The Wrong Time to Visit the Supermarket

Author’s Note: So I did do this a while back, as part of a long story that is… oh, it’s a mess. I wish it wasn’t, but it has three arcs, I couldn’t pick one, kept thinking no one would want to read various parts of them, and so it’s all jumbled now and I even let myself skip around a bit while writing it, which is worse in some ways. I just… I have shared some with these characters before, but I was reviving the Kabobbles Sing Along Album Challenge again, and I randomly grabbed an album to pull out Melanie’s Stoneground Words. First song up was Together Alone, and I was going to do something with Dillon for this, but it fit to do Quinn, too, maybe even more than Dillon, and I wasn’t willing to start any new stories (tempted, but no) and so I picked out this section as it fit with the lines of

We’ll grow old, we’ll take care of each other
I’ll be your sister, your mother, your lover

and also, much more importantly, this part, as it is the betrayal Quinn’s forced to disclose here that did so much damage to him and his faith in everyone.

We’re believers, we’ve been hurt by believing
Needing people, we know looking’s not seeing

The Wrong Time to Visit the Supermarket

“And eggs. We’re going to need eggs.”

Quinn rolled his eyes, and Candelaria tried to ignore him. He hadn’t wanted to take her to the store, and he was making things as difficult as he could. She could hate him so easily, and most of the time she did, but with the Howells out of town for the weekend, he was the only one in the house with a driver’s license. She knew they probably would have been fine without the things they were low or out of, but she didn’t know that she could keep Quinn in line for a whole weekend. This wasn’t like the hours she had watched all of them in the past, not even the overnight trips. This was different, and she was nervous. Quinn made these times out like a joke, and so far he hadn’t done anything to defy her, hadn’t run off, but if he was going to do it, this would be the time.

“You know they’ll be back in a day, right? Why bother with all this food?”

“Because I know how much Beacan can eat these days, and I know you still like having your food in its own package, so we need stuff. At least this time I won’t have to ask for help with everything on the top shelf. You can get it for me.”

“You can’t reach?”

She gave him a dirty look. He was such a jerk. She always said that, but she kept being reminded of how true it was. “How many times have you made comments about how short I am compared to you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’ve grown a bit. Oh, look, you come up to my knee now. You’re so big these days. I don’t know what we’ll do with you.”

She smacked him, and he just shrugged. “Eggs last. If there’s something else you need, tell me so that we can get it and go.”

“If you go get a bag of flour and bring it back, I’ll take care of the fresh vegetables without you, since I know you hate that.”

“Fine,” he muttered, taking off in the opposite direction. She pushed the cart down the aisle, grabbing a couple of cans of soup before she left.

Turning the corner, she almost smacked into one of the employees, and she winced. That guy was always getting her the stuff off the top shelf, and she felt bad for bumping into him. She whispered an apology and tried to back away, but he saw her. “Miss Howell? I thought I recognized those ribbons. Where’s your mother today?”

She had never bothered to explain that Mrs. Howell wasn’t really her mother, and she didn’t intend to do that now. “Oh, she was busy today. It’s all right, though. I’ve got my—someone—with me to help me get anything I can’t reach or carry.”

“Someone? This wouldn’t be a boyfriend, would it? You’re not sneaking around behind your mother’s back, are you?”

Candelaria winced. She should have said her brother, though she didn’t call Quinn that, and he didn’t let her call him that, either. She sighed. “My foster brother. I’m sorry I bumped into you. Excuse me. I have to get the vegetables.”

“You haven’t gotten them yet? Why does it take so long to do one thing?”

“You had the one thing, Quinn, not me. We need plenty of vegetables and—”

“Quinn. Long time no see.”

Quinn swallowed, dropping the flour in the cart. The bag tore, and she frowned. She swore she’d never seen Quinn this scared before, not in all the years she’d known him. She looked back at the man, biting her lip.

“Not long enough,” Quinn managed, his voice cold. He took her arm, tugging on it. “Come on, Laria. If you need to cook something with vegetables, you can do it with something canned.”

“I didn’t think you were the type that ran. You that afraid to face me after what you did?”

Quinn whirled back, looking like he’d attack the man in a second, and she thought it would be worse than when he fought the jocks. “What I did? You son of a—”

“Watch it. You were the one who attacked me, remember? You were the one who tried to cover up a bad drug habit with an even worse lie.”

“I didn’t lie. You did.”

Candelaria took a breath. “Quinn, why don’t you bring the car up closer so we can load it fast and go? We need to pick up Beacan and Leah in a few minutes.”

“I can’t believe they let you have a license,” Kevin said, and Quinn glared back at him. She looked at the cart and shook her head.

“We don’t need this. We’ll just go. Mrs. Howell can come back for it later.” She wrapped her arm around his, pushing him toward the door.

Quinn pulled away from her just outside the store, going to the trash and throwing up. Candelaria watched him with a frown, not sure how to react to any of this. He’d been ready to panic back there, and she didn’t like what that man had said, either.

He reached into his pocket and dug out the keys, holding them out to her. She frowned, not taking them. He dropped them, heaving again, and she watched, worried. She didn’t know what to think of what Quinn had done back there or what that man had said. If Quinn was sick—

“Go get the car. You’re driving us home.”

“I don’t have a license,” she hissed. “Just a permit. I can’t do that.”

“You have to. I don’t think I can get my stomach calm, and I can’t drive like this. It’s coming back. Not again. Not now…”

She reached down and grabbed the keys, ducking under his arm and letting herself support him like she had after one of his fights. He leaned on her, and she tried not to think about how he’d just puked. “Let’s get you to the car before you collapse.”

