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
“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.”
“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.”