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Everyone has an ‘if I’d known’ statement in these kind of situations. As much as you liked to think that you were completely different, you definitely had an ‘if I’d known’ statement.

For you, if you’d known you wouldn’t have spent those last moments fighting over an AUX cord with your brothers.

It was late at night. It was raining—down-pouring outside. On the way home from your dance classes, you were in the car with your whole family, your parents and your two brothers. Bro, whose real name was Ambrose (You had given him the nickname ‘Bro’ when you were two, but you and Dirk both still called him that today because it never really died.) and who was fifteen years old and thought he was superior in every way. He played football and was popular at school, and anything but responsible. You never got along with Bro; you spent every moment around him arguing.

Your twin brother, Dirk, on the other hand, got along with you fine. He was older than you by an hour and twenty minutes, and also thought he was superior for escaping the womb before you did. He was calmer than you, quieter, too. You two were pretty close, compared to you and Bro at least.

Which is why you were, in that moment, arguing over who got choice of music. You were squalling over it, throwing punches here and there, while your parents rolled their eyes and played peace keeper by turning on some kind of Christian Rock and Dirk shoved earbuds in his ears and played his own music. You remember your dad making some kind of joke about Eminems name, making you roll your eyes but easing the tension between you and your brother slightly. The rain poured down harder, the claps of thunder clapping louder and the lightning flashing wildly.

You didn’t mind it, then. That’s because back then you enjoyed storms.

You enjoyed dance, too, then. You could do all kinds of flips, all kinds of pops and stunts. You had a performance coming up and spent hours each day knocking things over in your room practicing. Dirk liked to make his own snide comments about it, but you had long since decided it was because he was far from flexible enough to even attempt such a thing.

After your dad made the joke about several rappers you and Bro started to let the argument go.

It was about then that it happened, the lightning.

It all happened really quickly.

You were all driving, your parents were talking about taxes and you were irritating Bro by poking him whilst he scowled at you and Dirk rolled his eyes at you two for fighting again.

Then there was a flash, a bright flash and you saw red. So, so much red.

And you were lying in the road. Like life had cut out for several moments and then you were there suddenly, not remembering quite how you got there.

There was pain, too, though you couldn’t place exactly what hurt. So you stumbled up and looked around through bleary eyes, breathing heavily. There was a trail of scarlet red blood coming from—well, coming from a lot of places. There was the flickering of the forest that was raging next to you and you took one look at it and stumbled backwards slightly when you saw the flames licking the trees. Before you could turn back around you felt someone grab your arm and let out a small gasp, wheeling around. Bro was there, shades discarded and staring at you.

“Find Dirk.” He told you, and you remembering wondering why he didn’t say anything about your parents.

You didn’t have to look too hard, because your twin stumbled over then, covered in soot and mud. You were both only thirteen, then. Bro grabbed his arm, too, and started to walk. You saw your mother, covered in blood and surely dead, lying there on the ground, however.

“Bro,” you whispered in a choked voice, stopping only to be tugged along. He just shook his head.

“We gotta go, kid.” Dirk didn’t say anything, just followed him silently, yanking his hand free.

You all walked for who knows how long back to your apartment. By this point you’ve found a steady stream of blood coming from your nose and work on wiping that off as you step into the building, thankful for the emptiness of the main floor when you all stand in the small elevator. None of you say anything until you’re all back in your apartment.

“Go pack,” Bro tells you. “Pack everything you need, bring any money you can find and don’t leave anything that you don’t want to live without. We’re not coming back, if you hadn’t got that already.”

“Why not?” You ask, not catching on to any of this. “What about Mom and Dad? We can’t just leave them there. And why wouldn’t we come back, we live here, we’re always lived here.”

“Dave,” Dirk interrupts you with a blank voice. “They’re dead. We gotta go. They’ll separate us if we stay here.” Bro just stares at both of you as Dirk goes to his room and slams the door. He tousles your hair before doing the same, shutting his door more gently. You weakly walk to your own room, doing as your brother said and grabbing three bags, filled with clothes, money, chargers and electronics, then going to the couch in the living room and drawing your knees up to your chest. Dirk emerges a little later, sitting on the floor by you wordlessly, followed by Bro, who rummages through the kitchen to fill another bag with food and water bottles. He takes the jar of money your mother kept in the pantry. There’s over seven thousand dollars in there—you don’t remember ever using that jar. Money went in and—until now, never came out. You swing all of your bags over your shoulders, grabbing one of the bags with food and stare at your older brother.

There’s no fire in the stare, though. There’s no bone to pick or argument weaved into the stare. You don’t remember ever getting along with Bro, but right now you think that that’s changing. It’s a silent agreement that you both have to start getting along at least.

 

That’s how you end up on the longest bus ride you’ve ever been on, headed to New York City, where there’s so many people that it’s nearly hopeless of them finding you. Where you never see the same face twice. You were never really a city person, but you guess you don’t have a choice now.

You stay in a hotel for a few weeks until Bro works out a job—the only one of you old enough to do so, and finds a small apartment towards the edge of NYC. Dirk and you share a room, but you’re both okay with that. You get the money to get a bunk to share and you claim the bottom, knowing that Dirk would have been willing to fight you for the top bunk. You both make the room your own best you can and for the first few months you both take each small job you can. Bro works online and at a club some ways away, but they both pay well enough for a fifteen year old and Bro is forcing you both back into school whenever the next new school year starts. That’s still some six months away. You’ve got a little while yet.

You live with just Bro and Dirk for two years until Bro is seventeen and you and Dirk are each fifteen and you all play a convincing daily charade of having parents. Bro meets a guy called Jake who comes around a lot. Jake doesn’t tell a soul that you’re all illegally living on your own as minors, knowing the consequences without being told. You never ask Bro, but you’re fairly sure that they’re dating.