“The colors are all funny and everything’s spinning—no, this isn’t funny—not the monster, not again…”

Candelaria cursed, realizing what he’d meant by it coming back. He must have been in one of his acid flashbacks, and if he was, he wouldn’t be driving anywhere. That just wasn’t happening. She knew that. She didn’t want to do it without a license, but she had to get him home. “Kevin was the one that gave you the drugs, wasn’t he?”

Quinn shuddered. “Don’t… Can’t talk to you like this.”

“Yes, you can. You know I wasn’t a part of any of that. Use my voice. Stay here with me and forget the acid. Forget the colors and the monster. All that’s here is your watchdog. I’m here. You’re not alone.”

She stopped them against the car, going to open the door before she pulled him over to the passenger seat. “Think you can manage to put your seat belt on?”

He looked up at her. “You are way too small to take on the monster. When I was that small, I couldn’t stop it. It got what it wanted. Always. I tried to fight it, but it was stronger, and it would use those claws on me. Claws and teeth…”

“The monster won’t get close to you again,” Candelaria assured him, shutting the door and running around to the other side. She hoped that she could do this without wrecking the car or getting caught.

“Did you really attack him?” She asked as she pulled out of the spot, somehow managing to dodge the cars around them.

“I just wanted him to admit what he’d done to me. He… He wouldn’t even acknowledge that he’d given me the drugs, kept saying he didn’t know what I was talking about, and I thought I could get him to tell me the truth if I scared it out of him, beat it out of him… You heard him. He still says the whole thing was me.”

“You don’t know what he did to you?”

“No. I told you… I don’t remember what really happened. I remember before the acid kicks in—Kevin was the only one there besides me, and he was the one that gave me the food—and then it’s this monster and it’s trying to kill me… I could take it if he had knocked me around. He could have put me right back in the hospital. I don’t care about that. That’s upfront. I understand that part. I can handle it if I understand it. I don’t know why he had to mess with my head, make it so I’m stuck always wondering what happened. I thought I was going crazy the first few times it happened. I didn’t think I was high—I thought I was losing my mind. I just don’t get it. Why do you do that to someone?”

“Power? Control? He’s some kind of sadist? He liked watching you suffer when you were confused and having you doubt your own mind was… a bonus?”

“I hate him so much. I wish I’d killed him. I still wouldn’t have my answers, but I’d feel a lot better knowing he was gone.”

“You don’t want to be a killer.”

“Yes, I do. Him I want dead. I came close. If I hadn’t hesitated…”

Candelaria swerved, jerking the car back on the road with people honking around them. She didn’t believe what she was hearing. “Quinn…”

“Thanks to him I have probation ’til I’m eighteen. And they think I’m deranged. I hate him. I wasn’t good, I wasn’t perfect, but drugs were one of the lines I didn’t cross. I didn’t do that, and I didn’t… I didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

“No matter what anyone says about me—I never turned tricks. Ever. Not even when I was desperate for something to eat. I stole, and I’ve vandalized places, but I didn’t do that.”

“I never thought you did.”

“You’re going to have to watch me close, watchdog. Now that I know where he is again… I don’t trust myself.”

Not Quite Over the Rainbow

Author’s Note: So, this is a bit out of context, but since I was posting a piece to Kabobbles Sing Along today, I figured I should go ahead with this scene, as it was the most recent, and the prompt from Liana Mir of Beacan + Leah + Favorite Songs got me this to make a bit more progress on this story.

Not Quite Over the Rainbow

“I think we can find one.”

“Find one what?” Beacan asked, looking up from his can of carrots. He seemed happy enough in them, happy enough to annoy Quinn, and Leah would have said that Quinn was hungover if there had been any alcohol in the store they’d raided. He was grumpy, his eyes red when he opened them, which wasn’t often this morning.

“A library. Quinn suggested we find one last night,” Laria said, picking up a can of green beans and shrugging before she reached for the can opener. Quinn’s head jerked up, and he frowned, swallowing a bit as he watched her open the can.

“You remember last night?”

“I remember discussing libraries. I don’t remember much else,” Laria answered, looking over at him. “What? Did you get me to do something embarrassing? If you did, you had better not tell them. That’s not fair.”

He hesitated, and then he shook his head. “No, it wasn’t anything like that. You just muttered in your sleep a bit. That’s all.”

“Did she say anything about walking on roses? She did that with me once,” Beacan said, and Laria threw a green bean at him, then another. He laughed, throwing a carrot back at her. Quinn rolled his eyes at all of them before walking to the door.

“Wait a minute. We haven’t finished breakfast yet.”

“Advanced scouting, I guess,” he said, pushing open the door, and Leah sighed. She didn’t know what was with him this morning—it wasn’t a hangover, but she still couldn’t explain why he was being a bit more of a jerk and more standoffish than usual.

“What happened last night?”

Laria looked down at her can, apparently having lost her appetite. “I don’t know. I must have done something that upset him, but I don’t remember. I was so tired and he said something about a library, and I think I must have passed out on him after that, so maybe that’s it? I can’t give you more than that, Beacan. I just don’t know.”

“You don’t think it’s that bad, do you?”

“No, he’d be worse if it was,” Beacan said, and Laria tried to nod. She set her can down and started for the door. “Hey! That’s wasting food, you know.”

“It’s not going to go that bad, and I can eat it after we find Quinn again. I just don’t want him wandering around on his own.”

Leah shrugged, following after the others. She always did. She’d rather not be left behind, not when Quinn and Candelaria were her anchors, her safety blankets, and Beacan was great, he really was, but she still wanted to be with everyone, not just him.

Beacan groaned. “Is it just me, or is this place creepier today? It wasn’t so bad at first, but without people, now on our second day here… It’s really creepy, isn’t it?”

