Saturday, August 12, 2017

Evil, Meet Justice Chapter One

(Author's Note: As evidenced by Gwyn and Lulu in Akuma No Imouto, I don't draw children well. So you'll be getting refs of what the characters look like grown up.)

She sits by the window and waits.

Tina Packard
This girl, she is not, nor has she ever been, the sort of person who would idly wait; no, she would take action in any walk of life and any course. In her closet is a collection of guns and each Sunday she takes the bus out to the shooting range to meet up with a friend of hers, and each Sunday evening the two have dinner in a hotel room and discuss certain secret things, but this is nothing unsavory and she knows it to be true. Any time she can take action, she is fine, and she is confident.

It is when she can’t do anything but wait that the problem arises, and it’s not a friend in a hotel room who drags her to her downfall, but someone much closer in her own home. This friend of hers is busy through the week, and she hasn’t got anything else to do with her time, nobody else to see, and she is home alone.  Mostly alone.

And she sits. Sits at the window in her room and watches the driveway as if her parents will be home again anytime soon, as if the babysitter didn’t abandon her to go out with his girlfriend, only coming back to the house for a few days every couple of weeks, so he can pretend to know what the children are doing and report back to the absentee parents as if he’s doing his job.

As if she wasn’t here, all by herself with a monster in the house.

She doesn’t see him as a monster, though, not quite. When she was four years old, he was her best friend. When she was six years old, she learned the meaning of the word codependent and decided that was what she and this boy were. Now both her and the boy are twelve years old and only beginning to step onto the same stage as adults.  Learning that the world outside is bigger than the two of them.

She has been shooting guns since she was five, and he’s been fencing since that very same age, albeit for different reasons. She is bitter that his fencing classes are within walking distance and bitter that he only does it out of a love for swords, for no greater purpose. His hobby has not pulled his innocence away from him like hers has. However... She can’t be too upset at that. The hobby wouldn’t pull his innocence away if he had any to begin with. She believes that he never did.

Even now, he stands in her doorway and watches silently as the beating noontime sun outside shines through her window and makes her blonde hair shine. She knows he wants to step into her room, reach out and touch it. She knows that he wants to squeeze into the alcove with her and let their legs and forms be close, too close, and because he knows she knows, he won’t. He’ll stand and watch and she will feel his eyes on her and she’ll wonder what she ever did to deserve this.

He is her twin brother.

She has to wonder if it’s some sort of Freudian complex, though she’s never read Freud and has no intention to. Rather, she’s just searching for some sort of explanation for his behavior, why he’s like this. She knows it couldn’t be her own fault. She might have, if not for her friend, who assured her that if somebody was that messed up, then he would be that way regardless of any outside factors, no matter what she said or did. Her friend tells her to be careful. To let him know if her brother ever does anything to her.

She doesn’t think that she will, though. Her friend would kill him, after all. It was never said, ever, but she knows, she’s very well aware what a statement like that means, a threat like that. Nobody can lay a hand on his protege unless she wants them to. It’s not like her friend is the sort of person not to kill a man.  He would do it if he thought it would help her.  She’s not sure why she doesn’t want her brother dead, but the idea still makes her uneasy.

Dawson Packard
“Dawson...” She finally speaks, turning her head to look over her shoulder at him with cynically lidded eyes, hair falling back over her shoulders and the window’s sunlight now shifting, changing the ethereal golden glow on her hair to a sharp glint in the lenses of her glasses, “Is there a reason you’re standing there...?”

He shivers under her gaze. There is something intimidating to her eyes, her voice, and it’s not chilling beauty, but something to be legitimately feared. However, he won’t show it, “Hey, no reason to be so scary about it, sis. I just came to let you know that Mom and Dad got us plane tickets to go visit Christopher over spring break. Nothing weird,” He raises his hands in defense, and she frowns at him.

It was not out of the question for her to assume that he would have something less pleasant than that to say; However, she will not pretend that this is something to get up in arms about. She drops her guard and turns more completely till she is still sitting in the window sill, but her feet are on the floor and she’s looking her brother in the eyes, “Us, visiting Chris? Doesn’t he usually come down here?”

“Usually?” Dawson shrugs, leaning against the doorframe, “But I guess he wanted to spend some time with his friends this break, so we’re going there instead. I know I don’t mind. Do you?”

