully happy. In fact, the Nerd’s still a bit disappointed in himself!

Matt never got into trouble at school. He’s always been a great Honor Roll student. But all it took was one stupid move on his part to earn a spot in detention for the first time ever.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Matt’s parents pleading his case to the principal, the brunette boy’s pretty sure that he would have been suspended and it would have gone on his permanent record, affecting his chances of getting into his colleges of choice.

But you didn’t get suspended! You’re fine! So snap out of it!

Matt catches sight of Rosanna, his best friend, in the rear view mirror. She sees him and smiles. Matt returns the smile.

Matt still can’t get over how someone like Rosanna Pansino, the representation of what a “good girl” should be, got detention as well!

Yes, Matt knows why. But he also knows that Rosanna’s innocent of her crime. But when Matt confronted her about it, her wide puppy eyes teared up as she pleaded for him to keep the truth a secret. Despite her guilt trip, Matt still wanted to prove her innocence...that is until she told him who the real culprit was. After she explained why she took the fall, Matt had no choice but to stay silent as well. Rosanna had good reason to take the blame, even if she’s punished for it.

Now that Matt thinks about it, it doesn’t seem so bad spending Saturday detention with Rosanna. Ever since they were kids, Matt always saw his best friend as a light in any form of darkness. Surely, with her there, the day will go by fast, and they’ll be at his house for movie night before they know it.

“Alright, we’re here!” Mr. Patrick announces. Matt looks up to see the high school in front of them, and he sighs.

Whelp, time to face the music!

Rosanna grabs her small lavender backpack and exits the car. Matt’s about to follow suit.

“Matthew, hold on!”

Dread immediately spreads through Matt’s veins when he hears his dad. Any time that his father wants to talk to him, the Nerd can never predict if it’s good or bad. In this case, Matt’s pretty sure it’s going to be bad, and his anxiety wants none of it.

Rosanna looks at the Matt with concern, but he gives her a reassuring smile. “Go on ahead, I’ll catch up,” Matt tells her so she won’t worry.

Rosanna nods her head, then turns to Matt’s dad. “Thank you for driving me, Mr. Patrick!” she replies, smiling and waving.

Mr. Patrick gives Rosanna a smile and a wave as well. “Anytime, Rosanna! I’ll see you both up later today.”

Rosanna adjusts her yellow beret over her brown locks, then makes her way to the school’s entrance.

Matt looks back at his dad, who appears as if he’s trying to find what to say to his son.

Matt would give anything to be with Rosanna right now rather than have an awkward conversation with his father.

When his parents found out what he did, Mr. Patrick wasn’t furious with Matt, but it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be disappointed. Matt isn’t sure what to expect.

Just get it over with! Matt’s mind screams, feeling sweat coming down his neck.

Finally, his father sighs and leans against his car seat, ready to say what he has to say.

“Look Matthew,” Mr. Patrick begins, “it’s clear you’re upset about this, and trust me, I wish I could make this go away. But you did something that could have ended with serious consequences. You understand that, right?”

Matt nods his head, staring at his sneakers in shame. “I know, and I’m sorry” he responds, his ears hot with embarrassment and discomfort.

Mr. Patrick looks at his son and places a comforting hand on Matt’s shoulder. Matt still won’t look up. He hates disappointing his parents; as their only child, Matt feels that he has to prove himself. But having his dad comfort him...Matt doesn’t know how to feel. He isn’t even sure if it’s worse that his dad isn’t mad at all!

“It’s fine”, Mr. Patrick replies gently, “I’m not mad, and neither’s your mom. My advice: keep your head low today, and it’ll be over. You’re not in trouble. You’re just proving you’re a good kid who takes responsibility for his actions.”

Matt finally looks up at his dad and gives a small smile. When it’s put that way, Matt really doesn’t have anything to worry about. As his dad said, it’s just detention, and it’s not going to affect Matt as bad as he originally thought. He and Rosanna will prove they’re good kids, and it will never happen again. “I got it, thanks,” he replies appreciatively.

Mr. Patrick returns the reply with a gentle squeeze.

Matt takes a deep breath, ready to get this whole day over with. “Are we good?”

“One more thing?”

Oh crap, what now?

“Before you got caught,” Mr. Patrick asks Matt with curiosity, “did you manage to prove that theory of yours?”

Matt snorts, the remark almost making him laugh. His father always gets it when it comes to his theories! “Unfortunately, no, the height distance was too low,” Matt answers with disappointment.

“Damn!” his father groans. “Well, better luck next time!”

Matt smiles and nods.

Mr. Patrick pats his son on the back. “Alright, you better get going! I’ll pick you and Rosanna up later today, and remember, keep your head down!”

“I will! See ya, Dad!” Matt responds as he gets out of the car. He closes the door and waves goodbye. Mr. Patrick waves back, then pulls out of the lot.

Matt adjusts his green shirt with the black long sleeves, then pulls his brown hoodie jacket close to him as he makes his way to Rosanna on the steps of the school’s entrance. The smaller girl shivers, despite her green wool coat providing warmth. She looks at Matt, and he can tell she’s worried. The Floater always worries.

“Everything alright?” she asks her friend.

Matt give her a reassuring smile. “Everything’s going to be fine. We’ll just have a boring detention and then forget it later tonight.”

Rosanna claps her hands in delight. “See! I told you there’s nothing to worry about!”

Matt puts his arm around his friend, squeezing her shoulder before the two of them make their way inside. “When you’re right, you’re right, Ro!”

Rosanna smirks. “Of course I am!”

The two best friends laugh their way to the library. As they sign in, Matt starts to feels better.

It’s just detention! he reassures himself. Nothing exciting happens in detention! It will be over and forgotten!

--

Safiya’s gotten into trouble before, but the punishments she received were just reprimands. She’s never been given detention!

In the raven-haired girl’s opinion, it’s so unnecessary! Then again, she did bring a lighter to school, which is considered a weapon, so it could’ve been worse.

The Goth’s the first one to arrive, twenty minutes before she’s supposed to. She spends the time doodling in her journal, writing theories and hypotheses to test out. Safiya’s hobbies consist of experimenting on the craziest things, from melting lipsticks together to combining different color strands of hair to create a whole wig. Most people find it weird, and even Safiya herself strange, but Safiya doesn’t care. Those kind of people aren’t worth her time.

As she tucks a strand of her shoulder-length black hair behind her ear, Safiya looks around the library. It’s where most detentions are held, and Safiya’s okay with it. The library’s a peaceful place, and she likes to read anyway. It’s a nice environment to be in. If only it wasn’t so cold.

Even though it’s April, there are still hints of icy coolness flowing through the library. The Goth shivers and adjusts her black long-sleeve shirt and finger-less red gloves.

Maybe I should’ve worn jeans, Safiya contemplates as she stares at her black shorts and fish-net tights, followed by her black combat boots. The weather report said it would get warmer today, but it’s still pretty cool even for early April. Oh well, she has her burgundy aviator jacket, so it’s better than nothing!

As the clock strikes ten till, more people start to file in. Safiya looks up, checking out the newest visitors. The first are two people who look as if they’re related. One is a brunette boy who appears close to Safiya’s height. He’s wearing jeans, a tan-like brown hoodie that’s zipped down to reveal a dark green shirt, blue sneakers, and is carrying the goofiest grin Safiya has ever seen.

The other is a very petite girl with a yellow beret over her light brown hair. Her outfit is a bit more fashionable than her male counterpart. The girl is wearing a tan plaid skirt, green blouse, yellow tights, and beige shoes; draped over her arm is a wool-like dark green coat with white plushie balls attached to the strings. Finally, slung over her other shoulder, is a small lavender backpack with rose and lilac embroidery.

Based on their chemistry and the fact the two are matching (color-wise) as if they’re twins, Safiya immediately recognizes them as Matthew Patrick and Rosanna Pansino, or the “Dipper and Mabel Pines of Everlock High School." The two are pretty much inseparable, as they have every class together (Safiya knows because she’s in every class with them) and have been best friends for a long time. Both are very nice people, but Safiya rarely talks to them as much. What are they doing in detention, anyway?

The next to come in is a blonde boy wearing burgundy khakis, a white designer shirt, a jean jacket, and Vans sneakers. Upon noticing his crystal-styled manicured hands, Safiya knows right away that the boy is Joey Graceffa. The Goth sees him around and has at least two classes with him, but other than that, the boy’s a mystery.

The last two to arrive are Nikita Dragun and Manny Gutierrez. Safiya knows who they are, and if she were to describe them, it would be “Plastics meets Heathers.”

Nikita places her (Gucci?) cream colored handbag on the floor and takes off her black leather jacket to reveal a very form fitting thick-spaghetti strapped pink dress and white knee length heel boots. The Rebel, known for wearing wigs, chose a platinum blonde wig with a pink headband for today. If Safiya were to describe Nikita’s appearance in four words, it would be “poisonous bubblegum pop princess.”

Nikita’s best friend Manny, also known to wear very form fitting clothes, has on skinny jeans and an emerald green shirt with a forest green jacket that looks as if it were made by an expensive designer. The Prep’s face is decked out in green-styled makeup, making him look like a merman for some reason.

It’s no surprise seeing Regina George and Gretchen Wieners in detention, given their status to wreak havoc in the school. But seeing the other three, Safiya’s pretty curious about what today will bring. Honestly, it’s the most random set of people. As the other five take their seats at different tables per request by the principal (when did she get here?), the raven-haired girl is interested in how today will actually go. Either pretty boring or pretty intriguing.

Chapter Text

“Well, well!” Principal Wilson muses as she sizes up every person in the library. “What do we have today?”

Manny wrinkles his nose in annoyance, but keeps his head down so the principal won’t notice him. Principal Wilson is without a doubt the meanest, most cutthroat, hardcore bitch to ever walk the earth; he’s almost positive she doesn’t even like children!

The principal abides by strict rules, and for some reason, she’s able to sense mischief within a five (maybe ten) mile radius. No one dares to mess with her...unless they’re Nikita. But then again, Nikita isn’t like anyone else; not to mention his best friend has been in detention more than anyone in the student population at Everlock High School.

Principal Wilson observes every person in the room as if she were a prison guard judging her prisoners (might as well be!). When she gets to Manny, Wilson purses her lips, clearly unamused to see him. The Prep tenses up, preparing for the bitch to do her worst.

“Mr. Gutierrez, why does it not surprise me you’re here?” the principal condescendingly asks.

Manny hides his obsidian-manicured hands under the desk so that he can ball them into fists without the principal’s knowledge.

“Oh, I remember!” Wilson sneers before Manny can give an answer. “You lied about your whereabouts, when in reality, you went to some degrading fashion show! Isn’t this the fifteenth time you’ve skipped school for something so preposterous?”

Manny feels his face turn a deep shade of red. He senses Nikita next to him, tensing in rage. The Prep doesn’t appreciate being humiliated like this, especially in front of his best friend and fellow classmates. He looks away from Wilson to hide the tears of humiliation welling up in his eyes, only to make eye contact with Matthew Patrick and Rosanna Pansino. The Nerd and the Floater stare back at him, their eyes displaying some sort of sympathy for Manny.

Manny furrows his brows in annoyance and turns back to look at the principal. I don’t need their pity! He glares at Wilson, fed up with her cocky bullshit. “Fourteenth,” he answers roughly, “and it was a beauty convention with some of the hottest beauty gurus in the country.”

This obviously doesn’t help his case, as Principal Wilson’s demeanor remains the same. “I don’t care! The fact of the matter is, you skipped school once again, and by a stroke of luck, you received detention instead of suspension.” The principal places her hands on the table, leaning in closer to Manny. “But make no mistake, Mr. Gutierrez: should you pull a stunt like that again, not only will I have you suspended, but I’ll keep tabs on whether you pass your junior year!”

Manny hangs his head, wanting so much to curl up into a ball in the darkest of rooms. He’s trying so hard not to cry, especially after he spent an hour perfecting his makeup. I will not let you ruin that, honey!

“Fucking bitch!” Manny hears Nikita mutter under her breath. It’s so low that only he’s able to make out what she said, and he couldn’t agree more.

Yet Principal Wilson catches the sound. “Something you’d like to share with us, Miss Dragun?” she snaps, her eyes whipping towards the Rebel, glaring daggers at the blonde girl.

Nikita looks up and innocently smiles. “Nothing of importance, Principal Wilson,” she responds sweetly, almost making Manny laugh.

Wilson smirks at Nikita and stands up straight, folding her arms. “That’s what I thought!” the principal purrs before turning to address the whole group.

Manny turns to Nikita, who glares at the principal’s back with murder in her eyes. When she glances at Manny, he nods in understanding.

I feel you bitch, I feel you!

Manny and Nikita really hate Principal Wilson!

Meanwhile, the principal stares down all the students.

“As you know, you are in detention because you did something wrong,” Principal Wilson explains.

Manny rolls his eyes. Yeah no shit!

Principal Wilson continues. “In front of you are paper and pens. Your assignment from now until 4:00 today is to write a three hundred word essay of what you did wrong and the steps you will take to be a proper student.”

Manny silently groans. You’ve got to be kidding me! They have to do work? As if being in detention on a Saturday is bad enough!

“I want those papers before you leave, and I’ll decide if you have all learned your lesson,” Principal Wilson smiles.

Looking at that smile, Manny knows he’s really not going to enjoy today at all!

--

It’s taking every fiber of Nikita’s being not to launch herself at Principal Wilson and strangle the bitch. First she humiliates Nikita’s best friend in front of everyone, and now she’s having them write an essay? If I break a nail, the blonde huffs, I’m coming for blood!

Also, writing what they did wrong and the steps to take to be a proper student? That is the dumbest load of bull Nikita has ever heard of! Who’s to say the bitch won’t throw their papers away once they leave?

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Principal Wilson remarks, picking up a tote bag from a chair at the front of the room. “I will need you all to turn over your phones. Can’t have you dollying on social media when you’re in punishment!”

Nikita scowls. It’s as if the principal just asked her to burn all her wigs! Yes, Nikita has been in detention before, but has never been parted with her phone. It’s her life source! Then again, she’s never had Saturday detention, so this is a new experience. But like hell is she giving up one of her prized possessions!

She turns to Manny, who’s just as much in horror as she is. They watch as the principal starts with the weird goth chick (Sophia? Sonya? Nikita can’t remember), then makes her way to Matt and Rosanna who hand their phones over like goody two-shoes. Joey sulks as he carefully places his phone in as if it were a newborn baby. Finally, Wilson comes to Manny and Nikita, shaking the bag in front of them.

“Mr. Gutierrez? Miss Dragun?” Principal Wilson smiles with a hint of coldness. Manny takes a deep breath and surrenders his phone, his eyes enveloped in sadness. Nikita would have hidden her phone, but she knows Wilson saw her with it when she came in.

Don’t make this worse than it already is, the Rebel scolds herself. Give it to her, and you’ll have it back later. Use the time to think of a way to get back at her.

Nikita smiles. Oh, she already has a way!

The blonde girl continues her grin as she places her pink phone into the bag. Principal Wilson eyes her suspiciously.

“What are you smirking about, young lady?” Wilson snaps.

“Nothing,” Nikita shrugs innocently. “I’m just ready to learn my lesson and be an upstanding citizen. Who knows? Maybe I’ll grow up to be a senator or a respected principal such as yourself!”

A loud snort and a giggle that almost sounds like a pixie is heard from behind the Rebel. Nikita turns around to see Matt with his lips folded in as if to control a laugh, and Rosanna, next to him, covering her mouth. Principal Wilson glares at the two, which put them back in line. Nikita, however, smiles at them in appreciation. At least they get my humor.

With all their phones in the bag, Principal Wilson walks to the door. “I have some things to do. I will return in an hour to check on your progress.” The principal places a hand on her hip as if to make herself look intimidating (failing in Nikita's opinion). “You will remain in here quietly. No one leaves the library! No one’s even allowed to leave their seat! Understood?”

Everyone nods their heads. Joey raises his hand.

Principal Wilson rolls her eyes in annoyance. “What is it, Mr. Graceffa?”

“What if we need to use the restroom?”

The principal smirks. “You’ll wait till I return in an hour!”

Then at the turn of her cream-colored heels, the principal opens the door and roughly closes it behind her. Nikita listens as Wilson’s shoes clank in the hallways. Once she’s sure the principal is gone, the blonde turns to Manny. “You’ll wait till I return,” Nikita mimics Wilson in a mocking tone, making Manny laugh.

The situation sucks, but there’s nothing that can be done, so Nikita’s just going to make the most out of it. Looking around, she sees that everyone else has started writing their essays. Nikita stares at her own blank paper and sighs. Might as well get it over and done with!

Picking up her pen, Nikita places it against the paper and begins.

--

Of course the principal would have Joey write an essay of all things! It’s the reason why he’s in detention to begin with!

What’s there even to write about? Hey, I’m here because I couldn’t write a simple essay about how D-Day was a turning point for the Allies during World War II, so I copied information off a website and tried to pass it as my own! I’m an idiot and it won’t happen again!

Joey bangs his head against the table, his mood below average. He doesn’t want to be here, but who would want to be in detention anyway? It sucks!

Gazing around him, he sees Manny and Nikita, both in a far worse mood than he is, scratching away at their papers. Nikita looks as if she’s about to rip her paper apart with just her pen.

Behind Joey, Matt and Rosanna appear to be invested in their writing. The petite girl stopping at times as if trying to find the right words before erasing what she wrote and starting again.

Two tables down, Safiya writes without changing her position or even looking up; it’s as if she has gone into autopilot.

It’s a strange bunch of people and while Joey knows all of them, he’s closer to Manny, Nikita, and Rosanna. Manny and Nikita have been his friends since freshman year, and they’re pretty close. Even though Joey feels like the Karen to Nikita’s Regina and Manny’s Gretchen, the two have always accepted the blonde boy in their group and love him just as much as the duo love each other (plus they know Joey’s way smarter than Karen).

As for Rosanna, Joey became friends with her at the beginning of their sophomore year when Joey, on a whim, joined the event committee to help prepare for the Homecoming Dance. The Floater never fit into any group, making it easy for her to be friends with almost everyone. As soon as Joey started talking to her, the duo bonded and have been friends ever since. How could anyone not adore someone as bubbly and loving as Rosanna Pansino?

Matt and Safiya, however...Joey doesn’t know much about them.

Matt’s Rosanna’s best friend and Joey only knows about him from the two classes they share and what Rosanna has said. The two are very close, to the point where the Floater refers to Matt as her “brother from another mother,” which Joey can totally see!

Hell, if the two took a DNA test and were revealed to be long lost siblings, it wouldn’t surprise Joey!

The Nerd is quite similar to Rosanna in personality but unlike the outgoing fun-loving Floater, Matt’s a bit more reserved and logical. He’s also quite known for making conspiracy theories out of video games and movies which is interesting but quite a strange hobby in Joey’s opinion; then again Matt mostly hangs out with the nerds and geeks of the school when he’s not with Rosanna.

But Rosanna loves the guy and Matt appears to love her, and that’s good enough for Joey. Maybe he can use today to get to know the other boy.

As for Safiya, Joey barely knows anything about her. The raven-haired girl keeps to herself most of the time even when hanging with her crowd, consisting of what Joey believes are the punks, emos, and goths of the school.

Nikita always comments how weird Safiya is and even suspects the girl to be a witch, which isn’t far off and would be cool honestly if that were true.

But one thing Joey has learned is he should never judge a book by its cover, it’s how he met Daniel. Aside from Matt, Joey should take the time to get to know her too if the case allows it.

Turning back to his paper, Joey realizes he’s almost done, thank God! As he summarizes his conclusion of how to be a “proper student,” the clock on the library’s wall chimes 11:00 AM. It’s only been an hour since detention started but it already feels like an eternity!

One hour down, five more to go!

--

The next two and a half hours are quiet and boring.

After Principal Wilson returned and gave the group a ten minute bathroom break, the rest of the time was just the group sitting at their tables keeping to themselves. Rosanna has finished her essay, so she uses the extra paper to doodle and brainstorm new recipes and play games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman with Matt.

It’s almost 1:30, and the group just had their lunch. Once back in the library, Principal Wilson takes off and it’s quiet again.

Truthfully, Rosanna’s starting to get a little bored. Joey left his table to talk with Manny and Nikita, the three deep in conversation about some beauty product Rosanna’s never heard of. Matt’s working out another theory of his (something about the amount of energy of a power star in Mario), and Safiya has fallen asleep. Rosanna decides to unzip her bag and rummage through it to find something to do.

The Floater loves her back-pack. It was a gift from her parents for her fourteenth birthday, and she always carries it with her. It has so much space to put all her things, and it’s easy to carry around, not to mention good things happen every time she has it with her. That’s why it’s her “lucky” back-pack. Rosanna doesn’t go anywhere without it.

She finally pulls out a plastic container and unwraps the treats inside.

“Want one?” the Floater offers to Matt. The Nerd peeks over and his eyes light up on the Pokemon-themed cake pops Rosanna holds out to him.

“Oh my God, yes!” Matt squeals in delight as he grabs a pop decorated to look like Pikachu. Rosanna was going to save them for their movie night later, but given the circumstances, both really need a sweet treat. She grabs a Squirtle pop and takes a bite.

“I smell cake!” a monotone voice pops from behind. Rosanna turns around to see Safiya, awoken from her slumber, sniffing the room for the smell. She holds out the container to the Goth.

“I baked Pokemon-themed cake pops, want one?” the petite girl kindly offers.

Safiya stares at Rosanna as if the brunette girl just offered her the cure to cancer.

“You made those?” Safiya asks, admiring the edible creations.

Rosanna nods her head.

“They’re really good!” Matt replies through a mouthful of cake. “Ro’s one of the best bakers around and can make lots of cool stuff!”

Rosanna blushes at her friend’s compliment, then looks back at Safiya who still appears indecisive.

Has no one gifted her anything? Poor thing!

Nevertheless, Rosanna holds the box of pops towards Safiya. The raven-haired girl eventually chooses a Bulbasaur pop.

“Thanks,” she says quietly.

“You’re welcome!” Rosanna cheerfully answers,. “Joey, do you-?”

She turns around to offer Joey and the others a cake pop, only to find all three standing before her table with hungry eyes.

“Holy shit, those look amazing!” Manny comments. “You actually made those?”

Rosanna smiles and nods her head, offering the container to the three.

The green-clad Prep selects a Jigglypuff, while Joey goes for Eevee. Nikita, however, stands there reluctantly.

“Do you not like cake pops?” Rosanna asks worriedly. “Because I would have baked something else….”

“Oh no!” the blonde girl responds. “I’m just surprised you brought treats to detention.”

Rosanna shrugs. “It’s going to be a long day, so I thought I’d bring something to cheer us all up.”

The Floater shouldn’t lie, but is it really a lie if she does want to cheer the group up?

Nikita stares at the brunette girl with an expression Rosanna is unable to translate.

“In that case,” Nikita finally says, “you got a Charzard pop?”

Matt looks at Nikita in disbelief.

“You like Pokemon?” the Nerd asks with wide eyes.

“Who doesn’t?” Nikita snaps, taking her cake pop from Rosanna. “What, you think just because I prefer makeup, clothes and looking Instagram gorgeous, I don’t have a joy for Pokemon or even Nintendo? It’s the 21st century, nerd, get real!”

With that, the Rebel turns on her heels and marches back to her table.

Matt looks at Manny and Joey in confusion.

“Did I just offend her?” he asks.

Joey shakes his head. “Nah, that’s how she normally talks to people.”

Very!” Manny adds on.

Rosanna also finds Nikita confusing, but intriguing at the same time. The Rebel has this confidence to her that’s indescribable, but at times it can come off as intimidating. Rosanna, though, believes there’s good in everyone, so somewhere in that tough girl demeanor, Nikita has a soft spot. The Floater’s seen it when Nikita’s with Manny and her other friend, Gabriel.

“Hey, you guys!” Nikita calls to the group. Everyone turns to look at her.

“I don’t know about you, but I refuse to spend the rest of the day trapped in here! If I have to spend another minute without my phone, I’m going to tear my own wig apart….and I’d rather that not happen!”

She grabs her jacket, making her way to the door.

“Where are you going?” Matt asks.

Nikita turns back with a confident smile.

“I’m breaking into the main office and getting my phone. Care to join?”

Right away, Rosanna doesn’t like this. “Nikita, no! If you get caught, you’ll be in even more trouble! It’s best to stay here!”

Safiya agrees. “Rosanna’s right, Nikita. This is a bad idea! Is your phone really worth it?”

Nikita glares at the other girls.

“Damn right it is, and I didn’t ask for your opinion, Sophia! Besides, I’m the Rebel, it’s in my nature to rebel! Might as well live up to my title!”

Manny walks up to his best friend. “In that case, I’m with you, bitch! I’m going to lose my mind if I’m in here one more second!”

“Me too!” Joey chimes in, which surprises Rosanna.

The Floater looks at Joey, silently pleading for him to not do this.

“Don’t worry,” the blonde boy whispers, “I’m just going to make sure those two don’t create too much chaos. I’ll have us all back safely and in time. Principal Wilson won’t even know we left.”

Matt isn’t convinced. “Joey, this is-!”

“Later, bitches!” Nikita calls out as she and Manny charge out of the classroom, leaving the others at their tables with worried expressions. Joey just shrugs and follows the two.

“Well,” Safiya remarks behind Matt and Rosanna, cake pop still in her hand, “this is going to end badly!”

While Rosanna trusts Joey, a part of the Floater’s mind cannot agree more.

Chapter Text

Manny’s a little nervous leaving the library. He’s already in enough trouble as it is, and if they get caught, Principal Wilson will for sure show them no mercy! The bitch has always had it out for Manny and Nikita and will find any excuse to punish them. Maybe she’ll even go as far as to expel them!

Okay, maybe not expel, but she will go after them hard! It already took a lot from Manny’s parents to convince the principal and the Board to just give the boy detention. The last thing Manny needs is his Latina mother to berate him for hours on end. Hell no!

But at the same time, Manny’s getting a bit of a thrill sneaking out. He and the others have the empty school to themselves, doing whatever they want….unless they get caught, that is. Other than that, Manny is living The Breakfast Club experience with his best friends, and he’s making the most out of it.

Where should we go first? Manny wonders as he, Nikita, and Joey skip down the empty halls, their shoes echoing against the lockers. Nikita wanted to retrieve her phone first (because that bitch can’t even breathe without the thing!), so the trio’s making their way to the main office where the principal may have stashed their cellular devices. But Manny’s thinking about where they can go after.

Check out the gym? Maybe sneak into the boys’ locker room?

Manny would love to check out the locker room, but he realizes to his disappointment that it’s Saturday and there will be no boys to spy on. Shit, the Prep sighs. Well it’ll probably stink, anyway. Plus, Nikita wouldn’t be a fan of that either.

“Hey Manny, check this out!” a voice calls to him, and Manny turns to see Nikita strutting down the hallway, her hands on her hips, swaying back and forth as if she’s on a runway.

“Get it Nikita! That’s what I like to see!”, Joey catcalls, but Manny stands there smirking.

“Bitch, you call that a walk?” Manny sasses to his bestie. “RuPaul is quaking in her stilettos! Sashay away and watch how it’s done!”

The taller boy walks back a few paces and heel-turns around. Giving his best “model face,” Manny does his own strut, his arms by his side and his hips swaying back and forth. Manny walks past Joey and Nikita without acknowledgment before he twists around, his hands on his hips in a model pose. Pursing his lips, Manny does more model poses before ending it in a sassy twerk.

Joey whoops and hollers at his friend’s performance while Nikita slowly claps.

“Well done sir,” the blonde girl comments. “I’m sure Target will gladly hire your thick ass!”

Joey shrieks at Nikita’s shade, while Manny flips her off.

“Bite me bitch!” Manny fires back. He twists away from Nikita and heads to the main office.

“I already have!” Nikita calls to him. Manny keeps walking but can’t help but smile.

Nikita’s a bitch. However, it’s what makes her tough, confident, and strong, and these are traits Manny has always admired about his best friend. No one will understand Nikita the way Manny does. That’s why they’re so close.

The main office is within his sight and motions the other two forward. The three start to tiptoe closer, careful not to alert unwanted attention. Manny dips his head in the doorway to see if the principal is inside.

“All clear!” Manny responds after not seeing any signs of movement. The Prep slinks through, with Joey and Nikita following him.

“Alright, where do you think the bitch put them?” Nikita asks as she heads to the principal’s office and tries to open it.

“Bitch! It’s locked!” She kicks the door as if it will magically open.

Joey rolls his eyes at Manny, who returns the gesture. Both boys know that Nikita will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, and right now, it’s clear that she is about to do something risky.

Sure enough, Nikita reaches into her wig and pulls out two hair pins. To no one’s surprise, the Rebel starts to pick the lock to the office.

She turns to Joey. “Keep a look out and alert us if we have company!”

Joey shrugs and heads to the exit, keeping a look out for the principal or anyone else.

Manny watches his friend work on the lock, Nikita’s eyes focusing on her task at hand. After a few twists and turns, a click is heard and Nikita proudly pushes the door open.

Manny gives his girl a high five. “That’s my bitch!”

“Always, honey!” Nikita gleefully responds.

Nikita disappears into the office, Manny following. The office itself is the cliché of what a principal’s office would look like; a desk filled with paperwork, a computer, paperweights, and trophies. There are pictures on the wall bragging of Principal Wilson’s prestigious degrees, as well as photos of her with local celebrities and her family.

As Nikita rummages through the drawers, Manny looks at some of the photos. One catches his eye and he gasps. On the principal’s desk is a picture of Wilson with her arm around a young man not much older than Manny and Nikita. And damn, he’s hot!

The man looks to be about eighteen with chin length brown hair, a muscular build, and a five o’clock shadow. His clothes form around him, showing off his broad physique. Gawking at the photo, Manny will admit that the principal did one generous thing!

“That’s Mortimer, in case you’re wondering.” Nikita’s voice interrupts Manny’s thoughts. Manny looks at his friend, who’s once again picking the lock to a drawer.

“How do you know that?” Manny asks with intrigue.

Nikita shrugs as she works. “He use to go to school here. He graduated last year and comes in from time to time.”

“Again, how do you know that?” Manny asks.

Nikita looks at him with her eyes slinted, as if she’s telling him to figure it out. It clicks instantly.

“Oh my God!” Manny rolls his eyes. “Of course you’re screwing the principal’s son! No wonder Wilson hates you!”

Nikita shrugs, “She suspects it but could never prove it. Even if she did, there’s nothing the bitch can do about it. Not my fault her hot son keeps coming back for more!”

Manny giggles. “You’re such a slut!”

“Damn right I am!” Nikita answers proudly before another click is heard. “Eureka!”

Nikita pulls open the drawer and right there in front of the two are the group’s phones.

“Better luck next time, sweetie!” Nikita brags as she grabs her iPhone.

Joey walks in having heard Nikita’s victory shout.

“You got it!” the blonde boy cheers as he grabs his phone.

The three spend the next few minutes checking their social media, Manny even taking a selfie.

Making the most out of detention on a Saturday, #BreakfastClub, he types into his Instagram. Aside from a breaking news notification on his phone (something about a robbery or some shit), Manny’s enjoying himself.

“Okay guys,” Joey finally cuts in, “we should head back if we don’t want to risk getting caught. Time to put the phones away and leave.”

Both Manny and Nikita let out a groan, but Manny agrees that it’s better to be safe than sorry. He places his phone back in the drawer.

Joey and Nikita are about to return their phones when suddenly, the trio hears footsteps.

“Oh shit!” Nikita gasps, terror in her eyes. “Shit, shit, shit, shit!”

The footsteps are getting closer, so there’s no time to return the phones and escape. Manny slams the drawer shut, not even bothering to lock it. If the principal sees them, they’re all screwed! They need to hide now!

The trio file out. Manny closes the door, and Nikita quickly locks it with her hair pins.

“Come on!” Joey frantically whispers, motioning to hide under the secretary’s desk nearby. Together, he, Manny, and Nikita huddle tightly underneath the desk. They hold their breath as Principal Wilson enters the office.

However, she’s not alone!

Manny glances through the small space under the desk and sees the principal’s heels as well as two sets of boots behind her. Joey and Nikita watch too, and Manny tilts his head to get a better view.

What unfolds in front of him is not what he expected.

In front of Manny and his friends are two strange men holding Principal Wilson at gunpoint!

--

Oh bitch!

Nikita thought the worst thing that would happen is the principal catching the three of them in her office. The blonde girl was not expecting to see two creepy dudes march in with guns pointing at Wilson’s head!

The Rebel holds her breath as she grips Manny’s arm, watching the horrifying scene unfold in front of her.

Nikita can see the fear on Principal Wilson’s face, and for a moment, she feels bad, even if she isn’t a fan of the other woman.

One of the strangers, an older man with salt and pepper hair, turns to face the principal. His face appears calm, but his demeanor is scary as hell as he stares down Principal Wilson.

“I’m going to ask you again,” the man tells a crying Principal Wilson, “Is there anyone else in the school?”

Nikita loses all breath. She doesn’t know who these men are, but they’re definitely bad news. What really makes Nikita nervous is the possibility that Principal Wilson will give her and the others away.

Would the principal really betray them though?

Wilson is a school administrator and is sworn to protect the students of Everlock High School, but at the same time, if any normal person were held at gunpoint, of course they would betray others to save their own life; honestly, it’s what Nikita would do!

The principal stands firm, but a slight shake can be seen in her pumps.

“No, I told you already that I’m the only one here! I had to finish some work, and the janitor left an hour ago, so it’s just-”

Whack!

Principal Wilson cries out as the other stranger, a muscular blonde man who might as well be the Hulk’s douchey cousin, backhands her across the face, sending her to the floor.

Joey lets out a loud whimper. Fearing he’ll be heard, Nikita immediately claps her manicured hand over the blonde boy’s mouth, shushing him. But even Nikita can’t lower the volume of her own breathing, terrified to see their principal get manhandled like that.

“Tell us, bitch!” the muscular blonde man yells making Wilson sob even more. Nikita can now officially say she feels remorse for their principal.

Principal Wilson looks straight forward to where the trio are hiding and her eyes widen. Nikita realizes she can see them!

Nikita stares back at the principal, her brown eyes pleading the older woman to not give them away.

I know I can be annoying and a pain in the ass but please, do not betray us!

Manny comfortingly tightens his arm around her and Joey grips her other hand that isn’t covering his mouth.

Principal Wilson blinks back her tears and turns back to the two men.

“I swear!” the principal pleads. “There’s no one else here but me!”

The muscular blonde man raises his hand to strike again, only for the older man to grab him.

“That’s enough, Wilmer!” the other man snaps, “We’re not going to get an honest answer from her if you’re going to be slap-happy!”

“She’s not going to tell us anyway, Willy!” the blonde man (Wilmer) replies, “I say we kill her and just look for the other pests ourselves!”

Wilson becomes hysterical and begins to beg only for Willy to silence her with his gun aimed at her.

“My God, use your brain!” Willy yells at Wilmer, “We’ll call in Nicholas and we’ll decide from there what to do!”

Nikita can only watch as he turns to the principal. He grabs her by the arm and yanks her back up.

“We’re taking you to the boss,” Willy tells Principal Wilson, “And take my advice when I say that you better tell him the truth! Wilmer, lets go!”

Wilmer grabs Principal Wilson and roughly drags her out of the office, with Willy not far behind. Willy stops for a moment and turns around, as if he senses a presence (or three), then walks out of the office.

Nikita slowly removes her hand from Joey’s mouth but continues to hold on to him and Manny, waiting until the coast is clear.

Finally, Nikita lets both boys go, and all three stand up from their hiding place.

Manny lets out a loud sigh, his hand on his chest catching his breaths.

“What the hell just happened!?” the taller boy cries.

“I don’t know!” Joey remarks, his eyes wide from the terror they just witnessed.

Nikita stands there silently. She’s trying to comprehend how their Saturday detention went from quiet and boring to a suspenseful action movie. She doesn’t know who these men are, how many more are in the school, and just how far they’ll go to hurt someone.

“All I know is,” Nikita finally answers, “those bitches are bad news, and we need to get the hell out of here, right now!”

Manny nods. “I agree!”

The three quickly rush out of the office and make their way to the main entrance. Nikita’s about to push the doors open when she hears Joey suddenly stop. “Wait, what about Ro and the others? They’re still in the library!”

Nikita freezes. With the craziness that just happened three minutes ago, she forgot about her three classmates who remained behind. They probably don’t know what’s happening!

“Shit!” Manny exclaims. “What do we do?”

Joey turns to head in the direction of the library. “We can’t just leave them! We have to go back before those guys find them!”

Every part of Nikita wants to leave right now and save herself. Why should she care about people she’s not even close with?

But at the same time, the Rebel can hear her conscience demanding that she go back and retrieve the other three students. If she escaped and something were to happened to them, it would be on her, and she’ll be just as guilty.

Damn it, her conscience is right!

“Fine, let’s go get them!” she replies, and the three book it back to the library. As her boots clank against the ground, Nikita hopes Safiya, Matt, and Rosanna are safe and smart enough to avoid these men.

Chapter Text

As soon as “The Beauty Trio” (as Matt calls them) left, the remaining three left their seats too. But instead of sneaking out, they walk among the aisles, skimming through books.

Matt’s bored, but he isn’t going to take the risk of leaving the detention domain. At least he and the other two will be able to listen for Principal Wilson and quickly run back to their seats in time. The Nerd doesn’t want to make matters worse for himself or Rosanna. They need to show that they’re good students who have learned their lesson.

And yet, here I am, out of my seat, perusing through books.

Matt shrugs it off. It’s not hurting anyone, and it’s not as bad as sneaking out of the library just to look at his phone! Besides, he likes to read.

The brunette boy scans the fantasy section, gazing at the different books labeled by code. He eventually stops at a shelf which holds the Harry Potter series and pulls out The Deathly Hallows. Matt’s read all the books (especially the seventh) way too many times to count. He pretty much knows the book front to back.

Matt shuffles through the pages. Maybe if he starts reading, detention will be over by the time he finishes.

“What house are you?” a voice in front of him asks. The Nerd looks up to see Safiya standing a few inches from him, a book in her hand as well.

Matt stares in confusion. “Huh?”

Safiya points to the book in his hands. “The four houses in Harry Potter? Which one are you?”

Matt’s still confused. Not because the Goth randomly asked him his Hogwarts House, but because for the three years he’s gone to this school, Safiya Nygaard rarely ever talked to him, or even anyone he knew of for that matter. The only time the two ever interacted was during group discussions in their classes. It feels weird that out of nowhere, she decides to strike up a conversation with him. Not that he minds, especially given she too is a Harry Potter fan.

“I consider myself a Ravenclaw, but Pottermore said I was a Hufflepuff. I like both houses, though, so I decided to identify as a RavenPuff,” Matt answers with a smirk. There’s no rule saying one cannot identify with more than one House!

This brings out a chuckle from Safiya. Matt tries to remember if he’s ever seen the raven-haired girl genuinely smile until now.

“And yourself?”

“I’m a Ravenclaw, too,” Safiya responds, “but I think I have Slytherin in me as well, so maybe a….SlytherClaw?”

Matt smiles, finding her response intriguing. “Ooh, I like that! Smart, creative, and cunning. Those are great traits.”

“I agree!” the Goth replies, “It also makes sense that you’re a RavenPuff. You’re pretty smart, but I’ve seen how helpful and nice you are to other people, even to those who don’t reciprocate it. Explains why you and Ro are close. If both of you said that you’re related, people would actually believe you!”

Matt nods his head as he looks to where Rosanna is. The Floater’s sitting on the floor of the Culinary aisle, scanning through a Julia Child cookbook. It appears that she’s getting a recipe idea based on how the tip of her tongue touches her upper lip, a regular habit of Rosanna’s.

Safiya’s not wrong. Rosanna even told Matt once that when she first met him, he instantly felt like family, and Matt couldn’t agree more. He’s an only child, and Rosanna has a younger sister, Molly, so it felt new and perfect for the two and has been for the past twelve years.

“I don’t think anyone is as kind and loyal as Ro, though,” Matt tells Safiya. “That girl would never hurt anyone! Anytime she sees a spider, she traps it and sets it outside instead of killing it!”

“Yeah,” Safiya remarks, “Rosanna Pansino’s basically the personification of sunshine and rainbows! She’s a Hufflepuff for sure!”

“Oh, definitely!” Matt agrees with a laugh. “But she’s a tough cookie (pun intended) and very protective of the people she loves.”

“So…. a GryffinPuff?” Safiya asks.

“Basically,” Matt confirms.

Safiya smiles again through her dark-coated lipstick. Matt admits that the Goth has a very pretty smile; there’s a glow about it that he can’t describe, but he likes it. Safiya overall seems like a really cool person, so why has it taken till now for Matt to talk to her?

Before he can ask, Safiya asks a question of her own.

“So what’s an intelligent nice genius such as yourself doing in detention? Better yet, why is Ro of all people in detention?”

Matt hesitates. “Well the thing is, honestly, Ro didn’t do anything wrong. She took the fall for someone else and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Rosanna made him promise not to tattle on Maria. Despite not wanting his best friend to take the fall, Matt agreed to stay silent, especially after witnessing how Belle and her sisters have been treating Maria and her brother.

For the record, Matt applauds Maria for standing up for herself and getting back at those girls. Rosanna was just being a great friend, as always, and Matt knew the principal would go easy on her, given this is the first time the Floater’s ever been in trouble.

“I see,” Safiya says. “What about you? What did you do to get in here?”

“Well, promise you won’t laugh?” Matt asks, his ears red with embarrassment.

The Goth does a cross over her heart. “Promise!”

“Well,” Matt begins, “I was caught on the school roof trying to test out a theory.”

Safiya’s eyes widen. “Wait, that was you!?” the Goth exclaims, pointing her finger at the Nerd.

Matt nods hesitantly.

“No one’s ever been able to get up there! The whole school talks about it! Some of them are calling the student a badass!” Safiya comments.

“Well not so much!” Matt sighs. “It’s a miracle I wasn’t suspended!” He doesn’t want to talk about it further, so he asks Safiya, “What about you? How did you get detention?”

Safiya purses her lips and sighs. “I brought my lighter to Chemistry to prove a hypothesis. Nearly burned the classroom down in the process. So, like you, it’s a miracle I wasn’t suspended.”

Matt stares at Safiya in shock. He heard about the fire that erupted in Mr. Nolan’s class, but he didn’t know who caused it. “Suspended? It’s a miracle you weren’t expelled!”

Safiya shrugs her shoulders. “Not my fault! I proved my hypothesis right, and it was Mr. Nolan’s interference that caused the fire. It wasn’t even that bad! But having your mother on the School Board helps a lot, which is why I’m here and not cleaning out my locker.”

Both teenagers laugh in agreement.

“That’s pretty cool, Safiya”, Matt says.