Leah reached over to hit him before rubbing her arms, needing to be rid of the chill that came over her with his words. She didn’t like this much, and she didn’t want to be afraid all over again. Laria glared at Beacan, and he winced in apology, but it wasn’t like his words were going away or anything. They wouldn’t. They didn’t. Leah could still hear them echoing a bit, and she was now creeped out.

She closed her eyes, trying to calm herself with a song her mom used to sing to her long before things got real bad. She hadn’t realized she’d started humming and even gone to singing until someone came up behind her.

“Nice choice, Daydreamer,” Quinn said. “You know that’s only the most repeated and stupidest song in history, right?”

“It is not.”

“I think the most repeated song is actually by the Beatles,” Beacan said. “All teenybopper and boyband stuff aside, I think they have had one of the most lasting impacts on music ever.”

“And it is not a stupid song,” Candelaria said, her glare shifting to Quinn this time.

“It’s always been my favorite,” Leah admitted, and Beacan took her hand. “I always wanted that land over the rainbow. Mom did, too. No more troubles, no more clouds, no more tears. You can’t tell me that it’s wrong to hope for that, Quinn. I don’t care how much bad you’ve seen. Blue birds find it, and I’ll find it someday, too.”

“I doubt it’s here,” he told her, his voice quieter than usual. He reached over and tapped her nose. “I suppose it could have been worse, though. You could have been singing ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ or something.”

“No, we should sing something else from Oz,” Candelaria said, getting a smile from Leah since there was only one song in Oz that she didn’t like—the king of the forest one. “Why don’t you try ‘if I only had a—”

“I have a brain, thank you. And I never lost my nerve.”

“Yeah, but none of us missed how you skipped saying you had a heart.”

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

So I’m going to launch the revival of Kabobbles Sing Along with a song just about everyone knows.

A while back, I was discussing how many things reference The Wizard of Oz with the cover artist aka my best friend. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember all of what I said, something to the effect that all scifi involving our world mentioned Oz. She pointed out that it was a very easy to relate to story. That it could be adapted to almost every situation but it was more than that, it was something people today got.

I know I’ve made some comments about Oz myself, but this most recent one happened with Quinn, Candelaria, Beacan, and Leah. It came in the form of song and finally gave me something to talk about for the Sunday Sing Along.

The song, of course, is very easy relate to, too. Most people know it. I happen to love it.

Many people have sung this song, but I think I still prefer the original.

If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

Kabobbles Sing Along is just what I think when I hear songs. I sometimes see images when I hear lyrics, pictures or movies in my head. Sometimes I relate it to stories. My interpretation of the songs and lyrics are probably nothing like their original intent.

The Joke’s on Beacan

Author’s Note: When I decided to write this story using the template I’d created for another one of my stories where there was so much past that had to go in for the “modern” plot to make sense, I also picked up on one habit from before: as much as the flashbacks went in a more or less chronological order, they also had a tie, if only in the warped definitions of my mind, to the modern scene before it. That is the case here, where I tied them together by Beacan getting teased.

The Joke’s on Beacan

“I don’t want you doing this again.”

Quinn grunted. Candelaria knew that expression. She hated it—that had to be one of the most frustrating things about him. He’d just asked how she thought she’d stop him, and she knew she couldn’t. She couldn’t convince him to change his mind, couldn’t make him hate himself or the world any less than he did, couldn’t make him see that he didn’t always have to fight or push people away.

“I mean it, Quinn. We discussed this last night. We had a plan about the food.”

“And it sucked. We all know that. Just shut up and eat,” he said, pushing the sandwich toward her. She wasn’t sure when he’d managed to steal them, but he’d waited until they were on the train and couldn’t do much about it to give them the sandwiches.

“Maybe you can send them some money later,” Leah said. She bit her lip, and Candelaria sighed, reaching over to help her with the package. Quinn reached into his pocket and pulled out his Swiss army knife, throwing it to Beacan. Her brother smiled, opening the knife and cutting the plastic.

“I didn’t want to steal anything.”

“And you didn’t. You need to eat.”

“What about you?” Candelaria almost cursed when she didn’t see a sandwich in front of him. “Don’t tell me that you stole sandwiches for us and didn’t bother to get one for yourself. I know you have a thing against food you didn’t make yourself, and I understand why, but you can’t starve yourself just because we don’t have a kitchen. The odds of someone having laced these things with anything is like millions to one.”

Quinn glared at her. Beacan distracted him by passing him the knife, and he frowned as he took it back, stashing it away again.

“Here,” Leah said, holding out her sandwich to Quinn. “I already took a bite of mine, and you can see I’m okay. You can eat that one.”

“If he really didn’t get one for himself, he’d better have some from each of ours,” Beacan said, shaking his head. “That way we all get something. You know you have to eat more than a bite, Leah.”

Quinn looked at the sandwiches being held out to him. “You are all nuts.”

“We ran away with you. You honestly think we wouldn’t share our food?”


“Then eat it.”

He shook his head, taking out a package of lunch meat. He settled back against the side of the car, opening it up. “I hate turkey, and that was all they had for the sandwiches. Besides, those ones have that nasty lettuce and stale mayonnaise. Oh, and Swiss cheese. That stuff is disgusting.”

Candelaria blinked. She didn’t know what to think of Quinn’s behavior, but she had a feeling he was lying about the turkey thing like he’d lied about the chocolate. He just wanted to avoid eating a sandwich someone else had made.

“You could just have said you had that,” Beacan said, sitting back with his sandwich, grumbling to himself. Leah just smiled, humming a bit as she returned to eating her sandwich.

Candelaria caught Quinn smiling, but when he saw her looking at him, he made a big deal of putting a slice of ham into his mouth. Times like this, she could see the boy Quinn should be, a playful one without all the hurt and pain and the unjust conviction. He should be able to be like that more often, but she didn’t think that he would.

