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Rated: E · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #1976627
Chapter 2 - After months of captivity, Joe is glad to finally be home.
Chapter 2 - Home   

I basked in the warm familiarity of it all.

Warm. I reminded myself. Not harsh, biting, cold.

After being away for five months, I could hardly wait to see the half-crumbled “abandoned” building Red and I called home. To relax, assured that no one would find me, that we were safe. Sounded like bliss.

Red glanced over at me, grinning as if he was reading my thoughts. “Ready to be home?” he asked.

“Heck, yes.”

We wove through alleys, the crusty blue pickup tracing a difficult pattern.

“It's been way too long,” Phoenix scolded. “Where did they send you this time?”

A grim feeling came over me and I shivered. “Not here. Not yet.”

Red reached over and squeezed my shoulder. “We're here,” he said, as if I hadn't noticed.

Finally. The seven story building rose above us, the blue paint still chipping away, left corner still collapsed in.

Red drove right into the first floor, parking the pickup in a dusty corner. 

I grabbed my duffel from the back and trotted up the stairs, Red and Phoenix trailing behind. I passed the second floor without a glance; it was mostly just dust and debris. At the third floor, I paused before pushing the door open and stepping out of the dusty stairwell and into our living room.

Everything was just as I left it. In the far left corner was the kitchen. Since the windows were shattered, the furniture (just a couch and table) was pushed toward the center.

It was simple and spacious, and it was my home.

I drew in a deep breath, taking in the faint scent of pine and (for some reason) glue.

Red came to stand beside me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, giving me a one armed hug. “Good to have you back, Kid.”

“Thanks.” I said. “Do we have Chinese food?”

Phoenix gasped. “Chinese food? Really?”

Red shook his head. “You know where it is, you bloodthirsty pandas.”


“Mmmmm,” Phoenix mumbled over her noodles as we climb to the top.

“Mmmhmm,” I agreed.

We reached the seventh floor, my room, and I dropped my duffel on the bed.

The bed is crammed up in a corner, a low table beside it, stacked high with old books and meaningless papers. The floor is bare stone, except for a rug laid in the middle. In another corner the roof and wall had crumbled in, exposing a hole looking out over the city. To most kids it would be bare and boring, but to me, it's home.


A cold, gnawing feeling filled my stomach.

We'll find you. There is no escape... we'll strip you of your home, family, and friends, leaving you alone and helpless. No escape...”


“Stop,” I groaned aloud, pressing my fingers into my temples. The memory faded, but his cruel smile lingers.


I looked at Phoenix. She's standing with her bowl in hand, her eyes big and worried, corners of her mouth turned down.

“I'm okay.”

“No. No, you're not. We need to talk,” She said.

I didn't bother arguing with her, just walked to the edge of the building and sit, dangling my legs over the edge. I wasn't ready to remember yet, but I needed to. As corny as it sounds, telling Phoenix always helped. It was time to get it out of my system.

Phoenix sat next to me. “Spill,” she demanded.

I glanced sideways at her. “Are you sure?” I asked quietly.

“Of course,” she frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I don't want to lay this on you. I mean, I've got Red...” I hesitated. “This isn't exactly something you need to know. It's going to change you, as well as me.”

Phoenix sat silently, and for a second, I'm afraid she'll agree.

'Cause the truth is, I need Phoenix. Without her, I'd probably be driven insane by now. But it's not fair to her to be lassoed into being my friend, someone to lean on. If she wanted out, I would let her go, as painful as it would be for me.

“Joe,” Phoenix sighed. “I'm your friend now, and I always will be. Do you really think I’d just walk out on you after all we've been through?”

I smiled. “No. Just making sure.”

“Good. Now, can we get started?”

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