“Same goes to you, too,” Safiya replies.

Suddenly, an idea sparks in the Nerd’s head. “What are you doing after detention today?”

Safiya’s face changes, as if she’s nervous by what he’s about to ask her. “Not sure, maybe testing out another hypothesis of mine involving concealers.” She chuckles upon seeing the confused look on Matt’s face. “I’m weird like that! Why do you ask?”

“Oh...uh...well...” Matt wasn’t expecting that answer. “Every Saturday, Ro and I have a movie night, and it’s going to be at my house tonight. We order pizza, Ro bakes something, and we just hang out. It’s something we’ve done since we were eight, so basically, it’s tradition. Would you like to join us?”

Safiya stares at Matt with a blank expression. The brunette boy can’t tell if she’s shocked, offended, or interested, but it’s clear that Safiya wasn’t expecting a boy she rarely talked to till today to randomly ask her to hang out. Matt’s wondering if he made a mistake and if this will scare Safiya off.

Just when he’s about to regret his decision, Safiya’s shock suddenly turns into what Matt thinks is excitement and nods her head. “Yeah! That sounds like fun! But are you sure Ro won’t mind? I don’t want to intrude!” Safiya asks with some worry.

“Oh no!” Matt responds with delight. “In fact, she’ll be all for it. The more the merrier, she’d say. As a matter of fact...Ro!” Matt calls to the Floater behind him. “Can Safiya join us for movie night!”

As Matt predicted, Rosanna squeals a high “Yes, of course! Please come! The more the merrier!”

Matt turns back to Safiya. “There you go! So, come to my house at 7?”

“Yeah! I would have to ask my parents, though, but I’m sure they won’t mind!” Safiya responds, a hint of possible joy in her voice.

“Even after you were in detention for setting fire to a lab?” Matt jokes.

Safiya hits the Nerd in the arm, causing him to laugh harder. “If anything, they were impressed that my experiment worked; some teachers just can’t handle when the student’s right!”

Matt smirks, thrilled someone gets it. “Tell me about it! So when we leave today, I’ll text you the--”

Matt’s interrupted by a loud bang echoing through the school, causing the shelves to shake a little. He drops his book in fright and whips his head to the entrance.

“What was that?” Safiya asks, her joy replaced with concern.

Anxiety rises within Matt. “I….I don’t know!”

It sounded like a gunshot, but Matt doesn’t say anything, not wanting to spook Safiya. But why would there be a gun in the school? What’s going on?

Suddenly, Matt hears the sound of running feet. And it’s heading in their direction!

Safiya starts to head back to her seat, but Matt stops her.

“What if that’s the principal? If she catches us, we’re screwed!” Safiya snaps.

“No, listen!” Matt arches his head, trying to focus on what he hears. Principal Wilson wears heels, and instead of a clank clank, Matt hears multiple thump thumps. They sound like heavy boots, so it’s not the principal, and Matt definitely knows it’s not Joey, Manny or Nikita.

Matt looks back at Safiya, who seems to understand.

Before either can decide what to do, the door to the library bursts open.

“Benjamin, get your ass in here!” a loud gruff voice shouts.

That’s not the principal, and that’s not the other group!

Matt ducks behind the bookshelf, pulling Safiya with him. The two kneel on the ground, trying to quiet their breathing. Matt carefully peeks around the bookshelf, attempting to get a view of their new visitors.

Standing at the front of the library is a muscular man, likely in his forties, with long shoulder-length black hair. He’s wearing combat-like boots, dark jeans, and a thick black jacket over a black shirt. Based on the man’s intimidating appearance, Matt can tell that he’s definitely trouble and not someone he wants to interact with. Especially when the Nerd can see a gun latched to the man’s hip!

Next to the dark-haired man is a much taller guy (Benjamin), dressed similarly, who has a bald head. He’s a bit skinnier than his counterpart and looks like if Slenderman were human. He’s holding a tablet and is tapping on the screen, but the teenagers can’t make out what he’s typing.

Matt doesn’t know who these guys are or what’s going on. But he knows that they’re not friendly, and Matt just hopes that Manny, Joey, and Nikita are okay.

Matt feels Safiya grip his shoulder, as if transitioning her terror to him. He quickly grabs her hand and gives it a comforting squeeze. It seems to help as Safiya’s hold loosens and her breathing slows down. Both are scared, so Matt can only imagine how Rosanna….

It hits him like a freight train. Oh my God, Ro!

Matt’s eyes quickly shoot to the Culinary aisle, and his heart drops.

Rosanna’s not there!

Matt, in a panic, scans the aisles, trying to find brown hair, a yellow beret, anything! But there’s no sign of the petite girl.

Ro, where are you!

Matt’s beyond terrified. Rosanna’s not where she’s supposed to be, and he can’t find her. In his panicked mind, Matt just hopes Rosanna’s hiding in a safe place.

--

Safiya has no clue what’s happening. One moment, she and Matt are talking about Harry Potter and a movie night, and the next, they’re hiding from suspicious men in black!

The two teens glance through the books on the shelves, watching the strange men observe their surroundings. Based on their demeanor, they don’t appear to have come in peace!

The Goth grips Matt’s shoulder, both holding their breath so that the strangers won’t hear them.

The taller robber (the one called Benjamin) is checking the tablet he’s holding as he sits on one of the tables. Safiya gasps when she realizes her bag is right beneath him!

Matt grabs her hand again to quiet her as he scans the aisles, presumably looking for Rosanna, who vanished from the Culinary section.

Meanwhile, the other robber, the gruff man with long black hair (the boss, Safiya presumes) is pacing the front of the library, clearly agitated.

“I swear, if that moron does something stupid, I will not hesitate to shoot him myself!” the boss growls.

Benjamin doesn’t appear to be paying attention as he scrolls through the tablet, loudly tapping on it. Finally, he looks up to address the other man.

“I managed to create a static illusion. As far as the museum and the LAPD are concerned, we’re ten miles outside downtown heading towards Santa Monica.”

“That’s good to hear!” the dark-haired man sighs. “By the time they realize the illusion, we’ll be long gone with the Heart of Everlock. That crystal will set us up for the rest of our lives!”

The Heart of Everlock? Crystal? Safiya raises an eyebrow as she peeks through the shelf. It’s obvious now that these guys are thieves, and given the boss mentioned a “moron,” there are likely more of them in the school. Safiya just hopes that the other group’s safe.

The Goth suddenly feels Matt tense up, his fearful eyes looking to his right. Safiya turns to see what the Nerd is staring at, only to freeze up as well.

Across from the two, a few shelves down, cowers Rosanna. The small girl’s crouching, gripping her lavender book-bag in her arms. Her lips are quivering, and her body shakes with terrified uncertainty.

Matt holds his hands up in a “stop” gesture, as if telling the Floater to wait and stay put. Safiya looks back at the thieves, waiting for an opening so Rosanna can run to them without being seen.

Thankfully, Benjamin calls his boss over to him to look at something. As soon as both men’s backs are turned, Matt and Safiya motion for the smaller girl to run to them. Rosanna scurries over, her bag clutched close to her chest to avoid unwanted noise.

By the grace of God, she makes it! Rosanna crouches with the other two, Matt wrapping his arms around her in a protective manner.

Safiya breathes a sigh of relief. They’re all together, and now they just have to wait until these guys finally leave.

“What’s this?” the dark-haired man barks as a muffled sound echoes through the room. Safiya watches in horror as he kneels down and pulls her black bag from under the table she was sitting at earlier. His dark eyes scan the room, and for a moment, Safiya’s paralyzed. She can’t move, can’t breath, terror sucking everything out of her.

The man and Benjamin start looking under the other tables, finding the rest of the bags.

“I thought you said there was no one here?” the man barks at Benjamin.

Benjamin looks at his boss, nervous at the angry expression on his face. “There wasn’t supposed to be! There weren’t any cars, and I didn’t pick up on any movement on the campus.”

“Well, obviously, it appears we’re not alone!” the man snaps, drawing a gun from his waistband.

The three teenagers huddle together, clutching each other for support. Rosanna claps a hand over her mouth to quiet her panicked breaths, Matt tightens his bear hug around Rosanna, and Safiya buries her face into Matt’s shoulder, muttering prayers for any entity to protect them.

Oh God, he knows we’re here! Safiya panics. What’s he going to do if he finds us?

The Goth considers surrendering to avoid making matters worse for herself and the other two. But at the same time, who’s to say that this man won’t just kill them on the spot? She also doesn’t want to put Matt and Rosanna in danger either. And where are Joey, Manny, and Nikita?

Safiya looks up, and to her horror, the dark-haired man starts walking in their direction, gun cocked in his hands.

So many thoughts are screaming in Safiya's mind. This man has a gun! He’s going to find them, what should the three of them do? Are they going to be killed? Does this mean the others are dead? Safiya doesn't want to die and she internally begs for someone, anyone, to help them!

The man is one aisle down from the trio. One step closer, and he will find them! Safiya’s so scared, trying to figure out how she and the others can avoid getting hurt or killed. She’s got nothing!

The thief starts to take another step.

“Nicholas, Benjamin, come in!” Safiya hears a voice statically call through what sounds like a walkie-talkie. She looks through the bookcase to see Benjamin, who reaches for his walkie and answers. The man (Nicholas) takes a moment before he turns and heads back to the taller thief. Safiya can hear Rosanna whimper, and Matt’s breathing through his nose as if trying not to gasp in relief. They were so close to possible death, but they’re not out of the woods yet.

Safiya peeks again through the bookcase and sees Nicholas lean over Benjamin.

“Talk, Willy!” Nicholas answers.

“We got a situation,” the voice (Willy) responds.

Safiya starts to worry. Was the other group captured?

“We ran into the principal. Not sure why she’s in the building, but we have her right now! She says she’s the only one here, but I think she’s lying.”

Rosanna gasps, and Safiya’s blood freezes inside her. They have Principal Wilson! That’s not good!

The good news is that Willy didn’t mention the other three students, which means they weren’t found. And the principal said she was alone, so at least she didn’t betray them.

Nicholas growls in frustration, knocking supplies off the librarian’s desk. The hidden teenagers grip each other tight, no one daring to move.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Nicholas roars. He grabs the walkie from Benjamin and holds it to his mouth.

“Of course she’s lying, you dumbass! You know what, bring the bitch and head to the north side! If there are others in the building, we need to take care of them too! We cannot afford witnesses! We’ll see you in a bit!”

He shoves the walkie back to Benjamin and barrels to the door, his faces a bright fury red.

“I swear, that bitch will talk! Whoever else is here better pray they aren’t found!”

Nicholas stomps out, Benjamin following. The door slams, and all is quiet again in the library.

Safiya, Matt, and Rosanna wait a minute to make sure the men don’t come back.

Once it’s clear they’re safe, they all finally breathe.

Matt stands up, his hands running through his hair as he repeats “Holy crap!”

Rosanna leans against the bookcase, trying not to cry.

Safiya steps out into the aisle, processing what just happened. She turns to other two, eyes wide with fear. “You guys, we need to get out here right now!”

Rosanna turns to the Goth, tears falling down her cheeks.

“What about Joey? What about Manny and Nikita?”

Safiya looks at Matt and Rosanna. This is beyond anything two seventeen-year olds and one sixteen-year old can handle!

But Safiya also thinks about the other three. If anything happens to them, Safiya isn’t sure that she’ll be able to forgive herself. Yeah, those three, especially Nikita, can be shady at times, but they’re good people, and they don’t deserve to be at the mercy of armed and dangerous men.

Also, the windows to the library don’t open, and the closest exit to them is across the hall. Not to mention the fact they don’t know how many of these intruders they’re dealing with. There’s a high chance they’ll get caught.

Safiya knows they need a plan, and they need one fast! Hopefully it’s one that involves them all getting out alive.

--

Rosanna’s mind is overwhelmed by what transpired. Seeing two strange men with guns burst into the library is far from anything she expected to happen today.

What they just witnessed is something that happens in the movies, not in real life! And yet, it did happen.

Matt’s doing his nervous tick where he brushes his hair back with his hand as he paces the aisle. Safiya walks over to the entrance to check for any incoming arrivals. Rosanna worries about the other three.

She should have tried harder to convince them to stay, that it was too risky to wander the halls with the principal around. Now Rosanna’s worried that Joey, Manny, and Nikita will be captured by these bad men like Principal Wilson.

Speaking of Principal Wilson, terror strikes through the petite girl.

Have they hurt her? Is she okay? They won’t kill her, will they? Even she doesn’t deserve that! No one deserves a fate like that!

Rosanna’s thoughts are interrupted when the doors to the library fly open. Safiya jumps back and Rosanna and Matt both yelp in fright. However, their fear turns to relief when Joey, Manny, and Nikita run in, looking as if they saw a ghost then ran a marathon. Joey immediately grabs a table and, with Manny’s help, uses it to barricade the door.

Once the three have calm down and practically collapsed into chairs, they acknowledge Rosanna and the others.

“Guys,” Joey stammers between breaths, “there are bad men in the school….they have guns...and they took Principal Wilson hostage!”

“Yeah,” Matt replies, “we know!”

Nikita looks up, sweat forming under her wig, and stares at Matt. “What do you mean you know?”

Safiya explains. “Two of them were just in here, also with guns. Luckily, they left before they found us. However, the bad news is….they saw our bags, and they know we’re here.”

Manny, Nikita, and Joey all groan at once.

“Ohh...shit!” Rosanna hears Manny moan as he rubs his hands through his black hair.

Joey gets up from his chair and paces the room, obviously panicking. “So that means,” the Savant finally says, “there are four of these guys, possibly all armed…” He notices the mess the leader, Nicholas, made earlier. “….and clearly very dangerous!”

“It was horrible!” Manny replied, “We watched them drag Wilson into the office and beat her up!”

Rosanna gasps in horror. Those men actually hurt Principal Wilson? If they have no problem assaulting a woman, it’s fair game on anyone! The Floater feels bad for their principal, unable to comprehend what the older woman is going through right now.

Joey appears to feels the same. “It was really bad! When they finally left, that’s when we made a run for it! But we couldn’t leave you three, however, so we came back for you.”

Rosanna smiles gratefully. “Thank you! We appreciate that!”

“Yeah, thank you for that,” Matt agrees. He looks around at everyone. “Well, now that we’re all okay, we need to find a way to get out of the building and call for help!”

“Exactly!” Nikita chimes in. “Joey and I still have our phones so once we get as far away from this place, we’ll call the cops and have them deal with this!”

Everyone seems to agree with this plan. Rosanna still doesn’t want to leave the principal behind, but she knows there’s nothing the group can do to help her at the moment. They need to find a way out and escape; it’s the only way they can save Principal Wilson.

“Alright then!” Matt says, “We need to go now, so lets get a move on.”

“What about our stuff?” Manny says.

Joey shakes his head. “Never mind that, we don’t have time and it’s to much weight! Once the police get here, we can retrieve our things!”

“But my makeup’s in there!” Manny whines.

Nikita puts a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “We’ll get it back later, girl! Right now, our lives are more important!”

The Prep lets out a sigh, then nods his head. “Fine, but it better be here when I get back!”

The students start to make their way to the door. Rosanna, however, slips her backpack on. It’s small enough for her to carry, and who knows if they need to put anything important inside of it. Besides, there’s no way she’s leaving without her lucky backpack!

As she listens to Matt devise an escape route, Rosanna rubs her hands to provide some warmth. The brunette girl’s very nervous, wondering what they’re going to do if the thieves catch them. She’s not sure if she wants to know, and she hopes it doesn’t come to that!

“Alright, are we all ready?” Matt asks.

Everyone nods their heads.

Rosanna feels Matt take her hand. She smiles and gives his hand a squeeze, feeling reassurance. The Floater knows that he and Joey are smart and natural born leaders, as is Safiya. With them by her side, she’s going to be okay. They all will….they have to be!

Chapter Text

The anxiety has never been worse for Manny! He’s so scared, he doesn’t know whether to throw up or pass a bowel movement.

First he witnesses his principal get beat up and held at gunpoint, and now he and the other five students are trying to sneak their way out of the school without being caught by four armed gunmen.

Everlock High School is big enough for the group to hide anywhere. But at the same time, it’s also so big that they could run into those goons at any moment! So the teens need to move fast!

Matt leads the group (with Joey at the caboose) as they tiptoe out of the library and head towards the exit nearby. They just need to open the door and sneak across the campus to get to the main road which, unfortunately, is on the other side of the school. But it’s safer than roaming the halls with a chance of getting got!

Matt arrives at the door first and pushes it open...or at least tries to. Instead, the door stays put and creates a loud clanging sound across the hallway.

Next to him, Manny feels Nikita getting irritated.

“Today, nerd!” the blonde girl snaps.

Manny can’t blame her.

What’s going on, honey? You don’t appear to be weak, so why is it so difficult for you to open a door?

Matt turns to the group, a nervous look on his face. “It’s locked!”

Manny’s heart drops.

Joey walks over to the exit. “What do you mean, it’s locked!?”

The Savant tries to push the door open, but just like with Matt before him, it won’t budge. Joey starts slamming on it, the loud clang echoing through the building.

“Bitch, enough!” Nikita grabs Joey, yanking him away from the door. “Keep doing that, and you might as well yell out where we are!”

Manny peeks down the hallway, listening for any footsteps coming their way. Somehow, by the grace of God, he hears nothing.

Rosanna trembles next to Safiya.

“So what do we do?” the Floater asks, her hands gripping tightly on the straps of her backpack.

Manny looks at the others, seeing if any of them have a plan. Unfortunately, all are just as clueless.

Finally, the Prep speaks up, a thought clicking in his head.

“I have an idea! It’s risky, but if we can make it to the front office, we can either exit there or climb out one of the windows in Wilson’s office. It’s the last place those guys would look.”

Everyone stares at Manny with vague expressions, and for a moment, Manny’s sure he just said something stupid. He looks down to hide his embarrassment.

“It is pretty risky,” Manny hears Safiya remark. “What do you guys think?”

Manny glances up to see Matt looking at him, the Nerd’s face contemplating.

“I agree,” Matt finally answers, “but it might be our only chance. Manny said it himself. It’s the last place they would expect anyone to go. So lets try making our way over there.”

Manny sighs in relief. The smartest guy here thinks his idea is great, so Manny feels better about himself. Not to mention the way Matt looks at him when he says that…it’s kind of attractive.

Manny shakes himself off. Get a grip, girl! We have more important things to deal with than a possible crush! And look at how he dresses! He’s definitely straight!

Manny can see Nikita staring at him with a funny look. The Rebel then turns to Matt.

“And if they’re there?”

Matt shrugs. “Then we find another way out. As long as we stay out of sight, they can’t catch us.”

Joey nods. “It’s the best we can do. So, are we all in?”

The group nods in unison. Manny glances at Matt and gestures toward the hallway.

“Lead the way, Matt!”

Matt stares at Manny with an odd look on his face, as if he just missed something. However, he seems to shake it off and motions everyone to follow him while keeping a look out for Nicholas and his gang. As the group slowly makes their way to the office, Nikita walks next to Manny, a slight smirk on her face.

“I can see it,” the blonde girl remarks. “He does have that nerd-hotness to him.”

Manny embarrassment returns. He doesn’t want to deal with Nikita’s teasing right now, so he tries to play dumb.

“I don’t know what you are talking about!”

But Nikita isn’t fooled. “Oh, please! You and your puppy eyes aren’t fooling anyone!”

For some reason, this cracks Manny up and he playfully hits his friend in the arm.

“Shut up! So what if I do?” the Prep whispers, “He’s not gay or even bisexual! A guy can still dream!”

“That he can!” Manny hears Joey snap behind him and Nikita, “but can we talk about this later when we’re not trying to get killed by bad guys?!”

Yes, please! Manny silently agrees as the group sneaks through the halls. Even if nothing happens, Matt’s starting to grow on Manny, as is Rosanna and Safiya. Maybe they all can be friends if they make it out of here alive…maybe.

--

Matt’s a “take charge” person. He always was the one to take initiative when it came to ideas, group projects, and even the school plays. Ever since he was a child, his peers and teachers have always told him that he’s a natural born leader. This situation isn’t any different, aside from the whole “armed and dangerous thieves laying siege to their school.”

Manny’s suggestion to head to the front office is indeed risky, but it’s the best chance they have, given the exits are locked which is strange.

Wouldn’t that be considered a fire hazard? the Nerd wonders as the group tiptoes to the front of the school. When they get out of this, he should really present this to the Board.

If we get out of this! A tiny piece in his mind mutters.

Matt brushes it aside. He refuses to accept “if.” Not when there are others who are in danger. Not when Rosanna’s in danger too.

Sure, Rosanna’s a tough cookie and can take care of herself, but for Matt, it’s an instinct of his to look after the small Floater. He wants to protect her from the bad things in the world that would want to crush her kind and wonderful spirit. Matt knows it’s impossible, but he’s still going to try. He sure as hell is not going to let a group of gun-toting men hurt his best friend.

I’m getting her and the others out of here, whatever it takes!

The group rounds the corner, the main office now in their sights. Matt holds up his hand, checking for any incoming visitors.

“You guys see anyone?” he asks, making sure he didn’t miss anything.

The others shake their heads. Matt sees Safiya arching her head, as if to listen for new noise.

She gives him a thumbs up. “We’re good to go!”

Matt motions everyone forward, and the teenagers manage to make it to the entrance without any problems.

There’s no one inside the office, so that’s a good sign. However, when there’s a good sign, there’s also a bad sign.

Matt hears Joey groan and turns to see the doors to the school’s entrance have been chained. They’re officially trapped inside the building!

“Great!” Nikita snaps. “That’s just fucking great! Now what, geniuses?!”

Matt tries to think of alternatives.

“Manny, you said there are windows in the main office, right?” he asks the Prep.

Manny nods. “Not sure if they’ll open, but I’m pretty strong, so I’ll try!”

“Okay, let’s do that!” Matt replies. Everyone makes their way into the office, and they head towards the principal’s office. Thankfully, the door’s unlocked (which confuses the Beauty Trio for some reason), and the group files inside.

Manny rushes to the windows and tries to pry each of them open. But despite his best efforts, the raven-haired boy is unable to get any of them open.

“Shit!” he mutters in frustration.

“Well, that didn’t work!” Joey scowls.

Matt refuses to give up. “It’s fine! We just have to find another escape route!”

Joey suddenly perks up.

“Nikita and I still have our phones! We can just hide somewhere and call for help!”

Matt’s a little unsure of this plan. The intruders are searching every inch of the building for them, so if they hide, there’s a high probability they’ll eventually be found. But Matt’s out of options. Besides the school has performed drills in the event of an active shooter, so this isn’t any different.

Okay, hiding it is!

“Joey’s right, it’s our only option now,” Matt remarks, “Lets just find somewhere to lay low and call the police, okay!”

Joey, Manny, Nikita, and Safiya agree. Rosanna, however, is silent.

Worried, Matt faces her. “Ro?”

The group looks over and finds the Floater, staring at something on the secretary’s desk.

She turns to them and points at what she’s staring at. “Look at this!”

Everyone glances over and eyes widen at the sight of the object before them.

Lying there, in an unzipped black bag, is a turquoise jewel. It’s oval-shaped, almost the size of an ostrich egg, with a clear glass-cut. It’s without a doubt the most exquisite thing that Matt’s ever seen.

“It’s beautiful,” Joey replies softly, his eyes just as glued to it as everyone else.

“Must be worth a lot of money!” Nikita responds.

Safiya however, appears concerned. “That must be the crystal they were talking about in the library.”

Everyone stares at her. Matt realizes exactly what Safiya’s talking about. “You’re right! That’s the Heart of Everlock!”

“What are you guys talking about?” Manny asks, confused, glancing between the crystal and Matt and Safiya.

Safiya explains. “When the leader and the taller guy came into the library, they were talking about a crystal they stole. I believe this is the crystal!”

It’s true. Matt’s heard about the Heart of Everlock after reading about it online once. It was recently recovered in the Santa Monica Mountains near an old western town and delivered to the Natural History Museum. According to historians, the jewel is said to represent rebirth and good fortune to the people of the original town of Everlock. It’s a valuable crystal, and many would give a lot to get their hands on it. Nicholas, the leader, is definitely gung-ho about this gem given his early rant in the library.

“Well, it’s here,” the Nerd concludes, “but it’s the least of our worries, since we’re still being hunted. And if we take it, they’ll know we were here. Let’s just leave and go hide somewhere for the time being.”

Safiya and Rosanna nod their heads.

“I’m with Matt on this one!” Rosanna replies. “Once we call the police, they’ll be able to retrieve it.”

Manny and Nikita seem to agree as well. Joey, however, is silent. It’s making Matt nervous.

“Joey?”

Joey awakens from his crystal hypnosis. “No, yes, you’re right! Lets just go!”

The Savant is with them, but for some reason, the way he’s looking at the Heart, Matt can’t help but have a bad feeling.

--

Rosanna likes pretty things, especially the way they can light up a room or bring joy of some kind to people. The crystal itself is so beautiful, its blue color creating different patterns of light on the walls.

But it’s also stolen property, something these bad men risked a lot to steal. While the Floater would much rather take it so that it may be returned to its rightful owner, she also knows that Nicholas and his men would realize it’s gone and tear down the whole school just to find it. She doesn’t want to put her friends in any more danger.

We’ll call the police, and they’ll retrieve it. Taking it would be too dangerous.

Rosanna follows everyone out of the office, and they make their way down the hall. As Matt and Safiya deliberate where the best hiding spot would be, Rosanna can’t shake the feeling that she forgot something. She places a hand to her shoulder to grab the straps of her bag, only to feel nothing.

Rosanna immediately remembers that she had set her backpack down in the office while the group deliberated whether to hide. Then they got distracted by the Heart of Everlock, and Rosanna must have forgot about it as they left!

“You guys! I left my book-bag back in the office! We have to go back!”

Nikita wrinkles her nose. “Who cares about a stupid backpack, we don’t have time!”

The Rebel’s comment offends Rosanna.

“It’s not a stupid backpack!” the brunette girl cries. “It’s my lucky backpack, and I can’t leave it! Plus what if those men find it? My wallet’s in there, and it contains my driver’s license! They’ll be able to identify me!”

Joey stands next to the Floater. “I agree with Rosanna! If they find it, they’ll know about her, and it will put us all in danger! I’ll go back and retrieve it! You guys wait here!”

“Wait, Joey, we--” Matt tries to protest, but the Savant has already taken off back to the office. Matt swears under his breath, and Rosanna can tell this is making her best friend uncomfortable. Yet, the group waits for their friend.

A minute passes and Joey’s still not back. Rosanna’s starting to get worried.

What if the thieves come back and catch him? I shouldn’t have said anything, I should have left it alone!

Nikita’s also getting impatient.

“What’s taking him so long?” the blonde girl snaps.

“Just give him another minute! He’ll be back!” Rosanna exclaims, defending her friend. Joey’s putting himself at risk to retrieve her bag. She trusts that he’ll make it in time. But another part of her wants to run back and get him.

After two minutes, Nikita has had it.

“If he’s not back in the next thirty seconds, we’re leaving his ass!”

Just as Rosanna’s about to protest, she hears Manny gasp.

“Here he comes!” the Prep says, pointing his finger.

Sure enough, the group sees Joey jogging towards them, Rosanna’s backpack in his arms.

“Bitch, what the hell took you so long?” Nikita exclaims, clearly annoyed.

“Sorry!” Joey apologizes. “I thought I could retrieve everyone’s phones as well, but the drawer was locked. Here’s your bag, Ro!”

He hands the backpack over to Rosanna, who expresses her gratitude with a hug.

“Thank you so much!”

“No problem!” Joey responds.

The two break from their hug and Rosanna stares at Joey. He’s smiling, but for some reason, there’s something about it that seems off.

Rosanna shakes her head. She has her bag, Joey’s safe, and they can leave now. The Floater puts on her backpack, it’s weight pushing against her.

Why does my bag feel heavy? I don’t remember it being--

“MOVE IT!” a loud voice booms behind the teenagers, followed by someone crying out as if in pain.

“Oh shoot, they’re coming this way!” Matt warns the group. It’s obviously Nicholas and his men along with Principal Wilson; and they’re coming from the direction the teens were heading towards!

“We have to go back the way we came!” Nikita whispers sharply. “We gotta move now!”

Just like that, the students run back in the direction of the main office and quickly turn the corner. The footsteps of the thieves are getting close rather fast, so the group quickly ducks into the nearby girls’ restroom. It isn’t a great hiding place, but it’s the best the teenagers can do.

Joey opens the door slightly to get a peek of what’s happening, with Matt looking over his head and Nikita looking under him. Rosanna can’t see, so she slides between Manny and Safiya for room. She can make out feet by the office, but she’s able to hear plenty.

Rosanna immediately recognizes one of the shoes as Principal Wilson’s, and her heart breaks. She wants to save their principal, but doesn’t know how.

In this moment, the Floater feels helpless, scared, and just wants to go home.

--

This is bad! This is really bad!

Safiya and the others have found refuge in the girls’ bathroom, but she doesn’t feel safe. As she crowds with the others to get a glimpse of the thieves, the Goth tries to calm herself with breathing exercises, something that has always helped her whenever her anxiety got bad.

But seeing Wilmer drag Principal Wilson by her hair...and the way Nicholas’ holding the gun as they march towards the office...yeah, the exercises aren’t doing much to soothe Safiya.

As they get to the entrance of the office, Wilmer throws Principal Wilson to the ground. It’s horrible to see the principal like this, and Safiya’s frustrated at how she can’t do anything about it. As much as she wants to help Principal Wilson, she will not give herself or the others away; it will only make things worse. All Safiya can do is hide and watch.

“We searched this whole building, boss,” Willy remarks. “If there were kids here, they must be long gone by now.”

Nicholas shakes his head.

“No, we barricaded every door to this building. The only way they could have escaped is if they had the key or a tool strong enough to break the chains. Nah, those kids are still here!”

He walks over to Principal Wilson and kneels down to face her.

“Where else could they have gone?”

Safiya can hear the principal whimpering in fear, and it hurts so much. Safiya feels awful that these monsters are putting Wilson through hell and the group can’t stop it. Unless they do give themselves up.

Absolutely not! the voice in Safiya’s voice yells. If you do that, who’s to say these guys won’t kill you all? Or even hold you for ransom?

Sure the last part is a bit ridiculous, given Safiya’s family isn’t rich but then again, Nikita, Manny, and even Rosanna, based on their outfits, look as if they come from lavish livings.
Even if they don’t, the thieves will assume they do and hold them hostage to demand payment from their parents. Safiya’s not going to take that risk.

“I will ask you again, lady,” Nicholas growls at Principal Wilson. “Where are they?”

Despite her tears, the principal keeps her head up, her face as brave as it can be.

“I’ve told you, I don’t know. It’s a big school, and they could be anywhere! Not to mention they wouldn’t come out for me even if I called for them! Besides, did it ever occur to you that some of the windows in the school could be opened? For all we know, they found one and escaped! For all we know, they may have called the police by now!”

Safiya hears a loud slap, followed by a yelp as Wilson falls to the floor. Nicholas has no boundaries when it comes to assaulting women, and it makes her so mad. Safiya feels Rosanna tense up next to her, so she wraps her arm around the little Floater’s shoulder and comforts her.

“I’ve got no time for this!” Nicholas fumes as he makes his way into the office. Barely ten seconds pass before he’s back out. Only this time, his demeanor has changed, and it’s terrifying. It’s as if the man actually turned into a monster!

He marches back to Principal Wilson.

“Where is it?!” the leader’s tone is so scary, it’s sending shivers down Safiya’s spine.

Principal Wilson looks at Nicholas, confused.

“What?” the Principal asks meekly.

“WHERE IS IT?!” Nicholas roars, nearly making the crowded students topple over each other in fright. Even Benjamin and Wilmer look nervous as they back away from their angry boss. Willy, however, walks over to Nicholas and pushes him back from Wilson.

“What are you talking about?” Willy asks the other man in a calm manner.

“It’s not in the office! It’s gone!” Nicholas exclaims as he stares down Wilson.

Willy tries to reason with the other man. “She was with us the entire time! How would she have been able to take it?”

Safiya has no idea what they’re talking about, but whatever is missing, Nicholas isn’t happy about it.

“You’re right,” Nicholas appears to calm down, “Those damn kids are indeed still in the building! They must have been in here while we were gone! I knew someone should have stood guard! We have to find them now!”

Before Safiya can wonder just what Nicholas is accusing them of stealing, Principal Wilson leaps to her feet and starts running in the direction of where the group is hiding.

“KIDS, IF YOU CAN HEAR ME,” Principal Wilson shrieks, “GET OUT OF THE SCHOOL NOW! RU-”

A loud gunshot echoes through the halls. Most of the students shriek at the sound, and Safiya watches in horror as the woman that was once their principal collapses to the ground, dead.

Chapter Text

Nikita felt like she just got shot!

The loud bang knocks her backwards with a shocking force, and the Rebel would have fallen over had Manny not grabbed onto her, also in shock of what they just saw. It’s a miracle none of thieves heard them!

Principal Wilson’s body flies forward, slamming against the tile floors. Blood seeps from her head, creating a pool beneath her. Were it not for the blood, it would appear as if the principal were asleep, and not dead!

Despite wearing her jacket, Nikita shivers against Manny and Rosanna. They just witnessed a murder! And not just any murder, but the murder of someone they know!

The scene before them is so graphic, it’s taking everything for Nikita not to vomit. She hears Rosanna whimper next to her, Joey buries his face into Manny’s shoulder, and Safiya tightly grips Matt’s arm while the Nerd just stares at the horrifying scene in disbelief.

Wilmer doesn’t lower his gun. Nikita can see the blonde muscular man’s sadistic smile and she feels nauseous.

This is fun for him! Nikita thinks in disgust. He gets joy from hurting people! That’s so fucked up!

Nicholas appears to be unamused! Nikita and the others watch as the leader grabs the gun from Wilmer’s hand, slapping the strong man upside the head.

“You goddamn idiot!” Nicholas snaps, “Have you no brains!?”

Wilmer nonchalantly looks at his boss and shrugs. “The bitch tried to run, what was I supposed to do?”

“YOU INCAPACITATE HER, NOT KILL HER!” Nicholas shouts, his voice booming down the hallway. The lead thief bangs the lockers in frustration, the impact so loud. The hidden teens almost jump in unison from the amplified noise.

Thankfully, Willy steps in to defuse the situation. “Look, we locked all the exits, and the principal tried to run and warn her ‘kids.’ Which means they are still in the building. There’s no way they can escape, and they must have the Heart!”

Nikita’s emotions suddenly switch from fear to confusion. Are they talking about that blue rock she and others found in the office? That’s impossible, we left it there! Why would they think we stole it? the blonde girl nervously wonders to herself.

The Rebel glances around at her peers, who seem just as confused as she is. But when she gets to Joey, Nikita notices that he looks anxious rather than confused. Also, he’s fidgeting in a weird way.

To Nikita, this looks pretty sketchy.

Nicholas sighs in frustration. “Very well, lets split up! We need to find those brats! Tear apart this whole school if you have to!” He turns to Wilmer. “Get the body out of view, then go with Willy to search the upper floors. And please, for the love of God, don’t shoot anyone! Benjamin, you’re with me, we’ll take the lower area. Leave no classroom untouched!”

The three other men nod. Nikita watches quietly as the men split off into duos. Nicholas and Benjamin take off, while Wilmer grabs Principal Wilson’s legs and drags her into the office with Willy, creating a blood trail in the process; Nikita turns away, feeling sick to her stomach. The two men then reappear and turn left, heading towards the stairs.

Once it seems safe, the group tiptoes out of the women’s restroom and head in the other direction from Wilmer and Willy. They have to find another place to hide before these monsters catch them!

Nikita breathes as Matt motions everyone into a nearby janitor’s closet.

Once everyone’s inside, chaos erupts.

“What the fuck just happened!?” Manny screeches.

“That was insane!” Matt exclaims.

“They just killed Principal Wilson.” Rosanna whispers as if she still can’t believe it. But then, as if she just realized their new reality, the little Floater begins to hyperventilate. Matt immediately rushes to his friend and pulls her into a hug to calm her down; Nikita can only watch them with hidden sympathy. Safiya paces back and forth, her hands clasping the back of her neck.

Joey just stands in the corner, completely still. “What do we do now?” he finally asks nervously.

Nikita glares at him. “I have a better question!” the blonde girl snarls, “Why did you steal that crystal?”

--

Joey’s heart drops. As soon as Nikita asks that question, the others stare at him, shock and confusion enveloping their faces.

Matt, his arm still protectively around a crying Rosanna, looks at the boiling Rebel. “What are you talking about?” The brunette boy’s eyes travel from her to Joey. “What is she talking about?”

“I don’t know what you mean?” Joey answers, trying to keep himself calm in hopes of keeping the facade up.

“Bullshit!” Nikita marches straight up to the Savant, standing mere inches from him. Her face wears a mask so terrifying that Joey’s calm demeanor instantly falls apart. “I saw the way you were looking at it! We all did! Not to mention you took your sweet ass time retrieving Ro’s backpack.”

Rosanna wipes the tears from her eyes and glances at Joey, as if unsure what to believe. “Joey,” the petite girl quietly asks, “is this true?”

Joey can feel his whole body freeze up as five sets of eyes stare at him. Rubbing his clammy hands together, the Savant nervously nods his head. “It’s true,” he whispers, hanging his head in shame.

As he glances up, Joey can see everyone staring at him differently. Rosanna’s in shock, Matt and Safiya are still confused, Nikita’s furious, and Manny’s expression is ambiguous, but it’s enough for Joey to believe that the bigger boy could beat his ass at any moment.

“Look, I know this looks really bad,” Joey slowly tries to explain himself, “but things at home are not going great! My dad recently lost his job, so my sister and I had to get jobs to help out; but it’s still not enough! My family’s struggling right now, and even if I get into college, I won’t be able to afford it even with financial aid. I could apply for grants and scholarships, but there’s no guarantee I’ll get one, especially after committing plagiarism!” Tears pool in Joey’s eyes as the embarrassment and anger within him builds up. He doesn’t expect the group to understand and why would they? How could they?

Rosanna catches his eye and he can see the brunette girl look at him with empathy. Or maybe it’s sympathy. Joey’s too upset to figure it out. “Joey,” she softly says, “I didn’t realize…I thought the things you said about being well off--”

“I lied!” Joey cries. “I was too ashamed to admit it, and it’s not something I like to talk about!”

“So let me get this straight,” Matt speaks up, eyeing Joey as if the blonde’s one of his countless theories. “You took the Heart of Everlock, which is not only already stolen property, but you took it from a group of thieves who hijacked our school and just recently murdered our principal?”

“I know, I know!” Joey groans in frustration as he pulls at his hair. “It was stupid, and I put us all in even more danger, but…I…I saw it right there in the office. I saw it and all I could think about was how much it would solve my problems, how it will help my family, help me! Yes, it’s selfish but...I was desperate! I just…”

Safiya, who’s standing next to Joey, listens with her arms crossed over each other. When she speaks, she asks the question Joey hoped would never be asked: “Where’s the Heart now, Joey?”

There it is! Joey’s never been more anxious than in this moment. Bracing himself, tears falling down his cheeks, he turns to Rosanna. “Look in your backpack, Ro,” the Savant whispers.

The group whip their heads toward a shocked Rosanna. Slowly, she takes off her backpack and unzips it. Joey remorsefully turns away as he hears the petite girl’s gasp followed by noises of shock from the others.

“Oh my God!” he hears Manny exclaim.

“Are you kidding me?” Matt groans.

“Oh, bitch!” Nikita seethes.

Joey summons the courage to look back. Sure enough, in Rosanna’s little hand, is the Heart of Everlock!

“I’m so sorry you guys!” Joey apologizes, wishing he can crawl into a dark hole and hide.

Rosanna stares at the crystal as if realizing something. “I knew my backpack felt heavier!”

That’s your main concern?!”

Joey turns in the direction of the voice and discovers a now very angry Matt, something Joey’s never seen before. To be honest, it’s way scarier than the look Nikita gave him minutes ago.

“Ro, you’re not concerned that Joey hid a stolen crystal in your backpack, knowing armed and dangerous men would come looking for it!?”

Joey steps in slowly, careful not to anger Matt any further. “Matt--”

“NO!” The fuming Nerd immediately marches up to the Savant, who tries to back away. Unfortunately, he’s trapped between a wall and a raging Matthew Patrick. “It’s one thing for you, Joey, to piss off these guys! But the fact that you put their jewel in my friend’s bag without her knowledge...that there is crossing a major line! And not only did you put Ro in danger, you may have just made her an accessory to a possible felony! I thought you two were friends? How could you do something like that?!”

Joey wells up again, his heart beating so fast. He has really screwed up this time!

“Say you did make it out with the Heart. What then?” Matt continues. “Do you honestly believe that you, a seventeen-year old kid, can easily pawn off a valuable, well known piece of history without getting caught?”

Joey can only stare at the ground, watching his tears fall and hit the floor. He knows Matt’s right. Even if he did escape with the crystal, how would he get the money for it without raising suspicion?

Joey also knows Matt’s right about Rosanna; by putting the Heart in her bag, he basically made her an accomplice. He wasn’t thinking about it, but there’s no excuse for that. If Matt could, he would pummel Joey right there and he doubts anyone would stop the other boy, not even Rosanna, whom he betrayed. What he has done is unforgivable.

The blonde boy finally looks up at Matt, his sad blueish eyes meeting the brunette boy’s furious brown. “I was desperate,” Joey explains in a small voice. “That’s all I can say.”

For a moment, there’s an uncomfortable silence.

Thankfully, Nikita steps in and breaks the two boys apart. “Okay, you guys, I’m going to cut this intense moment because this isn’t helping us in any way,” the Rebel calmly says. “Yes, what Joey did was stupid, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Right now, we need to find a way out of the building. Hiding is no longer an option.” She turns to Rosanna, who’s still kneeling on the ground with the crystal in her hand. “Ro, put that back in your bag. We’ll take it with us. We’ll need to hand it over to the authorities, given it’s stolen property.” Nikita glares back at Joey as she says the last part.

Rosanna nods her head and places the turquoise rock back in her bag, zipping it up.

Nikita glances at Matt. “You still with us, or are your emotions going to cloud your judgment?”

The Nerd’s still upset, but he backs away from Joey and takes a deep breath. “No,” Matt assures Nikita. “I’m good.”

Somehow, Joey doesn’t believe him, but remains quiet.

Safiya speaks up. “Alright, guys, there’s a fire exit on the other side of the building. If we can make our way there, I’m sure it will be unlocked and we can get out. It may set off the alarm, but it’s the only chance we got.”

Matt nods. “I agree, and I actually have a plan for that.”