“Do you think the train will stop again soon?”

Quinn shrugged. “I don’t know. Freight trains don’t have schedules posted for the public. I don’t know where we’re going to end up. We might want to start looking for a good place to get off.”

“It would have to be when it slowed down.”

“None of us here are suicidal.”

Quinn snorted. “You say that, but you’re here with me, so I think someone’s in denial.”

“This is about living,” Candelaria said. She looked down at her sandwich. “The food may not be the best or even legal, but it’s not about that. It’s not about having a fine house or even a bed to sleep in. It’s about being with the people we want to be with.”

“Still nuts.”

Beacan smiled. “Well, not all of us are here for you, Quinn. Some of us would rather be here because of someone else.”

“It’ll be a few years before Leah’s legal, you know.”

Beacan choked on his sandwich, coughing. Leah turned red, and Quinn smirked, finishing off his ham. Candelaria shook her head. “Quinn, sometimes—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Completely inappropriate.”

“Can I stay in here for a while?”

Quinn gave Beacan a look, and he figured he was out the door in another second, but he didn’t want to get kicked out. He didn’t know where else to go, and he knew that everyone would just laugh if they knew why he was trying to hide. Candelaria already did, and staying in her room wasn’t an option. He’d tried the Howells’ room, not thinking anyone would dare follow him in there, but he’d been wrong.

“Beacan, one of the things that has been clear from the beginning around here is that my room is off-limits to all of you. I don’t want you here. I don’t want the maid in here. You are not staying.”

“You know Leah’s friends are all here, right? Big huge slumber party—”

“I know. I already did the bogeyman act and made sure they were all going to stay far away from me and my room for the duration of the night. Then Mrs. Howell tried to ground me again, which was its usual stupidity. I considered leaving, but your sister was watching last I knew, so there’s not much point yet. I’ll go if I need to.”

“I need to.”

Quinn frowned. “Can’t stand the sight of a bunch of girls in pink running around giggling? Does that go against some secret Beacan code of ethics? They’re just girls. No cooties. Hmm. I wonder if cooties is like the child form of an STD—”

“That’s disgusting.”

Quinn smiled, enjoying Beacan’s discomfort. He’d ruined that word for him now, and he was probably proud of it. “Go away, Beacan.”

“I can’t.”

“I can make you leave.”

Beacan let out a breath. “You don’t understand. They’re playing truth or dare. Apparently, no one is brave enough to take the dare to come close to you, but for me… I think every single one of those girls has tried to kiss me tonight. One of them even professed her ‘undying love’ for me. She used her tongue.”

Quinn burst out laughing, rolling back on his bed and thoroughly enjoying himself at Beacan’s expense. Beacan glared at the older boy, wanting to hate him, but if he got in a fight with Quinn, he’d have to go back out there and face the girls. He’d have to get lip gloss or maybe even lipstick on him, and he could still smell that cherry stuff. The glitter hadn’t come off when he washed his face, and he was going to be a laughingstock at school on Monday.

“It’s not that funny.”

“Oh, no, Beacan, it’s hilarious,” Quinn said, sitting up again. “You’re afraid of all the pretty little girls who are in love with you. I’d almost say something about your future there, but I’m not sure I want to know that about you.”

“Quinn, I like girls. I like them a lot. There’s this girl, Meghan, she’s in my math class and she has this habit of chewing on her pencil that always makes me stare at her lips and I think I’d like to kiss her, but Leah’s friends are… They’re younger than me, and I keep thinking one of them is going to remind her that we’re not related by blood and have her do that.”

“That could be awkward.”

“Awkward? She’s supposed to be my sister.”

“In case you haven’t realized it yet, supposed to doesn’t mean crap. Supposed to is a word you throw out there when you made some kind of mistake. ‘It was supposed to happen like this.’ ‘No one was supposed to get hurt.’ ‘We were supposed to be a family.’ It’s not about what you’re supposed to do. It’s about what you really think. I’ve told you—you’re not my brother. They’re not my sisters. Now, I wouldn’t want to kiss Leah, she’s way too young for me—”

“Don’t tell me you’d kiss Candelaria.”

Quinn laughed again. “There you go—reacting just like a brother. For the record, no. I don’t want to kiss your annoying sister. She just pisses me off, and I would sooner push her into oncoming traffic than make out with her. My point was that I don’t see either of them that way, so I wouldn’t have to trip over that thought if I did want to kiss them. Your problem isn’t that you’re afraid of kissing someone who’s your ‘sister.’ You’re afraid of it because she’s not your sister.”

“What?” Beacan’s head hurt, and he had a terrible feeling that all of Quinn’s logic worked this way, as screwed up as possible.

“I’m saying you don’t want to think about Leah or kissing her because you haven’t put her into the sister category. We may have been living in the same house for a while, but it hasn’t made it true, not for me and not for you. You haven’t accepted her as your sister or me as your brother. I don’t want you to bother seeing me that way, but what worries you so much about kissing Leah is that in the back of your head, you know she’s not blood. So you could do things with her that you’ve been told you’re too young to think of. You need to box her away as a sister and make her off-limits.”

Beacan sat down on the bed, looking over at him. “Can you be lying? I really want you to be lying.”

Quinn shrugged. “You don’t have to listen to me. I’m probably wrong. That’s the story of my life. Now, if you think you’re going to stay in here and hide from all the scary girls, you should know that there is a price to pay…”

Beacan groaned.

Hurts and Falls

Author’s Note: The first piece I posted with Quinn and Candelaria has her mentioning events that happened before, things that prove Quinn’s more upset than he was trying to say he was. This is a bit after one of those moments, earlier in their time in the same foster home.

