TUESDAY 11TH APRIL, 2016. 4:08 PM

The rusty hinges of the time and weather worn door creaked loudly as Randy slowly pushed it open, the squeaking dashing any hope he might have had of quietly slinking back into his room without alerting his mother to his presence. He staggered in, his head pounding and his body weak. Rubber soles dragged along the carpet lined on the floor of his corridor as he shuffled in, pulling the door behind him shut. He winced at the squeaking again, and then relaxed at the soft thud of the door slamming against the doorframe.

"I'm home!"

The interior color scheme of his home was predominantly a dull, dirty shade of what was once bright-yellow. The corridor had three doors on the right and two on the left, all- except the opening to the kitchen, which was just a few inches away from the door- at the far end. A generator set stood dismantled at the end of the corridor, next to a barely used water dispenser, both serving no other purpose than to gather dust. He gave it a weary glance before pushing open the door to his room and flicking on its light switch. The unmade bed was the first thing he set his eyes on, laundry strewn and piled on its surface. There was a blanket buried somewhere underneath all the clothes, he was sure of it. A familiar scent filled his nostrils and he inhaled deeply. Upon his exhale, a flood of relaxation cooled his body. He slipped his bag off his shoulder, shifted a pile of clothes to the side, and sank into the softness of his bed, closing his eyes as relief washed over him.

It really had been a long day.

Cassidy and Daphne had been insistent that he told them what was up; and, he should have done exactly that. Common sense should've kept him from feeding them a lie about doing laps in the gym in an attempt to replicate the vision Cass had told him about and telling them the truth instead; it should've had him report what had happened in the gym to a teacher, or the principal. Lying on the bed, his mind temporarily unburdened, he noticed the absence of the gnawing presence in the back of his head that had coerced him to hide the truth in the first place. He chalked his rash behavior up to the adrenaline rush and promised to tell them the next day.

He turned over in bed, his agitation increasing. Steadying his breathing to calm himself, he thought of the new superpowered highschooler Cass had discovered: Alejandro.

He didn't know much about Al. The boy had managed to stay relatively off Randy's radar, especially after his involvement in the protest that had happened a year ago: A teacher- Randy didn't really remember who it was- had failed a bunch of students because of a personal vendetta. The students didn't take the matter lying down, obviously. After weeks of unanswered complaints, the victims protested. Alejandro was one of those victims, and Randy never heard much about him again.

It was obvious that neither of the girls had bought the story, he let himself think. He had given to many slip-ups to the fact that he wasn't telling the truth: Avoiding eye contact, going out of his way to keep away from Cass. Considering how good a liar he had been on numerous occasions before, though none of the previous situations had been as stressful as that, he had to wonder if he had intended to let the signs slip on purpo-.

He frowned, opening his eyes.

Someone in the house had said his name, and it hadn't been his mom. He slowly pushed himself off the bed, eyebrows still furrowed in suspicion. The person spoke again. Maleā€¦ Familiar. He sat up, letting his legs dangle over the side of the bed, knocking over an empty can of soda. Concentrating on listening in on what was going on in the other rooms wasn't exactly simple, seeing as the bustle of the city just beyond the four walls and a roof they lived in never seemed to settle down, but he could manage well enough. He closed his eyes again and took another breath. There were two people talking: His mom and the man. They were arguing. It wasn't heated, but the tension in their voices was noticeable.

Without warning, the image of the dead woman flashed into his mind. Red ooze seeped from her wound, leaving a smudged streak as her body was being dragged. Her eyes stayed fixated on him. Randy felt vomit rush up his throat and he immediately doubled over, throwing up his lunch onto the floor. The can of soda and a stray shirt took most of the putrid assault, but his carpet still got a good measure of semisolid chunks sprayed on it, bumping that particular aspect of his room up a few points on his list of priorities. Wiping his mouth clean with the back of his hand, he hopped over the puddle of bile and exited his room.