Matt explains the plan to the group, but Joey barely listens. He really messed up big time; this is way worse than plagiarizing a paper. He should have known better than to take the Heart, especially after seeing how dangerous Nicholas and his goons are. And yet, his greedy ass didn’t listen, and now he and the others are in more danger than before.

They hate me, don’t they? A sad thought crosses Joey’s mind, If we make it out of here, will they even still be friends with me?

He wasn’t really friends with Matt and Safiya to begin with, but Manny and Nikita? They’re both people who don’t take it lightly when they have their trust violated. It would not surprise Joey if they chewed him out and then said “see ya!” to his scrawny butt.

And Ro?

Joey shudders. Rosanna is someone he loves having as his friend. She’s kind and understanding to a fault. But this? He basically took advantage of her kindness and put the crystal in her bag without telling her. And if these men found them and discovered she had it, God only knows what they would do to the smaller girl! Joey’s so angry that he did that to her. How could he betray her trust?

“Joey?” A small voice interrupts his train of panicked thoughts. The Savant looks down and sees Rosanna staring up at him. For someone so small, her stance has power to it. He stares back at the Floater with genuine guilt and remorse.

“Ro, I am so sorry!” Joey tearfully says.

Rosanna looks at him and gives him a sad smile. She places a hand on his shoulder and rubs it to comfort him. “It’s going to be okay, Joey,” she replies. “We’ll return the Heart of Everlock to the police, and they won’t have to know what you did. We’ll talk about this later. Don’t worry about it.”

Joey sighs. He doesn’t deserve Rosanna’s friendship, not after what he just did. Yet here she is, forgiving him (if that’s what’s happening) and giving him the benefit of the doubt. Joey’s determine to not put her in the crossfire.

“Okay, guys!” Matt concludes. “That’s what we’re going to do, and we need to hurry, because those men could be anywhere!”

The others murmur in agreement. Matt glances at Joey, who nods. Matt seems to have calm down a bit, but Joey’s still on edge. He doesn’t blame Matt for being angry; the brunette boy was only worried for Rosanna and stressed about the situation; that’s all!

But Joey would like to talk to each person later and really try to make it up to them. And he will once they get out of here.

“Alright bitches, lets do this!” Nikita firmly states as she flings locks of her blonde wig back.

The group goes to the door, ready to make their escape from the janitor’s closet and get the hell out of this school.

Matt places his hand on the doorknob. “Everyone ready?”

Multiple “yes” and “yeahs” echo in the closet.

Matt carefully opens the door, and the group files out. Safiya takes the lead this time as she guides them to the exit. Matt remains in the back, keeping them all together. They make their way down the hallways, the first few without any trouble.

As they get three-quarters of a way to their destination, relief sprinkles over Joey.

We’re almost out of here, we’re going to be okay, we’re--

Around the corner, two dark figures step out in front of the group. One tall, almost the distant cousin of Slenderman, the other a broad figure with messy dark hair and eyes so inhuman, as if Joey’s staring at the Devil himself.

The teens halt, fear spreading through all of them.

The Devil, or Nicholas, glares at them, his smile making Joey shiver in his sneakers.

“Well well,” Nicholas muses, “shouldn’t you kids be in class right now?”

Joey lifts his arms to shield the group, Matt checking behind them to see if they can go back the way they came.

Nicholas holds his hands up gently, as if he means them no harm.

“Come on kids, it’s alright, we're not going to hurt you. You may have something of mine and if you behave like good boys and girls, you might get a gold star!”

Nicholas and the taller man slowly make their way to the teenagers. Joey feels Manny grip the fabric of his jean jacket, his terror channeling Joey’s.

Matt appears next to Joey, his hands raised in almost a surrender, his body in front of Rosanna as if hiding her from Nicholas.

“Alright, we’ll do as you say, sir! No one has to get hurt,” the Nerd calmly tells the men as he stares at the others, who all nod. For some reason though, Joey swears he caught a glimpse of a silent exchange between Matt and Nikita.

Nicholas smiles. “That’s what I like to hear...Benjamin!”

Benjamin walks forward. Joey closes his eyes and braces himself for what’s to come, grabbing Manny’s hand to contain his trembling fear.

I made a mistake!

Suddenly, Joey hears a loud screech. The blonde boy opens his eyes in time to see Nikita retract her leg and Benjamin crumpling to the ground, his hands over his groin.

Joey’s unable process what happened as he hears Matt yell for everyone to run. Not one to question the smart guy, Joey follows the others back in the direction they came. Safiya yells about another route to their destination, but Joey focuses on running as fast as he can.

As the teenagers bolt past the stairs, Joey hears angry shouts followed a ferocious growl. He turns to see what looks like a blonde Hulk barreling down the stairs towards them. To Joey’s terror, he realizes it’s Wilmer, the bastard who gunned down Principal Wilson.

The blonde boy screams, along with his friends, as they race towards the exit. He lags behind so he can make sure everyone, especially the girls, are safely in front of him. Unfortunately, that proves to be a mistake.

Joey barely turns the next corner when he feels a hand grip the back of his jacket. With great force, Joey is yanked backwards and slams face first into the wall. The impact knocks the breath out of the Savant and pain explodes inside of him.

Joey’s able to get a glimpse of the group disappearing around another corner before a beefy arm locks around his neck.

“Not so fast, punk!” Joey hears Wilmer snarl into his ear.

No!

Panic rushes through Joey as he struggles against his captor. Despite his screams for help, the blonde boy knows he’s in big trouble!

--

Joey’s screams echo through the school, and it’s too much for Rosanna. She freezes in place and looks back.

Rosanna may be small, but she’s tough, and if anyone dares to hurt her friends, she will go into mama bear mode. She’s about to run back and rescue Joey, only to feel a large hand grab her arm.

“Ro, are you out of your mind?” Matt yells at her, “We need to get out of here!”

The brunette boy tries to pull Rosanna towards the exit, but she persists.

“Matt, let me go! We can’t leave Joey!” Rosanna cries. She saw one of the thieves grab her friend, she saw the fear in the blonde boy’s eyes as he was captured. The Floater cannot leave him at the mercy of these men.

“Ro, listen to me! There’s nothing we can do! Those guys are killers and we’re teenagers in over our heads!” Matt pleads to her, “We’re no good to Joey if we get captured too, it will only make matters worse!”

Rosanna can see the anxiety in Matt’s eyes and sadly, she knows he’s right.

The group stands no chance against these bad people, so all they can do to save Joey is to get somewhere safe and call for help. I’m sorry, Joey, tears welling up in Rosanna’s eyes, I promise we’ll come back for you, don’t you worry!

“THERE THEY ARE!” a loud voice booms. Rosanna screams as she spots two of the robbers barreling towards them. One of them is the blonde strong man who killed Principal Wilson and captured Joey. The Floater immediately grabs Matt’s hand and the two best friends take off after the other students.

Ahead of them, Manny makes it to the exit first and based on his struggle, Rosanna can tell it’s also locked.

Oh God, these men really did lock ever exit in the school!

Luckily, Manny kicks the door open to the nearest classroom and shuffles everyone inside before he and Matt barricade it with a desk. While they’re safe for now, it’s only a matter of time before the bad men realize they’re in here, given this classroom is the closest to the exit.

“Wait, where’s Joey?” Rosanna hears Manny ask, who only now realizes they’re one friend short.

The brunette girl cannot bring herself to break the news, given she’s still in shock. Luckily, Matt is able to tell the other three what happened.

“Bitch!” Nikita groans. “What are we supposed to do now?”

Before anyone can answer, a loud knock hits the door, startling the group.

“Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!” a low terrifying voice taunts the students through the door. Rosanna holds her breath. It’s Wilmer! He’s found them!

Banging immediately follows as Wilmer tries to break down the door.

“That desk isn’t going hold for very long, so we need to get out of here fast!” Matt says, panic swimming in his voice.

“How?! They locked every exit near us! We’re fucked!” Nikita huffs but Rosanna can see she’s terrified too.

Rosanna’s scared herself. She’s worried for herself, her friends, and, of course, Joey (goodness knows what they’re doing to him!). She wants this to be over! She wants to go home!

Suddenly, Rosanna hears Safiya gasp, and she turns to see the Goth pointing to something behind the group. “Over there!” Safiya points and the group discover a window open ajar. Manny rushes over and uses his strength to push it open. The rest follow and look out to observe their surroundings.

The window is pretty narrow, but wide enough to fit someone as broad as Manny and is only a short drop onto the concrete, but far enough if they land wrong, it will sprain a limb at most. It’s not the best escape route, but it’s the only one they got; it’s either that or face men with guns. And Rosanna would rather not have the latter.

“Screw it! Let’s do this, bitches!” Manny’s mind is made up, and he climbs up and jumps out the window. Being the tallest at six feet, landing is smooth for the ebony-haired boy. When he stands up, his nose reaches the window sill.

“C’mon!” the Prep calls out, and he holds his arms open to catch the next person. Nikita goes next, and with help from Matt, she jumps into Manny’s arms. Rosanna follows, Manny just grabbing her petite form from the window, as if she were a toddler, and setting her down. This leaves Matt and Safiya in the classroom as the banging gets louder. The door begins to shake.

It’s clear that Wilmer’s ramming against it, so Matt and Safiya are running out of time. “Saf, you go next!” Matt tells the Goth. Safiya hesitates at first, but eventually climbs up and makes her way out with both the boys’ help.

Matt’s the last to go, and Rosanna watches as he prepares himself to jump out the window.

“C’mon, Matt, grab our hands! We’ll help you out!” Manny insists as he and Safiya offer up their hands. Matt reaches down and clasps onto their arms. Rosanna can only watch impatiently. Just one jump and they’re all out of there!

Matt barely gets through when suddenly a loud crash is heard. Rosanna’s able to make out the classroom door as it bursts open and the monstrous form that is Wilmer rushes in!

“Oh no you don’t!” the strong man growls as he races over and grabs Matt around the waist. Manny and Safiya fight back, keeping their hands latched onto Matt’s arms. It suddenly becomes a game of Tug-of-War.

Rosanna cries out and grabs the brunette boy’s arm that Safiya’s holding onto for dear life.

No, please, let him go! Don’t take Matt too! Rosanna’s near tears giving everything she has to save her best friend. Matt, please hold on!

But it isn’t enough, and by the look on his face, Matt realizes this. With great force, Wilmer finally yanks him out of the groups’ grasp, and the Nerd is now at the strong man’s mercy.

“Guys, run! Save yourselves! Just go!” Matt shouts as he struggles against Wilmer. Manny and Nikita listen to him and quickly take off, but Rosanna can’t move. It’s one thing to leave Joey, but to leave Matt? The Floater just can’t do that! Rosanna remains in place and glares at Wilmer, the man holding her friend hostage.

The strong man fires an evil grin at her while Matt’s mouths for her to go, his fearful eyes not leaving hers. Rosanna feels Safiya pull her away and sadly knows she has to escape.

The petite girl reluctantly turns to run, but not before giving her best friend some hope.

“Matt, I’ll come back for you, I promise!” Rosanna cries as she lets Safiya lead her away. The girls take off after Manny and Nikita, the classroom window disappearing from view.

As her little legs give speed to her escape, Rosanna can only keep one thing in mind: Matt and Joey, her friends, her boys, are now prisoners to these monsters. And the Floater will do whatever it takes to get them back!

Chapter Text

If Matt wasn’t scared before, he is now!

He was one jump away from escaping! Now, he’s at the mercy of a mutant muscle demon!

He struggles against Wilmer’s vice grip, but the criminal only laughs at his pathetic attempts.

“Willy, check this out! We got ourselves a wily one here!” Wilmer cackles as Willy enters the room.

Matt does everything he can to get free of this madman, going as far as kicking him. He puts up a good fight...that is, until Wilmer makes it difficult by wrapping his beefy arm around the terrified teen’s neck, putting him in a chokehold.

Nevertheless, Matt doesn’t give up. He grips Wilmer’s arm to prevent the man from suffocating him.

“Let go of me, you Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabe!” the Nerd manages to breathe out, half scared, half annoyed as he scuffles against the blonde thief.

“Arnold Schwarznegger wannabe? I’ll take that as a compliment!” Wilmer laughs.

He turns back to Willy. “This is fun! Wish the fairy had more fight in him!”

Matt freezes. Fairy? Does he mean Joey? Please tell me they didn’t kill him!

In front of him, Willy appears mirthless of his associate’s game.

“Alright, Wilmer, enough! We need this one alive, too. His friends still have the Heart, and we need to keep him and the other one intact if we’re going to get it back.”

Relief spreads over Matt. As long as the others have the crystal, these bastards can’t hurt him or Joey. But worry also crosses Matt’s mind as he remembers that Rosanna’s the one who has it in her backpack.

Do these guys know that?

A ringtone suddenly vibrates in Willy’s pocket. With a sigh, the older man reaches in and pulls out a burner phone. “It’s the boss. I have to take this.”

He glances at Matt, still locked within Wilmer’s arm. “And for God’s sake, let the boy breathe! He’s starting to look like a blueberry!”

Wilmer scowls but complies, releasing the brunette boy from his chokehold. However, he maintains a firm grip, grasping Matt’s biceps rather tightly. Matt winces in pain, almost sure that Wilmer could break his bones at any moment. At least he can breathe now, though.

Willy answers his phone. “Nicholas!…no, they got away with it…they jumped out the window of a classroom.”

Matt can’t hear Nicholas on the other end, but he has an idea that the leader is angry, given the grimace on Willy’s face and the way he holds the phone from his ear. He witnessed how mad Nicholas can get before, when the thug destroyed most of the library and attacked Principal Wilson.

Is he going to take it out on Joey and I? Matt worries, his anxiety rising as Willy finally speaks.

“We were able to capture one...It’s the brunette boy...yeah, the nerdy one!” Willy scoffs.

Matt can’t help but feel a little offended.

You don’t have to say it like it’s a bad thing, man! he wants to say, but with Willy’s intimidating demeanor and the iron hold Wilmer still has on him, it’s probably best to keep his mouth shut.

“Alright, we’ll bring him! I have a feeling that with him and the other one, we’ll have the Heart in no time.”

Matt doesn’t like the sound of that, but at least Joey’s still alive, given Willy just said “the other one.”

Willy hangs up his phone and pockets it.

“Nicholas says to bring the kid with us,” he tells Wilmer. “Either he’ll get his friend to talk, or his group of misfits will try to rescue them.”

Willy then glares at Matt, his eyes burning into the teen’s with a look that reminds Matt of a killer in a slasher movie.

“Listen up, kid,” he growls, “my buddy here would like nothing more than to break your neck! But our boss needs both you and your thief of a friend alive. If you do as you’re told, no harm will come to either of you, and this will be nothing but another bad day at school.’

‘But…” Willy continues as he leans in, his face inches from Matt, “try to be a hero, try to test my patience, try anything, and I will rip your guts out without hesitation! Understood?”

He pulls the side of his jacket away, brandishing a large Bowie knife sheathed at his hip.

Fully aware that this man is serious, Matt manages to nod through his terror. “Understood,” he replies in a meek voice. I am so screwed!

Willy nods to Wilmer and proceeds out of the classroom. Wilmer lightens his grip and pushes Matt forward.

At first, Matt’s relieved that the strong man’s not going to hurt him. However, the relief is short lived as Wilmer suddenly grabs Matt’s right arm and twists it behind the boy’s back. Matt yelps in pain as Wilmer takes hold of his left shoulder and pulls the scared teen close to him.

“We’re going to have so much fun!” he menacingly whispers into Matt’s ear. “Please, give me a reason to bash in that pretty face of yours!”

As he’s dragged out of the classroom and towards his doom, Matt does everything in his power not to cry. Don’t give them what they want! Be brave for yourself, for Joey, and for the others!

Rosanna appears in his mind. Matt can still recall the Floater’s attempt to save him, the fear and devastation on her face as he was ripped away from her, as well as her promise that she would come back for him. Tears form in his brown eyes. At least she’s safe! Please God, keep her safe!

--

Being tied up is not what Joey expected.

In the movies, the restraints seemed loose, and the hostage always appeared comfortable in their position no matter what kind of bondage they were in.

The reality is, Joey has never felt more uncomfortable. When Wilmer grabbed him, he was practically thrown into the arms of the taller man (Benjamin, right?) and dragged to the main office. There, Joey was pushed to the ground, hands roughly ziptied behind his back, as well as his ankles duct-taped together. Once he was trussed up, Benjamin shoved him against the wall of the secretary’s desk. He’s been sitting there ever since.

Twisting his hands against the plastic ziptie, Joey winces at how tight it is around his wrists; if he’s not careful, it might cut off blood circulation.

Benjamin stands guard over him, checking his tablet, while Nicholas waits by the door for the other two robbers to come back. Given how menacingly the leader is holding his gun, Joey knows it’s best not to agitate the guy any further.

Willy and Wilmer ran off to capture the rest of his friends, and based off the phone call Nicholas had with them, it’s apparent that one of his friends got caught. But Joey couldn’t make out who, since Nicholas was vague about it during his conversation. All Joey knows is that it’s one of the boys, because Nicholas said “bring him back.” The blonde isn’t sure which boy he would rather have by his side in this predicament.

At least the girls are safe! Joey reassures himself. Those bastards had no problem hurting Principal Wilson, so Joey can only imagine what they would do to the girls. He would rather not think about it. They got away, and that’s all that matters. But as for him and Manny or Matt, they are about to suffer the wrath of these psychopaths.

Joey’s gaze turns to the body in the principal’s office, feet displayed with blood staining the cream-colored heels. Those feet belong to the now late Principal Wilson, and the blonde boy doesn’t know how he feels about that. Sure she’s (was) a bitch, but she didn’t deserve to be beaten and gunned down by maniacal killers. Joey still can’t take in the fact that he is a few feet away from a dead body, let alone the body of someone he knew.

Is that what is going to happen to me? Joey ponders in fear. Will they kill me too? Sure they need me to get the crystal, but what about after?

All of a sudden, Nicholas’ face lights up. He opens the office door, turns to Joey, and flashes an ugly grin.

“My colleagues have brought a friend to join you!” the leader chuckles. This makes the Savant nervous.

Joey hears the footsteps getting closer. Willy appears and walks into the office, followed by Wilmer, who drags in a squirming terrified brunette boy in a brown jacket. Joey’s face morphs into shock and dread when he realizes it’s Matt.

Oh my God, they got Matt too!

Both boys acknowledge the other’s presence, but Matt’s focus is more on Wilmer not breaking his arm; it’s twisted behind his back, and Wilmer is not being gentle about it.

Nicholas stands before the newcomer and does a once over, his intimidation making Matt shudder.

“Put him with the other one!” he barks, gesturing to Joey.

Wilmer practically hurls Matt next to Joey, almost knocking the wind out of him. The Nerd barely has time to recover before Wilmer yanks his hands behind his back and slides the ziptie around his wrists. Joey feels terrible, seeing the other boy at this monster’s mercy.

Matt yelps in pain as Wilmer tightens the restraint, and it’s too much for the blonde to bear.

“Hey, leave him alone, you’re hurting him!” Joey yells at the muscular thief.

Wilmer shoots a glare at him, his eyes like a demon. This forces Joey to shrink back against the wall.

“That’s exactly the point!” Wilmer sneers, shoving Matt down next to Joey. With a cruel smirk, the strong man walks back to his group.

“Jerk!” Matt mutters under his breath as he adjusts his position.

Joey worriedly turns to him. “Matt, are you okay?”

The other boy nods his head, but Joey can tell that he’s freaking out.

“Don’t worry, the others got away,” Matt whispers.

That’s good. This makes Joey feel a bit better. It means that their friends can escape and alert the authorities. Hopefully, they’ll be able to rescue him and Matt in time, because by the looks in their captors’ eyes, they want blood.

Matt struggles against his bonds, probably testing out his escape options. The Nerd groans in frustration, implying that he’s got nothing.

He glares at the thieves, who’re deep in discussion. “What are they going to do to us?” Matt asks his fellow hostage.

“All they want is the Heart,” Joey summarizes. “As long as the group has it, they can’t touch us!” He’s not sure what these men are going to do to them. He’s also not sure if his reassurance is to soothe Matt’s worries or his own.

“Are you certain of that?” Matt remarks, not very confident. “Because there are two of us, and they might only need one to get that thing back!”

Joey stares at the ground, not wanting to meet Matt’s gaze. He knows the other boy might be right. These guys may not kill both of them, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t kill one of them. If it comes to it, one of them might die; that’s the likely reality.

But Joey can’t let that happen.

“We’re going to get out of this!” Joey tells Matt, making his voice as comforting and sincere as possible. “This Nicholas guy seems like a reasonable man. If he gets his crystal, we’ll be okay. He doesn’t appear to me as someone who hurts kids.” At least I hope so.

Matt looks at the blonde boy and sadly smiles.

“You are so full of it, Joey Graceffa,” the brunette chuckles, “but I appreciate the positive attitude. I see why Ro likes you.”

Joey can’t help but giggle as well. Matt doesn’t seem to be angry with him, at least not as angry as he was in the janitor’s closet. The Nerd was just being protective of Rosanna.

Joey thinks about the Floater, the personification of sunshine. Rosanna and Matt are very close, and if Matt gets hurt, Joey knows that he’ll never be able to look Rosanna in the face ever again except with shame. It’s already bad enough that he stole the Heart and put it in her backpack without her knowledge.

No, he can’t let his friends get hurt because he’s an idiot!

“Matt we will, I promise!” Joey exclaims, even though he knows that he shouldn’t make such promises.

Matt takes this in and leans his head against the desk. “I hope, for all our sakes, you’re right.”

Seeing the pained look in the brunette’s eyes, Joey hopes so too.

Suddenly, Nicholas breaks from his group and marches towards the two boys, Wilmer not far behind. Both Matt and Joey brace themselves for what’s to come.

Nicholas stands before them, his figure towering over their small figures. His stance is so intimidating, it makes both captives back as far as they can against the desk.

“Alright, here’s how this is going to go,” Nicholas explains. “I will ask a question, and you will answer truthfully. Cooperate, and things will go smoothly.”

The man kneels down to the boys’ level, his midnight hair almost brushing against them.

He first turns to Joey. “First question, what are your names?”

Both hesitate before Joey speaks up. “I’m Joey and this is Matt.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Nicholas replies. Joey can’t say the same.

“What are students like you doing at school on a Saturday?”

Joey watches Matt take a deep breath. “We’re here for detention.”

Nicholas nods. “I see. What did you two do to earn detention?”

When neither answer, he turns to Matt. “You seem like a smart goody two shoes, what did you do?”

Matt sits up straight and glances at the leader, trying to hide how scared he is.

“I was caught on the roof of the school. I wanted to test out a theory that I was working on.”

Nicholas smiles, apparently interested. “That’s pretty bold, kid! What kind of theory?”

Matt purses his lips. “It was for Physics. I was measuring the distance and probability of the swan dive from Assassin’s Creed.”

Nicholas gives Matt a weird look. Then he bursts into laughter, his gruff tone echoing the office. The other three men join in.

“Wow, you really are a nerd! Typical that a smart ass like you would analyze something as stupid as a video game!”

Joey notices the redness in Matt’s face by this remark. He’s clearly embarrassed and Joey would be too. These bastards are now just being bullies!

Before he can defend Matt, Nicholas whips his head towards him. “And you?”

Joey’s hands clenched into fists, the ziptie creating a tightness around them. “I plagiarized on a paper,” he responds, shame spiraling in his head. His ears burn red-hot, feeling the embarrassment now too.

“Fitting!” Nicholas replies, “if you can steal credit for a paper, you aren’t afraid to steal a jewel. Sounds pretty desperate to me.”

Joey tries not to cry. It’s not helping that these bastards are humiliating him and Matt.

Sick and tired of this charade, Joey glares at the leader. “What do you want?” he snaps. Get to the point, you bitch!

Nicholas’ face changes from humor to serious. “You know what I want, Joseph! You stole our crystal, and we want it back!”

Matt snorts. “Technically, you stole it first!”

Nicholas glares at Matt, and Joey worries the other boy will pay for that comment.

“Watch it, smart ass! Wilmer here is looking for an excuse, don’t make me give him one.”

Wilmer smiles, punching his giant fist against his palm. It shuts Matt up immediately.

Nicholas turns back to Joey and holds something in front of him. Joey’s blood runs cold when he realizes it’s his iPhone.

They must have taken it from him during his capture!

“We found a drawer filled with other cellular devices here in the office. We know you were naughty enough to keep yours. But it appears when Benjamin counted, he only found four phones. And as I recall, we spotted six of you!”

The leader leans in further towards the hostages.

“Which one of your friends has their phone as well?” Nicholas asks.

Joey tenses. He and Matt know Nikita kept her phone, but if they say anything, it’s game over.

“None of them,” Joey lies trying to keep his voice sincere and truthful. “Our friend Rosanna didn’t bring her phone to school, which is why you found four. I was the only one to keep mine.”

“Hmm,” Nicholas nods his head and for a moment Joey thinks he believes him. That is, until Nicholas nods to Wilmer. The strong man displays a sadistic smile as he punches Matt in the face.

Matt cries out as the blow knocks him to the ground, unable to bring his hands to his face.

“NO!” Joey screams. He tries to lean towards his friend, only for Nicholas to push him back against the wall. Joey struggles against his grasp, keeping his eyes fixed on Matt.

He can only watch helplessly as Wilmer grabs the other boy by the hair and pulls him back up to a sitting position. A slight bruise starts to form under his eye.

Matt tears up from the pain, and it almost makes Joey cry too. I’m so sorry!!

“YOU BASTARD! GET AWAY FROM HIM!” Joey shouts. He puts up a fight, but it’s no use. Nicholas’ grip is too strong!

The dark-haired man grabs Joey by the chin, forcing the blonde boy to look him in the face. Joey struggles again against his grip, but Nicholas maintains his hold. The Savant begins to whimper as Nicholas’ eyes pierce into his soul.

“Now you listen, boy!” Nicholas spits, “I know when someone’s lying, and trust me, your attempts are pitiful!”

He nods to Wilmer. “My man here, he wants to hurt your buddy. And believe me, when he hurts someone, he likes to bide his time doing so! Tell me, Joseph, how long do you think Matthew here will last against Wilmer?”

The anxiety within Joey is suffocating him. Through his tears, he can make out Wilmer gripping Matt’s hair roughly. The strong man maintains his horrid smile as he strengthens his hold, Matt biting his lip to avoid crying. He’s hurt, and Wilmer looks ready to inflict more pain.

It sets in for Joey. These bastards are not above hurting kids! Wilmer’s going to torture and probably kill Matt in front of me, and I won’t be able to stop it!

“However,” Nicholas continues, “I’m the kind of man who’s willing to give others a chance as long as they comply. So I will ask you again, Joseph…do any of your other friends have a phone on them?”

Joey looks at Matt, silently apologizing. He thinks about the others and wonders if he is willing to lure four of his friends into a trap in order to keep one safe.

Rosanna appears in his mind again, and the Savant imagines a scenario where he’s telling her he let her best friend get tormented, then killed.

Joey blinks back his tears. Please forgive me.

“Yes,” Joey whispers and turns to face Nicholas. “My friend, Nikita, also took hers when we came in here earlier. She doesn’t go anywhere without her phone.”

Nicholas releases him and takes this in.

Joey glances at Wilmer, who still has Matt in his clutches, then back at Nicholas.

“Now, will you please kindly tell your guy to take his hands off of my friend?” Joey seethes.

Nicholas looks at him for a second before finally turning to Wilmer.

“Let him go,” the leader tells the strong man.

Wilmer makes a face as he reluctantly releases Matt. The Nerd rests his head against the wall, taking deep breaths to calm himself. Joey feels bad, but he’s glad Wilmer isn’t hurting him anymore.

Nicholas holds Joey’s phone in front of him. “What’s your password?”

“102014,” Joey answers (October 2014, when he got his dog, Wolf).

Nicholas dials in the password, and Joey watches as his phone lights up.

“And her number?”

“I have her in my contacts,” Joey responds. “She’s listed as Rebel.”

Nicholas chuckles at this. “Man, kids nowadays! If that’s her nickname, then this call is going to be very interesting!”

The leader searches through Joey’s contacts and stops when he finds Nikita. He looks at his hostages as dials for FaceTime, the phone facing them.

“For your sake,” Nicholas growls, “I hope Rebel answers.”

--

Nikita is nearly out of breath. She may be athletic, but her boots were made for looking hot, not running for her life!

When I said I wanted detention to be a little more exciting, this is NOT what I had in mind! the blonde’s mind grumbles as she and her remaining three classmates bolt towards the school’s entrance.

Nikita’s still pretty shook after watching Joey, then Matt, get nabbed by those men. She cringes at the thought of what’s being done to them as they speak.

Well, at least it wasn’t me or Manny!

While Nikita’s relieved they weren’t the ones captured, she does feel bad for the other boys. Joey may have screwed up stealing that rock (and Nikita still wants to punch him in the face for that), but he doesn’t deserve his current predicament, and neither does Matt. Hell, the only reason Matt got captured was because he happened to be the last one to climb out the window. He’s a nerd, but it was noble of him to get the rest of the group out before himself.

And now, she and the rest have to escape if they want to help the other two.

The four students make their way to the side of the building, where they nearly collapse in exhaustion. Manny leans his hand against the wall, taking in deep breaths, while Safiya and Rosanna have their hands on their knees.

As the Floater stands up, Nikita’s able to make out the tear stains along her cheeks. It occurs to the Rebel that Rosanna just witnessed her best friend get kidnapped, and it’s somewhat making her “icy” heart melt from remorse.

“Oh my bitch, I feel like I just ran a marathon!” Manny manages to get out as he inhales more oxygen.

Safiya checks their surroundings, looking for anymore danger to creep on them. “I don’t see anyone, so I think we’re good.”

“Yeah, no shit!” Nikita snaps. She adjusts her wig and smooths out her dress, making sure she still looks pretty. “Those bitches got what they needed when Joey and Matt got got!”

Rosanna sniffles behind Nikita. “We can’t let those men hurt them! We should have tried harder!”

Safiya and Manny stare at Rosanna sympathetically. Even more to her own annoyance, Nikita feels bad for the smaller girl.

“Ro…” Safiya begins to say.

“Matt was still in our grasp! We had him!” Rosanna cries. “But because I wasn’t strong enough, that awful man took him! I failed my best friend!”

The smaller girl begins to cry as Safiya walks over and envelops her in a hug.

Nikita can’t even imagine how Rosanna must feel. Those men are obviously dangerous; after all, the group witnessed them kill Principal Wilson! Are they dangerous enough to hurt two seventeen-year old boys?

“Ro, don’t worry!” Nikita hears Safiya comfort the other girl. “They aren’t going to hurt Joey and Matt! They still need them, which means they’re still alive. We still have time to get help and save them!”

Rosanna nods her head, tears engulfed in her brown eyes.

“Saf’s right,” Nikita chips in. “We still have their stupid crystal, and clearly those assholes want it back, so they’ll use the guys as leverage. Besides, Matt’s very smart. He’ll keep himself and Joey safe. They’re going to be fine!”

Hopefully, adds her brain, but she doesn’t say it aloud.

Nikita reaches into her jacket pocket and pulls out her iPhone. “Let’s just get somewhere safe, then call the cops.”

Right now, Nikita really wants to get the hell out of here and get as far away from the danger as possible. There’s nothing they personally can do for Joey and Matt, so what matters is getting everyone, especially herself and Manny, to safety. Plus Matt would be furious if his little friend is put in any more danger.

Manny nods. “I one hundred percent agree! Let’s just blow this joint and wait for the cops!”

Safiya appears to agree as well, but Nikita can see reluctance in Rosanna’s face.

“I know, but I just can’t leave without them!” the Floater bemoans as she grips her backpack containing the treasure.

“Ro--” Safiya tries to reason with her again, but Rosanna’s having none of it.

“I won’t leave them!” she snaps, the others taken aback by this. Realizing her sudden outburst, Rosanna regains her composure. “They’re my friends, you guys, and if something happens to them, I’ll never forgive myself!”

“Listen, Ro,” Nikita patiently speaks up, a slight irritation developing in her voice, “Those are dangerous thugs who gunned down our principal without hesitation! We’re high school juniors! We cannot take those men on! Besides, if anything were to happen to you, Matt will be devastated! If anything, he would want you as far away from the crossfire as possible!”

This remark apparently gets to Rosanna. The brunette appears to think it over, then finally nods her head.

“You’re right, Nikita,” Rosanna softly admits as she wipes her tears away. “Maybe it is better to get out of here and have the police help! It’s just...I just don’t want anything to happen to them.”

Nikita feels pain in her own heart (ugh, is this what it feels like to care?) when Rosanna says this. The Rebel walks over and places her hands on the Floater’s shoulders, making sure not to poke the other girl with her acrylics.

“They’re going to be okay!” She tries to put some comfort in her words. “We just have to keep moving for them. We’re their only hope for rescue, so let’s go and get help!”

Rosanna looks at Nikita and nods with a little smile. “Okay.”

The moment is interrupted by the buzzing of Nikita’s phone. She lets go of Rosanna and glances at the Caller ID requesting FaceTime. Shock glistens across her smoky-shadow eyes.

What the hell?

“It’s Joey!” Nikita exclaims, causing the others to gasp. In this moment, she doesn’t know what to do.

Did Joey escape? Or is he dead and those douchebags are using his phone to show them the body?

No! If it is those bitches, they wouldn’t have known who I was listed as in Joey’s contacts!

Unless he told them?

“What do I do?” Nikita asks the others, chills searing down her spine.

“I think we should answer it,” Safiya responds, her voice a little too calm for comfort. Manny’s repeating “Omigod!” and Rosanna’s clasping her hands as if she’s praying, her face painted with terror and worry.

Nikita, herself, is shaking in her white boots. One part of her wants to answer the call, but at the same time, she’s too nervous. But in the end, she knows Safiya’s right.

Taking a deep breath, the Rebel accepts the call.

What displays in front of the group almost makes Nikita drop her phone. Everyone glances at the screen and countless reactions ensue.

Manny places both hands over his mouth and once again cries “ohmigod!” Rosanna gasps and whimpers. Safiya doesn’t make any noise, but her eyes betray the horror at what she’s witnessing. As for Nikita, she’s almost paralyzed.

Displayed on the screen before them are Joey and Matt; and the situation looks really bad. The two boys are sitting against what appears to be a desk, their hands behind their backs.

Joey looks shaken, his eyes red and puffy from crying, but other than that he appears to be fine. Matt on the other hand, is not in good shape. Under his left eye, a large bruise is forming, which means Nicholas and his goons got rough with the Nerd.

Rosanna sees this and lets out a terrified squeak.

“Oh God, Matt’s hurt! What did they do to him?!” the little Floater despairs.

Safiya wraps a comforting arm around her. Nikita’s trying to keep it together, but even she can feel the tears forming in her own eyes.

--

Safiya’s watching two of her friends at the mercy of killers, scared for their lives, and she feels helpless. As she holds a sobbing Rosanna, Safiya’s picking at her brain trying to figure out how they can help Joey and Matt. Unfortunately, she can’t think of anything.

The screen on Nikita’s phone shifts, displaying the monstrous face of Nicholas.

“Hello, Rebel!” Nicholas taunts Nikita with a smirk on his face. Safiya sees Nikita tense up, clearly shocked the guy knows her nickname.

“That’s quite an interesting nickname, but I can see why your friend, Joseph here, calls you that! You, as well as your friends, have indeed been causing trouble for us!”

Laughter is heard on the other end and it makes Safiya sick. She squeezes Rosanna’s shoulder, but it’s mostly to keep herself calm.

“Oh, please!” Nikita snaps, “Why don’t we skip to the part where you tell us what you want and we can get our friends back, bitch!”

Masculine “ooohs” sing out from the other end, humored by Nikita’s snarkiness.

“Oh my, watch your language, little lady!” Nicholas coos, “That sort of tongue can get you in trouble...or in this case, your friends!”

Nicholas hands the phone to someone the group can’t see. The screen shifts again…showing Nicholas and Wilmer walking straight towards the hostages!

Joey and Matt try to cower away, but the older men grab them both and force them onto their knees.

“Oh shit!” Manny gasps and Safiya can’t agree more. Oh shit, indeed! What the hell are they going to do?

The group watches as Nicholas and Wilmer stand behind the captives, both gripping the boys’ shoulders in a menacing manner.

“You know what I want! It’s in that smaller girl’s backpack, right?”

Nicholas looks straight into the phone as if he can see Rosanna. “How’s it going Little Muffin? As soon as I saw you with that bag, I knew that’s the likely place my crystal would be.”

He stares down at Matt. “Oh, and sorry about your friend here! Wilmer can get a little carried away sometimes.”

Wilmer cruelly smiles and playfully strokes Matt’s hair, making the brunette boy grimace. Fear and discomfort shadow Matt’s bruised face.

Rosanna snatches Nikita’s phone from her hand and holds it close, tears raining down her cheeks.

“We’ll give the crystal to you, sir! We promise! Just don’t hurt them, please!”

It’s killing Safiya to watch Rosanna get upset like this; it’s even starting to make her mad. The raven-haired girl doesn’t know who to be mad at, though. Nicholas, for tormenting the group? Wilmer, for hurting Matt? Or even Joey, for taking the Heart in the first place?

Safiya places a hand on Rosanna’s shoulder and carefully takes the phone from her hands. She looks at the leader, maintaining a patient demeanor and finding calm in her voice.

“We’ll give the Heart of Everlock back to you. Just tell us how we can all get what we want and go our separate ways without anyone getting hurt.”

Nicholas face changes to a serious and satisfied look, which makes Safiya relax (a little.)

“Thank you for being reasonable, Raven Girl,” the leader smiles, “Now I want you to listen very carefully, because your friends’ lives depend on it.”

The phone moves to show the clock in the office. From where the hands are positioned, Safiya can see that it reads two P.M.

“It’s 2:00 now. You have until 2:30 to return the Heart in exchange for your friends.”

The phone moves back to face Nicholas.

“We shall meet in the cafeteria, where the exchange will be made. We get our crystal, and you’ll have your precious boys back safely. Check that?”

“Yes,” Safiya nods. Every part of her feels like she’s going to throw up. The fear nearly chokes her. But the Goth maintains her calm.

It’s very simple: Return the Heart, and Nicholas will let Joey and Matt go.

Of course, Safiya knows not to trust these men, but she’ll worry about that later.

“Anything else?” Safiya asks, keeping her hostage negotiator persona up.

Nicholas smirks at her. “Actually, yes!”

The leader kneels down next to Joey, who is trembling. He places his hand on the boy’s head, keeping him in place, and starts to caress his hair. A whimper can be heard from Joey as his captor toys with him.

“Don’t even think about calling for help. No police, no parents, no nothing! If my men and I even suspect you children brought in the Calvary…”

In an instant, Nicholas grabs Joey by the hair, pulling his head back and grasping his other hand around the blonde boy’s throat.

Joey shrieks, which only causes Nicholas to tighten his grip. Matt yells out and struggles to aid the other boy before he’s grabbed by Wilmer, who wraps him in a headlock. Rosanna screams, Manny gasps as he holds her in a comforting hug, Nikita turns away with her fists clenched, and Safiya feels her calm walls crumbling down.

Despite their reactions, Nicholas continues. “As I was saying, if I even suspect you called for help, these two will be added to the fatality list, right next to your principal. If their lives matter to you, you will cooperate and return the Heart to me!”

Safiya stares at Joey and Matt, their eyes pleading for her to help them through the screen. Safiya knows this is going to end badly one way or another, but she’s out of options. The Goth glares at Nicholas, feeling hate in a way she’s never felt before. Next to her, Nikita shares the anger towards the robbers. Manny and Rosanna stand together, anxiously waiting for Safiya to agree to the madman’s terms.

Safiya looks back at the captives, her eyes gazing into theirs as if she is trying to communicate with them telepathically.

Don’t worry, guys. A tear rolls down from her cat eyeliner gaze. We’re going to get you out of this. I don’t know how, but we will! I promise!

“We get it,” is her final answer.

Nicholas keeps his hold on Joey. “Good girl. Your time starts now.”

Nicholas nods to someone off screen, and the call ends.

Nikita groans, grabbing her hair in frustration. Rosanna sobs into Manny’s shirt as the Prep takes deep breaths to maintain his own panic.

The Rebel grabs her phone from Safiya and stares at the raven-haired girl, livid.

“What do we do now?” Nikita scowls.

Safiya stares at the group, choking back a sob of her own. “I…I don’t know.”

“I do!” a small voice mutters and the two girls turn to Rosanna. The petite girl has stopped crying and stands as tall as her 4’10” posture can hold, Manny’s arm still around her.

“Matt and Joey are depending on us,” the small girl explains, “and it’s up to us to save them, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Safiya nods, knowing Rosanna’s right, especially now that they can’t get the police involved. But this is too dangerous, and she isn’t sure how they’ll be able to rescue their friends without someone getting hurt.

“If it were one of us,” Rosanna continues, “I know both of them wouldn’t hesitate to come to our rescue. They would come up with a plan and initiate it. We have to do the same.”

Nikita’s face displays uncertainty by this. “I get that, and trust me, I want to save them just as much as you. The problem is that the odds are stacked against us. Those are armed killers! We can’t exactly go storming in on a half-cocked rescue mission!”

Then, the blonde girl smiles. “But, at the same time...we’re all we’ve got. You’re right, Shorty. Those two would try to save us if it were the other way around. It’s about time we be the heroes and save their asses. Besides, those bitches had the gall to kill Principal Wilson and hurt my friends; that ain’t gonna cut it. I say we make them pay! All of us, we’re in this together, and we leave no bitch behind, right?”

“One hundred percent!” Manny agrees. “Those assholes fucked up when they snatched Joey and Matt! About time they see what happens when you mess with young people who are fed up with their adult shit!”

Rosanna finally dries up the last of her tears and looks at the other three. “So we all agree?”

Safiya’s logical side is yelling that this is a stupid idea. But she thinks about Joey and Matt, and the determination to save them builds up inside of her. Plastering on a smile, she reaches out and takes the petite girl’s hand giving it a comforting squeeze.

“Let’s get our boys back!”

Chapter Text

Matt hates when he’s helpless!

In any given situation, he would rather be in control. That way, he’s able to anticipate what’s to come and then plan a proper course of action.

But when Matt’s not in control, it’s terrifying and stressful, especially if he doesn’t know what to expect. It explains his irrational fear of planes, roller coasters, and spiders (yes, spiders! Those creepy crawlies of doom could be anywhere at anytime!)

And now, here he is, in the main office, tied up and held hostage by armed criminals who threatened to kill him and Joey if their friends don’t deliver the Heart of Everlock!

Matt’s eye still hurts from Wilmer punching him, and he’s scared to the brink of panic. He can’t think of a scenario where this will end well for himself or his friends.