I will probably start posting this story as its own serial. I just need a few things first.

Hurts and Falls

“You know what, I don’t care what you do when you’re trying to piss the Howells off, and I don’t care what you do when you run away from here like an idiot, but I do care about Leah. I care about what you do to her.”

“I didn’t touch her,” Quinn said, and Candelaria glared at him. Sometimes she truly could hate him. He was such a jerk. He didn’t even get it. His actions had consequences that he never thought about. Not once. He never cared about anyone or anything but himself.

“You don’t have to touch her, don’t you understand that? It’s not always about what you do.”

“‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’” Quinn said, sing-songing the words with a mocking smile. “Not that it matters. I haven’t talked to the girl in days. I didn’t say anything to her, either.”

Candelaria rolled her eyes. “Are you really that stupid? Or just that damn selfish?”

“Thought you knew the answer to that was yes to both questions. You always say I’m stupid, and my grades agree with you. I don’t deny being selfish, either.”

“Leah’s mother committed suicide, remember? She threw herself off a roof. Do you have any idea what it does to her when you go up there? She’s terrified out of her mind. You bring back all those memories for her—losing her mom, getting stuck in the system, that jerk that used to lock her outside in the rain—and as if you dredging up all those memories wasn’t bad enough, she’s worried about you, you jerk. She was afraid you were going to fall off.”

“So I fell off. It doesn’t hurt that much.”

“Just because it doesn’t hurt—Wait, you fell off the roof? When?”

He shrugged. “About five minutes ago. What’s your point?”

She glanced back at the house, reminding herself that it was, in fact, three stories tall—at least over the garage, where he had his room. She didn’t believe him. Either he was lying, or he was insane. He had to be lying. No one fell off a roof and then acted the way he did. He was acting like it was nothing, and if he’d really fallen, it could not have been nothing.

She reached over and hit him. “You liar.”

Quinn grunted, and she frowned as he doubled over, collapsing on the ground. Candelaria stared at him. He’d—he must really have fallen, unless this was his sick idea of a joke. He had better not be joking.


“I’m fine. It—I lost my balance, that’s all. It’s not like you hit that hard,” he said, but he couldn’t fool her. He couldn’t move. He’d be up already if he could. His arms shook as he tried to push himself up, and he stopped, dropping down again. She didn’t think she’d ever seen anyone look like that before—was that because he’d gotten internal injuries in the fall?

“What did you do?”

“Not sure if I should say you’d be happy if I’d succeeded or not—”

“If you could honestly think of doing that with Leah in the house no matter how much you hate us and life and—”

“—I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Shouldn’t even hurt since I’ve had worse falls and worse fights, but I must have landed wrong somehow.” Quinn rolled onto his back and looked up at the sky. “There really stars out already? Thought it was too early for that.”

She thought that the sunset was beautiful—or she had until now. “I think you really hurt yourself.”

“Oh, good. Now I can go because I’m broken.” He laughed, closing his eyes, and Candelaria would have kicked him or shook him, wanting to break through to him somehow. She didn’t know that he’d ever see what he was doing, ever acknowledge his act—he’d never admit it was an act—but he could not really believe that the Howells would send him back because he’d gotten hurt.

“Was that why you did it?”


“Did you get yourself hurt so that they’d send you back?”

“No. Stupid shingle came loose and next thing I know, I’m on the ground. If you get me up, I’ll take a couple pills and crawl into bed. I don’t need anything else.”

“You have got to be kidding. You need to go to the hospital and—”

“No hospitals. What, you want them to pull all of you out because one of us got hurt? They’ll say he did this and ruin your happy little home. ’Sides, the doctors will just tell me what I already know, and I don’t need to be poked and prodded—and I damn sure don’t want to go over my medical history.”

She knelt down beside him. “Quinn, if you don’t remember what happened between when the shingle came loose and when you were on the ground, if you are seeing stars when the sun just set, you are not okay.”

“Might have a concussion, but that’s not a big deal.”

“I’m getting the Howells, and you are going to the hospital.”

He caught her hand. “Don’t. Please. The last time I was in a hospital—just help me inside. You know with concussions they just watch you and wake you every couple hours, so set an alarm, and I’ll be fine. I will.”

She didn’t understand what could scare him so much about going to the hospital, but what surprised her even more than that he’d shown that to her at all. He’d said please. She almost wanted to agree with him, to go along with it just because of that please. It would keep her from having to break the promise she and Beacan had made to Leah about this not happening to Quinn just because he was on the roof. All of their words were false now.

She almost nodded, but then she remembered how he’d been earlier, and she didn’t think it was just a concussion. Even if it was, she’d feel a lot better if a doctor looked at him.

“I’m sorry,” she told him before running back to the door. He’d hate her forever for this, but she didn’t care.

Four Kids on the Run

Author’s Note: After enjoying every bit of the moments that were just Quinn and Candelaria, I reread this scene with all the kids, and I liked bits and pieces of this, but it does seem to lack something with the others in it.

Maybe I just like the other two too much. Or maybe Beacan and Leah aren’t… strong enough characters in comparison. Maybe it’s that whole “the opening part has to be perfect” thing. I don’t know.

I don’t know if I could post this one as serial or not, either.

Four Kids on the Run

“I would have thought I’d have it memorized by now. It was on the back of every book, and there were so many in that series—I read them all, over and over—so why can’t I remember it? I should know what it is. I could recite it before.”

Quinn grunted. He knew the words, and he knew the books, but he would never admit that to any of them. They weren’t the type of books a loser kid like him ever read, and he would never let himself believe in any of the ones that had happy endings. Those were for kids that hadn’t spent their entire lives in foster care. “I swear, if any of you suggests hiding out in a boxcar, I will leave you behind.”