“Oh, no,” She shakes her head, a gentle smile coming over her face as she tucks a strand of that ever-so-shiny hair back behind her ear and turns to look at the far wall rather than at him, standing so casually at the entrance to her room as if he isn’t ogling her every move, “Not at all. It’s not like I really have any friends here to miss... Oh, except for my shooting instructor, but tomorrow’s Sunday, so I can let him know before I go.”

“Right, we’re leaving after school on Friday,” Dawson nods, crossing his arms, “I’ll have to tell Arturo, though. Maybe he can hang out sometime before we go.  He’s the only one of my friends I’d really miss if we left town for a week.”

“It’s been a while since he’s been over here...” Tina notes, kicking her feet a little bit before settling them again and digging her toes into the carpet of her bedroom, “Did something happen between you?”

“Oh, nothing,” He shakes his head with a lopsided grin, “I guess I forgot to tell you, since it’s irrelevant to you, he was visiting some relatives of his in Texas. He’s back now, though. Got home yesterday afternoon.”

“Why don’t you see if he could come over here today? Or better yet, stay the night. Keep you company while I’m out at the range tomorrow...” She offers, leaning forward, propping her elbows on her knees and her chin on her wrist, “Besides. I want to see if he’s gotten any better at Starfox.”

“Yeah right, he can hardly even beat my high scores occasionally,” Dawson scoffs, lifting a leg and bracing his foot against the other side of the doorway. Tina’s eyes dart to this movement, and her posture becomes more defensive on instinct, with his leg effectively cutting off her escape route. Not that she’d need to escape, but she can’t help but be hyperaware, “Like he could ever stand a chance against you.”

“Hey, he could,” She shrugs, chuckling a bit before getting to her feet, shifting between the two just enough to make her hair flutter to the sides, “If I let him, that is.”

“Like you’d ever let anyone beat you if you could help it,” He groans, rolling his eyes, but drops his foot from the doorway. Tina takes advantage of this movement to step past and get on the other side of him, “If you did let him win, well, that’d just have to be the end of our friendship.”

There it is.
There are the words which make her ever so certain that this house is a danger to her. It’s always been this way. Aside from her instructor, she’s never had a friend. Dawson won’t let her. He wants her all to himself. And if he suspected that she had a crush on any of his friends, he wouldn’t hesitate to drop them like a hot potato.

She knows that something had to have gone wrong along the way, and while he can put up the act of a possessive, protective brother, she knows the truth. Even now, as she steps past him, he watches her legs as discreetly as he can. Her shooting instructor never looks at her like that. Arturo never looks at her like that.

She is afraid.
He is the only thing she’s ever been afraid of.

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” She shakes her head as she sits down again, this time on the railing which marks the end of the floor before the staircase. If need be, she can always drop down to the stairs from here and make a run for it; she knows he has never done anything. She knows he doesn’t have the guts to do anything to her, but she still plans every moment, “I have to preserve my title as the best player in Albuquerque, after all! If I let some silly thirteen-year-old boy beat me, I’d never live with myself!”

“You say as if you aren’t a silly twelve-year-old girl yourself,” Dawson sighs, but walks around her to go downstairs and call Arturo. She shrugs and gets down behind him once he’s out of sight, and makes her way to the living room; the television only has one set of inputs, so she has to swap out the VHS player for the Famicom any time she or Dawson wants to play video games. He doesn’t know how to do it himself, despite it being incredibly simple.

There’s a lot of things like that. He truly does need her.

She can’t honestly say that she cares very much, about him needing her to survive. Because she doesn’t, by any means, need him. When the two of them were younger and it was a bigger deal for their absentee babysitter to be missing, when it was necessary that they learn to care for themselves and the risk of perishing, that was different. When they were both learning how to live and relying on each other.

Now, it’s like he’s just an obnoxious child that needs her to take care of him, and she really couldn’t care any less about that. Maybe that makes her heartless, but again, it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t care that he needs her; if she had any say in the matter, she’d be fine with never seeing him again, except...

Well, she would visit. She just didn’t want to live with him, didn’t want to give him the opportunity to build upon this strange and unsuitable attraction any longer. It wasn’t like she’d prefer not to have a brother at all, or that she’d wish death upon him.  Even if nobody would hold it against her to feel that way, she can’t bring herself to. Rather, she only wishes that she didn’t have to be afraid.

Maybe if he was to get over himself- oh, but she can’t worry about that at the moment, can she? Arturo will be here in about five minutes. He always is, anytime Dawson invites him over. After all, he only lives a couple blocks away.