Who’s to say these guys won’t just kill all of us once they get what they want? They killed Principal Wilson, we could be next!

Matt pulls and twists against the zip-ties binding his wrists, but it’s too tight, and he’s only hurting himself even more. The harder he fights, the more his bonds dig into his flesh; any further, and he’ll draw blood! Matt stops and sighs in frustration.

Joey, who’s also trying to break free, is having no luck either. “We need to get out of here!” the blonde exclaims, sweat beating down his forehead from his struggles. He turns to his fellow captive. “Anything?”

Matt shakes his head in disappointment. “Nothing! It’s too tight, and pulling against it just makes it worse.”

He looks across the office at Benjamin. The taller thief’s standing guard over him and Joey while Nicholas and the other two step out for reasons unknown. But he’s paying too much attention to his tablet to take any notice of the two boys.

Matt agrees with Joey. They need to get out of here, and fast! It’s been almost fourteen minutes since Nicholas called Nikita, meaning that they now only have sixteen minutes to escape and find the others before they walk into a trap.

Rosanna’s sobs from the phone call still echo in Matt’s head. It breaks his heart whenever his best friend cries, and he feels guilty for being the cause of it, even though it’s not his fault. The little Floater cares too much, and that’s both good and bad. She will help anyone in need, but that can also get her into trouble (she’s in detention for protecting a classmate for crying out loud!)

Matt will not let these bastards hurt her (or anyone else), so he will find a way out himself no matter what. He’s Matthew Patrick! He never gives up!

“Joey,” Matt whispers to the Savant, “look around. Do you see anything sharp that can cut these zip-ties?”

Joey scans the office, anything near the boys, that can be of use. The blonde shakes his head. “Nothing.”

Matt turns and tilts his head to look up, trying to find anything on the secretary’s desk. All he can see is a cup with pens and pencils, as well as a stapler next to the computer. No scissors, no nothing!

Damnit! There’s gotta be something!

“Wait!” Joey suddenly whispers to Matt. “There’s actually a letter opener in Principal Wilson’s office! I saw it when I came in here earlier with Manny and Nikita!”

Matt breathes a sigh of relief. Thank God! That will work perfectly!

The door to the principal’s office is open, so getting in will be easy. Since Matt’s ankles aren’t tied, he’ll be able to sneak in and grab the letter opener. It’s very simple. However, they have to get Benjamin out of the way for this to work.

“Alright,” Matt tells Joey, “here’s the plan. We need to get Benjamin over there to leave long enough so I can get inside Wilson’s office.”

“Okay,” Joey contemplates, “but how are we going to do that?”

Matt shrugs. “I don’t know! Convince him to get you water or something!”

Joey hesitates, clearly worried this plan could go very wrong.

“You got this, Joey. You can do it,” Matt encourages the other boy.

Reassured by his words, the blonde nods his head and turns to Benjamin. “Hey! Benjamin, right?” Joey asks the tech man.

Benjamin looks up in annoyance and glares at them. “Shut it, kid!” the man snaps before he looks back to his tablet.

Joey glances at Matt nervously. The Nerd silently goads the Savant to try again. They need to get Benjamin out of the office!

Joey takes a deep breath and goes in for a second try.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you,” Joey says, using a more polite approach, “but may I have some water, please? My throat hurts, and it’s killing me!”

“Not my problem! Use your spit!” Benjamin responds rudely.

Matt starts to get frustrated. Jesus Christ, man! Why do you have to be so difficult?

Joey, thankfully, isn’t giving up. “The thing is,” he continues, “I easily get dehydrated, and the last glass of water I had was this morning. If I don’t have a drink now, I’m going to get sick, and the last time I was dehydrated, it wasn’t a pretty sight!”

Matt chips in. “I was there. It was bad!”

Joey nods in agreement. “How do you think your boss will feel if you let something happen to the key to his precious crystal?”

Benjamin appears irritated now, and Matt’s beginning to think Joey’s only pissing him off. He nudges the Savant to stop, that they should just think of another plan. Nevertheless, the blonde remains committed.

Fortunately, Benjamin appears to be contemplating Joey's words. He glares at the captives. “If I give you water, will you shut up?” the techie snaps, his eyes intimidating.

Joey nods his quivering head. “I promise!”

Benjamin sets down his tablet and grabs a nearby mug on the desk. With a huff, he heads out the door towards the water fountain down the hall. 

As soon as the techie is out of sight, Matt uses the secretary’s desk to push himself up. “Keep a look out!” he whispers to Joey as he hoists himself to a standing position. The Nerd’s legs feel wobbly for sitting so long, but he manages to regain composure. After checking to make sure the coast is clear, he tiptoes his way over to the principal’s office.

“Where is it located?” Matt asks before he heads inside.

“It’s in a red cup next to the computer, and it’s gold with green rhinestones,” Joey responds as he keeps a look out.

Red cup, gold with green rhinestones, got it!

Matt goes in. It’s only now that he sees the corpse of Principal Wilson, and he flinches at the sight.

Were it not for the bloody hole in her body, the older woman would appear as if she’s sleeping. It’s awful that her life ended so brutally, and Matt can’t even imagine how her family will feel when they find out.

I’m sorry you died. You deserved better than this.

The brunette makes his way to the desk, and right away, he spots the letter opener. He turns around and feels his way towards the cup with his bound hands. It’s a very difficult process, trying to grab something with his hands tied behind his back, but what else can Matt do?

“Matt, hurry!” Joey loudly whispers from outside, “I can hear him coming back!”

Matt quickly maneuvers himself, arching all he can until finally, he feels the cold steel of the letter opener in his hands. He grabs it, quickly steps over Wilson’s body, and hurries back to Joey.

Benjamin walks back in just as Matt is fully seated next to the blonde boy. Relief spreads over the Nerd’s face as he hides the opener from the criminal, who kneels down and helps Joey drink the water.

That was too close for comfort!

Joey finishes his drink and sighs. “Thank you!”

Benjamin stands back up and slams the mug against the secretary’s desk, making both boys jump a bit.

“Now, not another word from either of you, or the next thing I tape is your mouth!” Benjamin growls. He stomps off, sitting back on the other desk with his tablet.

“Well damn, Miss!” Joey quietly exclaims. He turns to Matt. “You got it?”

Matt leans forward, showing the blonde the letter opener. Joey smiles with relief and a hint of glee.

“Alright,” Matt explains, his blood coldly flowing with nerves, “now for the hard part!”

--

This is a bad idea!

Joey thought that Matt sneaking into the office to get the letter opener was risky enough. Now, the other boy wants to saw the zip-ties off Joey’s wrists while his own hands are still tied behind his back?

“What if you slice me?!” Joey hisses. He sees that letter opener, and it’s sharp. There’s no guarantee that Matt will not accidentally nick him, or maybe even cut open an artery.

Are there arteries in the wrists? Joey asks himself, trying to remember when he learned human anatomy in health class. Immediately, he feels stupid.

Matt, meanwhile, is clearly becoming impatient. “I won’t!” he responds. “I have a better view of your hands than I have of my own. And no offense, but my hands are much steadier than yours.”

Joey glares at the Nerd, appalled. Offense taken! You just don’t trust me, bitch! But the blonde understands that Matt has a point, because he is still shaking with fear. He too wouldn’t trust himself with a sharp object!

Joey sighs. He just wants to get free and get the hell out of here. “Okay, I’ll keep an eye on Benjamin.” He glances at the techie, who’s still invested in his tablet. “Just please be careful!”

Matt looks back at the Savant, giving him a comforting smile. “I will! Don’t worry!”

Matt then shifts his position so that he’s nearly back to back with Joey, with a view of the other boy’s bound hands. The brunette moves the letter opener towards the fellow captive till it’s inches from him.

Matt glances at Joey. “Ready?”

The blonde stares back, pressing his lips together in anticipation, nodding his head. “I trust you.”

Matt’s focused on his task but for a moment, Joey catches a hint of an appreciated smile. Slowly and carefully, he maneuvers the letter opener through Joey’s bonds. The blonde feels the cold steel chilling against his skin as Matt slides the opener between his wrists and the zip-ties.

“You good?” The Nerd asks, checking in.

Joey nods. “Mmhm,” he whispers, his voice giving a little squeak, obviously terrified.

As Joey watches Benjamin, he can feel Matt working, the letter opener sawing away at the zip-ties. Each stroke creates a loose feel, and he feels the bonds breaking. Joey glances over for a moment and sees Matt in deep concentration.

Come on, Boy Scout! Joey silently cheers him on, relieved that he hasn’t felt a sharp prick against his skin yet.

If they get out of this, Joey hopes that he and Matt can bond more. They work well together, they have some things in common, they make a pretty good team. It would be great to have him as a friend...that is, if the other boy still isn’t pissed at him for endangering the group.

At last, Joey hears what sounds like a small snap and a release against his wrists; he’s finally free!

Joey quietly sighs in relief, keeping his hands behind him in case Benjamin looks over. The Savant massages his wrists to get blood flow going, and it’s the most satisfying thing he’s felt today. His ankles are still tied up, though, so he needs to take care of that. But first, he needs to untie Matt.

“Alright, hand the letter opener to me, and I’ll untie you!” Joey whispers. Now that he’s free, he can do the work with his hands in front of him, without having to worry about slitting any wrists.

Joey takes the letter opener from Matt’s hands, while brunette positions himself so Joey can have room. Matt glances at Benjamin, checking if the thief is still occupied. Once it appears to be all clear, he looks at Joey and gives him the okay.

Joey carefully slides the letter opener between the zip-ties and Matt’s wrists. Trying to be steady, he slowly works, sawing off the bondage that secures his friend. He’s doing pretty well, as he’s making quick progress. Just a little bit more, and Matt will be free too. Then, they can take care of Benjamin, escape the office, find their friends, and get the hell out of dodge.

He’s close to breaking the zip-ties when suddenly, Matt tenses up. “Joey, hold up!”

Joey looks up and catches Benjamin’s face turning towards them. In a panic, he drops the letter opener and quickly puts his hands behind his back. Joey tries to act as natural as possible, his heart escalating as it pounds against his chest. He prays that he was fast enough that Benjamin didn’t notice anything odd.

His prayers go unanswered.

Benjamin stares at the captives suspiciously, noticing something’s off. “Why do you look so nervous?” the thief asks, glaring at the Savant.

Joey starts to sweat as he slightly glances to where he dropped the letter opener. Thankfully, Matt managed to grab it and hide it behind him. So maybe the thief didn’t catch it.

But Benjamin is still eyeing them. Shit, he’s onto us! Joey feels the nervous sweat forming on his forehead as his body gets warm.

Matt attempts to cover. “Why wouldn’t we be? You’re holding us prisoner!”

Joey nods in agreement, hoping it’s enough.

Benjamin sets his tablet down, stands up, and makes his way over to the boys. “No.” The tall man points at his hostages. “You’re up to something.”

The anxiety within Joey quickens. Their cover is blown, Benjamin knows what’s going on, and he’s going to see that they’re trying to escape. Joey may have just made matters worse for them.

He glances at Matt, who appears to be rather calm, and Joey doesn’t know why. He looks behind the other boy, and finds that Matt has taken over untying himself. And he’s doing so rather quickly.

It hits Joey instantly. Matthew Patrick, don’t you dare!

But Matt ignores Joey’s non-verbal pleas. As Benjamin is within foot distance, Matt breaks what’s left of the zip-ties around his wrists and launches himself at the taller criminal. Joey watches in shock as the 5’9” Nerd tackles the probably 6’4”- 6’5” criminal to the ground.

Matt struggles against the bigger man, doing everything he can to keep Benjamin down. So far, he’s winning, but it’s only a matter of time before Benjamin gets the upper hand.

Joey tries to stand up and help...only to fall sideways.

Oh right, his ankles are still duct-taped together!

Joey finds the letter opener right next to his face. Matt must have dropped it after he got free.

Grabbing the gold opener, Joey starts to work on his ankles, cutting away the tape as fast as he can. Glancing at the scuffle before him, Matt seems to be holding his own fairly well. Both he and Benjamin are now on their feet, as the brunette shoves the thief against the other desk. The taller man’s fall knocks his tablet and various office supplies off the desk, scattering across the ground.

“Joey, you good?” Matt calls to him as he saws away the last of the tape.

Joey starts to give Matt the thumbs up, only to spot a very angry Benjamin, back on his feet and advancing towards the other boy. And he has a rather large knife in his hand!

“MATT, BEHIND YOU!” Joey screams, pointing to Benjamin. Matt turns in time as the tech man swings the massive blade down on him. Luckily, he’s able to dodge it in time. Matt’s face is in pure terror and it’s now all about avoiding the knife-wielding criminal.

Joey works fast on his bonds, fear and anxiety coursing through him like a storm. He needs to help Matt before Benjamin hurts him and, eventually, Joey.

Faster, faster! Plays on repeat in Joey’s brain. At last, the tape breaks apart. Joey uses the desk to stand up, positioning himself to get feeling back into his legs. He feels so much better after relieving that tightness!

Once he’s gain composure, Joey turns back to the fight. It does not look good.

Matt has been backed into a corner with Benjamin advancing on him, like a predator cornering his prey. The brunette notices Joey and turns to him, his fearful eyes pleading for assistance. Even though he’s free, Joey doesn’t know what to do now. The two boys didn’t come up with a plan of how to deal with Benjamin after they got loose; and Joey doesn’t know how to properly fight someone. How is he supposed to take on knife-wielding Slenderman?

Then Matt mouths something to him. At first, Joey can’t understand what the other boy is saying; he can’t read lips! But by the looks of it, it appears as if Matt’s trying to say, “’ab ‘im!”

What the hell does that mean? ‘Ab ‘im?

Joey’s confusion makes him shake his head in frustration as he stares at his hands. He realizes he’s still holding the letter opener. Joey stares back at Matt, who’s keeping Benjamin focused on him. In an instant, Joey gets it.

Matt wants him to stab Benjamin with the letter opener!

The Savant’s freaking out. He’s never physically injured a person in his life! Joey’s never even considered hurting anyone until now. Is he really about to stab someone, even if they’re a dangerous criminal?

If you don’t, he’ll likely kill Matt, and then he’ll kill you! Joey’s mind screams at him. It’s you or him, and I recommend him, so stab the bitch, bitch!

Damn it, his mind is right!

Joey takes a deep breath and braces himself. He silences all morals, hoping to make the task easier. Then, with a shriek, the blonde barrels towards the taller man and with great force, sinks the letter opener into his shoulder.

Benjamin howls in pain, swinging around at the sudden stab he received. Matt stares in shock, along with Joey, who’s unable to process what happened.

He, Joey Graceffa, who likes crystals, video games, fantasy novels, and is a known pacifist, just stabbed a guy!

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” Joey cries out, not sure why he’s apologizing to the bad guy.

I can’t believe I just did that!

Joey barely recognizes himself and isn’t even sure if the boy who attacked Benjamin was actually him. He looks back at Matt, who also can’t even comprehend the situation. Joey can’t even comprehend it himself! Not until he hears Matt shout and looks in time to see Benjamin swinging his arm towards him.

Before Joey realizes what’s happening, he feels his shirt rip, followed by a sharp white hot pain across his chest. He gasps, the force knocking him backwards.

The Savant falls back, his body hitting the tile floor. His mind can’t seem to process what’s going on, so he places his hand against his chest. Pulling it back, Joey takes in the crimson color painting his palm. As shock and nausea take it in, his vision starts to become blurry. Through the blur, he’s able to make out Benjamin standing before him with a bloody knife in his hand.

He stabbed me! Panic takes control and Joey’s breathing picks up, I’ve been stabbed!

Joey hears a yell, followed by what sounds like a crash, but he can’t even focus anymore. Is he going to die? What’s happening? Why isn’t Benjamin finishing him off?

All of a sudden, Matt’s at Joey’s side, calling out to him. The other boy has fear and concern on his face as he presses something against Joey’s chest. Joey looks down and recognizes it as Principal Wilson’s yellow scarf; he realizes that Matt’s putting pressure on the wound.

Joey stares in front of him, his vision becoming clear again. Benjamin’s on the ground, eyes closed, a pool of blood under his head. What happened to him?

“Joey!” Matt’s voice is finally heard and Joey turns to him.

“Joey, we have to go, now!” Matt exclaims, “I’m going to help you out, but I need you to keep pressure on that wound until we get somewhere safe! Can you do that?”

Joey nods, taking his left hand and pushing the scarf against him. The blonde grits his teeth as he feels the pain and whimpers.

Matt grabs Joey’s right arm and slings it around his shoulders, placing his other hand around Joey’s waist. The brunette heaves Joey to a standing position, causing the blonde to cry out in pain. Damn it, everything hurts!

“Oh shoot! I’m so sorry, buddy! It’s going to be okay, you’re okay!” Matt responds, trying to calm the severely injured boy.

Tears fall down Joey’s face, words unable to describe how scared and in pain he is. He’s not sure how bad Benjamin got him, but it can’t be good!

He watches as Matt places something on the secretary’s desk. It’s a paperweight, bloody smudges on the clear glass.

Joey looks at Matt, then at Benjamin, then back at Matt. “Did you…kill him?” he asks, his words slurred in delirium.

The Nerd shakes his head. “No, but he’s going to have a serious headache when he wakes up.”

Joey nods his head giving a pained smile. “Nice!”

Matt smiles back, positioning the other boy against him. “You ready?”

Joey nods again, unable to speak now.

As they make their way out of the office, Joey can hear Matt comforting him and offering reassurance, which helps a little bit. He just hopes that they can get somewhere safe and avoid Nicholas and his other goons. Those guys are not going to be happy when they discover their leverage got away.

Most of all, Joey just hopes that they can find their friends in time and make it out of this alive.

They could use a miracle. God help them!

Chapter Text

When the group agreed to a rescue mission, Manny thought that they were going to find a safe place and form a plan. Going back into the danger zone and “winging it” is not a plan!

Yet when they saw Nicholas and two of his goons walk outside, Nikita insisted that they sneak into the school, take out the other goon, and rescue the dudes in distress. And one knows never to argue with Nikita Dragun!

I love you, girl, but one of these days, I really need to learn how to say “no” to you!

Manny sighs as he helps lift the girls through the window and into the classroom they escaped from earlier. Once he pulls himself up to get inside, with the girls’ assistance, the four students quickly make their way to the main office. Safiya recognized from the phone call that the main office is where Matt and Joey are being held.

As for the thieves, they saw Nicholas, Willy, and Wilmer walk outside...which means it’s Benjamin, the taller one, who’s keeping guard over the hostages. Manny doesn’t want to mess with any of these men, but of the four, Benjamin’s the easiest to take on. Better him over someone like Wilmer, who Manny really has a bone to pick with after that bitch hurt his friends.

Yes, Matt is his friend too! An attack on his friends is an attack on him, and if you mess with his friends, the Prep will come for blood!

The bitch is huge, though, so maybe it’s better to avoid Wilmer at all costs!

Manny follows behind the group as Safiya takes over as leader, guiding them to their destination. The Prep manages to catch a glimpse of a clock over a classroom door that reads 2:23 P.M. With seven minutes left before the exchange, the group really needs to hurry and rescue Joey and Matt before the big guns come back.

“Over here!” Safiya motions as they arrive near the office. The group tiptoe over, their backs against the wall, the entrance right next to them. The door’s open, but they can’t see what’s inside. Not to mention that it’s quiet…a little too quiet.

Manny grabs ahold of Safiya’s shoulder before she peeks in and motions a “stop” signal with his hand to Nikita and Rosanna.

“Something’s not right?” Manny whispers, dread filling his gut. From what he can see, there isn’t anyone in the office. But the raven-haired boy can make out a huge mess, as if a struggle happened. He also spots a red substance by the door, but Manny refuses to accept the obvious answer of what it could be.

Nikita looks over Manny’s shoulder. “Did they leave already?” the Rebel asks, a hint of worry in her voice.

Rosanna peeks her head around, inching forward to try and get a glimpse. Suddenly, she lets out a little gasp. “Look!” the Floater points her finger and takes off into the office.

Safiya immediately runs after her. “Ro, wait!”

Manny and Nikita follow. “Oh my God, I swear this girl is going to get us killed!” Nikita huffs in irritation.

Manny agrees, but at the same time, he has empathy for Rosanna. One of the hostages is her best friend, and she’s scared for him; he would be too if it were Nikita. All Manny can do is make sure that the little Floater doesn’t get in trouble and drag them all down with her.

As Manny and Nikita walk into the office, they hear Rosanna let out a small shriek. Manny walks up behind her and takes in the view.

The main office looks like a tornado blasted through it. Everything is thrown around. Chairs are knocked over, objects are scattered on the ground and on the desks, and that isn’t even the craziest part!

In front of four teenagers lies Benjamin, blood pooling from his head. Manny is afraid to find out whether the tall thief is still alive or…

If he is, Manny nauseously realizes, that’s two dead bodies I’ve seen today, damnit!

There’s no sign of Matt or Joey, which is of great concern. What happened to them? Are they okay?

Rosanna leaves Manny’s side and looks around.

“Joey?” the Floater calls out in a soft voice. “Matt?”

“You guys, look!” Nikita points at something.

The other three turn and notice some interesting items by the secretary’s desk: zip-ties that have been cut, and a wrapped ball of used duct tape. It occurs to Manny that this is the same desk Matt and Joey were sitting against when Nicholas called them, and the zip-ties must have been the restraints used on the boys.

But the question remains: where are Matt and Joey now?

Suddenly, incoming voices are heard from outside the school making their way towards the group. Taking charge, Manny ushers the girls out of the office and down the hallway, away from the entrance, where they hide around the corner. As soon as they get out of sight and peek around, a dazed and delirious Benjamin walks out, clutching his head.

Manny purses his lips. Well, there’s my answer if Tall Man’s alive! Yes, bitch, he’s very much alive!

Manny and the girls watch from their hiding spot as Nicholas, Wilmer, and Willy barge through the entrance doors, only to stop in their tracks when they see their injured comrade.

“The hell happened to you?” Willy asks while Nicholas pushes Benjamin aside and disappears into the office.

The leader reappears with a scary expression on his face. He grabs Benjamin by his shirt collar and shoves him against the wall. “Where are the kids?” Nicholas demands, continuing to push the techie into the wall; any harder and the wall might break.

“I...I…” Benjamin stammers, wincing in pain from his injuries.

Wilmer gets in his face. “Answer him!” the strong man snarls.

Willy, apparently the calm one of the group, pulls Wilmer away and whispers to Benjamin something Manny can’t hear.

Benjamin gulps. “They...they got away.”

Rosanna makes a little noise next to Manny, which almost sounds joyful. He wraps his arm around her, sharing her glee. However, their joy contrasts Nicholas’ fury.

“What do you mean, they got away?”

Benjamin takes a deep breath.

“The blonde one...he kept complaining about needing water,” Benjamin weakly says. “I went out to get it so he would shut up and…I don’t know…they somehow got some gold knife to untie themselves with! When I noticed something was wrong, the other one attacked me! Next thing I knew, Blondie stabs me with the knife!”

Manny cannot believe what he’s hearing. Joey Graceffa? His friend, Joey, stabbed this bitch? Well, it explains the wound on the thief’s shoulder.

Benjamin continues. “Don’t worry, I got the jump on Blondie and stabbed him too! I got him good, so he and Brainiac won’t get far.”

Wait, what?

If it weren’t for Manny’s grip on Rosanna and Nikita holding onto him, the Prep is sure he would have lost his balance and fell in shock. He feels Rosanna shake in his grasp.

Manny gives her another squeeze, but he’s unsure if it’s to help her or help him. Maybe both?

Nicolas lets go of Benjamin, the face of a monster taking over the lead thief.

“You better be right!” Nicholas snarls. “Clearly, we’ve underestimated those boys! If they can get the jump on you, they’re smart enough to find a way out of here. We can’t let them find their friends or else we lose the Heart! I’ve worked too damn hard to get my hands on that jewel, and I’m not going to let those brats get in the way! So find them now, and we’ll try to do some damage control!” Nicholas looks around at his quiet men. “What the fuck are you waiting for? Move it!”

The thieves disperse. Willy and Wilmer head towards the cafeteria, and Benjamin goes back into the office (possibly for First Aid, who knows? who cares?). Nicholas stands for a moment, one hand on his gun and the other hand clenched. In anger, he punches some nearby lockers before heading back into the office too.

Everyone finally lets out a deep exhale.

“Oh my God!” Safiya whispers, tucking her dark hair behind her ears as if to hide her anxiety.

Manny doesn’t know what to think. The good news is that Joey and Matt managed to escape these monsters. However, Joey’s injured, and it could be pretty bad!

Nikita speaks up, her tone low and aggressive. “Listen you guys, there’s no time to freak out or even cry! Those guys are looking for the boys, and we have to find them before they do!”

Manny and Safiya nod their heads. Rosanna takes breaths to prevent herself from becoming a sobbing mess again.

“Now, they said Joey’s been stabbed,” Nikita continues, “so the clock’s ticking for him! He and Matt couldn’t have gone that far. So we need to think where they would hide and treat Joey’s injuries!”

Manny tries to think about where the two would go. If Joey’s hurt, they would hide in a place where there’s likely First Aid. It’s what he’d do. However, the nurse’s station is in the main office where they just were, so they can’t be there!

Maybe one of the science classrooms where they teach Health? Manny doesn’t know.

“I know!” Rosanna’s trembling voice speaks up. The others turn to her. “The teacher’s lounge isn’t far from here. There’s First Aid there, and I know that’s where Matt would likely take Joey!” the Floater says.

Manny, Nikita, and Safiya all share confusion.

“Wait,” Safiya wonders, “how do you kno-”

“Does it matter?” Nikita snaps, “if she says they’re there, they’re likely there! So let’s move it before King Dick and his crew find us!”

Rosanna nods. “I’m positive they’re there! I’ll explain why when we find them!”

Together, the four teenagers race towards the teacher’s lounge. Manny, once again at the rear, follows the Floater, who’s taken the lead. The Prep hopes that she’s right about this.

Manny mutters a quick prayer for Joey, hoping his injury is not fatal. He’s not sure if he could take losing a friend today.

Running behind the girls, he can only imagine how Matt and Joey are doing after their escape.

--

Did we lose them?

Matt is overwhelmed by the thoughts in his head as he carries Joey through the empty halls. The blonde boy’s face is so pale, and it’s clear that he’s still in shock from the stab wound on his chest. Blood is soaking through his white shirt and the yellow scarf pressed against him. Matt can make out the red streak from the slash Benjamin made on the Savant.

Matt feels awful. I should not have taken on Benjamin! We should have just made a run for it! I should of-!

The Nerd stops himself. What else could he have done? Benjamin figured out what they were doing, and Matt was trying to stall him so Joey could get free. Benjamin was the one who stabbed Joey, not him!

But still, he feels guilty, given Joey tried to help him.

But Benjamin’s incapacitated now. All Matt can do is get Joey to safety and make sure he didn’t suffer major damage.

Joey groans, his legs nearly buckling underneath him, and it’s taking all of Matt’s strength to keep him up.

“Joey!” Matt cries. He hoists the other boy up, holding onto him without causing any more pain. “C’mon, buddy, we’re almost there! I know it hurts, but you have to help me! C’mon, just a few steps further!”

Joey nods and finds his balance. The teens keep walking.

The teacher’s lounge is within their sight, and the boys are walking in stride with good pace to get there without getting caught. Hopefully, the First Aid kit is still there, since the nurse’s station is in the main office.

Matt opens the door with his free hand and drags Joey inside. He places the taller boy on the couch and goes to close the door, barricading it with a chair. Matt does a quick search around the room and ultimately finds the First Aid kit by the kitchen area.

Joey moans in pain, clutching the injury he sustained. Matt grabs the kit and makes his way back to the couch where he sits on the coffee table across from Joey. The brunette puts on latex gloves to avoid contaminating the injury any further.

“Alright, let’s have a look!” Matt gently says, trying not to give away how nervous he is. The Nerd doesn’t know how bad the wound is. Even from his training in First Aid and CPR, he isn’t sure if he can properly treat it. But Matt will do what he can to prevent further blood loss and infection, or at least keep Joey going long enough till they can get him to a hospital.

“I need better vision of the wound, so I’ll need to take your shirt off,” Matt says staring at the bloody cut before him.

Joey puts on a funny face. Matt isn’t sure why the blonde’s doing that until he makes an uncomfortable realization.

“Well, goodness!” Joey laughs, “The least you can do is buy me dinner first! Also, I have a boyfriend!”

That’s not what I meant, man, and you know it!

“Shut up!” Matt snaps, but even he can’t keep a chuckle in. Whatever can keep Joey’s mind off the pain.

Joey shrugs and slowly starts to take off his jacket and shirt, with assistance from Matt. “I loved this shirt!” Joey whines.

“Don’t worry,” Matt reassures him, “when we get out of this, I’ll buy you a new one!”

Joey smiles at the other boy through the pain. “Thanks.”

Matt shrugs. “Hey, you put yourself in harm’s way to help me. Least I can do!”

“Yeah,” Joey says. “It was also very brave of you to distract Benjamin. I didn’t even know you knew how to fight.”

“I don’t, not really,” Matt explains. “Just four years of stage combat. Only instead of pretending to hit someone, I actually did it.”

“Hey, whatever helps!” Joey chuckles.

Matt smirks. “Yeah...now, let’s have a look at this.”

The cut against Joey’s chest isn’t as bad as Matt thought. While Benjamin got him good, Joey sustained a slash with a minimum deep cut, so no vital areas were affected. However, the blonde is still bleeding and will need stitches and proper medical care. How he will get Joey out the school while being hunted by armed criminals, Matt doesn’t know. It was a miracle to even escape the office!

We’ll figure something out, Matt assures himself. For now, he needs to make sure Joey’s wound is clean so that they can bandage it and then try to escape the school alive with their friends.

It suddenly hits Matt that the others don’t know they escaped. He needs to contact them, or else they might walk into a trap…or worse.

Okay, so here’s what I need to do! Matt starts making a list: clean Joey’s wound, find him a new shirt, find our friends, escape, call the police, buy a large bottle of Diet Coke.

Yeah, that sounds like a good plan!

--

Joey’s whole world is nothing but pain and agony!

The stab wound he obtained hurts so much, and it’s making him nauseous. The blonde boy refuses to look at it, in fear of throwing up at the sight.

His mind, as well as Matt, is trying to calm him down, insisting that it’s merely a flesh wound and he’s not going to die. But the recollection of being stabbed and seeing the blood on his hand, as well as on his shirt...of course Joey is scared of the many “what ifs?”

What if Benjamin was close enough? What if it was a straight stab, rather than a slash? Would I have died right there in the office? “Here lies Joey Graceffa. Died because he was a dumb bitch!”

So many thoughts go through Joey’s head as he watches Matt clean the cut. Joey winces when he feels the alcohol burn against him, gripping the fabric of the couch he sits on. It’s unbearable, but Joey can only sit there and wait.

He glances at Matt, who’s focusing on cleaning the wound, and Joey’s guilt eats at him. After everything I did to him and the others, he’s helping me! Joey bemuses as a tear slides down his cheek. Because of me, because I was so selfish and desperate to have that crystal, Matt got captured by those bastards and beaten. He has every right to be angry with me! The others have every right to be angry!

And who could blame them? As soon as they left the office, they should have escaped right then and there. They would have been out of the school, called the police, and those goons would have been arrested by now. Maybe they would have been able to save Principal Wilson!

But no, Joey decided to run back to the office to retrieve Rosanna’s backpack, taking advantage of that moment to sneak the Heart into her bag. His desire for the crystal was more important than his friends’ safety!

He’s no better than the thieves! If anything, he’s worse!

Joey looks at Matt again and notices the brunette’s bruised eye from when Wilmer punched him. By now, it’s a shade of purple and blue with a hint of gray.

Joey can’t take it. His remorse creates more tears. “I’m sorry,” the blonde boy whispers.

Matt looks up from his work. “For what?”

Is he serious? “What do you mean for what?” Joey exclaims, sadness and anger intertwining in his voice. “Where do I even start? For stealing the Heart! For getting captured, for getting you captured, as well as beaten and tormented! For getting stabbed, rendering myself useless and dead-weight! How are you not even pissed at me right now?”

By this point, Joey’s crying. He feels stupid for crying, but he doesn’t care. He feels like he deserves to be hated right now! Maybe Matt getting angry at him, chewing him out even, would be easier.

Matt stops what he’s doing and stares at Joey. Instead of anger and disappointment, Matt looks at him with sadness and sympathy.

“What’s the point?” Matt answers, “Yeah, you were an idiot for invoking the wrath of those guys. But who wouldn’t want that jewel? You said it yourself, your family’s struggling financially, and I understand that kind of desperation can outweigh reasoning. What’s done is done, and there’s no reason to dwell on it anymore.”

Joey wipes his tears, nodding his head, but his guilt still hurts along with his injury.

“Besides,” Matt continues, “we managed to get away. We escaped! Also, if it weren’t for you, Benjamin would have skewered me with his knife! You stabbed the guy with a freaking letter opener! I gotta admit, that was pretty badass!”

When Matt puts it that way, Joey can’t help but agree. He stabbed a bad guy and saved someone! Sure, he got stabbed too, but it was pretty cool taking on Benjamin, even if it was also terrifying.

“We took out the bad guy and we escaped,” Matt adds on. “Those men can’t hurt us now!”

That’s true, Joey contemplates. We aren’t dead, and that’s what matters. It could have ended a lot worse!

He sighs. “I guess you’re right.”

Matt chuckles. “Oh, I know I’m right! I am, after all, the Nerd of the group!”

Both boys laugh, even as Joey grimaces from the pain his laugh is creating. Since the two are talking, Joey asks another question that’s been itching at him. “How did you know there would be a First Aid kit here, by the way?”

Matt hesitates, as if it were a personal question.

“Well…Ro and I would sneak in here from time to time.”

Joey cannot believe his ears.

You and Ro? Sneaking into the teachers’ lounge? And I thought Nikita was the Rebel!”

Matt shrugs. “They have amazing snacks and cool books in here. No one’s perfect! Besides, I had a theory at the time!”

Joey smirks. “Did you prove it?”

Matt gives a sneaky look. “Still working on it.”

Joey never expected Matt of all people to sneak into the teachers lounge, let alone Rosanna! Then again, he never expected both to get detention.

Not to mention Matt was caught on the school’s rooftop!

Just when Joey had Matt all figured out, the brunette boy has something new to surprise him.

Matt leans back and throws the bloody rags into the trash can next to them.

“Alright, time to wrap it up!”

Joey finally gains the courage to look down. Matt managed to stop the bleeding and has cleaned most of the blood away. All that remains is the red gash line across his chest.

“How bad is it?” Joey concernly asks as Matt retrieves bandages and gauze from the First Aid kit.

“Honestly,” Matt says, also with concern, “you may need stitches. I managed to clean it to avoid infection, but we need to get you out of here and to the hospital. For now, I can have these bandages hold in place.”

Joey’s worried by the statement, but he trusts Matt will get them out of here.

Matt stands up and places the bandages across Joey’s chest. The brunette then takes the gauze and starts to wrap it around Joey, under his left arm, and over the right shoulder.

After a couple wraps, Matt rips the gauze and sticks it down.

“There we go!” Matt proudly states, taking off his gloves as he admires his work. “Now, let’s find you a shirt!”

Joey scans the room before his eyes fall on a box in the corner.

“There’s a Lost and Found box right over there,” he points out.

Matt walks over and starts rummaging through, pulling out different random stuff. Finally, he pulls out a zipped up jacket and holds it out to Joey.

“This looks like this could be your size.”

The jacket is a tan-beige with a hoodie and white string adjusters. It appears to be old and worn-out, as if it has been in the box for a good long time. It’s not cute!

“That’s all there is?” Joey asks, scrunching up his nose at the ugly piece of clothing.

Unfortunately, Matt nods.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Miss, Joey tells himself.

The blonde sighs in defeat, “Alright, it will have to do.”

Matt brings the jacket over, unzipping it, then helping Joey put it on. It hurts to move, but Joey grins and bears it. He zips up the jacket and adjusts it to his form.

“How do I look?” the Savant asks nervously.

Matt hesitates before saying, “Not bad.”

Joey smiles. He knows that when he sees Manny and Nikita, they will go all fashion police on him.

Oh my God, Manny and Nikita! Realization hits Joey. They don’t know we escaped!

Joey starts to stand up. “Matt, we have to find the others! They don’t know we got away, and Nicholas still has my phone!”

Matt grabs Joey to assist him. “I know! We need to find them before they walk into a trap! As for your phone…”

Matt reaches into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out Joey’s iPhone.

Joey stares at Matt in disbelief. “How…?”

“I swiped it from the desk after I knocked out Benjamin.” Matt answers before Joey could finish his question.

If it wasn’t for his injury, Joey would give the other boy the biggest hug ever! “Matt, you are literally the best!”

“I know,” Matt shrugs with a smile. “But right now, we need to find others. I don’t want to risk calling them here, so let’s find another hiding spot, then text Nikita.”

Joey really needs to make things right. He owes that to everyone. “Sounds like a plan!”

Gripping Matt’s arm, the two make their way to the door.

Chapter Text

Rosanna’s trying to find Joey and Matt as quickly as possible, but it’s so difficult to move fast without her Platform Oxfords clanking loudly against the hard school floor.

As soon as she and the others discovered the boys escaped, and that Joey (Oh God, Joey!) was injured, the Floater knew exactly where Matt would take the Savant to get medical attention.

“It’s just around here!” she tells the others, who follow behind her. Turning the corner, Rosanna spots the teacher’s lounge.

Rosanna remembers the first time she and Matt sneaked into the lounge, sophomore year; it was also the first time they did something “rebellious,” she would say.

They didn’t do anything illegal, Matt just figured there were better snacks and drinks that the administration was withholding from the student population. He proved it when they found the fridge filled with soda (Diet Coke especially, their favorite!) and cabinets of delicious snacks. For most of the year, the two would sneak into the lounge and “borrow” refreshments and books, so Rosanna knows what the place looks like and what’s inside. One of those things is a First Aid kit.

The four teens arrive at the door, Rosanna ready to knock. Before her fist can make contact, the door opens, making Rosanna and the others jump back in fright, startling the people on the other side. The Floater immediately regains her composure when she recognizes her boys.

Rosanna grabs Matt into a tight hug, nearly squeezing the life out of him.

“Are you okay?!” the petite girl squeaks, every part of her anxious even though her friend is safe now. As they break apart, Rosanna looks him over like a worried mother hen. When she sees his bruised eye, her heart sinks.

“Oh, Matt...” the brunette girl whispers sadly, cupping her hand against his cheek.

Matt can only smile as he gently takes her wrist. “It’s okay, I’m okay,” he calmly says, his warm energy reassuring her. “But Joey needs help!”

Rosanna spots Joey behind Matt. The Savant, who’s using the Nerd’s shoulder for support, is gripping his side, and his face is so pale. He’s also wearing a beat-up tan hoodie.

“Bitch, what the hell are you wearing?” Manny asks, his face twisted in shock and what looks like disgust.

Joey gives a weak smile. “Good to see you guys, too!”

Rosanna goes over to Joey and gives him a hug. She can feel him wince from her touch, and it’s here where Rosanna catches a glimpse of his bandaged chest beneath the jacket.

“Joey, what happened?” Rosanna asks as Matt files everyone into the lounge before barricading the door. Once more hugs are exchanged, the reunited six sit on the couch and chairs. The First Aid kit is on the coffee table with a trash can filled with bloody rags, paper towels, and Joey’s original shirt, now ripped and bloody.

Once everyone is settled, Matt recounts what happened after the phone call. He explains how he and Joey distracted Benjamin long enough for Matt to steal a letter opener which the boys used to untie themselves. Benjamin caught on, there was a struggle, and the rest is history.

“I cleaned up Joey’s wound as best I could, but he really needs a hospital!” Matt concludes.

Joey nods, making it clear that he’s not doing well.

“Okay, but how do we get out of here now? King Dick and his henchman lost their leverage, and he’s pissed off!” Nikita remarks.

Rosanna knows that the Rebel’s right. They made Nicholas really mad, and with no leverage or crystal, he’s on the hunt! Who’s to say he won’t have Wilmer hurt them again?

Safiya, curled up on a chair next to Joey, takes this all in, tucking her hair behind her ears.

“There aren’t any windows in this room,” the Goth observes, “and the only way out is from where we came.”

“So basically, we’re trapped,” Manny bluntly remarks, “which means…we’re fucked!”

Rosanna, who’s sitting in the middle of the couch, rests her head against Matt’s shoulder and takes Joey’s hand. They’re together again, but they’re still in danger. The thieves are bound to find them eventually.

The group needs a plan, and they need one now!

--

The group’s reunited, but Safiya’s still nervous. Nicholas and his goons are still hunting them, and at this point, they are very dangerous and will likely show zero mercy. They could be anywhere, even outside, so escaping is going to be risky.

Not to mention Principal Wilson, their one guardian, is dead, and Joey’s wounded. These men have proven that no one is off limits to be hurt or threatened, so the students need a really good plan!

“I still have my phone! We should just stick with the original plan and find somewhere to hide till the cops show up,” Nikita suggests.

Matt shakes his head. “We could, but that would take 10-30 minutes tops, and we don’t have that kind of time! The sooner we get Joey medical attention, the better!”

“Plus, those men could get away and may try to come after us later!” Manny adds. “They will figure out who we are and locate us in the future. Also, we still have the Heart, and Nicholas will stop at nothing to get it back! He may not have hostages anymore, but he sure as hell will tear down this school to find us, especially with that blonde hellhound of his!”

“Yeah,” Matt agrees as he touches his black eye, “I don’t want to run into him again.”

Safiya looks at him with remorse as she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear again to think. The teens have so little options, so how can they help their injured friend, stop these bad guys, and escape unscathed?

“What if we try to take back the school? What if we play these bitches at their own game?” Manny suggests.

Nikita stares at her best friend as if he just suggested they blow up the White House.

“Manny, I love you, but how do you suppose six high school juniors, one injured for that matter, can take down four armed and crazy murderous psychopaths? Trust me, honey, that’s just asking for death!”

“Actually,” Matt chimes in, “that’s not a bad idea!”

Everyone turns to Matt in shock.

“I think Wilmer may have clocked you a little too hard!” Joey chuckles nervously.

“No, Manny has a point!” Matt explains. “Nicholas and his men are not going to stop looking for us! So we need to stop them before they hurt anyone else. Once the police arrive, they can take Nicholas and his men into custody. We all have a set of skills to contribute, so all we need is to formulate a plan.”

Safiya listens, and strangely, a part of her starts to agree. Sure, it’s risky, and so many things could go wrong. But if they just sit around waiting for help, the thieves are bound to find them, and it will end very bloody and tragically for her and the others.