Candelaria caught up to him, grabbing his arm. He looked at her, and she winced when he did. She always did these days. She couldn’t hide that guilt, and he was sick of seeing it. “You can’t keep going like this, and you know it.”

Quinn grunted. Most of his injuries had healed before the trial—the only exception was the wrist that got broken again in lockup—and he’d never been a wimp. He wouldn’t have survived this long if he was. He could stand plenty, and he had over the years. The last doctor had said he had the body of a broken down athlete in his thirties, not someone who still wasn’t quite legal. “I’m fine, and none of you had to come with me. You know that.”

She glanced toward the others. Maybe they were the ones that needed a break. They were younger, all of them bookworms and not the sort that had the stamina for a cross country trek. If they’d had the money for a car, he could have traded drive shifts with her, but they didn’t have that kind of money, and he doubted they would unless they broke one of her precious principles. He didn’t have them, but he knew that any crime he committed would draw too much attention to where they were. They couldn’t let anyone track them, not that easily.

“We haven’t had a real meal in days,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “I don’t think any of us is sleeping well, either. I know we have to put some distance between us and where we were, but this can’t continue.”

“None of you have to go on. Don’t look at me like that. I told you a dozen times already—I don’t blame you. Go back. None of you have to ruin your lives for my sake, and you know it. I’d already thrown mine away long before we shared that house, so don’t start thinking that you owe me anything. I told you years ago—we’re not family. Never have been, never will be.”

Candelaria closed her eyes, taking a breath. “I know that, but we agreed to do this together. I know you’re used to pushing past the pain, ignoring the hunger, and next to you, we’re all spoiled. We need time that you wouldn’t take and don’t think you need.”

Beacan came up and touched his sister’s shoulder, worry in the eyes that matched hers. He always had that in them same as his sister had guilt. Quinn had never seen the light their mother supposedly had when she picked those names, but then he was good at finding the darkness wherever he was. He always had been. “What’s going on?”

“I was trying to talk Quinn into a break.”

“We shouldn’t stop,” Leah said, looking back. She shivered despite the bright sun and lack of breeze. “I don’t like walking during the daytime. If it wasn’t so hard to walk at night, I’d say we should always do that.”

“Yeah, and we’ll get a car while we’re at it.”

“A boxcar?” Leah asked, her lips curving into a wide smile. Quinn frowned at her. “You have to admit—they made a good home out of one. We could do it.”

“Yeah, because this is really going to end in a rich grandfather finding us or that I’d be able to work odd jobs like the one boy did. I’m a wanted felon now, remember? You want to live in a fantasy, go back. Find another Mrs. Howell, another big house with rich people who aren’t pretending when they care about you, and live the dream.”

“There isn’t going to be another Mrs. Howell,” Candelaria said, yanking the ribbon out of her hair. She twisted it in her hands, looking more like she was Leah’s age than her own. “Our fairy tale ended when they died, and our unhappily ever after has just begun.”

Beacan shook his head. “We left that behind. That was the point of leaving. We’re not going out back to another foster home where we’re helpless, not again. None of us are going to be stuck sitting around waiting for the people who are supposed to be taking care of us to turn on us. That is never happening again.”

Quinn shook his head. Sometimes they acted too much like the children they were. “You do realize that the outcome for kids on the streets isn’t much better. Hell, it’s worse.”

“Not for us,” Leah told him. “We have you.”

Fighting for Family

Author’s Note: I wanted to share this for clarity. This is the one that reminded me of Cress and Enya in this scene.

Fighting for Family

Relieved to have one night without hours worth of homework for a change, Candelaria reached up to put her text book in her locker. She hadn’t thought it would be this bad so early in the year, but then she’d managed to get herself into three advanced placement classes, so it was her own fault.

The door slammed into her hand, making her cry out as she dropped her book on the floor. The metal bounced back and then someone shoved it shut. She looked over at the jocks and sighed. Not again. What was with them? She’d never been in one of those stupid high school movies before this year—no popular crowd or mean girls—but for some reason, she was living it now. She supposed it was because things were almost too good at home with the Howells and had been for a while.

“This is a senior hall. You should go back where you belong, little girl.”

“Just because I don’t pretend I’m Barbie like your girlfriend does not make me a ‘little’ girl. Emotionally, I’m more mature than any of you.”

“You still don’t belong here. Why don’t you go with the freshmen, huh?”

“Because she’s a junior.”

The jock turned around, laughing. “Well, now, if it isn’t big brother come to protect his baby sister. You gonna pick a fight with me, too, Howell?”

“I’m not a Howell. I’m not her brother, either, but if you don’t move out of the way of my locker, I’ll move you, and you’ll get your fight.”

Candelaria almost groaned. She didn’t know whose brilliant idea it was to have her locker next to Quinn’s, but it had caused her nothing but problems since the school year began. “Just go.”

Quinn gave her a look, and she didn’t care if he included himself in that message. She didn’t understand why he was even there. He hadn’t gone to any of his classes this week, and the Howells had grounded him, but all that meant was that he kept ditching.

“You don’t scare me, girl.”

She rolled her eyes. At least he wasn’t being racist, though that was bound to come up if one of the others started speaking. He was in her Spanish class and kept telling her she should already know this because she was from Mexico, right?

She didn’t know where her parents were from, and she didn’t care. She never had.

Quinn put a hand on his locker. “I’m going to open this right in your face if you don’t move. Last warning.”

The jock grunted. “You don’t scare me, either. Everyone knows you’re all talk and no action. You talk all tough, but you’re not even standing up for your sister. You’re just a coward.”

Candelaria kicked him in the shin. “That is for shutting my locker on my hand. I don’t need anyone to fight for me. I just want to be able to get in and out of my locker without you.”