And, just as she expects, the door opens just moments after she shakes off her thoughts and finishes hooking up the video game, which she quickly gets fired up, but doesn’t actually start playing, leaving the controller on the floor as she stands and goes to greet her brother’s friend.

Arturo Strode
He stands at the doorway, greeting Dawson but waiting for Tina to appear. He is Dawson’s friend in technicality, yes, but finds the man uncomfortable. However, for all the idiocy he may display as a young man, he is clever enough to realize the reason she is so keen on befriending him, and would not jeopardize her opportunity by falling out with her brother. It’s not obvious, but knowing Dawson as long as he has, Arturo can recognize that there’s something going on to prevent Tina from making friends of her own.

“Hey, Tina!” He interrupts his own inconsequential sentence to greet her as she approaches from behind Dawson, putting one hand on his hip and pointing at his hair with the other, “Check this out, I bleached my hair! Inspired by you of course. You always look so cool, so I figured, how can I look cool?”

He’s expecting her to be impressed, on some level, to at least be appreciative of the fact that his go-to idea to look cooler was to imitate her, but he doesn’t receive the result that he’s expecting and hoping for. Rather, he has to watch as a grin breaks out across her face and she hardly covers her mouth before she falls into a fit of giggles, earning her strange looks from both boys.

“I-I’m sorry!” She pushes the words through her laughter, trying to compose herself before pointing a finger straight at Arturo’s face, “It’s just that you forgot to bleach your eyebrows! So you’ve just got blonde hair, and black eyebrows! It looks pretty silly!”

“Oh my God, are you kidding me?” He groans, running his hands down his face as he steps into the house and Tina closes the door behind him. He turns and drops his hands as he looks to Dawson, “I guess I should have asked you for help...”

“What?” Tina questions, bursting into giggles once more and holding her stomach this time as she shakes her head in what could almost be seen as a rude dismissal if Arturo didn’t know she was only teasing, “Arty, Dawson’s never dyed his hair before!”

“Eh?” He questions, taking a beat to give blank looks to the both of them before he speaks again, “But, how? His hair is like. So orange. Am I just having some sort of out of body experience? Is black just orange now?”

“No, you’re perfectly sane,” Tina shrugs, “I guess you’ve never met our parents. Mom’s side of the family is from Cuba, but Dad’s side is mixed. Irish in there somewhere. Somewhere enough to give him hair like that, somehow,” She turns around and puts her hands on her hips, “So, ready to try and beat my starfox high score again or what?”

“Absolutely,” He nods and adjusts the fake bomber jacket he’s wearing despite the heat of the day. Just another attempt on his part to seem cool, it seems. He’s even wearing a wifebeater underneath and it’s as if he’s just trying his hardest to dress like a tool. That’s fine, though. She knows that he isn’t really a tool.

“Yeah right,” Dawson scoffs, following the other two back into the living room and dropping himself onto the couch, taking up far more space than he should, one leg laid out across the back of the sofa and the other foot planted firmly on the ground, effectively turning the entire couch into space between his legs. Uncomfortable with this implication, Tina sits on the floor as she hands the controller to Arturo, giving him the first go. He sits on the couch, not caring about Dawson’s posture, or perhaps just oblivious.

“Tina, there’s space here on the couch,” Dawson offers, and she just shakes her head, training her eyes on the television screen as her brother’s friend begins the level, and she watches as he gets a higher score than he ever has before, but he’s still no match for her. She has quick reflexes, sharp eyes, and although it wasn’t quite a game involving gun skill as she’d later in life discover her champion skills at, her training from a young age still gives her the upper hand in just about any video game.

When it’s her turn, she sets a new personal record. She won’t allow anybody to gain on her. She won’t allow her brother to approach her skill level and she won’t allow any sort of discrepancy which might distance her from one of the only people she finds herself able to be friendly with.

She cannot let it happen.
She cannot lose one of her only comforts in this forced lonely life.

“Hey,” Arturo speaks a while later in a manner that seems as if he’s going to change the topic, and then continues to do exactly that, “You guys have a VHS player, right?” With his question he reaches into the bag and pulls out what looks like a box set, “You ever seen Star Blazers?”

“Star Blazers?” Tina tilts her head to the side after making a 180 turn to look at Arturo, “No, I can’t say that we have. What is it?” She leans forward to try and get a peek at the box set, “A cartoon...?”