“I agree with Manny and Matt.” Safiya responds. “As crazy and dangerous as it is, we need to do something to stop these guys.”

“Besides, they killed Principal Wilson.” Rosanna cuts in, “She may not have been a nice lady, but she isn’t...wasn’t evil. She didn’t deserve what happened to her, and these men need to be brought to justice for her and her family.”

Safiya catches Nikita sucking in her breath, a bit of sadness and remorse encompassing her face.

“Yeah,” the Rebel remarks. “I didn’t like Wilson, but I never actually hated her. Her family will need closure.”

She looks to every member of her group. “I say we make these bitches pay!”

Safiya smiles. As weird as it is, it’s nice seeing everyone united and getting along. She wouldn’t have expected that this morning, but then again, most detentions aren’t interrupted by gun-wielding jewel thieves.

“Wow!” the Goth snickers. “This group’s basically The Breakfast Club on steroids!”

The group laughs at the reference.

“Or The Breakfast Club meets Toy Soldiers,” Matt adds.

Safiya tilts her head in confusion. “I don’t know that film.”

“Oh, it’s a movie from 1991! It's about a boarding school hijacked by terrorists, and the students fight back,” Manny explains. “I had the biggest crush on Sean Astin for a while because of that movie.”

Matt stares at the Prep in surprise. “The fact that you know Toy Soldiers makes me like you a lot more, buddy!”

Safiya could’ve sworn she saw Manny blush from that comment.

“Okay guys, as much as I would like to make more pop culture references, we don’t have the time!” Nikita interrupts. She looks at Safiya and Matt. “So, how are we going to do this?”

Safiya looks at Matt, who seems to be formulating something of his own.

“The chemistry lab isn’t far from here,” Safiya suggests.

Matt nods. “Hey Saf, you wouldn’t happen to have that lighter on you right now, would you?”

As if on cue, Safiya smugly reaches into her pocket and flicks out her lighter.

“So...what’s the plan, Nerd?”

Chapter Text

Science and math were never really Nikita’s forte. Whenever she looks at symbols or numbers, all the Rebel sees is another language. What's the point in learning chemistry, or even trigonometry, if it won't apply to her after high school?

That all changed today! Science and math aren’t going to apply to Nikita’s career of choice, but they sure as hell will help save her and the others from crazy murderous thieves.

Once Matt and Safiya lead the group to one of the science labs on the second floor, they all start looking for supplies to use for their trap.

Most of what they find are the stereotypical science stuff (gloves, goggles, and beakers), while others are ingredients with names Nikita can’t even pronounce.

Matt has everyone put on gloves and goggles to protect themselves from the chemicals. Manny and Nikita aren’t happy about messing up their makeup, and the gloves are an ugly leather black. However, according to Matt, it’s better than having their eyes burn out of their sockets or their skin melting off.

Oh well! Better to be temporarily ugly than permanently ugly!

Once everyone’s geared up, Matt and Safiya demonstrate how to build the trap they need to incapacitate Nicholas and his crew.

After fifteen minutes of DIYs and endless confusion, the group successfully create two foam bombs.

“Once we light the fuse,” Safiya explains, “the bombs will explode over the thieves with enough force to knock down even Blonde Hulk. The hydrogen peroxide in the foam may cause burns, which is why it’s very important to keep the gloves on!”

Nikita purses her lips. “But won’t hydrogen peroxide burn these guys too?”

Safiya and Matt look at each other nervously.

“Well, if the foam gets on them, yeah,” Matt answers.

Nikita’s silent for a moment, surprised that the two geeks are willing to hurt other people to save themselves. In a twisted way, she likes it!

“Good!” the Rebel remarks with a smile. Manny snickers next to her.

Rosanna, however, appears to be reluctant with the plan. “Won’t we get in trouble for this?”

Nikita glares at the Floater. Really, girl?

“Ro,” the blonde girl kindly insists, the tone in her voice opposite from the one in her head, “we need to stop these guys at all costs! It will only hurt them a bit, but it won’t kill them. Besides, getting into further trouble is the least of our concerns.”

Joey, who hasn’t spoken much the whole time, nods his head.

“I agree, it’s us or them. And I choose us! We have to do this, or else we’ll be in even more trouble; trouble that will only end tragically and very bloody!”

Nikita rolls her eyes. “Way to be dramatic, girl!”

But Rosanna seems to understand.

“So we have two foam bombs. What’s the plan?” the petite girl asks Matt and Safiya.

“The plan is we first need to separate those guys from each other, which means we’ll have to split up,” Safiya explains.

Matt chimes in. “One group will stay on the second floor, and the other will head to the west side of the building. Once we get them to come to us, we’ll take them out.”

The Nerd turns to Nikita and Manny. “You two will remain with Safiya on the second floor, while Joey, Ro and I take the west side. Once all four thieves are down and secured, we’ll meet near the entrance and get out of here. Okay?”

Everyone nods.

“Let’s get these bitches!” Nikita growls. She is so ready for this all to be over. Once she escapes, Nikita’s going to take a long hot bubble bath and sleep till next weekend. Hell, the school should at least give them time off after the shit they went through today!

Across from her, Rosanna smiles at the group.

“I just want to say that whatever happens,” the Floater says lovingly, “I truly care about everyone in this room. I personally feel like this experience has brought us closer together. And I was wondering that hopefully...maybe...we can all be friends after this?”

Silence fills the lab. Nikita never really considered that. This morning, Joey and Manny were her only ride or die bitches, and she thought that she wouldn’t ever interact with the other three again. She’s not even sure if that will even be the case after this ordeal ends.

On the other hand, the Rebel really got to know each person, and now, she would kill any bitch who tried to hurt them. When Joey and Matt were kidnapped, Nikita was so invested in finding Wilmer and beating his ass; in the moment, she believed she could take him on!

Truth is, Nikita doesn’t know what will happen after they make it out of here. She would rather stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand.

So what does she say to Rosanna without sounding like a total bitch?

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” the blonde girl answers. “For now, let’s take down King Dick and his merry men and end this, alright?”

Everyone seems to agree, even Rosanna, although there’s a hint of disappointment in her face.

Fine! Nikita might as well insert a little hope.

“We’re all we got, so we need to make sure we look out for one another! Remember, we’re in this together!”

“Couldn’t agree more!” Joey replies.

The other four nod their heads, some replying with “yes” and “without a doubt”.

Nikita looks back at Rosanna, who now has a hopeful smile on her face. Strangely, it warms the Rebel’s so-called “cold” heart.

Matt takes notice and places his hand out before the group. “Together on three?”

One by one, the group places a hand on top of each other. Nikita's last, weirded out by this sudden kumbaya shit.

You know what? Fuck it!

Nikita paints on a genuine smile as her acrylic hand lays on top of Manny’s. The group all give each other assuring looks before counting down.

“One, two, three…together!”

All six hands lift up, united.

--

The last time Safiya did something crazy for science, it got her detention. Now, it’s what will save her life as well as her friends.

Wow, I actually have friends! the Goth jokes to herself as the group splits off into teams. Matt, Rosanna, and Joey head for the west wing, while Safiya, Manny, and Nikita prepare on the second floor.

Safiya, for sure, knows she’ll be friends with Matt and Rosanna after this, considering she got to know them more before this whole fiasco started. They even invited her to watch movies with them afterwards.

The other three, however, no way!

Joey, maybe, given he’s just as weird as Safiya, but not Manny and Nikita. They’re so different from her, and if it weren’t for the thieves’ invasion or even being in detention, Safiya’s confident that they wouldn’t have known she existed.

And yet, here she is, paired with the “Mean Girls meets Heathers” duo, about to take down a bunch of dangerous criminals.

The trio set up their trap, making sure everything is working and ready to go. As they put in the finishing touches, it’s time to move onto Phase Two: getting their targets to come to them.

“We’re going to need to give them a reason to come here,” Safiya explains. It’ll be difficult, considering she doesn’t know where Nicholas and his crew are or even how to lure them here.

“We’re going to need bait!” Nikita says, obvious something’s cooking in her mind.

Manny looks up from his work. “And what are we going to use for bait? How do we get a bunch of crooks to walk into our trap?”

Nikita hesitates, but it becomes clear to both Safiya and Manny what the Rebel’s thinking.

“No, Nikita! Absolutely not!” the Prep jumps up, his figure towering over the 5’4” blonde.

Safiya stands up as well, worry filling her face. “I agree with Manny! It’s suicide!”

Nikita has proven to be brave and bold, but there’s a difference between bravery and recklessness. Nikita’s athletic and runs pretty fast, but Safiya isn’t sure that the other girl will be able to outrun the thieves in heels and a dress!

But Nikita isn’t backing down. “What do you suggest we do, wait and hope they just appear? No, we need to get them up here and that means someone has to lure them! Besides, I’m fast and I’m hot. They’ll have to chase me and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s causing trouble and reeling in what I want! I’m doing it and that’s that!”

Safiya glances at Manny, both knowing Nikita's mind is set on this and there’s no changing it.

“Safiya,” the Prep asks, “to light the fuse, how many people need to do it?”

“Just one person,” Safiya answers, her lighter gripped in her gloved hand.

“Okay!” Manny turns to Nikita. “You’re not the only one who’s fast and hot. The more bait we have, the more likely we get these bitches! I’m coming with you!”

Safiya expects the Rebel to argue with her friend, refuse him, not wanting to put him in any danger.

But Nikita stares at Manny, a smirk crossing her face. “Well, I know not to argue with you, girl!”

Nikita looks back at Safiya. “You got this?”

The Goth shows the duo her lighter, scared but confident.

“I got this! As you get closer, make a sound to let me know you’re on your way. Once you run pass me, it’s important you find a place to take cover, got it?”

Manny gives the raven-haired girl a thumbs up. “You bet! Don’t want to ruin this beautiful face!”

The Prep turns to Nikita. “Ready, bitch?”

Nikita purses her lips, her energy filled sudden power. “Let’s do this!”

The two high-five then make their way down the hall to the stairs.

“Wait!” Safiya quickly says.

Manny and Nikita look back.

The Goth nervously smiles. “Please be careful!”

Manny grins at her. “You too, Safiya!”

Nikita stares back, her face stoic, but for a quick second, smiles at the other girl. With that, the two leave, disappearing around the corner.

Safiya really hopes this works, but she has to trust Manny and Nikita to succeed in bringing some or all of the thieves to her.

For now, she just has to wait.

--

Nikita’s scared, but she’s trying to channel it into determination. All day, she’s been running away from bad guys; in a dress and heels for that matter! Her wig is hot against her, and sweat runs through her makeup. Even though it’s waterproof, the Rebel feels it smudge a bit, and it’s making her mad!

Nikita wants this done and over with, so she takes initiative to lure the bitches to the bomb, and Manny goes with her. She doesn’t know what to expect, but hopes that both her and Manny are fast enough to get the thieves to Safiya, who will activate the bomb.

The two friends make their way down the stairs, tip-toeing across the halls while keeping their ears alert for any suspicious noise. Manny’s breathing is heavy; it’s clear that the Prep is just as nervous as the Rebel.

Just as the two turn the corner, lo and behold, Nikita spots Benjamin and Wilmer together by the main office. The two are facing the other way, as if they just saw something slip by or just witnessed something crazy.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t have just followed the boss?” Nikita hears Wilmer grunt.

“You heard Nicholas!” Benjamin responds, “We have to keep an eye out for any unwanted visitors! Besides, as much as I want to give that boy a piece of my mind for what he and his blonde friend did to me, Nicholas has a bigger bone to pick with them!”

Nikita realizes right away Benjamin’s talking about Matt and Joey.

I guess they went the distraction route too! Well, at least Manny and I only have to deal with these two idiots over the big guns!

The blonde glances at her friend. “You ready?”

Manny looks at Nikita, a smirk painted across his glossed lips. “Born ready!”

Nikita takes a deep breath, summoning all her courage and anger. She has to do this now or she won’t be able to do it at all.

Stepping around the corner, the Rebel makes herself visible to Benjamin and Wilmer.

“Hey, Tall Man!” Nikita sweetly calls.

Benjamin and Wilmer turn their heads, their eyes widen when they see Nikita and Manny.

Nikita places her hands on her hips, making herself look attractive and a magnet to the thieves. Manny is next to her, making “come hither” gestures before giving the men the finger.

“You want a piece of this deliciousness? Come and get it!”

Nikita’s putting on an act, but deep down, she’s a bit grossed out and ashamed of herself. She’s sixteen and she’s flaunting herself to grown men (what are they, thirty?)! But whatever, if it gets them to follow her and Manny, then jail-bait she will be!

It works, because Wilmer barrels towards the two, Benjamin not far behind.

Both Manny and Nikita let out a terrified screech and sprint towards the stairs and back to Safiya.

Nikita refuses to look behind her, knowing it will slow her down. But she can hear the heavy slams of Wilmer’s boots as he chases them.

Oh shit, this bitch is fast!

Nikita bounds up the stairs, Manny right beside her, keeping pace. The two make it up and head for Safiya.

As soon as she sees the Goth in her sights, Nikita motions for her to get ready.

“They’re coming, bitch! Light it up!” Nikita screams as she runs past Safiya. The blonde turns around and catches Wilmer and Benjamin not far behind. Safiya has her lighter ready, waiting for the thieves to get closer.

Nikita starts to panic. What’s Safiya waiting for?

As if on cue, the raven-haired girl lights the fuse just as Wilmer is within feet of her. Safiya jumps up and runs towards Nikita and Manny. The three round the corner of the hallway behind them and take cover. Nikita kneels down next to Safiya, her ears covered, as Manny shields both girls.

Within seconds, a loud explosion is heard, and for a moment, the hallways shake. Despite covering her ears, Nikita lets out a scream of terror along with the others.

Then, it’s quiet.

Manny lets her go and stands up, Safiya following. Both look around the corner as Nikita gets to her feet.

Manny gasps, his hand covering his mouth. “Oh. My. God!”

Nikita peeks around Manny and takes in the shocking sight.

The hallway where their bomb used to be is now covered in foam and blast marks. Nikita can see lockers partially bent and destroyed by the blast, a soapy like smell filling the air.

Holy shit!

Nikita looks for Benjamin and Wilmer, not sure if the blast got them.

Safiya points at something and walks forward. “Look at that!”

Manny and Nikita reluctantly follow the Goth, looking at where she’s pointing.

Lying on the floor before them are Benjamin and Wilmer, unconscious.

Benjamin slumps against lockers, covered in foam, burns, and scratches, the wound he got from Joey bleeding again. Wilmer lies further back, also in a similar condition.

Joy fills through Nikita, making the Rebel jump for joy. “Yasss, we got em! We actually got em!”

Manny and Safiya appear just as shocked and joyful. Finally, they took down the bad guys!

As she takes in their victory, Nikita can only hope the other group is just as successful.

Chapter Text

Joey really doesn’t want to screw this up!

Matt volunteered to lure the thieves their way, leaving him and Rosanna to light up their bomb using matches they found in the lab. The Nerd was clear on the instructions, but regardless, the Savant’s nervous.

Once Matt gets close enough, you light up the match and ignite the bomb just as he passes, then duck for cover. It’s that simple!

“What’s taking him so long?” Rosanna asks, her knees bouncing anxiously. The brunette girl’s obviously unhappy about Matt being the bait.

“He’ll be fine, Ro,” Joey reassures her. “Matt will be able to outmaneuver them, and the plan will work. You’ll see!”

Still, even for Joey, there’s uncertainty about whether this will work. He hopes the same can be said for the other group.

Joey grimaces as he places his hand against his chest. The wound doesn’t hurt as much as before, but it still causes Joey great discomfort. He also still can’t process that he was stabbed, nor that he’s lucky to be alive. The group isn’t out of the woods yet, but the incident gave Joey a lot of perspective. He sure isn’t taken anything for granted after this!

A shout echoes through the halls, signaling that Matt’s on his way and it’s time to get ready. Joey takes out a match and prepares to ignite it. He scratches the side of the box as soon as Matt’s brown-tan jacket form appears, the Nerd running as if he were in the Olympics.

Not far behind appears Nicholas, a monster more than a man, sprinting after the brunette boy, Willy not far behind. Both have guns in their hands, meaning that Joey needs to act fast.

Matt runs past the other students, grabbing Rosanna along with him to hide.

“Now, Joey, now!” Matt screams as he and Rosanna take their place in a nearby classroom. Joey continues to scratch the box.

But it’s not working!

Panic fills Joey’s entire body as he desperately tries to light the match, Nicholas and Willy getting closer to him.

Oh God, no! No, this isn’t happening! Joey’s mind screams as he stands up, flicking out another match to light it.

Still nothing!

“You guys, it’s not working!” Joey yells, backing away from the incoming thieves. Nicholas grins at him, like a predator discovering prey. Terror ignites within the Savant as he backs up, dropping the matchbox.

As Nicholas and Willy advance on him, fear causes Joey to stumble and he falls to the ground. Within seconds, the blonde boy feels pain explode in his chest and he cries out. He can hear Rosanna scream his name, his blurry vision making out the monstrous form of Nicholas above him, his boot pressing down on his chest.

The Savant knows he’s screwed! Every part of him wants to shout for Matt and Rosanna to run, save themselves.

But he’s so scared, nothing comes out but cries of pain and agonizing sobs.

I thought I was lucky! Joey thinks in despair, tears stinging his eyes, I was wrong!

Everything goes mute, time slows down. As Nicholas aims his gun at him, Joey actually sees his life flash before his eyes. He thinks about his parents, his sister Nicole, his dogs, Daniel; he’s about to lose it all. Everything now is pain and misery, and he wants it all to end.

Suddenly, the pressure releases from his chest, sound returning as Nicholas and Willy let out shocked screams. A blast of white, cloudy foam shoots above the Savant, followed by hazy colors of brown, green, blue, and yellow.

Rosanna instantly pops above him, her small hand clasping under his head, calling out to him. Joey hears what sounds like a hard object colliding with skin followed by grunts, then silence.

“Joey, talk to me! Are you okay!” Rosanna exclaims, Joey finally able to properly hear her. He clutches his wound, the pain still throbbing.

“What happened?” Joey asks as he stares ahead. To his shock, Nicholas and Willy are passed out on the floor, white foam covering their faces and parts of their bodies. In front of them is Matt with a fire extinguisher in his hands. The Nerd hurries over to the other two and kneels down on Joey’s other side.

“Are you okay?” Matt asks, worry painting his face.

“Yeah, the matches weren’t working, I don’t understand?” Joey feels so embarrassed. He had one job, and he screwed it up! Once again, his friends had to jump in and save the day.

Matt shakes his head, setting down the extinguisher. “It’s fine,” he insists in a comforting tone, “sometimes things don’t go as planned and you have to improvise. Don’t worry about it!”

Joey wants to believe that, but is failing miserably.

As he wallows in his shame, Matt and Rosanna take care of Nicholas and Willy. They lock the two men in the nearby janitor’s closet and bolt the door.

As Rosanna returns to Joey, it’s clear that the Floater has concerns. “Are they going to be okay?”

Matt glances back at the closet. “They’re going to be out cold for a while, but not for long. When they wake up, they’re going to be mad as hell! So we need to get out of here, right now! Ro-”

Before Matt can continue, a loud but distant explosion is heard, frightening the three.

“I guess Safiya managed to get their bomb working,” Joey lightly chuckles.

Matt smiles with pride. “Yup, she’s quite something. They all are.”

He turns to Rosanna. “You still have Joey’s phone, right?”

Rosanna shrugs off her backpack and unzips it to show the phone inside.

Matt takes it and texts Nikita. Joey can’t see what he’s typing, but guesses it’s to tell the Rebel that their plan was a success and to meet up with them. The phone dinged with a response. Matt peeks at it, smiling, then sends another text before handing it back to Rosanna.

“The other group have secured the other guys and are on their way.”

“Alright! We need to find them and get out,” Joey says as he starts to stand up. He groans in pain, nearly stumbling. Rosanna and Matt quickly catch him and hold him up.

“No, buddy,” Matt says, “you’re in no condition. We need to get you out of here immediately!”

He turns to Rosanna. “The library’s not far from here. Take Joey there and wait for me!”

“Wait, what are you going to do?” Rosanna asks worriedly.

Matt pauses.

“I told Nikita I’m going to meet with them, then pick you guys up from the library on our way out.”

Joey isn’t a fan of this. “I don’t think we should split up,” the Savant protests, a bad feeling in his stomach.

Rosanna nods in agreement. “I agree with Joey, Matt, this is dangerous. Can’t we trust them to find us?”

Matt shakes his head. “I want to make sure everyone’s okay, and who knows if they need help. These guys won’t be waking up anytime soon, so I’ll be fine!”

Matt places a hand on Rosanna and Joey’s shoulders. “What matters is that you two get to safety. I’ll be right behind you guys. If there’s an emergency, call Nikita, alright?”

Joey nods while Rosanna hugs her best friend. “You be careful! When you find the others, please send us a message.”

“I will!” Matt responds. He looks at Joey and smiles. “Take care of each other!”

Joey returns the smile. “We will.”

With that, the Nerd walks away, bolting down the hall and around the corner.

Rosanna composes herself and wraps Joey’s arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go, Joey!”

Joey takes a deep breath and lets Rosanna help him towards the library. There’s so much pain, but Joey can’t tell anymore if it’s from his injury or from his heart.

–-

It worked! It actually worked!

Manny can’t contain his happiness from their victory. Benjamin and Wilmer are unconscious on the ground, splayed out like dummies.

Safiya stands on one side of Manny, eyes wide in disbelief over the success of their bomb. Nikita, on Manny’s other side, stands with a smug look on her face, feeling the badassery the Prep himself is experiencing.

“Holy shit, that worked out better than I thought!” Safiya exclaims. The Goth peers at the two unconscious men. “Are they…did we…?”

Manny walks over to get a better look. Benjamin has fallen onto his stomach after being thrown against the lockers, and Wilmer is on his side facing away from the three teens. It’s hard to tell if they’re still breathing or not, but Manny isn’t going to get close just to check for a pulse!

“Either way,” Nikita muses, “these bitches got what they deserved!”

Manny cannot agree more!

“Do you think the others got their guys?” Manny asks the girls. The Prep didn’t hear a second explosion, but then again, he was more focused on his trap and taking out Wilmer and Benjamin.

They probably did, the Prep reassures himself, Nicholas and Willy haven’t shown up! And Matt...well…he’s Matt! I know him and the others got those bastards!

Safiya nods her head as if agreeing with his thoughts. “They must have! I haven’t--”

A loud ding is heard before Safiya can say more.

Nikita cocks her head. “That must be my phone!”

The Rebel reaches into her jacket pocket and pulls out her iPhone. Staring at the screen, Manny sees the blonde girl’s face immediately light up.

“It’s Matt! They managed to take down Nicholas and Willy.”

Manny breathes a sigh of relief. He knew the others could do it!

“So it’s over right? We got them all?” he cautiously asks.

Nikita nods her head.

“Thank God!” Safiya breathes happily. “Did he say anything else?”

“Yeah,” Nikita continues. “Joey’s wound reopened in a scuffle, so Rosanna’s going to take him back to the library, and Matt’s coming to find us.”

“Alright,” Safiya points at the Wilmer and Benjamin. “We need to secure these two, so tell him to head towards the English hallway, and we’ll meet him there.”

“On it!” Nikita types up the message and sends it. One more ding is heard for confirmation.

“Now that that’s taken care of,” Manny chimes in, “let’s secure these two up for the cops!”

The Goth points to the janitor’s closet. “Let’s put them in there! I saw duct tape from earlier, so we can tie them up and lock the door so they won’t get out!”

Nikita nods. “I’m down!”

Manny’s in too.

“Alright, let’s lock up these bitches!” the Prep announces.

They get Benjamin first. Manny grabs the tall man’s arms, while the girls take hold of a leg. The trio work together to carry/drag the thief into the closet, an odd sense of teamwork. There, Manny and Safiya tie up Benjamin’s hands and feet, while Nikita goes out to get Wilmer ready.

The Prep and the Goth finish up and are just about to get Wilmer when Nikita lets out a high shriek.

Hearing his best friend scream, Manny leaps out of the closet. The scene before him makes his heart drop. He can hear Safiya gasp behind him.

Wilmer stands before them, covered in scratches and burns from the foam. Across his face is an expression of fury and glee. In one hand is a gun, and in the other, his arm around her waist, is Nikita putting up the fight of her life. Despite clawing and scratching at the strong man, her tiny figure is no match for Wilmer.

“LET HER GO!” Manny screeches, his own fury building up at the sight of the bitch manhandling his girl.

Wilmer cackles.

“Whatcha gonna do about it, fairy boy!” the thief laughs as he hoists Nikita up, causing the blonde girl to yelp.

Oh fuck no!

Manny doesn’t care when people can come after him. They can call him the most derogatory of names, push him around, even punch him in his beautiful face!

But touch Nikita, lay a hand on his best friend, and he will smash a bitch harder than when the Hulk smashed Loki in the first Avengers movie!

Manny’s fear is gone, replaced with rage.

“You’re not the only strong man here, bitch!” the Prep snarls, his voice cold and full of steel.

Nikita looks at him, reading what’s going on in her friend’s face. Manny looks back at her and gives her a nod.

“Nikita, you good?” Manny asks, hoping she gets what he’s trying to tell her.

The Rebel’s face changes, revealing a smirk.

“Yeah, I’m good!” Nikita replies, her voice calm, her hands gripping the sweaty arm around her waist.

She gets it!

Manny turns back to Wilmer, his glossed lips glowing as he smiles.

“As I was saying,” Manny continues, “you’re not the only strong man here! And the girl you're holding hostage, she’s no damsel in distress!”

As if on cue, Nikita lifts her leg in the air and brings it down, digging the heel of her boot into Wilmer’s foot.

The thief roars in pain, stumbles backwards and drops his gun, his arm loosening around the blonde girl.

Manny immediately grabs Nikita, yanking her behind him before making his way to Wilmer. With nothing holding him back, Manny starts throwing punches at Wilmer.

The first punch hits Wilmer’s face.

That’s for killing Principal Wilson!”

The second punch hits Wilmer’s stomach.

That’s for hurting Matt and Joey!”

The final hit, with Manny’s knee, collides into Wilmer’s forsaken area.

“And that…is for touching my girl!”

The Prep hears Nikita and Safiya cheering him on, and their encouragement fuels him to finish this bitch off!

Manny grabs Wilmer’s arm, twisting around so that the man’s behind him before the Prep throws the thief over his shoulder.

The impact knocks the air out of Wilmer, who’s clearly in shock that he’s having his ass handed to him by a teenage boy; a teenage boy wearing makeup for that matter!

Years of learning boxing and self defense from his father has finally paid off for the Prep!

Manny leans over Wilmer, grabbing a handful of the man’s shirt.

With his lashes inches from Wilmer’s face, Manny stares down the former strong man with eyes on fire.

“You messed with the wrong bitch, asshole!”

Manny raises his fist and swings forward, knocking Wilmer out cold!

The Prep stands back up, taking in breaths to calm himself after his "rage monster" moment. The hallway becomes silent again.

With the thief down, Manny feels a mix of emotions.

On one hand, he lost his cool and practically beat someone to a near pulp. On the other hand, he took down a grown man (him, Manny!). For some reason, Manny feels great. He feels like such a badass; a gorgeous one to be exact!

"Holy shit, Manny!" Safiya softly says behind him.

Remembering that the girls are still there (and witnessed the whole thing!), the Prep slowly turns around and looks at them. Safiya stares in amazement, while Nikita has a proud smile as she runs into her best friend’s arms.

“My hero!” the Rebel exclaims.

Manny smiles, relieved that Wilmer’s down and Nikita’s safe.

“For real, are you okay?” he asks, checking Nikita over, making sure Wilmer didn’t mess anything up.

Nikita shakes her head. “No worries, I prevented the bitch from even touching anywhere else!” she replies, but it’s clear to Manny that his friend’s embarrassed for being grabbed and probably even feels a bit violated.

But they’ll deal with that later. For now, they need to lock up Wilmer and go find the others.

Once Wilmer is severely tied down (the trio went through two rolls of duct tape!), Manny and the girls make their way to find Matt. Once they meet up with him, they’ll pick up Joey and Rosanna and get the hell out of here!

As they leave the hallway, Nikita grabs Wilmer’s gun and checks for bullets.

“You know how to use that?” Safiya worriedly asks.

Nikita glares at her, which prompts the Goth to shut up.

“Trust me,” Manny whispers to Safiya, “she’s more than just a pretty face too!”

They follow Nikita, making their way to the English hallway

Manny feels really good right now. Things are going in their favor after all! Nothing will stop them now!

--

Matt makes it to the English hallway and takes cover by a classroom door, waiting for Manny, Nikita, and Safiya to show up. Surely by now, they’ve locked up Wilmer and Benjamin, so they should be on their way.

He feels bad about leaving Joey and Rosanna, but after taking out Nicholas and Willy, Matt wants them to be safe.

As long as both are safe, that’s all that matters.

Now I just find the others, reunite with Joey and Ro, and we will be-

A sound interrupts Matt’s thoughts. Is it Safiya and the other two?

Matt peeks out into the hallway. “Safiya? Manny?”

Against his better judgment, the Nerd steps out and looks down both sides of the hallway. He doesn’t see or hear anything familiar. However, his spidey senses are telling him there’s danger.

Something’s wrong! his mind warns him. Get back inside the classroom now!

Matt barely takes a step back before he feels someone grab him from behind, an arm snaking around his chest.

Matt cries out and starts to struggle against his attacker, only to freeze when he feels the cold sharp steel of a knife pressing against his throat.

“That was pretty clever, I’ll give you that, smart ass!” a gruff voice snarls into Matt’s ear.

It’s Nicholas, and Matt’s anxiety dials to eleven. He grasps the arm across his chest to keep his balance, but makes sure not to create sudden movements so he won’t accidentally get his own throat slit.

Wait, what?! Matt's confused. I hit him with the fire extinguisher! I locked him in the closet! He and Willy were out cold! How did he recover so fast? How did he find me?

“What can I say? I watch a lot of MacGyver!” Matt responds, trying to keep himself calm. “Nice to see you up and about. Apparently, a fire extinguisher can’t keep you down!”

“Clearly! I’ve always had a hard head, kid, I’ve been hit with the worst! My advice, when you knock out your opponent, make damn sure they stay down! And you’re gonna have to do better than just a closet if you want to lock someone up. Other than that, if things were different, I’d offer you a place on my team. Of course, I don’t see that happening!”

Oh yeah, that’s all I’ve ever wanted! Matt sarcastically yells in his mind. To be a part of a murderous band of thieves and psychopaths! My parents would be so proud!

“Now,” Nicholas continues, “where’s might Joseph be? I know he’s injured, stab wound right? He screamed like a baby when I stepped on him.”

When Matt doesn’t answer, Nicholas pushes the blade into his neck, causing the teenager to hiss. Any deeper, and the thief will likely draw blood.

Matt grinds his teeth. By now, Joey and Rosanna are on the other side of the building, heading to safety. He promised Rosanna that he would contact her when he was on his way with the others.

But Matt’s at the mercy of a monster, and he’s not going to lure in his friends for Nicholas; the madman will kill all of them!

“Where you’ll never find him!” Matt snaps, standing his ground despite fear sweating through him. 

Behind him, Nicholas chuckles.

“Aww, that’s sweet, you protecting your little buddy. I’m sure that adorable little friend of yours will be happy to hear that! Quite a protective little nugget, I love that in a woman!”

That vague yet creepy comment about Rosanna makes Matt struggle, but Nicholas tightens his grip, the knife close enough to nick him.

“Doesn’t matter! We have this whole school on lockdown. I can just kill you right here and find your friends easily!”

Panic sears through Matt’s body as realization hits him: Nicholas is actually going to kill him right now! In this moment, this is the most scared Matt’s ever felt today. No, this is the most scared he’s ever felt in his whole life!

“Any last words?” Nicholas purrs, readying the knife that will surely end the Nerd’s life.

Matt’s not going to lie, he doesn’t want to die! He’s seventeen years old, and there’s so much he wants to do, so much he has yet to do!

Going to college, finding a career that excites him, falling in love and starting a family, everything he and Rosanna talked about. The Floater’s smiling face appears to him, his light in the darkness. Matt doesn’t want to leave her. He doesn’t want to leave at all! He just needs time and a miracle to get him out of this situation.

Before Matt can respond to the thief’s question, Willy appears.

“Nicholas, Wilmer and Benjamin aren’t answering!” Willy says in a panicked voice.

Matt feels a huge wave of relief. Of course they aren’t answering, they got their asses handed to them by his friends!

The teenager feels Nicolas tense up behind him, the leader nervous.

“How is that possible?!” Nicholas yells at the other man.

Willy glares at Matt. “I don’t know how, all I got was static! I was able to make out voices though. I recognized the boy with the makeup; apparently he managed to take Wilmer out!”

Matt can’t help but chuckle. Not bad for a bunch of high school kids!

Also Manny took down Wilmer? Way to go, buddy! The Nerd wishes that he was there to witness that showdown.

Suddenly, Nicholas removes the knife from Matt’s throat and slams him against the lockers. The force knocks the breath out of the brunette, barely recovering before Nicholas’ fist collides into his stomach. Matt lets out a cry of pain, nausea swelling up within him.

Nicholas grabs a fistful of Matt’s shirt and pins him against the lockers, the knife inches from his face.

“What did you do?!” the thief screams at him, “WHAT DID YOU DO!?!”

Matt’s blood is boiling in terror, but seeing the look of frustration on Nicholas’ face makes the young man feel a little cocky.

“Must be embarrassing, huh? Big, tough, sort-of intelligent men like you, outsmarted by a bunch of teenagers?”

For a moment, Matt feels proud of that remark…until he doesn’t.

Nicholas let out a great roar and hits Matt with the back of his hand. The teen falls to the ground.

Matt’s head feels like it’s on fire. He also tastes blood. The brunette boy touches his lip and when he pulls his hand back, blood covers his fingers.

Great, first a black eye, now a bloody lip? How is he going to explain this to his folks?

Nicholas leans down and grabs Matt by his hair, taking in the boy’s cries of agony. It feels like he’s about to rip Matt’s entire scalp off.

“I have had just about enough of you, smart ass!” the older man growls, “And I’m going to make you suffer in ways that will turn anyone’s stomach!”

Just when the Nerd’s convinced he’s done for, the tense moment is cut when he hears voices coming down the hallway.

“This is where Matt said he would meet us, right?”

That’s sounds like Manny.

“Yeah, I told him to meet us by Ms. Bahar’s classroom.”

That’s Nikita! Matt thought. It’s his friends and they’re coming. He’s never been so relieved!

“It appears we have guests joining our little party!” Nicholas coos into the brunette’s ear.

Oh crap! Matt almost forgot about Nicholas and Willy for a second there! The Nerd realizes his unarmed friends are about to walk into a trap.

I have to warn them!

“Gu-!” Matt can’t even get his first word out before Nicholas grabs him and throws him to Willy, who wraps his hand firmly over Matt’s mouth.

Willy drags him to the nearest doorway to a classroom, Nicholas right behind them, where they hide from the incoming group.

Matt struggles against Willy. He tries to make noises through the man’s hand, tries to warn the others they're in danger! But it only comes out muffled and pathetic.

Keeping his hold on the boy, Willy takes his gun and pushes it against Matt’s neck, which makes the teen stop fighting.

Nicholas stands before Matt, his knife replaced with a gun.

“Keep quiet!” Nicholas turns and snaps at the terrified boy. “And you just might live long enough to watch your friends die!”

Chapter Text

Nikita doesn’t like this at all!

At this point, they should have met up with Matt by now. And he doesn’t have his phone, so she can’t exactly call him.

The Rebel’s also a bit frazzled from taking on Wilmer, and she’s sort of traumatized by the way he grabbed and held her at gunpoint. It was a terrifying experience, and Nikita hates it when she’s helpless.

Good thing Manny took him down, the blonde smirks.

It was so satisfying to see Wilmer get his ass kicked, and she felt such pride when Manny took him on.

She also feels better having Wilmer’s gun on her person. They finally have a weapon to protect them!

Now here she is with Manny and Safiya, patrolling the school, as they look for their friend who has yet to show up!

Nikita’s gut is telling her that something’s wrong and their nerdy buddy is likely dead somewhere.

Oh my God! her mind scolds her, You’re so dramatic! He’s not dead!

Still, the Rebel’s worried. If Matt isn’t dead, there’s still this feeling that he’s in some sort of trouble…again.

Nikita isn’t going to lie, the Nerd’s starting to grow on her.

He managed to save himself and Joey. He, along with Safiya, created the foam bombs that took out most of the thieves, and has helped keep the group safe. Not to mention he’s a sweet guy and Nikita admits she enjoys his company. It would suck if something bad were to happen to him.

Maybe Ro’s right! the blonde contemplates, maybe we can be friends after this!

That honestly wouldn’t be so bad.

But first she, Manny, and Safiya have to find Matt, then reunite with Joey and Rosanna.

Of course, they have to be careful. Just because the group took down Nicholas and his men doesn’t mean they’re automatically safe. Only when the police show up and arrest these guys will Nikita finally relax.

She clenches the gun in her hands, pointing it forward.

“Nikita, be careful with that!” Safiya worries as she marches ahead.

Nikita rolls her eyes. “Honey, I’m not taking any chances after being grabbed earlier! If it were up to me, I would to shoot their balls off!”

And Nikita means it!

After what these men put her and her friends through all day, she really doesn’t care if she kills one of them.

Hell, they deserve it!

“That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?” a voice calls out, causing all three teens to stop in their tracks.

Right ahead of them, Nicholas steps out from a classroom as if he were the villain of some cheesy action movie confronting the heroes. Nikita raises her gun, aiming it at the thief.

What the hell is he doing here? I thought the others took care of him?

Nicholas gently smiles as if Nikita were a small child doing something cute. “Why don’t you put that gun down before you hurt yourself, little lady.”

Nikita cocks her gun, its cold metal burning into her hands. Yet, it’s giving her an indescribable energy as a smile forms across her face. She spots Nicholas holding a gun of his own.

“Not a chance, bitch!” Nikita spits at the monster.

Nicholas freezes in his tracks. Raising his hands in the air, the thief slowly sets his gun down on the tile floor.

“I just want to talk, that’s all,” Nicholas calmly tells the trio as he rises, arms still raised. Nikita, however, keeps her gun up to make sure the bastard doesn’t try anything.

“Look,” Nicholas explains, “I know we got off on the wrong foot today. Let me just tell you that I never wanted anyone to get hurt. Wilmer gets a little carried away, you know? And I was never going to hurt your friends. Believe me when I say I would have let them both go once I got the Heart back. No harm, no foul!”

Nikita scoffs, her blood boiling in anger. She opens her mouth to chew Nicholas out on his bullshit.

Safiya beats her to it.

“Except people did get hurt!” Safiya snaps, her fists balled up. “You shot Principal Wilson in cold blood! Yeah, she can be harsh, and kind of a bitch, but she sure as hell didn’t deserve to be beaten then murdered!”

The raven-haired girl steps forward, her dark eyes drilling into Nicholas. Nikita will admit she’s impressed by the other girl’s badassery.

“Then,” Safiya continues, “you kidnapped and practically tortured two of my friends! Wilmer punched Matt in the face, and then both of you manhandled him and Joey when you called Nikita, or did you forget that part? You, sir, threatened to kill two innocent teenagers, so forgive me if I don’t believe you when you say you were never going to hurt anyone!”

Nikita joins in. “By the way, bitch, you did hurt one of them! That tall man stabbed Joey! Nearly killed him! You’re so lucky it isn’t fatal, or else I would shoot you dead right now!”

Nicholas nods. “I understand. I wasn’t expecting the boys to put up quite a fight, and I sure wasn’t expecting Benjamin to get lethal! But Joseph’s going to be okay, as you said. By the way, where is he now?”

Nikita hears Manny smirk right next to her. “Far away from you, bitch! He and Rosanna are long gone with the Heart!”

Nikita glares at Manny, fury encompassing her face. Manny looks at her and realizes his error.

Now Nicholas knows Rosanna still has the crystal!

The older thief nods his head. “I see. Matthew said the same thing!”

Nikita nearly drops the gun, but is able to keep her composure. That means he’s found Matt!

You better not have gotten yourself captured again! Nikita telepathically shouts to Matt. I’m so sick of having to always save your ass!

Well, technically she hasn’t; Matt saved himself, but “tomato, tomahto”.

“What have you done with him?” Safiya asks fearfully.

The thief glares at them, an evil smile forming. He knows he’s got their attention.

“He’s around. And I can return him safely if you drop your gun and tell me where Joseph and my crystal really are.”

Manny looks at Nikita. The blonde’s trying to think of what to do, whether she should believe this asshole. Who knows if he could be bluffing!

But seeing the terror on Manny and Safiya’s faces, Nikita knows that surrender is not an option. Even if Nicholas did recapture Matt, there’s no guarantee that he will let them just walk away once he gets back his little rock!

So what’s Nikita going to do? Be a pain in the ass, as always!

Pointing her gun straight at Nicholas’ head, Nikita stares him down, the dragon within her blazing.

“Fuck that and fuck you, bitch! How about this? If you have our friend, you’ll give him back alive and unharmed! Then, you and what’s left of your goons will leave our school with your freedom in tact and never bother us again!”

The power inside Nikita is surging, and she loves it! She feels like such a badass, a beautiful badass to be exact!

“If you don’t, I will not hesitate to blow your head off right here, right now! In case you haven’t realized, I’m half Mexican, and the perks of having a Mexican mama is knowing how to have good aim! And while I may be pretty, I’m quite the sharpshooter, and you’ll be dead before you can even blink. If anything, you messed with the wrong group of kids, honey!”

Manny’s on the same page, gathering the courage to face the older intimidating man.

“That’s right! Two of your men are down! You’re outnumbered! And now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder how Wilmer feels having his ass handed to him by not just a seventeen-year old boy, but a seventeen-year old boy with a face full of makeup?”

Nikita grins at her friend with pride. That’s my bitch!

Nicholas only chuckles. “You have guts, Rebel, I’ll give you that.”

He turns to Manny and salutes him.

“I’m impressed. I would have paid to see that mindless baboon get knocked down.”

Turning back to Nikita, Nicholas’ face suddenly hardens. Nikita can’t tell if he’s mad or disappointed.

Why would he be disappointed?

“But it’s time this little game comes to an end! We just want the Heart, so if you give it to us, you all can go on your merry way. All you have to do is tell us where Joseph is.”

Safiya steps forward, her arms in the air.

“Listen,” she negotiates, “this doesn’t have to end this way. You’ve hurt Joey enough, and it’s only a matter of time before the cops are notified of a disturbance at the school. Someone’s bound to have heard all those gunshots. So, if you wish to remain a free man, just leave! We’ll say we hid the whole time and never saw your faces.”