The jock moved back, cursing her, and Quinn moved in to open his own locker. She picked up her book and started turning the dial, putting her combination in a second time and trying not to curse as she did.

She didn’t even realize she’d said anything until Quinn responded to her “thanks for nothing.”

“Like you need me to fight your battles. Or wanted it.”

She pushed her calculus book into her locker and sighed. “I don’t, but I wish you’d stop making it so tense at home. They’re only worried about you, you know. It’s not like they’re really trying to hound you every second.”

He put a hand on her door, leaning against the lockers. “I told them three years ago that I had no interest in their lies, and I still don’t. Just be glad that by the end of this year, I’ll be eighteen. I won’t be anyone’s problem soon enough.”

She reached up, putting her hand next to his. “You are only a problem because you constantly make yourself one.”

“Yeah, well, the three of you—you’ve got the good two shoes roles more than filled, don’t you?” He said, prying her fingers off the locker and shutting it. “Tell them I don’t plan on coming home all weekend, will you?”

“You are such a jerk.”

He smiled, adjusting his backpack on his back as he turned to leave. She shook her head, but then he said something to the jocks and they jumped him, knocking him back against the other set of lockers. She cursed. Yeah, sure, he’d be gone all weekend—because he was going to put himself in the hospital again, the idiot.

“You need to lose to a girl again or what?”

“Aw, is little sis going to protect the big brother now?”

“He’s not my brother. My brother is younger than me—which is why I always have to fight dirty,” she said, hoping she sounded more convincing than she thought she did. She wasn’t like Quinn. She didn’t even fight with Beacan.

Quinn used her distraction to nail the jock, punching him right in the face. The jock covered his nose, cussing up a storm. Candelaria figured he’d gotten what he deserved, and Quinn must have, too, because he started to walk away from the others.

“That is it, Lockard! You’re suspended.”

Turning back to the principal, Quinn laughed. “I haven’t been here all week. You think that’s really going to bother me?”

“I don’t know why they bother with you. You’re going to end up in jail, and there’s nothing the Howells can do to stop it.”

Candelaria grimaced. She had a terrible feeling that he was right about that, and she didn’t even think Quinn cared.

Tension in the Early Days

Author’s Note: Yeah… I would share every moment that Quinn and Candelaria have, but I think that’s a bit excessive. Still, I wrote one involving the whole locker thing (ugh… I forgot I did that with Cress and Enya in Fire and Water, but this is different, I hope,) and then had to go back and look at this scene, one that’s basically their first meeting.

Quinn is such a brat, but I like him. I shouldn’t, but I do.

Tension in the Early Days

“They’re not our parents. I refuse to call them that.”

Candelaria rolled her eyes, wondering how much trouble she’d get in if she shoved the older boy off the balcony. She didn’t know how long he’d been on the streets, but he didn’t impress her any. He was just like the others, trying to make people think he was tougher than he was. He’d have them believing that he didn’t care about any of this, didn’t need it, but he was an idiot if he really believed that. This house was the nicest she’d been in since the accident, and she knew that it wasn’t just about the house. They all had their own rooms, they had clothes that fit and plenty of food, but the most important thing was that the people here were good people.

Most of them, at least. She didn’t think very much of this kid, but she liked her new foster parents. They’d taken her and her brother in, and she knew that she’d always be grateful for that. She’d started to believe that she’d lose her little brother forever. No one wanted kids their age in the first place, and they didn’t want two of them. They’d been passed over time and time again because they had begged not to be separated.

These people had room, and they shared it. She didn’t know why, but she did know that she was grateful. That boy should be, but he had confused being rude with being tough.

“And I don’t have any siblings.”

She folded her arms over her chest. “As if anyone would want to be related to you. Not only would we have to put up with your personality, but we’d get stuck looking like you, too.”

He grunted. “Sometimes it’s a good thing not to be attractive. Bet you don’t know anything about that, though. How’d you make it through that group home and come out so innocent anyhow?”

“I don’t know. What crawled up your butt and died?”

“Candelaria! I know you two are adjusting to being members of the same house now, but that is not the kind of talk we want under this roof,” Mrs. Howell said, and Candelaria winced, not wanting to seem ungrateful, not like the boy she’d been ready to hit.

“Sorry, Mrs. Howell.”

“You don’t have to be so formal. You can call me anything—including Mama if you feel comfortable with it,” the older woman said, smiling. Her eyes always seemed so warm, and that bit of gray by her forehead was kind of pretty somehow. “I came to tell you that supper is ready. Your brother and sister have set the table, so all you have to do is come eat with us.”

That was one of the rules—everyone ate together. Candelaria liked it. “Okay.”

“I’m not hungry. And they are not my brothers and sisters.”

Mrs. Howell turned to the boy, walking out to where he stood, defiant, and Candelaria wondered if the woman would try to spank him. He was a bit old for it, but he deserved it.

He drew back when she tried to touch his face. “I know you have never known a home or a mother, and I’d like to—”

“Just send me back. Everyone does. It’ll save you time and a lot of headaches. I don’t do anything right, I can’t learn that school stuff, and I don’t like people. I told them not to try and place me again, but I’m just a kid so no one listens to me. I don’t belong in anyone’s ‘home,’ and I don’t want a mother.”

Mrs. Howell managed to catch him the second time, her hand going under his chin. “Well, you’ve got one now, and we’ll just see if you don’t belong here because I think you do. You don’t have to eat with us tonight. If you get hungry, you’ll have to help yourself from the fridge—but you won’t be able to heat any of it. No stove and no microwave, understood?”

He nodded, pushing her hand off his face. “Not that I don’t know how to use them, but I told you—I’m not hungry.”

She sighed, and Candelaria followed her as she left the room, glancing back at the boy with a frown. “Why are you letting him get away with acting like a brat?”