“Sort of,” Arturo shrugs as he pulls it open and takes out the first VHS tape, “It’s a cartoon from Japan. I found it in a video store in Dallas... They had all sorts of weird stuff! I think it’s called Japanimation? Don’t worry, it’s not in Japanese. It’s been dubbed. That’s what they call it when they change the voices to English.”

“Whoa,” Dawson finally pulls his legs in to kneel on the couch and look over Arturo’s shoulder at the box, “Are you really serious? That’s a video from Japan? Where the Heck is Japan?”

“It’s an Asian country,” Tina sighs, rolling her eyes as she sits cross-legged and glares at her brother, “An island with a fairly temperate climate. One of the countries we were fighting in World War Two. My shooting instructor is from there,” She shakes her head, “And one of the easier locations in Asia to identify in geography. No wonder you keep failing map quizzes...”

“But Tina,” He leans back against the couch, groaning with laziness, “They just give us the blank maps to study from! How is that supposed to help?”

“You go to the library and fill them out. Like I did,” She sighs, crossing her arms, “You really are hopeless, aren’t you? It’s so easy. They even got in a bunch of new computers to search the catalogues! You don’t even need to figure out Dewey Decimal anymore, you have no excuse!”

“Yeah, Dawson,” Arturo teases, picking up a throw pillow from the sofa and tossing it at him, “I’m not the best student, but at least I can do that much! I’m shocked you two are still in the same grade! How have not been held back yet?”

“Look, just because I’m bad at common sense doesn’t make me dumb! Besides, when I get too far behind I just get Tina to let me copy her work. After all, she doesn’t want us to be separated either!” He boasts, holding a hand against his chest and lifting his chin towards the ceiling in a great and cringeworthy show of pomp.

“I wouldn’t say that...” She mutters, and doesn’t move at all. She sits there like a stone statue, wondering if he will react with his friend right there, if he’s really so dumb that he won’t think through the consequences of his actions. Wondering if she’s pushed his buttons the right way, and wondering why she wants to know these things. As much as she finds her brother a twisted and fearsome person, she can’t pretend she’s normal either. For every bit of fright she holds toward him, she’s also curious about what makes him tick. Why he’s like this.

He freezes. Clenches, unclenches his fists, then stands up. He’s wearing shoes in the house. Dirty sneakers, with pants just a bit too long for his legs that cover up the knot on the laces. His weight sinks a bit into the carpet... so it’s been recently vaccuumed, to be so plush. She should have noticed as soon as she sat down, but she was paying attention to the game. Now she’s watching every movement.

He lifts his right hand up, over his shoulder, beside his own cheek and leans towards her. He wants her to move away, to flinch, to wince; to in any way brace herself, but she won’t give in to that. She knows he’s looking for an emotional response, enough to make her apologize, apologize enough that he can pretend she never said such a thing.

Mentally, she is bracing herself for the impact. Physically, she remains just as statuesque as ever, but the backhand she’s waiting for never lands. Despite trying to take in all of her surroundings, it happens far too quickly for her to realize what’s happened until it’s finished. His hand is inches from her face, but so is another hand. A hand of slightly lighter skin coming from the fur cuff of a pleather jacket, now closed tight, tight to the point of knuckles turning ivory, around her brother’s wrist.

She turns her head to that side, taking in the contained scene of the grip before looking up the arm and finding that his face is just as stony as her own. Arturo is holding her brother’s arm in place coldly, but his muscles are tense and his shoulder is shaking. Dawson’s face is cold too, but not in a masking way, more in a show of cruelty. She watches as he contorts that into a look of outright anger and manages to jerk his arm away before turning on his friend.

“What the Hell was that about!?” He questions, waving his arms wildly before reaching forward and grabbing Arturo by the front of his shirt, still with no visible response on his part. This only infuriates Dawson now, “Do you have some sort of crush on my sister, huh!? I’ll fucking kill you!”

“...You shouldn’t hit a girl, Dawson Packard,” Arturo’s voice is level despite the grip his friend has. The only way he’d escape would be by pulling hard enough to rip the shirt at this point, but he seems completely nonplussed, “It has nothing to do with you or your sister, really. I don’t like her as anything other than a friend. I just couldn’t sit there and watch as a friend of mine did something like that. So... if you need to hit somebody, hit me, why don’t you?”