At school you keep a low profile, trusting no one. You stay with Dirk, tightly woven together in a net that no one else can enter and that you two can’t leave—at least, not without risking being torn apart for good.

Chapter Text

Two years of living in a small apartment and sharing a room with your twin brother later, you screw up.

Technically, you did nothing wrong. But she was your teacher and therefore it was at least mostly you to blame. You don’t know how it happened; you haven’t even got a clue. Somehow, though, she figured out that you were all living on you own. She called whoever it is that comes to inspect those kinds of things and it was when you and Bro were home along that they came. It didn’t take them long to decide that the teacher was indeed correct, and it was right about when Dirk came home that they made the decision that they ‘couldn’t allow you all to keep living like this.’

Foster homes in New York were plentiful. With so many people, of course there was an abundance of unwanted children. However plentiful the homes were, though, the children in them were also plentiful.

So of course you all got split up. Bro took it silently when he was told that you and him wouldn’t be together, but practically clawed her when she split you and Dirk up, too. The argument got nowhere, though, so you snuck off to go call Jake and he was over in a matter of minutes, watching silently from the door. You, though you won’t admit it to anyone now, had hid behind him, leaning on him and watching from afar silently. He didn’t say anything about it, tousling your hair gently like Bro did a lot.

If you learned three things that day, though it was this:

  1.        The justice system is swift. Your fate was decided and the foster home you were being shoved into was contacted after a matter of eight long hours. You wouldn’t be spending another night here.
  2.        Life is unfair. Seriously, what was fair about any of this? You parents were dead and now you wouldn’t even be allowed to see your brothers?
  3.        You loathed adults. Your parents, too, for leaving you here like this. Kids were bad enough, but the adults were the ones who would tears you apart.

With those three things in mind, you also came up with a simple rule—Everyone’s the same. All the adults were kids at one point, though they had lost the childish innocence and the charm of being young, they had been young at one point or another. Kids were just as brutal. You came home with bruises all the time. Everyone was brutal in their own way and you, in turn, were just as bitter as they were brutal.

It was Dirk and Bro who left before you, leaving you, Jake and the social workers in cold silence. Jake had taken up to pointing out calmly how unfair it was that they were doing this, and they kept telling him the same thing—it’s the best we can do.

No, you thought bitterly. The best you can do is to let us go back to living how we used to.

The red car in the street currently, though, was for you. It was late at night, all the lights of New York on and glowing and the stars are blotted out by all the lights and pollution.

Fitting, you think, for a city that ruined everything beautiful anyways.

There’s a woman and a man who get out to greet you. Your social worker, who is apparently named Amethyst, hands your bags (that Jake packed because you refused to move from your spot to stop glaring at Amethyst and her friends) to the man, who in return puts them in the trunk.

The woman greets you, telling you her name was Dani White and that her husband was named Marcus White.

“Mark,” greets Marcus. “Pleasure to meet you.”

They seem nice enough, but you still refuse to speak, sinking further into Jake. Jake rolls his eyes slightly, pushing you forwards. You send him a small look. Traitor.

“This is Dave,” Amethyst tells them, and you silently screech in rage. “Thirteen. That’s all we know about his case right now.”

They all continue to discuss you as if you aren’t there, so you make your way back to Jake until they’re finished prying into your life and ruining it like it’s their dinner. Jake casts you a sad look, ruffling your hair again.

“You’ll be fine,” he promises to you softly. “You’re a tough kid. Call me, alright? When you get there, or whenever you need to. Your brothers both have my number, too, so if you really need to talk to them I’m sure it can be worked out.” He winks at you slightly. “Even if they think they can stop us.” You send him a weak smile and he shoves you towards the car gently. You stare blankly up at Dani and she gives you a small smile back, unfazed by this.

Soon you’re in the car with them, driving in the dark.

It’s not really dark though. Night in New York doesn’t come with the things that night in Texas did. It’s not dark, not quiet, not mysterious. It’s eleven thirty at night, and Dani keeps talking to you. She tells you about the other kids there. There’s eight of them, nine now including you. You listen silently, pulling your knees up to your chest in bitter defeat and staring out the car window.

The foster home is pretty far away, on the edges of the city where there’s more grass and less buildings. It’s almost one in the morning when you pull up to a large blue house with a giant backyard. It’s a really nice house, honestly. It’s overgrown with vines and plants creeping up the front of it, and there’s willow trees scattered about it. It doesn’t look real. It looks like something from a story book.

It is real, though. The thing is, no matter how nice the house, it will never be home. You would take the small apartment with your brothers any day.

Dani gets out and unlocks the door, walking in and turning on one of the lights. You take a small breath in, following her and Mark in. They seem like nice people. But, then again, everyone does until they stab you in the back. These two are tearing you apart from Dirk and Bro, you remind yourself.

The walls are painted a deep shade of red. It’s warm looking, the inside of the house. It’s definitely inviting. It is also, however, not something that you’ll ever allow yourself to love. Dani seems to get that you don’t want to talk to her, though, and for that you’re thankful. She leads you up two flights of stairs to a bedroom. She tells you where to find the bathroom and the kitchen, then lets you do as you please, telling you that she usually makes breakfast around six thirty. You make a mental note to not leave your room until eight. You push open the door, shutting it behind you. The walls are painted a softer red than the one in the living room. One wall is painted gray. There’s a bed with white covers on it and a desk. There’s a light gray lamp on the desk that you switch on, kicking your shoes off and throwing your bag on the floor. You curl up on the bed, staring blankly at the ceiling and wondering how any of this ever happened to you.