“If someone had put drugs in my food in the past, I wouldn’t want to eat what someone else gave me, either. I don’t know that he’ll ever trust us enough to eat with us, but that has to be his choice.”

Candelaria bit her lip, her eyes going back to him again, but this time, he wasn’t there.

Still Not Family

Author’s Note: Periodically, I have scenes I do that I am particularly proud of. Sometimes I am just in love with the banter or I adore the fluff or it’s the perfect unveiling of a twist I’m proud of.

Sometimes I have no idea why I’m proud of it. I just set out to explore the dynamic between Quinn and Candelaria as part of a larger arc I’m still toying with, this scene that has been knocking around my brain for a while, and I’m not sure why it’s so key, but it matters.

Or that’s all insomnia talking and sharing this now is a bad idea, but the publish button is nice and shiny and I don’t have the proper judgment to stop myself. 😛

Still Not Family

“I told you to get out.”

“No, you told Mrs. Howell to get out. I’m not Mrs. Howell.”

Quinn frowned, rolling over to look at Candelaria. He didn’t understand what she was doing here or how she’d gotten in. He knew the door hadn’t opened, but he’d figured that Mrs. Howell hadn’t left when she closed it. Now, though, he didn’t know what to think. She hadn’t been with Mrs. Howell when she checked on him, and she couldn’t have stayed in when the woman ushered the other kids out of his room. She couldn’t have—had she come in his window? Was she insane?

“Same goes for you. I don’t want you here.”

She climbed onto the bed. “When our parents died, Beacan… He couldn’t deal with it. He didn’t want to act like anything had happened. It was really messing him up.”

He shrugged. “What’s your point? I don’t care about your sob story, and you know it. I never asked for it, and I don’t want it. I can plug my ears and start humming, but you know what? This is my room. Get out. Now.”

She shook her head. “Whatever had you screaming earlier isn’t going away. You need to let yourself deal with it. Pretending it didn’t happen isn’t an option. You know that.”

“I know you’re a nosy brat and I want you out of my room.”

“Come on. Since when you scream about anything? You had four boys attack you at school, one of them broke your ribs, and you didn’t scream. You fell off the roof and didn’t scream. You didn’t scream when the police arrested you for vandalism, and you never scream when you have a nightmare. What was that?”

Quinn turned away from her, wrapping his arms around himself as he tried not to think about anything—not what had made him cry out or any of what she’d just listed off. He didn’t want to remember any of that. “A flashback.”


“Don’t ever take drugs, okay? And if you do, make damn sure it’s not acid. LSD. Whatever you want to call it. Don’t take it.”

“I wouldn’t.” She shook her head. “I also never thought that you would. You’re a pain in the ass, and you talk tough. You don’t back down from fights, and you mouth off to everyone, but you don’t smoke, even if you carry cigarettes with you. You don’t drink even when Mr. Howell offers it to you.”

“Didn’t have a choice.”

“Oh. Mrs. Howell told me someone drugged your food, but I didn’t realize it was that kind of a drug. I was thinking poison or a sleeping pill.”

He tried not to shudder. “Sometimes I wish it had been either one of those things.”

“Why is acid so bad?”

“I… I don’t know what really happened while I was on it. What I saw… They call stuff like what happened to me a ‘bad trip.’ It… I saw a monster… It sounds stupid, but I was high and didn’t know it, and it scared the hell out of me.”

The bed shifted as she crawled over to him, wrapping her arms around him. He stiffened, trying to pull away from her, but she had her hands locked and wouldn’t budge. “Get off of me.”


“The hell is wrong with you?”

“It’s not wrong with me. It’s wrong with you,” she said, leaning her head against his. “You’re acting just like Beacan, and I don’t have a choice—this is what I did for him, and I’m going to do it for you so that you can heal a bit and stop being such a jerk all the time. Let it out, Quinn. Give yourself a real chance to react to what happened, to what you saw and what you felt.”

He shuddered. Having the flashback was bad enough. He didn’t want this. “I hate you.”

“I don’t care. I don’t like you very much, either. I hate living with you, though, and if this makes you even the slightest bit easier to deal with, I’m going to make sure it happens. Process it for once instead of ignoring it.”

“I am not going to sit here and cry. Crap happens, especially to kids like us. That’s how life works for us. We’re kids in the system.”

“You know we got lucky. The Howells are good people.”

He snorted. “You’re an idiot. I’ve been in the system all my life, and I’ll be back in it soon enough. People like the Howells just get your hopes up and then when you trust them, they take that trust away and crush your hopes like you’re nothing. That’s how it works.”

“No. We’re done with that. We’ve got the Howells, and if all the stunts you’ve pulled lately haven’t made them send you back—which you do deserve because you’re trying to make it happen—you’re the idiot—it’s not going to happen.”

“Yeah, well, the last time I thought things were good in one of these foster homes, I got my usual wake up call. No, it was worse than the rest of them. At least the one was obvious about it. Getting knocked around isn’t that hard to take when you know it’s coming. Having drugs slipped into your food and having no idea what they did to you while you were on them… that’s different.”

She brushed back some of his hair, letting out a breath. “You know… since you hate me and I hate you, it’s not going to change my opinion of you if you do cry a little. I would if something like that had happened to me.”

He grunted. “I’m a dumpster baby. I stopped crying years ago.”

The words were braver than he was. He broke down after every acid flashback, and he hated himself for it. He didn’t want anyone to see it, but she’d come in and stayed, and he didn’t know what to do to make her leave.

“You’re still not my sister. We’re not family.”

“Heaven forbid,” she said, and he could hear the eye roll in her voice even if he couldn’t see it. “Go back to sleep, Quinn. You’re not alone this time.”