Nikita appreciates Safiya wanting to be a pacifist right now, but she knows better. Nicholas is a greedy asshole who won’t stop until he has his precious jewel.

And Nikita’s right.

“Tempting offer,” Nicholas says, “but I’ve worked too hard to get the Heart of Everlock.”

The older man steps forward, his eyes narrowed. He’s mad now!

“And I’m not about to let a bunch of hormonal, identity-crisis kids such as yourselves get in the way of that!” He rubs his ear.

Nikita starts to feel nervous. There’s something not right here! From the looks of it, it’s as if Nicholas is signaling something by rubbing his right ear.

Nicholas smirks, “It appears I will have to go with Plan B.”

With a tilt of his head, the thief glares at Nikita with malicious intent.

“Take Rebel out!” he calls to an unseen person.

From the corner of her eye, Nikita spots a black dot aiming at her. A scream is heard, and chaos unfolds around Nikita and her friends.

--

Throughout the whole conversation, Matt once again feels helpless.

He would’ve enjoyed having a better view of Nikita Dragun be a badass (where did she get a gun?) were he not hiding at gunpoint with Willy.

When Nicholas told Willy to wait for his signal, Matt tried to find a way to warn his friends. But with a hand over his mouth and a gun digging into his neck, the Nerd doesn’t have a lot of options.

That is, until Willy pulls the gun away from Matt and points it around the corner. His change of position allows Matt to see everything.

He can see Manny, Nikita, and Safiya having a standoff with Nicholas. Nikita’s pointing her gun at the thief, her eyes a blazing inferno. It’s pretty cool, to be honest!

Or it was cool until Nicholas gave the command to “Take Rebel out!”

Matt looks up at Willy, his gun aimed, and realization hits. Oh my God, Willy’s going to kill Nikita!

Something comes over Matt.

He screams, his muffled sounds echoing the halls. Struggling against Willy’s grasp, Matt finds his opening to fight against his captor.

He grabs Willy’s gun arm and pushes it towards the ceiling. Surprised by this sudden attack, Willy accidentally pulls the trigger. The shot hits the ceiling, its bang causing countless people to scream and shriek.

Matt uses the confusion to his advantage. With Willy preoccupied, Matt takes his foot and kicks back towards the older man’s shin.

Willy lets out a horrific yell, hunching over in pain. He drops his gun, and it skids across the floor near Nicholas.

With all his might, Matt elbows Willy in the stomach, and the thief finally releases him.

As he turns to his friends, Matt spots them taking cover in the doorway to other classrooms as Nicholas shoots his gun at them.

Matt panics, as he can’t see if they’re okay or not. Then, he spots a blonde head peek out from one of the doorways.

Matt realizes it’s Nikita, aiming her gun, firing off a round. But because of Nicholas’ shooting, the Rebel is unable to get a good shot.

Seeing the others in trouble, Matt knows that he has to do something, and fast.

He spots Willy standing up in pain and Nicholas firing another round at the group. If Matt’s going to do something, he has to do it now!

This is a bad idea! But to hell with it!

Matt’s mind doesn’t comprehend what he’s doing until he slams to the ground, Nicholas beneath him.

--

As the shooting stops, Safiya at first thinks that Nikita finally got Nicholas. She hears a loud grunt and a person fall to the floor.

Actually, she hears a yell, then a few grunts, and a crash that sounds like two people hitting the floor.

Safiya peeks out from her hiding spot, carefully checking what’s happening. Manny and Nikita, across from her, peek out as well.

“Oh my God!” Manny shrieks.

Across from them, the trio witness Matt struggling with Nicholas. Safiya doesn’t know where he came from, but watching her friend on top of the thief, trying to hold him down, even hitting Nicholas, is just so unexpected.

“Where did he come from?” Safiya yells, her eyes glued to the fight in front of her.

“Who cares!” Nikita shouts. “What matters is he saved our asses, and we need to help him!”

Manny points ahead. “Like right now!”

Safiya turns and sees Willy coming out of view from a nearby classroom. He’s hunched over, limping and clutching his stomach in pain. Safiya puts two and two together, realizing that Nicholas did indeed have Matt in his grasp.

And the Nerd fought back.

Willy’s eyes turn to the fight as well, fury enveloping his face.

Safiya watches in horror as he draws a knife from his waistband and makes his way towards Matt.

Oh shit!

“Oh, no you don’t!” Safiya screams as she jumps from her hiding spot and runs towards Willy.

Grabbing his arm, Safiya tries to wrestle the knife out of Willy’s grasp. The man is strong and nearly flings the Goth across the hall, but the raven-haired girl holds on for dear life. She’s determined to get that knife away before Willy hurts Matt or anyone else.

Safiya believes she’s in a losing battle against Willy until she sees a flash of pink and black as small arms grab Willy as well.

With Nikita by Safiya’s side, the girls wrestle with Willy while Manny goes to assist Matt.

Safiya hears what sounds like a punch, followed by a grunt, and turns a bit to see Nicholas finally knocked out.

Manny helps Matt up, the two boys exchanging words to each other as they high five.

“Hey!” Nikita screams, “A little help here, bitches!”

Manny and Matt take in what’s going on and immediately run over to help the girls. Matt grabs Willy’s other arm, and Manny hits the man in the stomach.

Willy cries out, madder than ever. He swings with all his might, sending Matt and Nikita flying in different directions.

Safiya maintains her hold, but even she’s starting to lose her grip. As a last resort, the Goth does the unthinkable.

Against her better judgment, she bites Willy’s arm.

Willy lets out an agonizing roar and he finally releases the knife.

“Safiya, get out of the way!”

Safiya sees Manny and realizes what’s about to happen. Nodding her head, Safiya lets go of Willy and dives in the direction of where he dropped the knife.

With Willy unarmed, it gives Manny the room to charge at the older man, tackling him. The Prep and the older thief fall to the ground from the impact.

After a short tussle, Manny gets the upper hand.

Safiya sees her chance and grabs the knife.

She runs to where Manny’s holding Willy down, and with all her might, she brings the hilt down upon the older man’s head.

Willy slumps in a limp heap.

Dropping the knife, Safiya takes in her breathing, processing what she just did. Willy now has a bloody gash on his head, and for a moment, Safiya isn’t sure if he’s dead or not.

Nikita walks over in shock, and Manny stands up.

“Is he…?” Manny starts to ask, and Safiya stands, shell-shocked, praying it’s not the case, no matter how bad of a person Willy is.

Matt walks over and kneels down next to Willy, checking his pulse. He looks at Safiya.

“He’s alive, but his head is going to hurt a lot when he wakes up.”

Safiya sighs in relief. She doesn’t know what she would have done if she killed someone, even if they were a bad guy. She was just trying to help her friend.

“Are you okay?” Safiya worriedly asks Matt, taking in the beaten appearance of the brunette boy.

The Nerd is quiet for a moment before he stands up and hugs her. Safiya’s surprised at first, but she relaxes and returns the embrace.

“Thank you,” Matt says his voice partly shaking. The two break apart, and he turns to Manny and Nikita. “Thank you so much!”

“Us?” Manny clucks with a surprise. “Bitch, if it wasn’t for you, that final scene from Bonnie and Clyde would have been reenacted! But you’re welcome, and thank you too!”

The Prep pulls the other boy into a big hug, squeezing him in happiness. Matt hugs back before turning to Nikita.

The blonde girl doesn’t hug him, but she does take his hand, giving it a caring squeeze.

It isn’t much, but it’s enough for both of them.

Safiya laughs, happy it’s all over. All four men are down, and they can finally go home.

Nikita faces the others. “Okay, now that we’ve got the pleasantries out of the way, what we need to do is secure these bitches, find Rosanna and Joey and then-”

A shot rings out through the hallway, causing all four teenagers to scream and jump.

Safiya’s head whips around, looking for where the shot came from. To her shock, she finds Nicholas on the ground, gun in his hand, pointing it at the group.

I thought he was out cold! Where did he get the gun? Wait, who did he just shoot?

“Safiya!”

Safiya turns to Matt, who is looking at her in horror.

Why is he staring at her like that?

All of a sudden, what feels like a sore muscle forms inside Safiya. The Goth looks to her right shoulder and notices that her black shirt has become wet, warm, and sticky. Slowly, she pulls the shirt back and takes in the blood spreading across her arm.

Safiya barely processes what’s happening before her legs give out and she starts to fall, everything going mute for her.

If it wasn’t for Matt catching her, Safiya’s whole world would have gone dark.

The raven-haired girl lies on the ground as her three friends hover over her. They’re shouting, calling to her, but Safiya can’t hear them; she can only feel the pain blasting in her shoulder.

As Safiya tries to stay awake, it finally occurs to her what happened.

I’ve been shot.

Chapter Text

Matt’s whole world is spinning.

He can’t focus on anything other than Safiya lying on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Manny and Nikita are freaking out alongside him, doing everything they can to make sure that their friend doesn’t die.

Matt rips his jacket off, ordering Manny to put pressure on Safiya’s wound. Nikita also takes her jacket off to use as a pillow for the Goth, reassuring the other girl that she’s going to be okay.

This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening!

Matt grabs Safiya’s face, his warm hands covering her cold cheeks. “Safiya, stay with us, okay? Stay awake for me, please! We’re going to get you out of here, just hold on!”

But even Matt can’t hear his own voice, just frantic thoughts a whirlpool in his head.

Manny knocked him out, and I kicked the gun away! How did the bastard get it?

Then he remembers. While fighting Willy, the thief’s gun skidded right next to Nicholas!

Oh damnit, he lost his gun, so he claimed Willy’s!

Because of that, Safiya’s now fighting for her life, and it’s Matt’s fault!

Sure, he was distracted by the scuffle between Manny and Willy, but he still should’ve checked!

“You guys,” Safiya whispers, gasping for air as she whimpers in pain. “I’m sorry!”

“No it’s okay, it’s okay!” Matt cries, holding onto her, praying to any entity to not let the Goth die. “If anything, I’m sorry! I should have checked for everything! That’s on me!”

Safiya slowly blinks, tears falling from her eyes. It’s making Matt well up too.

“No, it’s not,” she barely gets out. “If you hadn’t tackled him, he would have surely killed us all.”

Matt smiles, a tear falling down his cheek.

“And thanks to you, Willy is down. You guys saved me as well!” He glances at Manny and Nikita, who also have tears falling down their makeup-clad faces.

“Saf, listen to me! You’re so brave! Next to Ro, you’re the bravest girl I’ve ever met! We’re going to get you out of here, alright? You’re going to make it! After all, you did say you were going to come to movie night!”

Safiya tearfully chuckles at the last part, and it’s clear that she’s hanging on. Manny and Nikita look at Matt who’s painfully aware that they need to get her out of here quick.

A snicker is heard from behind the group.

“That’s so sweet!”

All turn to see Nicholas standing up, his face battered and bruised from the punches Matt and Manny gave him.

“I gave Matthew this advice earlier, and now I’m going to give it to the rest of you,” Nicholas coldly remarks. “When you knock someone out, make sure they stay down!”

The thief glances at the gun in his hand, inspecting it. He looks back at the group, his eyes glaring specifically into Matt’s.

“Also, make sure they don’t have a weapon near them! Because of your stupidity, that little bitch is going to die.”

With a glance at Safiya, the madman shrugs. “Oh well, she deserves it anyway!”

As soon as Nicholas uttered those words, something inside Matt snaps. Without thinking, he jumps to his feet, marching towards the thief.

“You son of a bitch!” the brunette growls, ready to take the bigger man down again.

His mind, as well as Manny and Nikita, is screaming at him to stop, do not engage!

But seeing Safiya’s shocked and scared face, her bleeding out on the floor, and Nicholas’ taunting, Matt somehow can’t listen to reason. His rage is in control, and it’s telling him to kill Nicholas.

He raises his arm to swing at the thief, but even in an injured state, Nicholas is prepared.

The older man moves swiftly out of the way, sending the Nerd flying forward. Before Matt realizes his error, Nicholas grabs the back of his shirt, pulling the teen to him.

“No!” Nikita screams, realizing what’s happening. She leaps up with her gun raised at the two in front of her.

But it’s too late.

Nicholas is faster, and within seconds, the leader holds Matt in front of him like a human shield. The teenager feels the familiar icy barrel of the gun against his head as Nicholas grips onto him, the man’s large arm wrapped across his neck.

“Now that we got that out of the way,” Nicholas tauntingly whispers into Matt’s ear, “you’re going to help me get the Heart back! And if you wish for me to not shoot any more of your friends, you’ll do so willingly!”

Matt wants to kick himself so hard right now for his idiocy!

Of course! Of freaking course!

Nicholas was goading the Nerd to fight so that he could reclaim his hostage, and like the dumbass that he is, Matt fell for it!

He’s more furious with himself than Nikita and Manny probably are.

And furious Nikita Dragun is.

“Let him go!” Nikita snaps, her voice sharp as a katana as she points her gun at Nicholas. Manny remains on the ground, desperately keeping pressure on Safiya’s bullet wound. The dark-haired boy’s eyes flick back and forth, worried for each of his friends.

“Go ahead, Rebel, take the shot! I’d like to see how great of a sharpshooter you say you are!” Nicholas cackles as he starts to walk backwards, dragging his shield with him.

Matt can tell that Nikita is looking for an opening to take Nicholas down, but it’s obvious she’s hesitating.

As good of a shot the blonde girl is, he’s too close to the thief. Nikita doesn’t want to take the chance of shooting Nicholas without Matt getting caught in the crossfire.

A groan is heard as Matt sees Willy stir awake, his hand on his head. Nicholas notices as well.

“Willy, I got the kid! Get your ass up and let’s move, now!”

Nicholas viciously turns back to Nikita. “I know you have your phone. If you don’t want another friend bleeding out on the ground, you will get it out right now and hand it to Willy.”

Shit! Matt desperately shakes his head at Nikita. If Nicholas takes her phone, he will call Joey, and then it’s game over!

The Nerd’s eyes plead for the Rebel not to do this. Let me be the only idiot here!

But Nikita sighs roughly and looks down at Manny.

“Girl, get my phone out and hand it to me, please.”

Manny hesitantly looks at Nikita, then at Matt, then back at Nikita. Slowly with one hand, the other keeping pressure on Safiya, the Prep reaches into Nikita’s jacket and pulls out her phone, handing it to her. Keeping her gun trained on Willy, who deliriously picks up Nicholas’ gun and makes his way over to her, Nikita shoves the phone into his hand.

Break it and there won’t be a place you can hide where I won’t find and slowly torture you, bitch!” Nikita spits at Willy as he makes his way over to his boss. The Rebel’s gun is still trained on the men because no way is she backing down.

Meanwhile, Matt’s observing the situation, thinking how they can all escape from this. He sadly can’t think of anything.

He can see Safiya’s chest slowly rise and fall, her blood seeping onto the hallway floor. If the brunette boy had to choose, saving Safiya Nygaard is priority number one.

Heeding Nicholas’ deadly threat, Matt’s eyes meet Nikita’s.

“Nikita, listen, don’t worry about me, focus on Safiya!” Matt tells her through the iron grip of Nicholas’ arm as the man pulls him backwards. “You and Manny get her out of here! Find Joey and Ro and get out!”

Nicholas puts on more pressure, which makes Matt gasp as he grips the arm to prevent from being strangled.

Nikita stares back at him, her gun still pointed towards the captor and his hostage. While her face shows fury, her eyes betray how scared she really is.

Please!” Matt manages to get out.

He glances at Safiya, still on the ground holding on for her life. The raven-haired girl turns her head, her tired and hurt eyes looking into his. She slowly lifts her hand, her mouth open as if she’s about to say something. Matt can only sadly smile at her.

It’s going to be okay! Please, don’t die! Please hold on!

As Nicholas drags Matt around the corner, out of his three friends’ site, Matt is able to catch a glimpse of Nikita lowering the gun and kneeling down next to Safiya.

He sighs in relief. Even if he’s in danger (again!), at least Matt can take comfort that Safiya is holding on. He just hopes that Manny and Nikita will get her to safety so that she’ll be okay.

Nicholas releases his grip around Matt’s neck, but still maintains a hold on the boy. With a hand gripping the collar of Matt’s shirt and the gun pushing into his side, the leader marches him to an unknown destination. Willy trails behind, one hand pressing against his wound.

Matt can’t help but smirk a little, proud of his friends for being able to kick the older man’s ass, even if it didn’t go the way they planned.

Matt wants to ask where he’s being taken to, but decides it’s better not to anger these guys any further. The only reason the Nerd isn’t dead yet is because Nicholas wants his stupid crystal, which means he still needs leverage.

This worries Matt because Rosanna still has the Heart, which means she and Joey are about to receive a very scary phone call.

I’m sorry, guys!

Matt does his best to hold back tears, but his shame won’t let him.

--

“We’re almost there! Hold on, Joey!” Rosanna pleads as she and Joey make their way to the library. Nothing matters except protecting Joey and reuniting with the group. But while one part of her wants to get the Savant to safety, there’s also a small part of Rosanna that’s concerned for the rest of her friends.

Matt should have found them by now! The group should be meeting with us! the Floater worries, fear in her heart.

Shots suddenly ring out through the school, causing both teens to scream. Rosanna doesn’t know what’s happening, but it can’t be good. Oh God, where are the others? Are they okay?!

“Ro, we have to hide! Who knows where that’s coming from!” Joey cries, wincing in pain as he grasps his chest.

Rosanna knows he’s right, and the two pick up the pace. Luckily, the library is within their sight, so they book it inside.

Rosanna helps Joey to a table and barricades the door with a chair. As she composes herself, the Floater takes in the surroundings.

The library is where they all started out this morning, during a simple Saturday detention. Now, it just looks like a war zone, with books splattered all over the place, chairs and tables turned over, and papers all out of sorts.

Rosanna still can’t understand why this happened, or how she and her friends got caught up in this madness. They don’t deserve this!

Behind her, Joey’s breathing heavily, so she goes over to check his wound.

Rosanna helps the blonde boy unzip his jacket and grimaces at the sight. Despite Matt’s excellent work at bandaging his injury, it looks really bad. The scuffle with Nicholas made things worse; the brunette girl can see the blood seeping through the bandages.

There’s no doubt that Joey needs to go to the hospital.

“How bad is it?” Joey asks nervously.

Rosanna shrugs and puts on a grin to protect her friend. “Oh, nothing serious, you’ll be fine!”

Joey stares at the petite girl and smiles.

“Ro, I know you’re lying...but I appreciate it,” he says as he takes her hand.

Rosanna can’t help but smile too as she squeezes his.

“I love you, Joey. You know I will have your back, no matter what!” she tells him reassuringly.

She means it, and Joey knows, but looking into his eyes, Rosanna can see great remorse as he looks at her backpack, which she placed on the floor next to them.

Tears start to fall down Joey’s face.

“This is all my fault!” he laments. “If I wasn’t so desperate, so selfish, we wouldn’t be in this mess! I should have listened to you guys, I should never have taken that crystal! And now the others are likely dead, and maybe Matt is for all-”

“Joey, stop!” Rosanna cries, her heart breaking to hear Joey talk like this. It’s obvious that he’s scared. Rosanna’s scared too.

But seeing her friend look so defeated and broken, as well as not knowing where the rest are, is tearing her apart.

Joey’s hurt, she still hasn’t heard from the rest of the group yet, and she hates that she can’t do anything to help them!

Rosanna kicks herself for letting Matt go off on his own. He should have stayed with them, or at least have something to protect him! Every part of her wants to call Nikita just to check if Matt found her, Manny, and Safiya.

But she knows that she can’t do that without alerting the robbers. Matt said under no circumstances do I use the phone!

For now, Rosanna’s helpless, and she despises the feeling. So all she can do is comfort the friend who is with her at the moment.

“Don’t do this to yourself!” she tells Joey. “Yes, you made a horrible mistake, but blaming yourself is not going to help us or our friends! We need to stick together, make sure we get out of this, and make those bad men pay for their crimes!”

Joey wipes the tears from his eyes and chuckles.

“Matt said the same thing before you found us!” he muses. “And you’re right. I got us into this mess, so I will make sure we get out. Okay?”

Rosanna happily nods. “Okay.”

The two friends’ sweet moment is interrupted by the buzzing of Joey’s phone.

Rosanna takes it out of her bag and lets out a gasp when she sees the caller id.

“It’s Nikita!” But the Floater’s very cautious, remembering Matt’s words. Not to mention that last time, the robbers used Joey’s phone to contact her and the others when he and Matt were hostages.

Joey’s facial expression reads the same, and with careful discretion, Rosanna answers the call and puts it on speaker.

“He-Hello? Nikita?” Rosanna trembles.

“Ah, Little Muffin, long time no hear!” a gruff voice coos on the other line.

Rosanna tries to stay calm, but every part of her body is quaking. The voice on the other end is definitely not Nikita!

She immediately recognizes the voice as Nicholas. If he has Nikita’s phone, then are the others-?

“Don’t worry, I didn’t touch Rebel.” It’s as if Nicholas is able to read her mind through the phone. “Quite a spitfire, that girl. Held a fucking gun on me! Either she’s very bold or has a death wish!”

Joey takes Rosanna’s hand to keep her steady. Nausea swells inside the brunette girl as she takes in her breaths slowly.

“As for the rest of your friends, I will have to say, I underestimated them. Pretty clever for a bunch of high school adolescents!”

Rosanna panics. Please tell me they’re okay!

“They put up quite a fight! I think Willy’s pride hurts more than his head! But that’s not important now, as my patience is wearing thin!”

The madman’s voice becomes deeper and terrifying. “I know you have the Heart of Everlock! For a little mouse like yourself, I’m impressed you were able to carry it around.”

Rosanna is one eye squinch away from crying if not for Joey’s comforting hold.

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the Floater lies.

Nicholas lets out a deep sigh, clearly annoyed. Rosanna doesn’t want to anger him further, but she refuses to lead him to her and Joey.

I won’t let you hurt Joey again!

“C’mon, Little Muffin, it’s not nice to lie!” Nicholas scolds her, as if she were a small child. “I’ll tell you what, you have something of mine, and if you return it to me, I will also return something of yours...or should I say, someone!”

Suddenly the phone rings again, requesting FaceTime. Rosanna takes a deep breath and with a nod from Joey, the petite girl switches to video.

What she sees next nearly stops her heart.

Nicholas is wickedly grinning at her like a demon out of a horror movie. It’s so frightening, and Rosanna isn’t sure anymore if the man is even human. Monsters are real and she’s staring at one!

But that isn’t the worst part!

Right next to him, in a mix between anger, fear, and shame, is Matt—and he looks terrible!

Aside from the black eye he got earlier, the Nerd now has a bloody lip (where did he get that?)

Nicholas grips the back of Matt’s neck, giving it a menacing squeeze which makes the boy wince.

“Oh God, Matt!” Rosanna gasps as she covers her mouth in shock. Her tears flow down her cheeks, seeing her best friend once again at the cruel mercy of this villain.

Joey peeks at the screen and freaks out as well.

“Oh my God!” the blonde boy exclaims as he takes in what Nicholas has done to their friend.

“Ah, Joseph!” Nicholas purrs. “Nice to see you still walking after our little interaction earlier. I figured you would be out of commission.”

Joey sucks in his breath, trying to control his anger. He doesn’t want to make things worse.

“But no matter!” Nicholas continues. “As I said, I’m losing my patience, and it’s time to put an end to this silly game.”

Despite the small screen of the phone, Rosanna’s able to see Matt slightly grimace as the thief squeezes his neck tighter. She can’t take it.

“Matt, are you okay?” the Floater asks, even though she knows the answer.

Of course he’s not okay! He’s once again being held prisoner by a killer, and you have to save him!

Matt, who was looking down at the floor, slowly lifts his head and stares into the phone. As if he can see her, the Nerd manages to smile a little and nod. Rosanna obviously knows he’s afraid, but is trying to put on a brave face for her; she just doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“Ro, I’m sorry,” Matt gets out, his voice dry and full of pain. “I wasn’t thinking, I just lost it when-,”

“No Matt,” Joey interrupts over Rosanna’s shoulder, “I’m the one who’s sorry! I’m going to fix this, I promise!”

“That you will!” Nicholas snaps, cutting Matt off from saying anything more. “You have the Heart, and I want it back!

The thief leans a bit closer to the phone screen. “Based on where you are now, as I can see, you have exactly fifteen minutes to bring it to me.”

The thief lets go of Matt’s neck and wraps his arm around the scared teen as if they were drinking buddies, but the way he clings to Rosanna’s best friend is very sinister.

“Any minute later than that, and Matthew here will not leave this school alive, just like your principal!”

At this point, Rosanna loses control and cries.

“Please!” she trembles, “please don’t hurt him!”

Rosanna feels so broken. Every ounce of courage, happiness, and hope is crumbling, and her heart might follow suit.

Joey grips her shoulders with comfort, but even the Savant can’t heal her already broken heart.

She stares at Nicholas with pleading eyes, silently begging the man to be merciful, to not take the boy she calls her best friend, her brother, away from her.

Nicholas stares back, then looks at Matt, who’s staring at the floor again, then back at Rosanna.

“Come to the cafeteria in fifteen minutes and I won’t,” Nicholas calmly tells her with a blank expression. “Your time starts now.”

Nicholas makes a gesture with his hand and the call ends.

--

Joey feels like every part of his body has been sliced by daggers, and not just from the one on his chest. Matt is back in the grips of Nicholas, who will actually kill him if he and Rosanna do not return the Heart of Everlock.

Joey knows if they bring the crystal back, they’re all good as dead. But Matt will for sure be dead if they don’t. With a fifteen minute countdown, there’s no way a plan can be conducted in time to ensure no one gets killed.

The blonde boy watches Rosanna’s chest rise and fall. She grips the phone so tightly that it will likely crush in her tiny hands.

The girl’s shaking, and it’s clear to Joey she’s trying to come up with a plan of her own, but failing as tears roll down her rosy cheeks.

“Ro...” he attempts to say, thinking about his words as he speaks. “We’ll figure something out. We will-”

“There isn’t any time!” Rosanna cuts him off. “We have to give the Heart back, or he’ll kill him!”

“Ro.” Joey’s trying to be calm, but every part of him is splattered with sheer anxiety. “Nicholas will kill Matt regardless, as well as us, if we do. We need time-”

“JOEY, WE DON’T HAVE TIME!” Rosanna roars, causing the Savant to shrink back, shocked by her outburst.

In the time he’s known her, Joey has never heard Rosanna raise her voice like this. Honestly, it’s scarier than the gun-wielding psychopath who’s currently holding their friend captive.

Rosanna quickly regains her composure and looks Joey in the eyes. “I cannot lose him, Joey, I can’t!”

She sets the phone down and grabs Joey’s hands in comfort.

“You have to understand! Matt has been my best friend since we were five! He has always looked out for me, always had my back, and loved me even when I had my faults! He’s there when I need him the most. Now he needs me! I know it’s dangerous, but Joey, I have to save him! Matt’s not just my friend, he’s my family!”

Joey takes this in, and he couldn’t agree more. Today has shown what those two would do for each other. Hell, today has shown what all of them would do for each other!

But the stakes are higher this time, and Rosanna needs to realize that.

“I understand, Ro!” he explains. “I agree that we need to save him at all costs. But two unarmed teenagers, one injured for that matter, are no match against two gun-toting murderous thieves with nothing to lose! We just need to figure this out instead of going in blindly.”

Joey doesn’t want to put themselves in any more danger, and he knows that Matt would be furious if Rosanna endangers herself for him.

But at the same time, after everything the other boy has done to protect Joey, he also can’t let him be slaughtered by Nicholas.

The blonde boy glances at the clock above the librarian’s desk. They now have only ten minutes left to make the exchange. With each tick that passes, Joey’s panic grows.

We just need to figure out a strategy, we just-

The doors to the library loudly bang, causing both Rosanna and Joey to jump back in terror. Has Nicholas found them and decided to bring his madness here?

Nikita’s voice screeches through the doors like a banshee.

“OPEN THE DOOR, YOU BITCHES! IT’S US! HURRY, SAFIYA’S BEEN SHOT!!”

Joey’s blood goes cold. Did he really hear that right? Safiya has been shot? How did that happen?

Open the door and ask, instead of standing around and thinking about it, dumbass! Joey’s mind yells at him.

“Ro, open the door!” he orders the Floater, who looks as if she’s been slapped. The petite girl regains her composure and runs to the library’s entrance, pushing the chair out of the way and throwing the doors open.

Nikita and Manny burst in, a pale and bleeding Safiya cradled in the Prep’s arms. Both are in such hysterics as Manny places their injured friend onto one of the tables.

“What happened?” Joey demands as he takes in the scene. Safiya’s right shoulder is a stream of blood down her arm, its wetness sticking to her black shirt, her face paler by the minute. She’s still awake, thankfully, but her breathing is very shallow. A brown jacket is folded up and pressed against her wound, absorbing the blood she’s losing.

Joey recognizes the jacket as Matt’s, which means he was with the trio before his capture.

Nikita angrily slams a gun against the desk, noise echoing in the messy library.

“We took out those bitches, Tall Man and Strong Douche, and we went to go find Matt! When we got to where we were supposed to meet up with him, we were ambushed by King Dick and Four Face! Matt appeared and saved us and we were able to take out that Willy dude, but Nicholas, he…” the blonde girl has to stop to calm herself down, clearly overwhelmed by the events that occurred.

Manny takes over.

“Nicholas shot Safiya! It just happened, and we were all completely shook by it! That’s when the bitch grabbed Matt and ran!”

Nikita stares at Joey, apologetically.

“Nicholas forced me to give up my phone or else…I tried to stop him, girl!” the Rebel stammers. “I had a clear shot but...I don’t know what happened, I just froze…Matt was too close to the son of a bitch and...I don’t know, I didn’t want to accidentally hit him, and Safiya was losing so much blood! I didn’t know what to do, and before I knew it, they were gone! And now, those bitches have Matt at their mercy because I hesitated!”

Nikita looks so angry and disappointed with herself, and Joey’s sympathetic.

As he processes everything she said, the Savant tries to reassure the Rebel. “No, it’s okay, Nikita! You had to help Safiya! And we know, Nicholas just called us, and we now only have nine minutes to bring him the Heart, or he’ll kill Matt!”

Manny hands immediately go to his mouth. “Wait, are you serious!?”

Joey sadly nods his head.

This is all too much! In just two hours, Joey has been kidnapped, manhandled, and stabbed. Safiya has been shot and could die if they don’t get her help as soon as possible. And Matt will likely follow Principal Wilson if they don’t bring Nicholas his prized treasure. Every part of Joey wants to break down and cry. He needs to think, but the world’s spinning around him.

“Look!” Nikita breaks his thought process, her voice shaking. “We need to get Safiya out of here, and we’ll figure out what to do about Matt and King Dick! So let’s all take a deep breath, then decide who escapes with Safiya and who should be hostage negotiator.”

“You guys,” Manny suddenly cuts in as he scans the library, “where’s Ro?”

Joey whips his head to where the smaller girl was standing. She’s gone, and to Joey’s dread, so is her backpack with the Heart inside.

“She was just here!” Joey exclaims. Oh God, Ro, what have you-

“Not only that,” Nikita interjects, “where’s my gun?”

Chapter Text

Three years on the cross country team has paid off for Rosanna.

The Floater’s little legs carry her across the hallways of the school, its echoes bouncing off the walls as her platform Oxfords clank against the ground. Her backpack bangs against her, the Heart snug inside; her currency for Matt’s freedom.

Rosanna feels bad for sneaking out without the group’s knowledge, even after considering Joey’s advice to form a plan. But after seeing what Nicholas did to Safiya and how broken the Goth’s body was from getting shot, she knew what she had to do.

The Floater glances at a nearby clock as she runs towards her destination. The time reads 3:12 P.M.

She has three minutes left to get to the cafeteria or else her best friend will die.

I’m coming! Just hold on a little longer!

Rosanna has no idea what she’s going to do and if she’s not careful, both her and Matt will end up in the morgue before the day is over. All she can focus on right now is making sure Nicholas doesn’t kill Matt before she arrives.

Rosanna stares at her right hand, numb from gripping the gun she stole from Nikita. The cold metal against her palm brings shivers down her little body, but she knows she had to take it.

The petite girl hates guns more than anyone else; they’re awful and all they do is hurt people. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to use one though. As her dad once told her and Molly, “it’s safer to know how to fire a gun and never have to use it again than it is to not know how to fire a gun and use it consistently.”

She never thought she would ever hold a gun again after her dad taught her. But with everything that has happened today, desperate times call for desperate measures.

A dreadful thought suddenly crosses Rosanna’s mind. Should things go south, will she have to kill Nicholas if it means saving herself and Matt?

Honestly, she has no idea and hopes it doesn’t come to that. The brunette girl doesn’t know how she’ll feel if she killed someone; even if they’re a really bad person.

As Rosanna turns the corner, she spots the cafeteria’s entrance. The doors are closed, possibly barricaded from the inside.

The teenager slows down her pace, her heart thrashing against her from exhaustion and fear. The clock above the doors read 3:14 P.M., one minute before the exchange.

Knots are twisting inside of Rosanna, every part of her screaming to turn back, save herself. But she knows that if she does, she will lose Matt forever.

The Nerd’s face appears in her mind, his goofy smile forever imprinted. She thinks about his corny dad jokes, the way he would randomly break out into song and dance with Rosanna always joining in (and vice versa). Her heart warms up thinking about how Matt would tease her like an actual brother, joking about her height and attempts at being “a tough cookie”.

But what sticks to Rosanna the most is how his long arms would engulf her entire body whenever he hugged her. With him by her side, she always felt safe, loved, like she’s home.

She doesn’t want to lose that!

As scared as Rosanna is, she knows her best friend must be just as terrified.

He was always there to protect me! Now it’s my turn!

Rosanna proceeds ahead, knowing this could end badly but not caring. What’s important is rescuing Matt from Nicholas at all costs.

She stands before the doors, taking a deep breath as she slides the gun in the back of her plaid skirt, the weapon’s cold exterior blasting against her skin.

After two inhales and exhales, Rosanna lifts her small hand to the door and knocks.

--

Normally when Matt’s nervous, his main tick is combing his hair back with his hand. It occurs during tests, projects, even simple things like video games. It doesn’t bother him as much because he’s always been able to accomplish such tasks in the end.

But when Matt’s really nervous, to the point where his anxiety makes him want to throw up, he massages his fingers. The strong grip and pull against his skin is his only way to stay in control without losing his head; this is a habit he tries to avoid.

Unfortunately, Matt’s in a situation where such a habit is occurring.

The teen sits at a lunch table and glances at the clock across from him. It’s been twelve minutes since Nicholas called Joey and Rosanna demanding an exchange; the crystal for Matt’s life. The more time that passes, the worse his anxiety gets.

Matt doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t want to die (that’s for sure) but he doesn’t want to put Joey and Rosanna in danger.

Joey’s still in bad shape from being stabbed and a cold chill slithers down his spine at the thought of Rosanna being at Nicholas’s mercy. It’s already bad enough that Safiya got shot because of him! The Nerd isn’t even sure she’ll make it.

No, don’t think like that! Matt’s mind shouts at himself, Saf’s going to be okay, she has to be! The others are going to get her out of here, they’ll save her! She’s going to survive, she will!

“We have to leave while we still can!”

The brunette boy’s thoughts are interrupted by the two men arguing in front of him. Willy has been trying to convince Nicholas that they’re running out of time and should leave before any cops show up. Nicholas, stubborn as ever, will not leave without the Heart.

“Do you have any idea how much went into getting the Heart? I will not lose it all because of a bunch of obnoxious, pubescent-rising, little shits!” the leader’s voice booms through the cafeteria.

Willy appears calm, but Matt can see that at any moment, the right hand man might lose his temper.

“It won’t matter if we’re caught and doing thirty to life! When Wilmer killed that woman, he added murder to our list of charges! I prefer freedom over the possibility of getting rich!”

“Then go!” Nicholas shouts. “You can run now, but you lose your cut. I’m not leaving without that crystal! And if the cops try to take me?” the leader points his finger at Matt, “I’ll have my insurance to stop them!”

Matt’s heart nearly shoots to his throat. Are they not going to let him go?

Of course not! the voice in Matt’s head realizes. They’re desperate and desperation is a dangerous emotion!

“How do you even know those kids are going to bring the damn rock?” Willy snaps, “after you shot that girl, they could be running for the hills as we speak!”

Nicholas glares at Matt, making the boy shiver in his seat. “Oh, they’ll come, alright! Little Muffin cares about her boy here. She’s not going anywhere without him!”

Willy sighs, irritation painted on his face.

“Fine! But once we get the crystal, we let them go! They’ll only slow us down and I’m not going to add kidnapping to the list!”

Nicholas makes a face, but eventually relents. “Very well, let’s just hope they get here in the next minute.”

One minute left. He only has one minute left.

Matt’s panic is reaching its peak and he can’t think clearly.

They’re going to kill him, maybe even kill whoever comes to rescue him. That means they might kill Joey, they might kill Rosanna! He’s going to watch them die, helpless to save them, and then he’s going to die too!

Matt has never felt so weak.

You are weak! his mind taunts him. You got yourself captured twice today! Safiya might die because of you, and now you’re letting your best friend walk into a trap! If you can’t protect yourself, how do you expect to protect Ro? Face it, you and Rosanna are going to die, and it will be your fault!

Matt doesn’t even realize he’s hyperventilating until he feels a hand on his shoulder. He looks up and meets the eyes of Willy. This only makes the teen freak out more.

Willy’s probably still mad from earlier and who knows what he might do to him!

Matt shrinks away from the older man, massaging his fingers roughly. He’s sure he might pull skin off at any moment.

Even though he’s not crying, Matt can feel his eyes water up, and it won’t stop no matter how hard he tries.

He’s definitely having a panic attack.

“Kid, you need to breathe. Freaking out isn’t going to help you,” Willy calmly tells him. “Listen, I know you’re scared and I don’t blame you. But panicking isn’t doing us any favors.”

The older man kneels in front of the teen. “Look at me.”

Matt stares at the tile floor, he’s too afraid now to look the other man in the face.

“Kid, look at me!” Willy repeats himself, but almost as if it were a command.

Fearing what Willy will do if he doesn’t, the Nerd slowly raises his head and the two make eye contact. The thief’s eyes are so frightening, Matt’s pretty sure he will actually cry this time.

Then out of nowhere, Willy closes his eyes and begins what looks like a breathing exercise. Matt watches, confusion on his face.

Is he trying to help me?

No, there’s no way!

Willy must have sensed Matt’s confusion, as he opens his eyes and faces the teenager.

“Now, do what I just did. Focus and concentrate on your breathing. Inhale four seconds, hold for seven, then exhale eight. Go ahead.”

Matt doesn’t know why Willy’s helping him all of a sudden. Maybe his panic attack was annoying the older man, but regardless, he does as he’s told.

The Nerd starts inhaling, then exhaling, counting each breath as he goes, repeating the process until he finally starts to calm down, even just a little bit.

“Thank you,” Matt whispers, wiping the tears coming down his face.

Willy nods his head.

“It’s almost over,” he responds nonchalantly, “we just get what we want, then you’re free to go, and we all go home happy.”

Somehow Matt doubts that, but he keeps it to himself.

Suddenly, a knock is heard on the cafeteria doors. Nicholas perks up, his hand on his gun. Willy keeps his hand gripped on Matt’s shoulder.

“I’m here! I have your crystal!” a small female voice calls through the door. “Please open the doors!”

It’s Rosanna!

Matt sucks in his breath, shaking from the sudden chill he feels in his body. He keeps his composure, however, to avoid losing control again.

Nicholas smiles as he draws his weapon. He turns to Willy.

“Go let our guest in.”

Willy squeezes Matt’s shoulder one more time before making his way to the doors. Nicholas glares at Matt, motioning for the boy to stand up and walk over to him. Matt reluctantly obeys.

Once he’s by the leader’s side, Nicholas drapes his arm around the teenager’s shoulders as if to be comforting, only to jab his gun into Matt’s ribs.

“Looks like we all get a happy ending out of this, after all,” the leader mutters to him.

Matt turns to Nicholas, his fear mixed with anger.

“Don’t you dare hurt her!” the brunette boy seethes.

Nicholas just smiles. “Don’t worry, if you both cooperate, we’ll let you go.”

He moves his arm away from Matt’s shoulders and in an instant, grabs the back of his neck, the thief’s nails digging into the boy’s skin. The Nerd hisses in pain, gritting his teeth.

“But if either of you try to be a hero,” Nicholas growls, “I will kill her in front of you! Understood?”

Through furious, irritated eyes, Matt nods.

“Understood.”

--

Rosanna thought she was ready for what was behind the cafeteria doors.  She couldn’t be any more wrong!

The doors open and there before her stands Willy, a mountain over her tiny frame.  He’s battered and bruised, dry blood in certain areas.  

They really did a number on him! The Floater observes, recalling her friends’s fight with the older man. 

Willy’s expression is ambiguous as he motions Rosanna to come in. The knife in his hand makes the small girl tremble in her Oxfords.

“Hey Little Muffin! You’re right on time!”

Rosanna looks around Willy to find the owner of the voice and she freezes in place.

A few feet away stands Nicholas, his evil smiling almost paralyzing her.  Right next to the leader, a gun pressed to his side, stands Matt.  

The Nerd appears to be okay, aside from his injuries, but Rosanna knows better.  She can see in his eyes how scared he is, no matter how brave he’s trying to be for her.

Rosanna wants to run to Matt, hug him, tell him everything is going to be okay.  But it’s not okay, it won’t be okay as long as Nicholas is threatening to hurt them.  She wants to get this over and done with.

Slowly, the brunette girl walks towards Nicholas, her hands up so not to spook the thief.  She hears Willy close the doors, coming back into her view as he walks toward his boss.

Nicholas gets right to business.

“You have my crystal?”

Rosanna nods, slowly and carefully taking off her backpack.  She can feel the gun move slightly against her back, taking extra precaution not to alert the bad guys.

Holding the lavender backpack in front of her, Rosanna extends her arms out, ready to hand the prized jewel to Nicholas.

The leader gestures his gun downward, keeping a firm hold on his hostage.

“Set it down, then back up!” he orders.

Rosanna does as she’s told, setting the backpack down on the floor, then backing away with her hands raised.

Nicholas turns to Willy.  “Check it!”

Willy walks over to the backpack, kneeling down and unzipping it.  The right hand man rummages through Rosanna’s belongings before pulling the Heart out.  It’s turquoise shade lights up, sparkling shadows bouncing off the white walls.  

Rosanna use to think it was beautiful, but now she never wants to see it again; not after the pain it has caused her and her friends.

Willy shows the crystal to Nicholas, whose face glows with greed at the rock.  It makes Rosanna sick how someone could hurt innocent people just to get their grubby hands on an object.  