“Didn’t you hear the way she sassed me!?” He questions, spitting in Arturo’s face to no response. No emotional response at all. Tina wonders if he picked up on her behavior and realized, as she did, that the best way to keep Dawson from escalating too much was not to show fear, or anger, or anything at all.  Arturo’s much more clever than Dawson is, she thinks.

“Well, if I were your sibling, and you behaved this way towards me, then I most certainly wouldn’t care for staying in the same grade as you,” Arturo shrugs where he stands, toes barely touching the carpet between Dawson’s height over him and the strength with which he’s being held. Arturo does track and field, which doesn’t exactly build as much in the way of upper body strength as fencing.

“Fuck you!” Dawson is shouting now, but the neighbors won’t hear. None of the neighbors are quite close enough to hear.  Maybe they can and they just don’t care. Tina’s thought of that possibility before, but she’d rather pretend that they simply cannot hear. It’s easier to think that ignorance is an accident rather than an act of malice. With the hand that isn’t holding Arturo’s shirt, he reels up to throw a punch.

She stops him this time. Not by grabbing his wrist, but by putting her hand out and catching the entire fist, meeting his eyes and glaring at him from behind her glasses until he releases the tension and drops his arms back to his side, sending Arturo to the floor with the sudden release of his shirt. Dawson steps forward and stands over the dropped form, and Tina prepares to move again until it seems that all he’ll do next is speak, “Get out of my house, Arturo.”

Arturo is shaking. He nods, and crawls out from under Dawson to get to his feet, grabbing his things before dashing out of the house. Tina looks between him and Dawson before making a break for it, running after him. His sport has made him fast, but she’s faster, and catches up to him midway down the street. She falls into step with him, both slowing to a walk before she speaks, quiet, avoiding eye contact, “You didn’t have to do that, you know.”

“Oh, I know,” He nods, laying a palm against his chest where Dawson had held him by the shirt, “It’s obvious by the way you stopped that punch. Plus, I’ve seen you exercising. You can definitely defend yourself. All that guy has is brute strength, but... that’s the thing. I could see it in your face. You weren’t going to defend yourself. You only moved when he was going to hurt me.”

“I couldn’t let you be harmed just because you happened to get involved. It’s my fault, anyway. I wanted to see what he’d do if I said something like that around other people... Curiosity killed the cat?” She shrugs, looking up at the sky, “Probably in for a bruise or two when I go home... Sorry I got you into that.”

“I got myself into it. I could have just let him hit you, like you were going to,” He frowns and stops where he stands, turning to her and grabbing her bare shoulders. She’s much more dressed for the weather than he is, in a tank top and jean shorts. Jorts, “You’ve been around him your entire life. Has he always been like this?”

“Well,” She pauses, then nods, biting the inside of her cheek, “I guess that he has. He just has a bad temper, it’s fine. I’d rather him be angry and hurt me than anything else, though...”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Arturo questions, looking her in the eyes. The pair are about the same height. He’s staring right into her, and his brow is furrowed, quivering with the force of rarely-used facial muscles.  He’s a happy person, he’s not used to showing anger or concern, “Listen, Tina. You know you can talk to me, right? Please, do talk to me...”

“Why do you... care so much...?” She questions, staring right back at him, and his heart is breaking at the confusion and surrender in her eyes.

“Because I’ve seen abuse before, and believe me, this is abuse,” His voice is strained and his grip on her shoulders is getting tighter, but not tight enough to hurt, “And I can’t do anything about it, in that other case. I can’t stand up to an adult, I can’t do anything to help his kids... But I can stand up to Dawson, if he’s hurting you like this. Why don’t you want him to stop? Why do you just sit and take it?”

“Because,” She breaks the stare, looking away from him and biting her lip. Does she say? Her shooting instructor knows, yes, but that’s different. He is a worldly adult who she trusts with her life. Arturo is... she does not distrust him, but he’s only a year older than her. Thirteen years old is a peculiar age to be, an age in which it’s impossible to tell how much any given in-betweener knows about the world. However... if she doesn’t answer, he’ll only continue worrying, “Because Dawson’s in love with me, I think. I’d rather him be angry at me than that.”

“...That explains a lot,” Arturo sighs, letting go of her shoulders and crossing his arms, “No, really, it does. I never would have realized it on my own, but now that you mention it...” He shakes his head and groans, “That’s what happens when people grow up unchecked, I guess.”