Walking taxed his body more than he wished to admit, but he pulled through, trudging to the kitchen to get a mouth full of tap water to rinse the taste of vomit away. It worked, but only barely. It was obvious to him that the guilt of keeping a secret that big was what got him sick. He selected a bowl from the cupboard, filled it with water, picked up a rag that had fallen to the ground from its place hung on the burglary proof window and moved back to his room. Then, he stopped before he could open the door and walked over to his mother's room. Her room was bigger than his by a slight margin, and it was much more organized. Going in there always had him inspired to get his room in a better shape than it normally was, but his motivation always departed as he left the room. The room was also one of the exceptions to the yellow color scheme, sporting a light blue hue instead. The color stimulated relaxation in the human mind- or, so Randy had heard in school once- and his mother needed that more than anyone did.

She was, of course, sitting up in bed, her back against the bed rest and the outline of her legs visible from under the duvet. Long, black curls that ended just below her shoulders shifted as she turned to face him. She had an opened book rested on her lap, the page she was on saved from being lost by the finger she had placed on its surface. She loved reading; it was her favorite pastime, seeing as she couldn't really do much else without help. What Randy had walked in on was his mother doing what she usually did on regular evenings, except it wasn't:

His father was in there with her.

The man shifted on his seat at the edge of the bed to look Randy in the eyes, but the teenager forced his gaze to the ground. He didn't want to look at him; that luxury was too good for the man that had abandoned his family for years. Randy still remembered what he was like: Blue eyes; a mess of dark curls crowning his head. He could still smell the permanent stench of alcohol that had served to announce his father's presence in what seemed like so long ago.

"Randy," his father said.

He flinched at the memory of a gloved hand striking his face while his mother begged it to stop.

"Richard," he replied, still avoiding eye contact.

Tension filled silence hung over the room. Randy clenched his fist, nails digging into his palm.

"What," he said, "is he doing here?"

"We were just talking," his mother answered, turning to the disheveled man. Randy gave her a single look and knew she had been crying. Richard knew better than to lay a finger on her anymore, so that alleviated Randy's fears a bit.

"Oh, is that all?"

He turned to leave.

"Randy," Richard began, "I'm not-."

"Save it," the teenager said before he could catch the words. A brief pause was given to consider what he had said and, deciding that any further words relayed would serve no purpose but to escalate the tension, he left the room and went outside.

In an alley, a few blocks away from the house, his fist slammed into a wall. He grunted as he reared it back and struck out again with a burst of rage evidenced by his frustrated shout, barely wincing at the agony his fist was being put through. Adrenaline and anger dictated his actions, dampening the part of his brain that compelled him to stray away from physical pain. He heard something crack upon his third hit and, slowly, he lowered his aching fist. When the adrenaline subsided, the tears threatened to fall.

The man had abused and deserted his family. He didn't deserve a place in that house. Not anymore. His mother; she was all he had. All he really needed. Every night, when Richard was still around, the man would send Randy to his room, drag his mom off into theirs, and they would argue and argue, and argue. He thought it would have gotten better eventually, dreamed even. Then, one night, it just stopped. He was ten. He had gotten out of bed, gone over to their room. He looked through a crack in the door and saw Richard just sitting there, on the bed, as if nothing was wrong. As if the world was perfect the way it was.

There was blood on the bed. Richard didn't see him that night. Randy never fully understood what had happened that night but, he knew, after that incident, his mother wasn't the same again.

Randy's back slumped against the opposite wall in the alley, head shaking as he tried to suppress the memory. He failed, and a single tear streaked down his cheek.

The people passing by that turned to look at him didn't matter. They probably had normal lives; he envied them.

A thin, but noticeable, wisp of smoke floated to the sky from the spot he had punched on the wall. Curiosity pushing the negative emotions away, he pushed against the wall to walk closer. There was a dark blemish around the area; he quickly realized that it was a charred impression of his fist on the worn, red brick. His eyes widened. With trepidation, he reached out with a finger to touch it.

His heart skipped a beat as his phone vibrated in his pocket before he could get a feel. He fumbled to get it out and read the message he had gotten. What he saw made his blood run cold.





A/N: The curse of the late update struck once again, darn it. I would go into a long recap of the couple of days and list all the reasons why I couldn't hit the deadline, but it's mostly college stuff, so it's boring. From now, I'll be updating Saturdays; I have a whole lot more free time to squeeze the ramblings I've written over the week into a barely coherent story on Saturdays.

On another note, The Crusaders: Volume Two is out, and it is living up to it's name. Of course, considering who's writing it, that isn't much of a surprise. I'd like to thank all those who've reviewed, favorited and followed this story. Your input means a whole lot.