Sure, it’s worth millions of dollars, but no money in the world is worth a human life!

Nicholas swoons at the sight of the Heart, Matt hanging his head in defeat.  Rosanna tries to give her soul brother a comforting smile, letting him know they’re almost out of there.

Be brave for him! she comfortingly reminds herself.  It’s going to be okay.

Willy puts the crystal back into the backpack, zipping it up.  Slinging the pack over his shoulder, he nods to Nicholas.

“We’re all good to go, boss!” the right hand man confirms.

Nicholas nods his head, then turns to Rosanna.  The petite girl stares him down, waiting for him to release Matt.

I followed my end of the bargain, now it’s your turn! Let him go! her eyes demand.

But the leader doesn’t.

Instead, Nicholas turns to Willy and points to Rosanna.  “We’re leaving, grab the girl!”

Rosanna sucks in her breath!. What!?

“What? No! You got your stupid crystal back, you don’t need us anymore!” Matt finally speaks, the tone in his voice intertwined with anger and panic as he squirms in Nicholas’s grasp.

This only makes Nicholas tighten his hold on the brunette boy. He lets go of Matt’s neck and wraps his arm around the boy’s chest to secure him in place. He pushes the gun deeper into Matt’s side, making the boy yelp.

Rosanna squeaks out a small noise in terror, her hands out as if to stop the terrible man from hurting her best friend any further.

Don’t fight him! Her eyes pleading to Matt. Don’t make it worse!

“I thought so too,” Nicholas tells the whole room.  “But if the police do show up, there’s no way we’ll get out of here safely.  Not without leverage.”

Rosanna feels like she just got hit by bricks.  She should have known Nicholas was never going to let them go after he got his crystal!  

If anything, Rosanna just provided the thief with an extra bargaining chip against the police!  The Floater feels like a fool.

Across from her, Matt continues to struggle against Nicholas. Despite the strong hold on him, the Nerd’s not backing down.

“Just take me! Ro’s too tiny to be a shield, they’ll easily shoot you down!  Just take me, please!” Matt begs, his voice matching the fear and desperation on his face.

“No!” The Floater cries. “Please, Nicholas, you don’t have to do this! Just let us go!"

Rosanna’s heart is picking up speed. I won’t let you take him! Why can’t you bullies just leave us alone?

“Nicholas!”

Everyone turns to the new voice and finds Willy, his face appalled and outraged, something Rosanna didn’t expect to come from Nicholas’s right hand.  Then again, Willy has proven to be unpredictable.

The other man drops Rosanna’s backpack onto the ground and stares down his partner.

“We can’t take them! I just said they will only slow us down and we’re already in enough shit as it is!  Let’s just leave them here and by the time their friends or the police find them, we’ll be long gone! We have the damn Heart, come on! Don’t be a fool!”

Nicholas stares at Willy, his eyes looking into the other thief as if considering.

Rosanna prays Nicholas will listen to reason.  Willy’s right, they don’t need them!

Matt’s beat up pretty bad and Rosanna’s indeed too small to be a human shield; they will slow the men down.  They can leave with their crystal, no one else has to get hurt.

Nicholas finally nods at Willy. 

“You’re right, I don’t want to be slowed down,” he replies as he turns his gun away from Matt and shoots the other man.

Rosanna screams as Willy falls to the ground, unable to process that there is a bleeding bullet hole in his chest.  Matt stands in shock as Nicholas remains emotionless, smoke evaporating from the gun.

The lead thief then faces Rosanna.  

It’s clear to her now Nicholas is too far gone, there are no lines he won’t cross anymore.   

Rosanna always believed there was good in everyone.  But as she looks into Nicholas’s eyes, the Floater sees nothing but a monster!

The thief glances at Matt, the boy repulsed that the older man just shot his own partner.  

“You think I’m evil, don’t you?” Nicholas nonchalantly asks. “That I’m greedy enough to care more about a jewel than the value of human life.  You couldn’t be more correct!”

The man cocks his gun, both teenagers tensing up. 

“And you know what else you’re right about, Matthew?” Nicholas coldly states, “I don’t need two hostages to get me out of here. I only need one.”

The madman turns his gun on Rosanna.  “And Little Muffin is indeed too small!” 

Seeing the barrel aiming straight at her, Rosanna realizes Nicholas is going to kill her.  She’s about to die, right here, right now, in front of her best friend.  

So many thoughts are racing in her head.  

Is this what Safiya felt when she was shot? Is this how Principal Wilson felt? Will it hurt or will everything go black before I realize it?

The brunette girl closes her eyes, her body trembling as she waits for a bullet to end her all too short life.

“NO!”

A loud yell hits the air as Rosanna reopens her eyes and witnesses Matt pushing Nicholas’s arm, which holds the gun, out of the way.  The force of the push knocks both of them to the ground and within seconds, Matt’s on top of the thief.  The teenage girl watches in shock as he attacks the older man in a rage she has never seen before.

Matt’s throwing punches, hitting anywhere his fists can connect. For a moment, Nicholas lies there, taking in the hits from the younger boy, but eventually gains his composure and counterattacks.  The thief gets the upper hand, throwing the Nerd to the ground, the boy’s body slamming against the cafeteria floor.  

Rosanna cries out, watching Matt lie there in a daze. Nicholas takes this opportunity to stand up.

Grabbing Matt by the front of his shirt, Nicholas lifts him up like a rag doll and slams him against one of the lunch tables. The Nerd appears disoriented, unable to fight back in time before Nicholas wraps his hands around his throat. 

"You're going to pay for that, you punk!"

Matt struggles from underneath Nicholas. Panic paints his face as he claws and hits the thief, trying to pry his hands off so he can breathe.  

But it’s a losing battle as the madman tries to choke the life out of the brunette boy.

Rosanna stands there frightened and paralyzed, only her mouth moving as she screams at Nicholas to stop. 

Matt’s face is starting to turn blue and Rosanna realizes if she doesn’t do anything, the boy she calls family will die.

What are you doing Ro? He’s going to kill him!  Stop standing there and do something!

Her gun is still snug against her back.  Every part of her doesn’t want to grab it, to have the possibility of killing a person.  

But at this point, Rosanna has no choice.  This is what she’s been dreading the moment she left the others in the library.

The Floater doesn’t want to kill anyone, let alone a monster like Nicholas.  But with Matt moments away from death, she has to. 

Things have gone south, it’s time!

Rosanna grabs the gun from behind her, flicking off its safety. 

She aims it at Nicholas, his form in her sights.  He doesn’t notice her so she’ll be able to surprise him.

But the thief’s moving around so much, she doesn’t have a clear shot. What if she accidentally shoots Matt?

Anxiety drowns her as time runs out.  She has to go for an alternative.

Bracing herself, Rosanna aims the gun at the ceiling and fires.

A loud bang echoes through the cafeteria, making her shriek.  Nicholas freezes from his strangulation and turns to where the sound came from.  He lets go of Matt, who falls off the table, gasping for air.  

The teenage boy clutches his neck and breathes before he too looks to where the shot came from.  His eyes widen when he sees Rosanna. 

Rosanna quickly regains her composure and points the gun back at Nicholas.  Fire blazes in her brown eyes, her face changing to animosity towards the bad man.

“Get away from him, asshole!” she furiously spits at him.

--

Matt isn’t sure what shocks him more: Rosanna holding a gun or Rosanna swearing.

The petite girl stands before him and Nicholas, the gun fastened to her little hands.  Her face is unrecognizable; instead of her cute little smile, it’s replaced with coldness and fury.

Nicholas raises his hands, not wanting to spook the gun-wielding girl.

Keeping her weapon trained on the older man, Rosanna turns to Matt.

“Matt, come on! We’re leaving!”

Matt doesn’t need to be told twice!  He quickly stands up and rushes to his best friend’s side, grabbing Nikita’s phone from the table he sat at earlier.

Nicholas starts to stand too.

“No! Don’t you dare!” Rosanna shouts, forcing her gun forward to get the grown man to comply.

Nicholas keeps his hands raised, slowly standing up.  “Relax, Little Muffin, I’m not doing anything.”

Rosanna spots her fallen backpack and glares at Nicholas.  She takes Matt’s hand, while pointing the gun with her other, and the two start to back away.

“The Heart is right there!  It’s all yours, so just let us leave and you can go your own way! We don’t want any trouble!”

The Floater’s voice is shaking.  Matt squeezes her hand, pulling her back, focusing on getting them both out of the cafeteria.

We’re almost there!

Nicholas looks at the backpack and then back at her.  Matt hopes he listens to Rosanna and chooses not to be arrogant.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” the man coldly replies, his arms still raised, as he takes a step towards the two.

Rosanna cocks the gun again, fear climbing inside of her. “I mean it! Stay back! I know how to use a gun!”

Matt keeps a hold of Rosanna, not knowing if he wants her to put the gun down or keep moving.  

Nicholas keeps his hands up and stares them both down.

“It’s over, Nicholas!” Matt speaks up. “Just go, just leave us alone! Don’t be an idiot!”

Suddenly Nicholas lets out a blood curdling scream as he falls forward.  

On the ground next to him is Willy, with his bloody knife in his hand.  Despite Nicholas shooting him, the other man is still alive and was able to crawl over and stab him.

Willy turns to the shell-shocked teens.  He manages to get out one word. “Run!”

Matt and Rosanna obey.  

The soul siblings head for the cafeteria doors, but not before Rosanna turns back to grab her backpack.

“Ro, what the hell?!” Matt exclaims. Rosanna runs back to him, backpack slinged over her shoulder.

Matt grabs her hand and together, they bolt out of the cafeteria.  

“Have you lost your mind?”

“We need to turn this in to the police!” the Floater explains as they take off down the hallway towards the exit.  

What Rosanna did was risky and stupid, but Matt knows she means well.  

Of course his best friend isn’t going to let Nicholas take off with the Heart! Of course she would want to return it to its rightful owners!

Sometimes Rosanna, your will to do the right thing drives me crazy! Matt wants to tell her as they make it to the door leading to the outside.

However it’s locked, because of course it is!

“We need to get out of here right now!” Matt tells Rosanna as he observes their surroundings in a panic.

Rosanna agrees. “The others are in the library.  Let’s head that way and we-”

A gunshot rings out in the cafeteria.  The two friends whip their heads towards the sound and to their horror, Nicholas walks out. The madman clutches his side, now soaked with blood, staring at the two of them with murder in his eyes.  

Is this guy even human? Matt wonders, amazed the thief is still moving after being beaten and stabbed.

Nicholas grins at them evilly as he raises his gun.

Matt looks at Rosanna and grabs her hand.

“RUN!!”

Chapter Text

Rosanna has no idea what she’s doing.  

The whole gun incident was just on a whim, and she was making things up as she went along.  She was never going to shoot Nicholas, but she had to keep up appearances so that she and Matt could escape.  Rosanna’s face had been stoic, but inside, she was screaming, her heart about to burst out of her chest.

Now, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs as both she and Matt run from a very injured, but very alive, Nicholas.  Based on the look on his face when he walked out of the cafeteria, it’s clear that the thief is mad…mad enough to kill them!  

The gunshot they heard before Nicholas came out of the cafeteria must mean that he killed Willy, and Rosanna can’t help but feel sad.  Sure, Willy was a bad guy too, and he did hurt them, but he was going to let them go. He was going to show them mercy. The last thing Willy did was help the two teenagers escape. That must mean something, right?

“Ro, this way!” Matt yells at her as the two turn the corner.  He’s still recovering from Nicholas nearly choking him to death, so his voice is a bit hoarse.  Rosanna will have to check on him once they are in a safe place...if they find a safe place!

All the exits are locked, so they can’t get outside. And with Nicholas close behind, they won’t be able to get into a classroom in time.

Matt pulls the smaller girl towards the stairs, and both bound up, their feet landing on every other step. Rosanna’s not sure why they’re going up instead of down, but she trusts Matt and knows that he has something cooking in his head.

A loud bang rings out, and part of a wall near the two teens shatters, its debris almost hitting them. Rosanna screams and covers her head. Matt wraps an arm around her and pulls her to safety.  

Rosanna still has her own gun, but decides against getting into a gun fight with Nicholas.  One or both students will surely get killed if she tries to be Annie Oakley. So the Floater keeps running.

The two make their way up to the second floor of the school, panting hard, shoes clanking against the floor, never letting go of each other’s hand.  As the teens turn another corner, they head to a door that Rosanna doesn’t recognize. Matt digs into his jeans pocket, pulls out two paperclips, and pulls them apart.  He immediately starts to work on the locked door.

“Matt, what are you doing?” Rosanna exclaims. Nicholas is closing in on them, and instead of finding a way outside, Matt is trying to open a mysterious door.  Rosanna’s head is spinning, unsure whether to use her gun or not. Heck, she’s not sure if she should slap her best friend upside the head for wasting precious time on a door!

Rosanna leans forward, confused at Matt’s antics. “Is it working?” she asks, her anxiety rising as the seconds go by.

But Matt pays no attention to her. Instead, he’s muttering to himself, and Rosanna can only watch as he picks the lock.  

Since when does Matt know how to pick locks?  Honestly, there’s so much that Rosanna has learned about each of her friends today, so it does not surprise her.

Suddenly, a click is heard.

“Yes!” Matt cries with joy. “Thank you, Internet!”

Well, there’s Rosanna’s answer.  Matt opens the door, and before them is a ladder going upwards.  

Rosanna puts two and two together. “Matt, is this towards-”

“Yes, it is!” Matt responds triumphantly.  

A distant growl of frustration is heard behind them.  Matt and Rosanna turn to see Nicholas come around the corner, leaving a path of blood in his wake.  He leans against the wall, clearly in bad shape, but determined to end the their lives. Matt and Rosanna are not going to wait around.

“Oh, shoot! Ro, get in!” Matt loudly whispers, and the petite girl bolts through the door, Matt right behind her.  The Nerd shuts the door and turns on the light switch so that both of them can see where they are.  

Rosanna spots a huge slab of wood next to the ladder and hands it to Matt, who pushes it against the knob, so Nicholas can't follow them further.

“Go, Ro, go!” Matt cries as he helps Rosanna onto the ladder.  

The brunette girl flicks the gun’s safety on, tucking it into her skirt.  She begins to climb up, pulling herself with all her might, her backpack weighing against her.  

She can hear Matt climbing beneath her, so she goes as fast as she can to not slow them down.  They climb higher and higher, until eventually, Rosanna sees the door to the outside with a latch keeping it down.  Rosanna reaches up, releases the latch, and pushes the door open with all her might. But it’s super heavy, and the Floater is unsure if her small frame is strong enough.

“I can’t do it, it’s too heavy!” Rosanna cries, feeling like she’s letting both herself and her best friend down.

Matt motivates her from below.  “You got this, Ro! Use your core and just keep pushing! You got this!”

Hearing him cheer her on, Rosanna suddenly feels a surge of energy. With all her might, she tries again, and this time, Rosanna’s able to push the door open.  Sunlight bursts through, a cool breeze brushing against the two friends.  

Rosanna climbs up and pulls herself out.  Once she’s on the ground, she stands up, her hands on her knees in exhaustion.  Lifting her head, she takes in everything around her, joyful to be outside at last.  

She hears a grunt behind her and realizes that Matt needs help.  

Rosanna takes off her backpack and rushes over to help Matt.  The small girl grabs his long arms and pulls him up before slamming the door.  Matt falls to his knees, also exhausted from running and then climbing up a ladder.  Not to mention the countless injuries and possible concussion he may have.

Rosanna doesn’t wait.  She flings her arms around Matt, holding onto her best friend for dear life as if he’ll disappear if she lets go.  Matt wraps his arms across Rosanna’s small form, squeezing her against him. They’re finally together and safe.

Rosanna buries her face into Matt’s shoulder, finally able to process everything that’s occurred. Letting go of what’s bottled inside her, the Floater begins to cry.

“Ro, it’s okay!” Matt assures her in a soothing voice, rubbing his hand against her back. “I’m okay, we’re okay!”

But Rosanna cannot stop crying.  She’s relieved but scared, and she feels…almost guilty. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do!” Rosanna sobs. “After everything that’s happened today, I couldn’t let them hurt you again! Not after everything we’ve been through!”

She knows she didn’t do anything wrong, and Matt isn’t mad at her.  But Rosanna can’t help but feel ashamed for acting recklessly and losing her temper.

“I know, I know, I nearly got us both killed walking in there alone, but I had no choice!  I had to take the gun! I had to return the Heart! I wasn’t going to shoot Nicholas, but when he was strangling you...oh God!” As she rambles and cries, Rosanna starts to feel a weight lift off her shoulders.  She’s finally getting everything out, but it hurts so much. She almost died, Matt almost died, and it’s overwhelming her. “In that moment, I wanted to kill him, Matt! I was ready to kill him, and I feel awful!  What if I did shoot him? What if I accidentally hit you?”

“But you didn’t!”

Matt pulls Rosanna away, cupping his hands over her tear-stained cheeks.  He too is crying, also processing the events that have transpired. But he holds Rosanna across from him, making sure that she’s looking at him.  But Rosanna’s too ashamed to face Matt. She can’t look into his eyes, and she’s unable to take in the injuries he sustained.  She can even see a slight bruise forming on his neck from Nicholas choking him, and it’s just too much. Instead, the brunette girl stares at the ground, watching her tears stain the concrete.

“Listen to me. You didn’t shoot him.  You did the right thing by firing a warning shot at the ceiling,” Matt tells Rosanna as she sniffles and breathes through her sobs.  “It was self defense. You did what you had to do.  And in doing so, you saved me!  Ro, look at me.”

Upon his insistence, Rosanna finally lifts her eyes up and looks into Matt’s.  His brown yet tired eyes stare back in sincerity, a comforting smile forming across his face.

“Ro,” Matt gently says, “you saved me!”

Rosanna nods her head, tears continuing to fall.  Matt’s right. She didn’t kill Nicholas, and she got both of them out alive.  They’re alive. They’re safe now.

“Yeah,” Rosanna agrees, taking a deep breath as she calms herself down, “I did!” She also recalls Matt attacking Nicholas when the older man was about to shoot her. “You saved me too!  Nicholas was going to shoot me, and you knocked him out of the way! You were so brave!”

Matt chuckles as he wipes Rosanna’s tears off her face. “Yeah, I guess I am.  It was reckless, but I didn’t care. In that moment, when he said he was going to kill you, something inside me snapped! And I don’t regret it.” He touches his neck.  “Well, maybe a little bit. But if it stopped him from hurting you, I'd do it again!”

Rosanna manages to stop crying and form a small smile.  Matt fighting Nicholas was indeed reckless and terrifying, and he could have died.  But at the same time, she abandoned the group to go on a solo rescue mission where anything could have gone wrong.  Both did what they did because the other is their best friend. Both love each other and clearly have no regrets for their actions if it meant protecting the other.

“Besides,” Matt continues, “what you did was brave too. You came and faced down the bad guys, despite the limited odds.  In the end, you managed to get us out. And that’s why I keep telling you that you are more of a Gryffindor!”

Rosanna giggles as the two embrace again.  “I love you!” she whispers to her best friend.

She feels Matt smile against her.  “I love you too, Ro!”

For a moment, the two hold onto one another.  After all the chaos they’ve endured, they need a moment of peace and comfort.

When they finally break away, Rosanna looks around her, taking in the view. “I can’t believe we’re on the school roof!”

“Crazy cool, isn’t it?” Matt laughs, reminiscing his last adventure up there that landed him in detention in the first place.

Rosanna gazes at the landscape, and it’s truly amazing despite the circumstances.

“So,” Rosanna turns back to Matt, “now what?”

--

Manny is so out of breath, but he keeps running.  Safiya’s life depends on it, and so do the lives of his other friends!

The larger boy bolts from the high school, Safiya cradled in his arms.  The raven-haired girl is wrapped up in his green jacket, with Matt’s jacket still being used to keep pressure on her wound.  Her blood is starting to stain his $175 jacket, but honestly, Manny doesn’t give a rat’s ass; saving Safiya is more important!

The Prep wants to be far enough from the school so that he can call for help without alerting the thieves.  But Manny needs to move fast, given how pale and bloody the girl he’s holding is. 

“We’re almost there, Safiya!” Manny tries to comfort the Goth. “Just hold on a bit longer! Keep fighting, okay?”

Safiya doesn’t answer him, but Manny can feel her hand clutching his shirt, which is a good enough sign that she’s holding on.

Meanwhile, Manny worries about Nikita and Joey.  He would have rather gone with Nikita to find Rosanna and Matt, but Joey was so gung-ho about wanting “to make things right.” The blonde boy convinced Manny that he was the stronger one and could get Safiya out faster and call for help. Manny couldn’t argue against that, so the group split up, with Nikita and Joey heading towards the cafeteria and Manny escaping with Safiya out the same window they used hours before.

But what if something happens to them, and I could have stopped it? Manny worries as he gets to the parking lot, a far distance away from the school.  He trusts Nikita because she’s fierce and can take care of herself, but Joey? As much as Manny loves the guy, the bitch is reckless and wasn’t doing too hot, given he’s injured too.  

But Nikita trusts Joey and agreed he should go with her, and Manny trusts Nikita. All the ebony-haired boy can do is help Safiya.  He has to have faith that the blondes will rescue Rosanna and Matt and all will make it out safely.

Checking that he’s far enough away, Manny stops, his breathing out of sorts from running.  He spots a bench and makes his way over and lays Safiya down. Checking her pulse, Manny sighs in relief that she still has one.  However, it’s pretty slow, and the raven-haired girl is starting to burn up.

Manny kneels down next to her, caressing her pale white face, making sure Safiya stays awake.  If she even dozes off, there’s a high chance that she won’t wake up!

Manny pats her cheek, keeping his voice cheerful.  “Hey hey, no sleep, okay, honey! I need you to stay awake! Let's see those gorgeous eyes!”

Thankfully, Safiya softly opens her eyes and smiles, showing gratitude but also fear.  She doesn’t want to die, and Manny doesn’t want her to die, because as weird as Safiya Nygaard can be, Manny has grown very fond of the Goth.  

This entire day, Manny has developed a bond between each person in detention and saw past their stereotype.  This survival process has brought them closer than ever, forming their very own Breakfast Club! Manny wants that to continue when this is all over.

First things first though, they need to make it all out alive!

A honk takes Manny’s attention from Safiya and turns to the sound.  A red car approaches them, slowing down. The Prep leaps to his feet.

It’s help! He can finally get them help!  Waving his hands like a maniac, Manny alerts the driver for assistance.

“Please help me!” Manny cries as the driver, a dark brunette woman likely in her early thirties, exits the car and slowly heads to them.  She sees Safiya and glances at Manny, concerned. Given both their appearances, he doesn’t blame the woman for being cautious.

Manny tearfully begins to recap. “I know this looks sketchy, but my friends and I are in danger!  We just came from Everlock High School! We were in detention, and we were attacked by some criminals with guns! They killed our principal, shot my friend here, and have my other friends.  We need the police and an ambulance! Please believe me! We need help!”

The woman stands there, taking everything in. Finally she nods her head and turns back to her car. “Alison,” she yells to the other passenger, a younger woman with light brown hair, “call 911, GSW to the right shoulder, likely clavicle area! And get the blankets in the trunk as well as two water bottles, now!” She kneels next to Safiya, checking her wound. “What’s her name?”

“Safiya, and I’m Manny!” Manny answers as he bends down next to them.  

The other woman, Alison, runs over with blankets and water while on the phone with 911.  She hands Manny a water bottle, while the woman helping them puts a hand on Safiya’s cheek.

“Safiya?” the woman gently begins. “My name’s Calliope, and I’m certified in First Aid.  Do I have your permission to help you?”

Safiya, through her pain, nods slowly.  Calliope also looks at Manny as if asking for permission, and the boy nods as well.  

As Calliope tends to Safiya,  Alison gets off the phone and heads toward them. “Ambulance’s on the way, as well as the cops!” 

Alison turns to Manny, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.  “It’s alright now. Help is coming. You’re going to be okay.”

As soon as Manny hears that, the Prep breaks down and embraces her.  He knows his makeup is going to be ruined and he’s hugging a stranger, but he doesn’t care. “Thank you so much!” he sobs as Alison holds him, while Calliope helps Safiya.

For once, Manny has hope.  He and his friends are going to be okay.  He knows it.

He believes it.

 --

Nikita clearly did not pick the right shoes for this.  

Her feet are getting sore from all the running she's had to do today, and she’s so close to collapsing.  

Joey’s not doing too great either, yet he’s keeping up with the Rebel as best he can.

She should've had Joey go with Manny and Safiya to find help and just gone on this mission herself. (She’s a bad bitch, she can hold her own!)

But the blonde boy, stubborn as ever, demanded he come with Nikita to rescue Matt and Rosanna, wanting to “make things right” and some bullshit.

Honey, you won’t make things right if you’re dead! Nikita wanted to argue, but honestly, she’s too exhausted to fight with her friend.  Not to mention she’s still pretty bitter about not having her gun.

Nikita feels a bit exposed without the weapon, and she’s not even sure how they’re supposed to help “Dipper and Mabel” unarmed...unless a five foot ruler they found in the library counts. But even so, the blondes are walking into dangerous territory.

“When I find that little shrimp, I’m going to tear her a new one for stealing my gun!” Nikita snaps as they tiptoe down the halls, heading towards the cafeteria, the place where Nicolas demanded they meet for the exchange.

“Oh come on, Nikita!” Joey groans as he clutches his chest. “Give Ro a break!  Yes, what she did was stupid, but her best friend was being threatened! Who wouldn’t do that?  What would you have done?”

Nikita wrinkles her nose. “Touche!”

The Savant has a point.  Nikita would do exactly what Rosanna did (and more) if it was Manny in the crosshairs.

Her relationship with the Prep is no different than what Matt and Rosanna have.

“Still, this is Rosanna we are talking about.  She’s not a violent person, and when push comes to shove, she won’t kill those guys, and that will put her in danger as well!”

Joey shrugs. “I agree, but she’s also very protective of the people she loves.  We just have to trust her.”

Nikita does trust Rosanna.  The Floater has proven to be a very tough cookie and shouldn’t be underestimated.  As a matter of fact, both Rosanna and Matt surprised Nikita as fighters. Maybe she should take Joey’s advice to never judge a book by its cover.

The two finally reach the cafeteria, only to freeze in their tracks.  The doors are open with a blood trail coming out. 

Nikita sucks in her breath, Joey gripping her shoulder.

Oh bitch, please tell me we’re not too late! Nikita worries as both she and Joey slowly make their way to the opening.  Her anxiety is pulsing, and she’s not sure she wants to look inside.  If she sees two dead brunette bodies, it will be too much for even Nikita to bear!

“Oh, God!” Joey gasps, already looking inside.  Nikita stares at the floor, her heart dropping.  She can’t look.

They’re dead, aren’t they?  Those bastards killed them! Those bitches! They’re going to pay for this!  

Nikita can feel a sob forming in her throat, not wanting to accept that possibility.  She gathers her courage and looks into the cafeteria.

Lying a few feet from them, in a pool of his own blood, is Willy.  Nikita’s mouth drops open in shock.  

The man has blood coming from his chest as well as from his head. His eyes are wide open, and he stares lifelessly at Joey and Nikita.

“What happened?” Joey frets as he looks for any trace of the Floater and the Nerd.

“Who cares!” Nikita exclaims, sighing in relief, “All we know is that Willy’s dead, and our friends are nowhere to be found! Neither is Nicholas, and we don’t know whose blood that is!”  Nikita points to the blood trail.

Whatever happened, it’s clear that things went to shit, just as Nikita predicted.  She really hopes that Matt and Rosanna escaped, because if Nicholas did anything to them, Nikita will make him suffer; she’s that invested!

Wow, the Rebel contemplates, I spend a couple hours with these bitches, and now not only am I worried about their safety, but I’m ready to kill for them? 

Nikita never thought that would happen, but in a twisted way, she’s kind of happy about it.  If surviving against a group of murderous thieves is a way for her to make new friends, then Nikita is all for it.  

She’s just hoping that they all make it out alive in the end.

Suddenly, a ding echoes in the cafeteria.  Realizing it’s his phone, Joey hesitantly takes it from his pocket and peeks at the screen.  The Rebel looks over his shoulder and gasps at the text displayed before them.

“It’s a text from my phone!” Nikita stares at Joey in confusion.

Joey returns the expression. “Why would Nicholas text us when he’s been calling all this time?”

Nikita shrugs because who knows with this bitch anymore!

Joey unlocks his phone and looks at the text, which comes with a picture.  Both cannot believe what they’re seeing.

“OH MY GOD!” Nikita nearly screeches, joy in her voice.

Staring back at the blondes is a picture of Matt and Rosanna in an unknown destination.  Aside from Matt’s beat up face (and is that a bruise on his neck?), both appear to be okay; actually they appear to be more than okay!

The two brunettes are smiling in the picture. A caption under them reads Guys, we’re safe!  If you’re in a safe place too, PLEASE call us!

Nikita and Joey look back at each other, happy but cautious.

Nikita nods her head to Joey. “Do it!”

Joey taps the call button as Nikita holds onto him, both waiting for an answer.

--

Joey’s heart is flipping and doing somersaults.  He hopes to God that Matt and Rosanna are okay and that this isn’t another trap set by Nicholas. Joey’s not sure if he can handle another one of those phone calls.  

Joey puts his other arm around Nikita, squeezing her shoulder as he puts his phone on speaker.

Someone answers the phone after two rings. 

“Joey?” a small feminine voice squeaks on the other line.  It’s Rosanna!

“Yes Ro, it’s us! It’s Joey and Nikita!” Joey responds, relief and happiness filling him.  But, to be sure: “Are you and Matt okay?”

Matt’s voice comes onto the line. “Joey? Hey, no, we’re fine! We escaped!”

Joey and Nikita both gasp in relief.  Hearing both their voices, it’s clear that Matt and Rosanna are indeed in a safe place.

“Matt, it’s so good to hear your voice!” Joey cries, while thanking God for not hurting anymore of his friends.

Nikita pipes in, “Yeah, we were sure you were a goner!”

Joey hears a snort on the other end.

“Wow,” remarks Matt, “way to have faith in me, Rebel!”

Nikita snickers, “Honey, you have no idea how glad I am to be wrong for once!”

“You guys,” Rosanna’s voice chimes in, a hint of nervous tone, “I’m sorry I took the gun, and I’m sorry I took the crystal!  But you have to understand, I just coul—”

Joey interrupts, “Don’t worry about that, Ro.  You did what you had to do, and you guys are okay! That’s all that matters.”

“But we are going to have a little talk later about taking people’s things, Ro!” Nikita chimes in.

Rosanna sighs.  “I know, it’s just when I saw Safiya, something came over me-”  

“Wait, Joey!” Matt interrupts, sudden panic in his voice. “Safiya, Nicholas shot her, is she-?”

“No, Matt, it’s okay!” Nikita pipes in, “Manny took her to safety while the two of us went to go look for you guys.”

“Oh my God!” the Nerd sighs in a giant relief. “Oh, thank God!”

“Speaking of,” Joey asks, “where exactly are you guys?”

There’s a brief pause before Matt speaks up. “We’re outside.”

“Yeah, no shit, we saw the picture!” Nikita snaps. “Could you be a bit more specific?”

“Well,” Matt hesitates, “we’re on the roof.”

Nikita and Joey stare at one another in shock.

“The very place that got you detention? Wow!” Joey chuckles.  Matt laughs a little on the other end, and Rosanna’s giggles are heard as well.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” the Nerd responds.

“It was the only place we could go! Nicholas was chasing us!  Even though Willy stabbed him, he kept coming after us with a gun!” Rosanna remarks.  

“Seriously, the guy’s a freaking Terminator!” Matt includes.  “Nothing can keep him down!”

Joey immediately starts to feel nervous.  

So that’s what the blood trail is!  

The good news is Nicholas is at a weak point and could possibly be defeated, not to mention unable to climb up to the roof where the other two are.  The bad news is, the thief’s still strong enough to walk around, and he is likely patrolling the school with a gun!

“Oh bitch!” Nikita groans.  She turns to the Savant. “We need to leave the school now, before he comes back!”

She turns back to the phone. “Okay, you guys, listen up!  Joey and I are going to try to find a way outside and look for you two.  Which part of the roof are you located?”

“Ummm,” Rosanna says, as if checking her surroundings.  Everlock High School is huge, so the roof could mean any part of the campus.

Matt responds, “We’re at the part next to the football and track field.  The Sports Hut is right next to us.”

Joey nods his head. “Okay, I know where that is! We’re heading over!  Just stay on the line with us!”

With that, Nikita and Joey bolt from the cafeteria and head to the exit.  Of course it’s locked, but at this point, both blondes are fed up!  

Nikita spots a nearby fire extinguisher, grabs it, and starts to hit the chains along the door like a mad woman.  Joey can only stand back as the Rebel lets out her anger and keeps hitting the chains until they finally break.

With the doors unlocked, Joey and Nikita race over to the football field, keeping their eyes upward for any sight of Matt and Rosanna.  Every part of Joey is on fire from exhaustion and the pain in his chest, but he doesn’t care. 

He’s just channeling everything he has to save his two friends and end this once and for all.

They reach the field and look up to the roof.  Joey’s out of breath, and everything hurts to talk, so he hands the phone to Nikita.

“Guys we’re here, do you see us?” Nikita asks, waving her hand in the air.  

Joey lifts both his arms up, shaking them around so the roof people can spot them.  The roof is high, but not high enough where Joey and Nikita can’t be seen.  

At last, two heads pop up and wave back.

Rosanna squeals through the phone.

“YES, YES, WE SEE YOU, HI GUYS!” The Floater waves back. Joey’s able to make out her smile.  

Matt is right next to her, holding the phone, and waving as well.

For a moment, Joey forgets the pain, forgets the exhaustion, forgets the shit that has occurred in the past few hours. Seeing his two friends, alive and smiling, is the best thing to happen today.  

“Well, here you guys are,” Nikita remarks, “but how are we going to get you down?”

Matt and Rosanna look at each other, and Joey can tell that they probably didn’t think about that part.

There’s no ladder anywhere, and they can’t go back the way they came, not with Nicholas on the prowl.

Joey turns to Nikita. “If Manny is able to find help, then the fire department might be able to get them down.” 

Nikita nods in agreement.  “Guys,” she says back into the phone, “you’re going to have to hang out up there for a bit.  Once help arrives, we’ll find a way to get you down.”

“That’s fine,” Matt replies, “It’s nice up here anyway, we’ll just-”

A shot rings out, making Nikita and Joey scream and jump.  The two quickly take cover at the small Sports Hut across from them next to the football field.

Where did that come from? Joey frantically thinks as he looks around him.  He turns back to the phone in Nikita’s hand.

“Guys are you okay?”  Silence sits on the other end.  Happiness turns to panic as Joey tries to get a response. 

“Guys, what’s happening!?” the blonde boy screeches, worried something bad happened to one of them.

Rosanna’s terror-filled voice answers. “You guys…Nicolas is on the roof with us!”

Chapter Text

How did he get up here? Matt panics as he shields Rosanna from their unexpected newcomer.

The Nerd doesn’t understand. They were quick to hide, and they barricaded the door to the roof. Not to mention that Nicholas was stabbed in a critical area. The guy may be inhuman, but he’d still be incapable of climbing the ladder in his state.

And yet, here he is, standing before them, a bloody rag tied with a belt around his injury, a psychotic rage enveloping his face.

Nicholas scans the environment around him and smiles. “I take it back, MacGyver, it’s quite lovely up here!”

The thief points his gun at the two teenagers, its barrel aiming directly at Matt’s chest.

Damn it, not again!

The anxiety he felt when he was a hostage is back, nervous sweat perspiring throughout his body. He feels Rosanna shaking as she grips the sleeve of his shirt behind him. Matt lifts his arms, trying to protect his best friend as best as he can. Luckily, his body hides Rosanna long enough to take the phone and slip it in his jeans pocket so that Nicholas doesn’t notice.

Joey, Nikita, if you heard what Ro just said, leave now!

“How did you get up here?” Matt asks, keeping his voice calm so as not to spook or anger the dangerous man any further.

Nicholas glares at Matt, the thief’s face grimacing in pain from his wound. “Oh, kid, you should know by now that nothing can stop me! Not a fire extinguisher, not even a knife! You should’ve seen Willy when I put a bullet in his traitorous head,” Nicholas snickers at the two as he cocks his gun. “And the roof of all places? Come on, Matthew, way to corner yourself! And here I thought you were the smart one!”

“Leave him alone!” Rosanna snaps as she steps out from behind Matt. The Floater’s eyebrow are narrowed, a display of anger and frustration. This is the face of someone fed up with this nonsense.

Nicholas turns to her and grins. “Wow, look at you, Little Muffin! For a small bean like yourself, you've proven to be pretty tough. I admire you for that! You still got that gun, or did it slip through that skirt of yours?”

“As a matter of fact,” Rosanna scowls, pulling the gun out from behind her, “I still got it!”

Matt is not liking this at all. As much as he loves Rosanna, seeing the gun back in her hand isn’t okay, even if it’s pointed at a madman.

“Ro, don’t!” Matt quickly holds his hand out to the Floater. He doesn’t want any shooting happening, especially not from Rosanna; it was hard enough for her to have to fire the gun back in the cafeteria.

“Yeah, Ro,” Nicholas taunts her, “why don’t you listen to your bro here! As you can see, I have a gun of my own, and I can easily shoot him in a blink. So I suggest you toss that gun over before one, or even both, of you gets hurt.”

Matt stares at Rosanna’s grip on the gun, as well as Nicholas’ gun pointing at them. The petite girl’s trying to stay calm, but a conflicting look is running across her face, and it’s clear that she can’t think of anything to stop the thief from firing his weapon. Even if she’s able to shoot Nicholas, the thief will still be able to shoot Matt and kill him. Plus, the last thing he wants is for his sweet and kind-hearted best friend to get blood on her hands, even if it’s for him.

Matt glances over the edge and spots Nikita and Joey hiding behind the Sports Hut. The Savant and the Rebel glance back up at him.

An idea suddenly clicks in his head.

“Ro, get rid of the gun!” Matt speaks up as loudly as he can for everyone near to hear. 

Rosanna stares back at him as if he just lost his mind that very moment. Maybe he has, after all that has happened today.

“I’m honestly sick and tired of being held at gunpoint! This is, what, the fourth or fifth time today I had a gun in my face? It’s obviously not helping us with you swinging that thing around!”

Matt throws his arms up and waves them around, imitating Rosanna in the most exaggerating way possible. Both she and Nicholas watch him, both very confused. Matt knows he looks like a buffoon right now, but who cares? The Nerd extends his right arm to the edge of the roof.

“So I suggest you just get rid of it!”

Matt really hopes that Rosanna will catch on to what he’s doing. He doesn’t want to make it obvious to Nicholas, but there’s so much he can do to get his point across. The brunette girl stares at him with an ambiguous look and nods her head.

Please tell me you get it!

“You’re right, Matt, I should!” Rosanna responds. She looks back at Nicholas and holds up the gun to show that she’s surrendering. Then in a quick move, she extends her arm over the edge and drops the gun off the roof. The weapon falls to the ground and lands without firing off a shot. Thank goodness Rosanna had the safety on!

Nicholas looks at them in bewilderment and confusion, unable to comprehend how strange these students are. Not to mention that they are now unarmed, but that was the plan. And it worked!

Matt spots Nikita sneaking out from the Sports Hut and making her way to the gun. The Rebel runs forward and successfully reclaims the weapon Rosanna took from her earlier. She disappears around the Sports Hut without Nicholas catching her.

As for the thief, he’s not amused by Rosanna’s stunt. “That was pretty stupid, Little Muffin,” Nicolas remarks. “But at least you cooperated.”

Keeping his gun pointed at them, Nicholas makes his way over. Matt feels Rosanna’s hand slide into his, her grip providing comfort. As Matt glances over the edge, he manages to catch a glimpse of pink rounding the corner of the school and prays she’ll make it in time. Because if she doesn’t, he and Rosanna are screwed.

Nicholas is now inches from them. The gun is so close that Matt can almost feel the cold barrel against him. A lump forms in his throat, but he tries to stay brave for himself and for Rosanna.

“Now,” the thief seethes to the Floater, “give me my crystal!”

Rosanna lets go of Matt’s hand, her eyes still on Nicholas. Her face is brave, but a quiver in her lips show that she’s seconds from crying. In a slow manner, she picks up her backpack and holds it out to Nicholas.

“Open it,” Nicholas demands, motioning with his gun.

Rosanna carefully unzips the bag and holds it out, showing the blue rock tucked safely inside. She zips the bag back up and hands it to the thief. Nicholas lowers his gun and snatches the lavender bag out of the petite girl’s hand and slings it over his shoulder, wincing in pain.

Matt protectively wraps his arm around Rosanna, waiting in anticipation of what’s to come next.

“Are we done?” the brunette boy asks, every part of him hoping that Nicholas will take the Heart of Everlock and just leave them alive on the roof.

But just as Matt predicted, that’s not what happens.

Nicholas looks back at them, a grateful smile on his face. “Thank you. This is all I wanted. I truly do wish things ended differently.” In an instant, he aims his gun back at Matt and Rosanna. “I need you both to turn around.”

Matt feels like his heart just stopped.

“Oh no!” Rosanna squeaks beside him.

Matt is beyond furious. Go f-ing figure! “Nicholas, you have the Heart,” he tries to reason. “Why can’t you just leave us alone?”

Matt’s terrified, but deep down, he saw this coming as soon as Nicholas stepped onto the roof and fired that gunshot. In the pit of his stomach, he knew that this is where he and Rosanna will die; cornered on a roof and shot to death by a psychopathic thief!

Matt holds his hands up in his last attempt to get Nicholas to show some sort of mercy. His last attempt to save Rosanna.

“Please,” Matt pleads to Nicholas, “Willy is dead, and the other two are incapacitated. You have the crystal all to yourself. If you leave now, no one will find you in time. You can disappear and we’ll speak nothing of it to the cops! You don’t need to hurt anyone anymo--”

Nicholas lifts his gun to the sky and fires. The loud bang makes both teenagers fall to the ground, screaming.

“I said, turn around!” the thief shouts, a darkness in his tone.

It’s hopeless. Nicholas has become unhinged. There’s no reasoning with him anymore.

Matt and Rosanna do as they’re told. Together, they face the edge, looking at the football field before them. The sun is shining west of them, the late afternoon carrying a cool breeze. It feels so nice, but so miserable at the same time.

Rosanna begins to cry next to Matt, her tears letting go from her eyes. Instinctively, the Nerd grabs the Floater’s hand and squeezes it.

“You don’t have to do this!” Rosanna sobs, her own last ditch effort to save themselves.

Matt glances back at Nicholas, who just shrugs.

