Author's Note: holaa. the name is fig, if you hadn't noticed already. and i've posted this before, but i'm trying to get around to editing it and figured if i receive a little feedback maybe i'll feel more..idk encouraged to finish it. so yes this is it. and it actually originally spanned from a Suite Life of Zack and Cody fanfiction that is currently up to it's sequel over at but yes it did, and no the characters Dylan & Cole are not Dylan & Cole Sprouse. it's just...idk sort of a tribute. I may change the names...i'm not sure yet. anyway that's all. read and review yes?

Protect Me…

By : Fig

Chapter One:

Lyssa

"We're here."

My teeth meet with my bottom lip, biting it harshly. This room, in this house – er apartment. You can't call it a house. A gentle squeeze on my hand has me turning to my right.

Cole.

I try to smile up at him, but my brain has long since forgotten how. I feel another arm descend around my shoulders.

Dylan.

They're two years older than I; two years older and two inches taller.

Two.

There're a lot of twos around here. Two twins, two years, two inches. Two. But there's one set of two we don't have. Two loving parents, that's what we're missing. My mom's standing behind me but my daddy…My daddy's in jail. He's in jail for abuse; for two years. See? Lots of twos.

My eyes swivel across the room as I walk about it, slowly taking it all in. They land on Mama's china cupboard shoved roughly back in a corner- now just collecting dust. She used to have fancy dishes and all sorts of good stuff in there. But daddy broke it that night, the night he broke me.

I sit down on my cot, running my fingers across the edge of the tattered sheet. I feel like crying, but I can't. I know I can't. There's no more tears left.

Mama's staring at me. For a minute I think she's going to run up and smack me so hard my head spins, her gaze is so cold and numbing. But she doesn't. Daddy hurt her too. He hurt all of us.

I force my gaze to leave Mama and venture over to Cole. Cole was always there, when Daddy got mad, especially that night. I close my eyes and for a minute I can feel his arms holding me back. I flinch as I remember how he pushed Cole away. I hear Dylan screaming and then nothing. I don't remember after that.

I hear footsteps and my eyes flash open. Dylan sits next to me and wraps his arms around me. My head rests on his chest, listening to his heart beat steadily. He'd tried. They'd both tried.

Mama turns her back on us and saunters to the kitchen. There's only two rooms. One bedroom and one kitchen for the four of us. Cole and Dylan and Mama and me. Daddy doesn't live here anymore. Daddy lives in a jail cell.

I flinch as I hear banging coming from the kitchen. Cole twists his mouth. Mama isn't cooking anything. There's nothing to cook and we all know it.

The banging ceases after a while and in its place comes scuffling sounds across the part dirt-part tile kitchen floor. Mama appears at the door, crisp dollar bills in her hand.

She waves us over.

"Go get dinner," She instructs us sharply, pressing the money into Cole's hand, "Now."

We nod quickly and hurry out of the apartment, knowing well enough not to question where she got the money.

There's a lot of shouting in the hall and sounds of metal banging on metal. Cole and Dylan reach for my hands instinctively.

Smoke fills the air outside. Grown-ups stare at us as we pass and teenagers laugh at us. Children are playing in the ashes- children like us, children in despair.

I shiver involuntarily and pull my ripped sweater tighter around me, cautiously letting go of Cole's hand. He grabs for it again, giving me a look like,

I'm not letting you go.

It doesn't take us long to reach the diner two blocks away. Why they decided to put a diner out here I'll never know. Cole yanks open the door with his free hand, holding it for us. My eyes pause on his as I pass him.

The diner's warm. A soft glow from the lamp above illuminates the crowded room. We find a booth near the door and slide in. I glance at the money in Cole's hand.

Five dollars.

Sometimes, when Mama doesn't feel like cooking- which is pretty much all the time- she gives us a dollar or two and lets us go somewhere else to eat, if she has the money which she almost never does. But I know better than to confront her on where she got it. I'd get it bad for that.

The waitress walks over and greets us warmly. We order a couple hamburgers and French fries and milk to share.

When our order arrives, we eat without speaking. There's nothing to say.

Cole brushes his blonde hair out of his blue eyes. Chaney. That's what all the Chaney children, as we've been dubbed by nearly everyone in the apartment, look like. I glance down at my own hair, which settles nicely on my shoulders. It used to be down to my waist, but they cut it. They cut it when I was in the hospital.

Dylan smiles across at me, a small smile, but a smile nonetheless. Hope's written all over it. Hope for what? Hope for us.