“Well, I didn’t turn out that way,” Tina mumbles, clasping her hands in front of her, “And we grew up the same way. No parents. Rarely a babysitter... The only difference when we were younger, was that he was kind of mean to me even back then. It was innocent enough then. He has a temper, and he was possessive of his twin sister, but now that we’re growing up...”

“Well, you must have had your shooting instructor even back then, right?” Arturo asks, and she looks at him again, a beat of silence passing between the two before he speaks again, “I mean that... well, you mention him a lot, and you’ve got a lot of skills. So you had a good adult role model that Dawson didn’t have... and besides. You have different personalities. Dawson’s an asshole, that’s who he is. But... he’s not a very tolerable asshole, and that’s because of how you two grew up, I think.  Assholes can end up being good people, yeah?  It just takes work, and nobody put that work in for him.”

“You’re...” She starts to speak and her voice is weak. She lifts a hand to her face and discovers there are tears falling around her smile. Is she really this moved by simple kindness? She always supposed herself not to be a very emotional person, but perhaps that was a result of her own upbringing. Dawson was never particularly kind. Teachers have been simply courteous, and the kindness of her instructor was always a given of his nurturing ways, “Thank you...”

“I don’t know what I can do to help, Tina, but I want to,” He turns away from her, looking at the asphalt. It’s been patched recently, and on such a hot day is producing a scent of wet tar, the very faintest hint of it. Not nearly enough to be choking, but enough to give the atmosphere an even stronger expression of the choking heat, “I don’t want to let anybody prevent you from living your life... I don’t want to let that happen to anyone at all. If there’s anything I can do, I’ll do it.”

“How valiant,” She brings a hand up to cover her smile and shakes her head again, eyes turning glassy as she opens them again and the joy in her tears evaporating under this springtime heat, “But... you know, I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do, Arturo. I understand how you feel. Everyone wants to save somebody, but, you know, this sort of thing happens to so many people, all throughout the country. So maybe... this is just how it’s meant to be?”

“What, some people are intended by fate to suffer? Is that what you’re saying? That’s ridiculous. Anyone can be happy somehow; you just need help. You need to escape from your brother, or he needs to be taught a lesson, or something. This is wrong, Tina, and I won’t stand idly by,” He insists, stepping closer to her only to find himself pushed back another two steps at the slightest push from her index finger.

“You want to deliver justice? Find a terrorist. Find a kidnapper. Find a serial killer, and stop them. Don’t waste your time on silly domestic problems like mine. Helping me helps nobody. It’s worth nothing. If it isn’t me, then Dawson will just hurt someone else. Hurt them worse than he’d ever hurt me, probably. The only way to get justice in this world is to find the people who can truly be stopped, Arturo. That’s what you want, isn’t it? Me too. But there’s nothing to be done about this. He’s never really done anything worth arresting him for, anyway, and I don’t want him dead.”

“I’m not looking for justice, Tina, because like you said, this isn’t exactly that. Justice... is when people are punished for a specific crime they’ve committed. This is different. I don’t care about punishing him. All I want to do is help you,” He protests, getting closer again and this time, she doesn’t push him away, “I don’t know what you’re going on about, but I know that I... I don’t want to let people get hurt anymore. If I can help even one person, Tina, I’m going to!”

“Heh...” She lets another smile break onto her face, but she won’t look him in the eyes, scratching her left arm in some sort of nervous habit, “That’s a really great way to think, Arturo. Thank you. I think... I was just getting ahead of myself. And maybe I’m a little disillusioned anyway. It was a long time ago, somebody gave me that same speech about justice. I guess I just regurgitated it... I think it’s really amazing, that you want to help people so much. I’m just not sure if I can be helped.”

“Well,” He frowns, kicking at the gravel on the sidewalk and watching as a small pebble rolls to a stop a few feet away, and the wind kicks up a slight bit, moving the hot air around the two, “I’m not sure either, how I’d help... now that I think about it...”

“Mmhm,” She chuckles soft and shrugs, moving her hair back behind her shoulder and training her gaze on the same pebble, “But not because I’m being so dumb and gloomy... because we’re kids. There’s not really a lot that we’re capable of. So really, you can’t help me, but I appreciate the thought... and I’m sure, someday, you can help a lot of people, if you just stay determined. Let’s both, okay?” She sets her hand out, fingers closed loosely into a fist. He looks at her, then hits it gently with a fist of my own, “So that’s a promise. You and me both, when we grow up, we’ll help a lot of people!”

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