“I know I don’t have to do this.” Nicholas brings the gun to Rosanna’s head. “But the thing is, I want to!”

The painful reality sets in. Oh God, we’re going to die!

Matt’s scared and he knows so is Rosanna. He didn’t want it to end like this.

This whole day, Matt and his friends have tried to avoid Nicholas and his gang, hoping to survive the chaos unscathed. But in the end, Joey got stabbed, Safiya was shot, and now he and his best friend are about to be murdered, just like Principal Wilson.

“Don’t worry,” Nicholas whispers into Matt’s ear. “I’ll kill Little Muffin first, so she won’t watch you die. And I'll be sure to make it quick for you two.”

In this moment, Matt refuses to show fear. If he’s going to die like this, he will not give Nicholas the satisfaction.

He turns to the thief. “May I at least say goodbye first, please?”

There is a slight pause before Nicholas lets out an annoyed huff and nods. “Because you said please. But make it quick.”

With permission approved, Matt turns to Rosanna, a sad smile on his face. “Ro, look at me,” he says, leveling his voice with love and comfort. 

Rosanna hesitates, but then looks up and stares at him, tears staining her beautiful face, the sunlight shining against her brown hair. This is the last thing Matt wants to see before death takes him.

“Ro,” Matt continues, “You’ve been the best friend I could ever ask for!”

Rosanna softly laughs through her tears. “I love you!”

“I love you too, Ro! Thank you for being my family.”

Upon him saying this, Rosanna pulls Matt against her, throwing her small arms around his waist. He hugs her back, clinging to her warmth, holding onto any sense of hope and safety he has left.

“After everything we’ve been through, I wouldn’t have it any other way, Matthew Patrick!” Rosanna warmly whispers to him. As Matt sees her smile, he believes (even for a moment) that everything is going to be alright.

He kisses the top of her head, taking in every second that passes before the end.

“I’ll be seeing you, Rosanna Pansino.”

Tears well up in Matt’s eyes but he keeps smiling, holding onto the girl he’s called his best friend and sister for twelve years. And while their lives are about to be cut short, it’s been the best twelve years of his life.

As Matt hears Nicholas cock his gun one more time, the Nerd braces himself.

Be brave, Matt. Be brave for Ro! It will be over quickly.

--

Oh God, no!

This isn’t happening! This can’t be happening!

When Nikita grabbed the gun and ran into the school, Joey kept watch of the situation up on the roof.

He watches as Rosanna handed her backpack to Nicholas and Matt protectively shielded his friend.

Before he knew it, the Savant heard a gunshot, followed by Matt and Rosanna screaming and falling to the ground as Nicholas demands they turn around!

The realization hits Joey like a baseball: Nicholas is going to execute them!

Joey knows there’s no way Nikita’s going to make it in time, so he has to do something, and he has to do it quick!

Oh my God, think, Joey, THINK!

He glances through the window of the Sports Hut. Inside are different sports balls, soccer nets, chalk, as well as targets and bows and arrows for the archery team.

Joey’s eyes direct to the archery equipment.

That’s it!

Sure, Joey’s not on the archery team, and he wouldn’t say he’s the best archer, but at this point, there’s no other option. He has to save his friends.

Unfortunately, the door is locked (because nothing’s ever that simple!).

You’re running out of time! Just break the window!

Joey looks around him and spots a rock. Picking it up, the Savant gets close enough to the window and throws the rock through. The glass shatters against it, leaving enough space for Joey to slink his hand in to grab a bow and a couple arrows without cutting himself.

Joey hurries to an area of the Hut where he can stay hidden, but has a good view of what’s happening on the roof.

Peeking around, he witnesses Matt and Rosanna facing the edge towards the football field, their hands intertwined. Matt turns to Rosanna and says something Joey can’t make out.

The blonde watches Rosanna smile and pulls her best friend into a hug as Nicholas aims his gun at their heads.

It’s clear that they’re saying goodbye, accepting their grim fate.

Joey grits his teeth as he slides an arrow onto his bow. Like hell that’s happening!

The Savant positions himself and his weapon, preparing his aim towards Nicholas. Pulling back the arrow, the blonde boy focuses.

He takes a deep breath, channeling his inner Legolas and Katniss Everdeen. Joey also channels the pain he’s feeling not just in his chest, but in his heart. He channels the hurt and suffering Nicholas and his goons inflicted upon him and his friends all day. The faces of Nikita, Manny, Safiya, Matt, and Rosanna swim through his head. He wants to give them justice, to finally make things right.

As he aims his arrow, Joey remembers that one of the things he learned from his archery lesson in gym class a while back is to not focus on the target, but more on the arrow and where he wants the arrow to go.

I want the arrow to hit Nicholas! Joey fumes as he fires.

--

Rosanna waits for Nicholas’s bullet to end her life. Clinging to Matt is the only way to keep herself calm, even when her terror is shaking through her.

Just get it over with! What are you waiting for? Rosanna wants to shout at the thief. She heard the gun cock, now she just has to wait for a loud bang followed by a force against her head, then darkness. 

What the Floater hears instead is a whoosh zip past her, followed by someone howling in pain.

Rosanna opens her eyes and looks to where the scream came from. To both teenagers’ astonishment, they find an arrow lodged into Nicholas’ right shoulder. The thief drops the gun and clutches his new wound, in shock of his new predicament.

“What the hell?” Matt exclaims next to her. Neither of them know what just happened or where that arrow came from; all they know it’s what saved their lives.

“YES, I DID IT!” Rosanna hears a high shrill voice coming from below them. She turns her head, and there stands Joey Graceffa, with a bow in his hand, pumping his fists in the air.

It was Joey who fired the arrow! Joey saved us!

Rosanna feels joy from her friend’s heroics. The Savant, despite his injury, fired a shot, saving her and Matt from execution. The brunette is so proud of him!

Matt feels the same way too.

“Holy crap, Joey!” Matt shouts down to the blonde, relief and happiness spreading across his face. “That was amazing, you actually got him!”

“Hell yeah, bitch!” Joey screeches as he holds up the three finger salute from The Hunger Games. “Eat your heart out, Katniss!”

As she smiles at her boys, Rosanna feels happiness for the first time since the madness began. They’re alive, and they have a chance to escape now.

Suddenly, Rosanna hears a snap behind her. Slowly, she turns around to see Nicholas standing back up, a piece of the arrow in one hand and the gun in the other. A part of the arrow is still inside him, but nevertheless, Nicholas is on his feet.

He looks like a demon who fuels from pain, and Joey shooting him with an arrow has only pissed him off even more!

“Joey, duck!” Rosanna screams as Nicholas aim the gun at the Savant. Luckily, Joey hears her in time and takes off behind the Sports Hut just as Nicholas fires off a round. Still not used to the loud shots, she screams and covers her ears. The Floater feels a force yank her arm, and before she knows it, Matt’s pulling her away from the chaos and towards the exit.

Now that Nicholas is on the roof, the two friends can escape back down the ladder. Rosanna runs as fast as she can, gripping Matt’s hand so as not to be separated from him. They’re so close to the latch door before a bullet fires and bounces near them, sending pebbles shooting everywhere. Rosanna shields her head, allowing Matt to drag her as they find a place to hide.

The Floater is scared and exhausted. She wants this to be over. Why can’t Nicholas just give up? She’s had enough intensity today to last her a month.

If we survive this, all I want is just to relax and do absolutely nothing! Sleep in, watch movies, eat sweets...I don’t want to be in an action movie anymore!

The two students duck behind a generator, with Matt’s arm around Rosanna to keep her close. They need a plan right now.

They could avoid Nicholas until he runs out of bullets, but that’s unlikely; the older man is bound to at least hit one of them before he’s empty. Rough boots hit the roof’s pavement as the thief searches for them.

Matt still sticks with the “have Nicholas use up his bullets” plan and throws a pebble to the other side of the roof. It works as Nicholas turns away and fires a shot in that direction, allowing the teens to run and hide at another generator.

From their new hiding spot, Rosanna can see where they stood earlier, and she spots her backpack lying on the ground, the Heart of Everlock still inside.

Something comes over her, and before she knows it, Rosanna’s on her feet running towards her backpack.

“Ro!” Matt screams to her. “Ro, come back!”

But Rosanna ignores him. The petite girl speeds over, rips open her bag, and pulls out the crystal. It’s big enough to fit in both her hands, a bit of weight against her.

She hates it! She hates this rock more than anything! Its beauty has brought nothing but pain and misery. She wants it gone!

Carefully, she holds the Heart over the edge of the roof.

“HEY!” Rosanna screams at the top of her lungs, gaining the attention of Nicholas. 

The thief turns towards her, and his eyes go wide.

“Whoah, whoah, easy there! What are you doing, Little Muffin?” he nervously asks, holding his hand out to her.

Rosanna can see Matt peek behind the generator, also nervously watching his friend. Rosanna nods to him, letting the Nerd know she’s got this.

“What do you think?” Rosanna turns back to Nicholas, fury in her voice. “I’m going to destroy this crystal! It brings the worst out in people and makes them do bad things! So I’m going to smash it and get it out of our lives once and for all!”

Fresh tears roll down Rosanna’s face. She is so tired and so done that she doesn’t care anymore what happens next.

Nicholas slowly walks towards her.

“You don’t want to do that, sweetheart!” The thief’s voice is now calm. “Here, let me get rid of my gun.”

A man of his word, Nicholas tosses his gun away. It slides to the other side of the roof, skidding to a halt inches from the edge.

Nicholas looks back at Rosanna, hands in the air like a white flag.

“That crystal is worth millions of dollars,” the thief explains, as if he were one of Rosanna’s teachers, “and it’s also a piece of history discovered in the mountains of Los Angeles. You don’t want to destroy history, now, do you?”

Rosanna’s not fooled. “All I know is that this crystal is a curse! You are so blinded by greed that you do horrible things! You killed our principal, you hurt my friends, and you killed your partner! You were going to kill us, all because you were threatened by a bunch of kids!”

At this point, Rosanna’s crying again from the fear, the rage, the trauma, and the sorrow. How will she ever recover from this?

“I don’t want any more violence! I don’t want any more death! So if I have to destroy this stupid rock, so be it!”

Nicholas is almost to her. She loosens her grip on the Heart.

“STOP RIGHT THERE!” the Floater yells. Nicholas does as he’s told, keeping his hands in front showing he means no harm.

“You’re right!” Nicholas states. “I should have left you both alone. If I just took the Heart and let you both go back in the cafeteria, I wouldn’t be a bleeding mess right now.”

The thief gestures to his bloody body, wounds everywhere. How is he even still alive?

Maybe he is a Terminator.

“But I need that crystal!” Nicholas desperately continues. “Give it to me, and this time I swear I’ll let you two leave.”

The thief gestures to Matt, who slowly comes out from his hiding place.

“Hell, I’ll tell you what? I’ll give you and MacGyver here a head start. You both can walk to the exit and leave the Heart there. Once you close the door to the hatch, I will take what’s mine and then leave on my own. No one else has to get hurt, okay?”

Rosanna listens to Nicholas and considers his words. The thief has proven he’s crazy and unpredictable, but he’s also shown some honor. Honestly, Rosanna doesn’t know what else to do. All she wants is to get her and Matt out of here alive, and this might be the only way.

Nodding her head, the Floater pulls the Heart of Everlock towards her chest and backs away from the edge.

All of a sudden, the roof’s door bursts open. Rosanna and the other two whip their heads over at the newest arrival.

Out steps Nikita, beautiful as ever and determination on her smokey-eye face. She stands before them, the gun Rosanna threw off roof in her grasp.

“Sup, bitches!” the Rebel calls out with a smirk on her face. Rosanna looks to her and smiles, thrilled she made it to them.

Only to realize she’s taken her attention off of Nicholas. Rosanna hears Matt shout to her, but it’s too late.

Nicholas grabs her in a flash, trying to rip the crystal from her hands. Rosanna struggles, screaming, as she tries to keep her balance. She turns to see her back is to the edge, Joey below coming out from his hiding spot screaming her name.

Rosanna hears many people screaming for her, a whirl of emotions occurring at once. The Heart, one moment her bargaining chip, is now what’s keeping her from falling to her death.

Chapter Text

Nikita immediately regrets making her entrance known.

As soon as she reclaimed her gun from Rosanna (who carelessly drops it from the roof, who does that?), the Rebel immediately ran into the school. She told Joey to keep an eye on the action so she could make her way to the roof, but unfortunately, it was too easy for Nikita to let this newfound inner power get to her head.

As soon as she stepped onto the roof, the events changed. Rosanna and Nicholas (who has an arrow in his shoulder, what the hell?) were having some sort of standoff, with the Floater threatening to drop the crystal off the roof. And thanks to Nikita, Rosanna got distracted, which gave room for Nicholas to attack her. Now, it’s an intense game of tug-of-war again, and Rosanna’s holding onto the Heart as if it were a life raft.

Shit! Nikita’s mind goes into fighter mode. She raises her gun, Nicholas within her sights, ready to take him down once and for all.

“Nikita, no!” Matt yells at her. The Nerd is by her side in seconds, pushing the gun away from the scuffle.

Nikita is so fed up with this bullshit!

“Matt, this is our chance to finally stop him!” the blonde snaps. “After everything he’s done to us! No, honey, I’m ending this!”

Nikita cocks the gun, ready to fire.

“No, look!” Matt points at the fight. “He has Ro in his grasp, and I am not going to risk you accidentally shooting her!”

Nikita huffs knowing he's right. Rosanna is too close to Nicholas and both are moving too fast for the blonde to take down the thief. The last thing the Rebel wants is to kill the other girl by mistake. This morning, she would have had no problem taking the shot. But if she couldn’t shoot Nicholas when he held Matt at gunpoint, Rosanna isn’t any different.

But how are we going to stop him without Ro getting hurt? Ugh! This fucking sucks!

Suddenly, the two hear Rosanna shriek. Matt and Nikita turn and watch in horror as Nicholas pushes Rosanna towards the edge. The little Floater is inches away from falling off the roof!

“RO!” Matt screams, rushing forward without hesitation, Nikita following in his footsteps.

“Oh shit!” The Rebel freaks. Nicholas is crossing a major line right now. Anyone who dares to hurt a loving cinnamon roll like Rosanna Pansino is basically signing their death warrant. It definitely unlocks an inner fury within Matt.

The Nerd attacks Nicholas in a New York minute.

“Get off of her!” he screeches, his hands trying to pry Nicholas’s grip off of Rosanna. Nikita gets close, only to stop herself. She observes the fight, thinking of how she can stop Nicholas without hurting Matt and Rosanna. She doesn’t have a clear shot.

No, Nikita looks down at the metal weapon, but there are other ways one can use a gun!

Flipping the safety back on, Nikita turns the gun around so that the back of it is facing Nicholas. Creeping closer to the struggling three, Nikita prepares herself.

“Matt, move yourself!” she calls to the brunette boy.

Matt turns to her, sees her position, and realizes what she’s about to do.

“Go for it, Nikita!” Matt yells as he grabs Rosanna and moves both her and himself slightly out of the way. Nicholas, confused by the turn of events, looks back at Nikita, and she finds her opening.

Channeling her anger, fear, and frustration, Nikita slams the butt of the gun against Nicholas’ head.

The force knocks the thief into a dazed state, yet he holds onto the damn Heart.

Oh my God, will you just give up and die, bitch! Nikita seethes, ready to deliver another blow.

Before she can, however, Matt takes over. Grabbing Rosanna’s arm, the Nerd faces the thief.

“Game over, asshole!” Matt yells as he delivers a kick into Nicholas’ abdomen. The force knocks the older man back. He lets Rosanna go, the Heart finally back in his hands.

But Matt’s kick sends Nicholas flying backwards. The madman tries to regain his balance, but that’s when one of his feet lands on Rosanna’s backpack, and he slips, his legs colliding against the edge. Losing his balance, the thief tumbles over and falls off the roof, taking the crystal and the backpack with him.

There are screams all around as Nicholas hits the pavement below, a loud thud echoing throughout Everlock High School.

Nikita, Rosanna, and Matt run to the edge, looking down in shock. Nicholas lies on the concrete, his limbs distorted in ways a human body shouldn’t be, with blood seeping out of his head. Rosanna’s backpack lies next to him, and the Heart of Everlock is still clutched in his lifeless hands.

Nikita can’t believe that just happened. A moment ago, Nicholas was right there, fighting them, and now, he lies many feet below them in a broken heap.

Joey comes out of his hiding place around the Sports Hut and makes his way over to Nicholas. The Savant kneels and inspects the thief, checking for signs of life.

“Joey?” Nikita calls to him, worry crossing over her. Joey looks up to the other three, a grim look on his face.

“He’s dead!” Joey yells back.

Rosanna gasps. Nikita can only look at Matt, who has backed away from the edge, his face a portrait of horror and disbelief.

Nikita can only stare at him, sympathy and amazement sharing her heart.

Did he really just…?

--

The world goes silent around Matt. Gazing down at the corpse that use to be Nicholas, the Nerd’s head is filled with overwhelming thoughts.

I killed him!

Matt glimpses at his hands, both of them shaking uncontrollably, and for a moment, he imagines them covered in crimson red.

Yes, Matt had to stop Nicholas. He was going to kill Rosanna if he didn’t! But he wasn’t trying to murder the guy, was he? Matt isn’t even sure anymore.

“I…”

He tries to speak, but he can’t get any words to leave his lips. He can’t even look at Rosanna and Nikita. How is he supposed to? They just witnessed him violently kick a guy off the roof, and now that guy is dead! Matt is now a murderer, no better than Nicholas, Wilmer, and the others who invaded their school. It sucks!

“I had to!” Matt tries to explain, the words now flinging out of his mouth. “I wasn’t trying to kill him...he had Ro, and I thought he was going to hurt her! I thought kicking him would only knock him to the ground! I didn’t realize my strength...I didn’t know he would fall off...it was self defense...I…”

By now, Matt is panicking, worried that the police won’t see it that way. Is he going to be charged for murder? Is he going to go to prison? Is his life over, his future demolished? All because he wanted to protect his best friend?

Both Nikita and Rosanna are talking to him at once, trying to reassure him, but Matt can’t hear them.

Finally, Nikita grabs his shoulders and has her face him, their eyes meeting each other.

“It’s okay!” Matt hears the blonde say. “Listen to me! You did what you had to do! Nicholas would have killed Ro and then us if you hadn’t! It’s fine! You said it yourself, it was self-defense!”

Matt knows that Nikita’s right, and a part of him agrees with her, yet his heart just can’t seem to believe it. He glances at Rosanna, who has a look on her face that he can’t comprehend.

Tears start to flood Matt’s eyes. “Ro, I...” the brunette boy tries to speak, but what’s there to say? He has never hurt someone before, and now his best friend just watched him kill a man. Even if it was to save her, is she afraid of Matt now? Will this change their friendship now that he has blood on his hands?

Rosanna steps toward him, her cheeks also stained with tears from her brush with death and witnessing another person die. Before Matt can say any more, the petite girl flings her arms around his neck, gripping him tight.

“Thank you!” Rosanna sobs into his shoulder.

At first, Matt is hesitant to touch her after committing his crime. But slowly, he wraps his arms around his best friend, embracing her.

“I’m so sorry, Ro!” Matt whispers into her ear, trying not to let his tears stain her blouse. He’s not sure what he’s apologizing for, just that he needed to.

“Matt, you have nothing to be sorry for!” Rosanna responds. “We’re okay now, and we’re going to be okay!”

That’s all that the Nerd needed to hear.

As the two embrace, Nikita walks to the edge of the roof to update Joey on the ground. The three of them will wait up there till help arrives to escort them. Until then, Matt just needs to hug his “sister,” letting her know how much he loves her.

Sirens ring in the distance, signaling that the police are on their way. Hearing the loud blares means it’s finally over, they can go home!

Matt looks up and sees Nikita staring at them, smiling but contemplating as if whether to intrude on this intimate moment. Rosanna also notices the blonde girl. With a smile, the Floater extends her small hand towards the Rebel. Nikita’s smile brightens in a way that Matt hasn’t seen before as she places the gun on the ground.

Walking over to them, the two brunettes open their arms and welcome the blonde into their mini group hug. Nikita is tense at first against the hug, but as Matt gives her a comforting squeeze, she eventually relaxes.

The three stand in an embrace until the police find them.

--

“We found the rest of your friends.”

Relief spreads through Manny as soon as the police officer delivers the news. After the police and paramedics arrived, Manny was intent on waiting for the rest of the group. He argued that he wasn’t injured, and he wouldn’t leave until his four other friends were rescued. 

With that being said, Safiya was loaded into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

The state of her injuries looked dire, but Manny’s assured that the Goth will likely pull through. The Prep isn’t sure what to believe anymore, and waiting in anticipation for the others isn’t really helping his anxiety.

After gunshots were heard, Manny was told to stay put as SWAT and fellow officers went into the school. A crowd of bystanders were forming behind the police tape, as well as reporters from local news stations. Normally, Manny would take advantage of being on TV, but not this time. The raven-haired boy just hides behind another ambulance and waits.

Calliope and Alison are still by his side, so that helps. Alison even lent him her phone to call his parents, and boy, was it a sob-fest. It felt good to talk to them and be able to say “I love you.” They informed him that they will contact Nikita’s parents and then meet him at the school. The police are also working on contacting everyone else’s parents, and it worries Manny. Safiya and Joey are injured, and Matt and Rosanna are MIA, so how will the police be able to explain that?

They’re going to be okay! No one else dies! Please!

“Make way! Make way, right now!” a police officer shouts. Manny turns in time to see what looks like three bodies, zipped up in those black morgue bags, wheeled out on carts. For a second, the Prep’s heart drops at the sight.

Oh, God, no! Manny almost falls to the ground in tears. No no no no, please, please no, it can’t, they can’t be-

“Manny!”

Manny turns to the voice. Before him is an angel in pink running towards him. He chokes back a sob as Nikita collides into him, holding on for dear life.

“Oh my God!” Manny cries as he holds his girl. “You’re okay! Thank you, God!”

“Tell me about it!” the Rebel exclaims. She breaks away from him and stares at the body bags.

Manny isn’t sure if he wants to know. Yet he asks. “Nikita, who’s in those body bags?” Dread filling him.

Before Nikita can answer, Joey appears, with assistance from a police officer. Aside from his paleness, he appears to be okay. He’s followed by Rosanna and Matt as they are guided to the paramedics.

“You guys!” Manny cries out, finally able to breathe at the sight of all four friends recovered safely.

Joey, Rosanna, and Matt look up, their eyes meeting Manny’s. Without thinking, the raven-haired boy breaks from Nikita and races over to the brunette teens. He pulls Rosanna and Matt into a giant bear hug, almost squeezing the life out of them.

“Thank God you guys are okay, I was so worried!” Manny cries as he releases his friends. He turns to Joey and lightly embraces him, trying not to hurt him in his state.

Joey weakly smiles as he returns the hug. “Yeah, we’re good. It was so insane! Nikita and I found Matt and Ro on the roof with Nicholas. Chaos ensued from there!”

Realizing the whole point of their mission, Manny turns to Matt, who’s clearly still shaken from the ordeal. “Matt, I’m so happy you’re okay! You have no idea!”

Matt smiles sadly, placing a hand on the taller boy’s shoulder.

“You as well, buddy. Sorry that I was an idiot earlier,” he says remorsefully.

Manny lightly chuckles. “Don’t worry about it! You were angry and scared for Safiya. Who wouldn’t do that in your position?”

The Nerd’s face turns to fear in an instant. “Safiya? Is she alright?” He whips his head around towards the ambulance. “Manny, where is she?”

“Relax!” The Prep comforts the other boy. “As soon as one of the ambulances came, they immediately rushed her to the hospital. She’s in good hands!”

Matt, as well as Rosanna, breathe in relief. “Thank you!” Matt smiles gratefully.

Manny returns a smile as well. “I’m just glad you’re all alive.” He turns to Joey. “How about you?”

“I think my wound opened up again, so the police are getting the paramedics to look me over,” Joey explains. “Always wanted to ride in an ambulance.”

Manny chuckles at the remark. He notices Matt staring at the bodies being loaded.

“Who do you think is in those body bags?”

Matt’s silent and nearly clams up. It occurs to Manny that being kidnapped and held at gunpoint wasn’t the only thing the Nerd went through; something else happened, but the Prep isn’t sure if he should push for details. That’s when he sees Wilmer and Benjamin being escorted out in handcuffs. Immediately, he puts two and two together.

“That’s Nicholas and Willy along with Principal Wilson, isn’t it?”

Rosanna comfortingly wraps her arm around her best friend as he hangs his head, and Manny figures right away that something bad definitely happened.

“It was self-defense,” Nikita whispers to Manny. “I’ll explain everything later.”

Before Manny presses further, one of the police officers walks over to the group. “Listen, your parents have all been notified of the situation and are on their way. I will need for you all to answer some questions, but given the day you’ve had, we’ll wait till you’ve recovered. We’ll schedule a time for you to come down to the station along with your folks.
For the time being, we need to have the paramedics check you all over to make sure the rest of you haven’t suffered any major injuries.”

The group nods.

Rosanna speaks up. “Officer, those men stole the Heart of Everlock Crystal from the Natural History Museum.”

The officer nods. “Yes, we recovered it from one of the thieves, and it will be returned to the museum where it belongs.”

“Great, thank you,” Nikita adds in.

“However,” the officer continues, “we also found a purple backpack next to his body as well. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Manny notices the others freeze up. The officer is obviously talking about Rosanna’s bag, which contained the Heart this whole time. Next to him, Joey appears nervous. Then he steps forward.

“Yes Officer, we do,” Joey confesses.

Rosanna worriedly glances at him. “Joey--”

“No, it’s okay, Ro,” Joey smiles at her. He turns to the officer. “The thing is--”

“It was my fault!”

Manny and the others turn to the voice, and they’re met with surprised when they see that it’s Matt.

The officer faces him curiously. “How so?”

“When we were trying to escape the school, we found the Heart in the main office.” Matt explains. “We figured out that those guys were thieves and stole it. I thought it would be the right thing to take it so that we could return it to the authorities. That’s why it was in the backpack. Everyone agreed to it, but we never anticipated just how much those men wanted it back. It was stupid. I’m sorry.”

The police officer stares at Matt, as if unsure whether to believe him. He turns to Manny and the others.

“Is this true?”

Matt glances at the group, his eyes begging that they go along with it. 

Joey appears reluctant. But in the end, the Savant answers. “Yes, it’s true. Both Matt and I thought it would be best to return it.”

Nikita nods, followed by Manny. 

Rosanna looks at Joey and Matt, a small smile crossing her face.

“Yes, officer,” she says, “that’s what happened.”

The police officer stares at the five students for a moment. Then he nods his head.

“Alright, then! While indeed what you did was reckless and could have put you all in further danger, you did retrieve stolen property. I’ll take this up with my superiors, and we’ll notify the museum. Until then, listen to the paramedics and wait to hear from us about further questioning. Got it?”

The group nods in unison. The officer leaves, and the group’s alone again.

Manny whips his head to Matt. “What was that?”

“Yeah, I was about to say!” Joey remarks. The blonde boy looks as if he’s about to cry. “Matt, you didn’t have to do that! I could have just taken responsibility!”

“I know,” Matt says, “but we’ve all been through enough today, you especially! Besides, even in the state you were in, you went with Nikita to rescue me. Not to mention that if it wasn’t for you, Ro and I would be dead. If anything, I owe you one.”

The brunette boy smiles at Joey, whose face is glisten with shock as well as happiness and gratitude.

“Thank you,” Joey replies, “but for real, I’m so sorry about everything! I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

He looks at the other three. “I’ll make it up to all of you!”

Nikita smirks. “You were taken hostage and stabbed, bitch! Trust me, I think you’ve learned your lesson.”

The group laughs for the first time in a while.

“But seriously,” Joey concludes, “I’d like to start over, if that’s okay.”

Manny smiles. “I’m down, bitch!”

“Same,” Nikita follows.

Joey looks at Matt. “Can we?”

Matt’s silent. Then he holds his hand out to the blonde boy. “Let’s start over.”

Joey smiles and takes his hand. Manny notices Rosanna gleefully smiling at the exchange, and he can’t blame her; her two closest friends are getting along. He places his arm around Nikita, who hugs him in a loving grip.

“So what happens now?” Rosanna asks.

Matt shrugs next to her. “We’ll be looked over, answer some questions, and then have our parents fuss over us.”

“Ain’t that going to be a bitch!” Nikita smirks.

Manny cannot agree more. He can’t even imagine what his friends went through when he escaped with Safiya. But what went down doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that everyone is safe and alive. And whatever they do next, they’ll do it together.

Chapter Text

(Two Months Later)

Ding!

The timer goes off, signaling that the brownies are done.

Rosanna opens the oven, taking in the aroma of her sweet treats. It fills her with joy, along with excitement for tonight’s events.

This was a good idea, the Floater tells herself as she takes the tray out and places it on the stove next to the other two batches. We need this!

When she reached out to the others about having a movie night, Rosanna didn’t know what to expect. It’s been two months since the attack and a lot has happened since then.

After being questioned by the police officer, the five students were checked out by the paramedics, where she, Manny, and Nikita were given the “all clear” after thirty minutes.

As for the others, they had to be taken to the hospital. Matt was kept there overnight to make sure he didn’t have a concussion or suffer any other trauma during his captivity. Joey was treated for his injuries and did indeed need stitches; he stayed at the hospital for a couple days. As for Safiya…

It hurts Rosanna to think about the raven-haired girl. She’s thought about calling to check up on her family and see how they’re all doing. She can’t even imagine how Safiya’s parents felt when they got the call about their daughter.

No parent should ever go through that!

Talking to the police wasn’t easy either, even with Rosanna’s parents by her side.

The group all agreed to stick to the same story: that they were all in detention when the thieves broke in, that they tried to escape and took the Heart so that they could return it, only to be ambushed by Nicholas and his men, who took some of them hostage. The rest is a little lie mixed with truth.

It’s unclear if the police believed them (given the mess they found from the foam bombs), but all the students were clear to leave and wait for further instructions.

The upside of this is that the school did indeed give Rosanna and the others the week off to recuperate and heal from their ordeal. Actually, they closed the school for the week, given that it was now a crime scene, allowing for the staff and student population to mourn the loss of Principal Wilson.

Many attended her funeral, as did Rosanna and some of the others. As their late principal was laid to rest, Rosanna watched as Wilson’s son gave a speech, saying goodbye to his mother. She saw Nikita talking to him afterwards, offering words of comfort, which was odd, but the Floater found it sweet. Still, it broke Rosanna’s heart to know that the young man will probably never recover from his loss.

Honestly, after two months, Rosanna isn’t sure if she’s fully recovered. She has nightmares of Principal Wilson being murdered, her and the others being chased and shot at by the thieves, and nearly being thrown off the roof by Nicholas. But she takes it one day at a time, with help from her family. She also does what she can to help the others too.

When Matt was released from the hospital, he was closed off. He didn’t want to talk about what happened on the roof, and Rosanna wasn’t going to push him. When he finally did, after two weeks, they both held each other and cried, and that was all they needed. Rosanna helped him tell his parents, and just as she predicted, the Patricks were very loving and supportive of their son, assuring him that everything was going to be okay and that they would help him figure out what to do next.

Everyone needed time, and when they finally went back to school, they all did their own thing and waited until the year finally ended.

With school out for the summer, Rosanna was done with the wallowing. She missed the others and wanted to do something fun.

She and Matt were going to resume their movie night, and both decided “why not add more people?”

Rosanna called the rest. Some were more hesitant than others, but eventually, everyone agreed.

Hopefully, this is what they need after a stressful two months.

The doorbell rings, interrupting Rosanna’s thoughts. Taking off her oven mitts, the Floater makes her way to the door. Opening it, her eyes light up.

“I got the Diet Coke!” Matt smiles as he walks in. In both of his hands are two giant grocery bags. Rosanna grabs one, only for it to almost slip through her small hands from the heaviness.

“Matt, how many bottles do you have in here?” the petite girl exclaims as she heaves the bag to the kitchen.

Matt shrugs. “Not many. Maybe just five two-liter bottles.”

Rosanna stares at him.

“Okay, maybe six.”

As the two set the bags down on the kitchen table, Rosanna notices Matt’s eye. It’s almost healed, with slight hints of bluish-grey.

“Your eye is getting better,” she points out.

Matt grins and touches the once bruised and swollen area.

“Yeah, no need to wear makeup anymore, thank God!” he laughs.

When Matt returned to school, everyone wouldn’t stop staring at his black eye and cut lip, and it made the Nerd feel insecure. Rosanna tried to help him cover them up, but it didn’t seem to help.

Luckily, Manny and Nikita stepped in and did a better job.

“Am I the first one here?” Matt asks as he takes in the empty house.

Rosanna nods. “Joey called that he was on his way. I’ve yet to hear from the others.”

A part of the Floater is nervous. She felt like they’ve all gotten close because of their experience, but when Nikita said that they would cross that bridge when the time comes, there was some uncertainty. Rosanna wouldn’t be surprised if Manny and Nikita went back to their old lives, but she can’t help but feel disappointed.

“They’ll be here, Ro,” Matt says as if he read her mind. “They said they would.”

As if on cue, the doorbell rings again.

The two head to the door and open it to Joey with two large bags of chips.

“I couldn’t decide between Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch, so I got both!” the Savant explains as he enters the house.

Once he gets settled, hugs are exchanged.

“It’s been a while!” Matt tells Joey as they break apart.

“I know!” the blonde agrees. “I see that your eye is healing.”

“Yeah, finally!” Matt smiles. He looks at Rosanna, both wanting to ask the same question. “How are you feeling?”

Joey smiles. “I actually have some good news! Got a call from the doctor. I’m getting my stitches out next Friday!”

“Joey, that’s fantastic!” Rosanna squeals in delight. “I know you’ve been wanting to get those removed!”

“Tell me about it! I’ll still have a scar, but on the bright side, Daniel thinks it’s hot!” the Savant smirks as Rosanna pours the three each a glass of Diet Coke.

“Good to hear that,” Matt agrees as he takes a sip of his drink.

Joey fiddles with his glass, as if he has more to say. Finally, he looks up, sheepishly. “That’s not the only news. I got a call from the detective on the case.”

Rosanna senses Matt tense up next to her. She places a comforting hand on top of his.

“What did he say?” the brunette boy asks.

Joey takes a deep breath. “He said not to say anything until he called everyone else’s parents on Monday, but I wanted to tell you two now. Benjamin and Wilmer both took a guilty plea and will be going away for a long time, so we won’t have to testify in court. Plus, Nicholas’ death has been ruled as an accident, so you’re both in the clear.”

Rosanna sighs in relief. “That is good news.”

Matt nods, hanging his head, still traumatized by the incident, but glad it’s all over.

“That’s not all,” Joey continues, “The museum reached out and was grateful that we saved the Heart of Everlock from the thieves. They’re planning to offer us recommendations, and even small grants, when we go to college next year.”

“Wait, are you serious?” Matt gawks at the news. Rosanna herself can’t believe it.

“Yeah!” Joey nods. “I don’t know the full details, but they are going to announce it soon! For now, let’s keep it between the three of us, please.”

Rosanna is speechless. The news hailed them as heroes, and even major broadcasts like CNN and Good Morning America wanted to interview them. But to hear that the museum wants to help further their education...it feels great that some good came out of their nightmare.

“And finally,” Joey concludes, “when my dad talked to the museum, they heard about some of his work and offered him a job as a contractor. He starts Monday!”

Rosanna squeals even louder as she sets down her soda and runs to Joey, pulling him into a hug. “Oh Joey, I’m so happy for you!”

“Same! That's awesome, buddy!” Matt adds as he wraps his arms around both, locking them all in a group hug.

Joey beams against the hug, and when they pull away, he’s close to tears. “For once, things are finally looking up!”

Before Rosanna can say anything else, the doorbell rings for the third time.

What she sees when she opens the door nearly makes her cry tears of happiness.

“Safiya!”

--

Manny wasn’t taking “no” for an answer when he told Safiya that he and Nikita were picking her up to go to Rosanna’s house.

The Prep explained that ever since he carried the Goth’s gun-shot body out of the school, it felt like he had an obligation to look after her until she recovered, to be her bodyguard and personal chauffer. She’s told him time and again that he doesn’t have to, but nevertheless, the raven-haired boy insisted. Honestly, Safiya doesn’t hate it; in fact, it felt nice that Manny cared and she likes hanging out with him.

These whole two months have been a blur for Safiya. She doesn’t remember much after Nicholas shot her; only small bits and pieces. She was told that Manny took her out of the school, where two women assisted them before the ambulance came. She was taken to the hospital and immediately rushed into surgery.

When she woke up a day and a half later, she saw her parents and little brother’s tear-stained faces gazing down on her. Seeing her family, Safiya felt so lucky to be alive.

The other students visited her afterwards, but it was Matt who she was the most relieved to see, since the last thing she remembered was Nicholas dragging him away at gunpoint. He was a bit roughed up, but other than that, he was okay. Rosanna and Joey too.

Safiya stayed in the hospital for three weeks before being taken home to recover. She couldn’t go back to school, so school came to her, where she was able to take her exams and finish her junior year.

It would have been fine, had she not had to wear a cast and sling. The downside of it all. But better that than being dead.

After a while, Safiya was ready to get out of the house. So when Rosanna called about doing a movie night at her house, the Goth jumped at the chance.

After agreeing for Manny to drive her, he and Nikita came over early so that they could “clean her up.”

Now, an hour later, Safiya’s dolled up in makeup (in the way that suited her, Nikita was nice enough to agree), wearing clean clothes, and her cast is decorated to look almost like a bat wing (courtesy of Manny).

Not going to lie, Safiya’s nervous to see the others, even though Matt and Rosanna came over a week ago. Will she be able to have fun after everything that has happened?

Answer: As soon as Rosanna opened the door and squealed in excitement, absolutely!

“I’m so happy you made it!” the Floater exclaims as she hugs the Goth, gentle enough not to hurt her, given her condition.

“Same,” Safiya agrees as she enters the house. As Rosanna greets Manny and Nikita, Safiya spots Matt and Joey.

“It’s really great to see you!” Joey tells her as they hug. As she hugs Matt, the blonde boy takes a step back and observes her. “Damn girl, you look amazing!”

Safiya shyly smiles. “Manny and Nikita showed up early to my house, and let’s just say the experience was overwhelming.”

“Sounds like them!” Matt chuckles from behind Joey.

Safiya nods. “I see your eye is getting better.”

The Nerd shrug. “Nothing concealer won’t do.”

“I told you!” Manny chips in from behind Safiya. “Makeup is magic, honey!”

The group laughs at the witty comment.

“Well, now that we’re all here,” Rosanna says, “shall we pick out what movie to watch before we order pizza?”

The others murmur in agreement and head towards the family den.

As Safiya follows, she’s stopped by Matt.

“I’m really happy you made it, Saf,” the brunette boy smiles.

“Me too,” Safiya agrees. “After everything we went through, it feels good to finally do something fun with friends. And I did agree to come when you asked me in the library; I’m just two months late.”

Matt laughs. “Oh, yeah! Well, we were attacked by crazy thieves who shot you and stabbed Joey, so you get a pass!”

“True,” Safiya muses, “and you were abducted twice, nearly killed a couple times, and then karate-kicked a guy off the roof. I totally get it!”

Upon her comment, Matt becomes quiet and folds his lips in.

Safiya suddenly realizes that she brought up some sensitive, painful memories, and she wants to kick herself.

“Matt, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought that up! That was--”

“No, it’s okay!” Matt looks up and gives her a light smile. “It’s true, and I’m still working through it with my therapist. We all went through something scary and traumatic, and it’s okay to make light of it.”

“Yeah, I’m doing the same with my therapist too,” Safiya remarks. “But I’m sorry. I can't even imagine how you must feel.”

She feels Matt drape his arm around her. Normally, this would feel weird for the raven-haired girl, but for some reason, with Matt (and Rosanna), she feels safe.

“Don’t be sorry,” Matt reassures her. “We’ll get through it...all of us.”

Safiya nods her head. Then without thinking, embraces her friend.

“Thank you!”

Safiya believes him. They will get through this. While that day will go down as one of the worst days of her life, Safiya also appreciates that day. It gave her perspective on how precious life is, it gave her the strength and will to survive, and it gifted her five people who are now her closest friends. In a strange sense, Safiya wouldn’t change that day for the world.

As the two break apart, she wipes a tear from her eye. “Okay, let’s go join the others before I start crying. Manny and Nikita worked so hard on this makeup, and they scare me when they’re mad!”

“Oh, I believe you!” Matt agrees as they walk into the den.

When they join the others, it’s clear that a movie hasn’t been chosen.

“Anything that doesn’t involve guns, explosions, blood, or fights!” Joey argues.

“Agreed,” Manny pipes up. “I still can’t deal with action or horror movies, at least for now!”

“Then how about a comedy?” Rosanna offers. “Something to make us laugh?”

“I’d rather do that!” Matt says.

Comedy it is as the others voice their approval.

As Rosanna scrolls through Netflix, she stops at The Breakfast Club.

“This one?” the Floater sheepishly asks.

Nikita shakes her head. “Nah, it feels too meta now, honey!”

Very!” Joey agrees.

“How about Ferris Bueller's Day Off?” Matt voices. “It’s another John Hughes classic, and very funny.”

“Ooh, yes please!” Safiya squeals. She loves that movie! Sometimes, she believes she's the female version of Cameron, Ferris' best friend.

Manny excitedly claps in agreement. “Yes, bitch!”

“I’m down!” Nikita nods her head.

“Let’s do it!” Joey smiles.

Safiya sees Rosanna beam at the friends around her.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off it is then!” The Floater concludes as she finds the movie.

With the film now chosen, the group just has to decide what pizza to order.

Thirty minutes later, the pizza arrives, snacks are brought to the den, and the movie begins.

As Ferris delivers his opening monologue, Safiya gazes around at her fellow viewers.

Nikita is curled up in a chair, her acrylic hand twirling a lock of the purple wig she chose for tonight.

Manny is leaning against the Rebel’s chair, his right leg up with his arm resting on his knee.

Joey is on his stomach, a pillow curled against his chest as he is lost in the story of the movie.

And then there’s Matt and Rosanna, sitting on the couch with her, in their comfortable positions.

It’s a strange setting for Safiya, but it makes her happy. They are all still recovering, and their lives will never be the same since that fateful day.

They started detention out as strangers, people who would never interact in real life. To each other, they were the Savant, the Nerd, the Floater, the Prep, the Rebel, and the Goth.

But at the end of the day, they banded together against the bad guys and they escaped. They won.

Sure, it left major PTSD, and Safiya knows that won’t just fade away, but it brought the six of them together.

Matt’s right. They’re a team, and they’re all closer now than ever. They will get through this.

Together.