Miserable. That didn't begin to describe thirteen-year-old Leonardo Lester Stellar. Even though he had been rescued from his vile captor, the torturing he had been put through was continued. His captor haunted him. Everywhere he turned, her eyes were there, or her cold hands were on him. She had butchered him, cut his hair to humiliate him, and touched him inappropriately to further humiliate him.

His horrifically slashed arms had been bandaged; his hair had grown out a little but remained in uneven spiked tufts; and his dignity lay at his feet like broken glass.

Week four after the incident, Leonardo lay in his bed, facing the wall with his back to the door, his tears finally running dry. His dry throat wouldn't allow him to croak another sob either. He simply remained there.

Once beautiful and glittering, his copper eyes were wide with fear and horror as they had been the day of the incident. They stared at the wall, but they weren't exactly focused. It was almost as though he was looking through the wall. Into a world that was unreal. The emotions scarring his eyes would make one assume he was looking into the bowls of hell itself.

His door creaked open, but the young blonde didn't flinch.

A voice as gentle as a dove yet as stern as a drill sergeant called out to him. "Leo... Sweetheart..."

Leo blinked. Considering the amount of movement that he had been doing for the past four weeks, blinking was a real improvement.

The owner of the voice sat behind him on his bed and slowly, cautiously laid a hand on his shoulder. It was one of the few places on him that didn't scream with pain, and the hand was so gentle, so soft, and so comforting...

"Baby, we've given you time...but you have to get up," the voice's owner, his mother, said, "You need to go back to school... And your brother...you need to talk to him. He's been worried sick."

Leo closed his eyes this time. Talking to his brother was something he would have considered-but school? He wasn't ready for that yet.

The annoying voice in the back of his head that always spoke the truth demanded, "When will you be ready?"


Eleven-year-old Mason Francis Stellar was the son of the famous medical and mechanical prodigy, Grayson Stellar. He was also cousin to the invisible-to-the-world, troubled boy, Leonardo Stellar. Taking after his genius father, Mason had skipped a couple grades and now shared every class with his cousin. The teachers wouldn't dare separate the duo. They worked perfectly together and never caused a disturbance. Mason and the old Leo, that is.

The old Leo was a bright and charming young boy who always knew how to make a person look up despite how low they were in their problems. He was friendly, more than willing to help, and a team player.

The new Leo was quite different. His attire consisted of a large, black hoodie that he used to cover up his bandaged arms, his messy hair, and his shattered pride. Trudging instead of walking with a purposeful stride, he would stare at the ground with a grim, unwelcoming expression on his face. He wouldn't speak either. And if he did, it was the minimum. Mainly, he grunted.

Did this stop Mason from sticking at his favorite cousin and best friend's side? Surely, not. It only adhered the Mason tighter to him.

The black hoodie wouldn't have bothered Mason who preferred the gothic taste in clothing, except for the fact that it clearly symbolized how shut away and depressed Leo was.

Mason vividly recalled the horrific incident. Leo had only been missing for a few hours, and it wouldn't have caught Mason's attention if it hadn't been for Conrad, Leo's younger brother. Ten-year-old Conrad Stellar had raced up to Mason with panic clear in his eyes as he informed his older cousin that Leo had been kidnapped right before his eyes. The goth had immediately decided to tell their parents, but Conrad had stopped him, informing him of the threats Leo's captor had made if they brought their parents or the authorities into this.

So the two had gone solo to rescue Leo. Mason had monitored the security cameras and had been in charged of keeping the eyes of Leo's captor and her attack dogs off Conrad. The two had been frantic and unorganized but successfully pulled off the mission. Forever burned into his memory was the image of Conrad struggling to drag his brother's gruesomely bloody body out of that warehouse...

Leo slouched to the point that he was hunched over and kept his head down as he and Mason walked to school. Behind them, Conrad lagged behind sadly.

The glasses-wearing goth wanted to start a conversation, but the silence held just too much of an awkward fog for him to form the right statement.

"Uhhh...so...Leo?" was the intelligent statement Mason uttered.

Leo's response was a sharp grunt. It was hard to tell if this grunt was dismissive or prompting him onward. Either way, Mason planned to go on.

"You...feeling any better?"

Another grunt.

"Give me more than that, Leo," Mason said impatiently.

Not a grunt was made that time. Instead, Leo shoved his hands into his pockets and his head dropped lower. Mason sighed dejectedly and just decided to shut up for the rest of the walk.


"Leo. No hoods on in class." His homeroom teacher, Mrs. Patricks, had interrupted her teaching to look to the back corner of the room where the boy sat and point out this rule.

Leo didn't make any move to take his hood off. Sitting at the front of the room, Mason stifled a groan and felt a pang of sympathy toward his cousin.

A more stern tone used, Mrs. Patricks clarified. "Take of your hood, Mr. Stellar."

Heads turned to see what the big deal about Leo taking his hood off. Leo scowled and pulled his hood back reluctantly, revealing the spiky mess of hair that remained from the incident.

Whispers flew through the classroom like a wave, and several chuckles reached Mason's ears. The goth clenched his fists and glanced back at his cousin who had sank lower in his seat. Mason had the desire to snap at the teacher, "Are you happy?"

Mrs. Patricks, surprised, continued with her lesson. As she spoke though, she spared a few glances at the blonde in the back of the room.


After the final bell, Mason made his way out of Mrs. Patricks' room and into the hallway. His eyes skimmed over the crowd searching for either spiked blonde hair or a black hood.

Leo was the last to leave. Having waited for him, Mason walked with him through the halls.

"Um... Sorry about what happened in class." Mason tried expressing his sympathy.

A grunt his answer, Leo sped up, making it quite clear that he wanted to separate himself from Mason. And every other person on the planet.


So many things were available to him. His father practically had an armory in his closet. The knives were in the kitchen. He had total access to a tower not too far from his home. His parents had entrusted him with a gun of his own. Being the firstborn of the 3rd Stellar Generation, he was entrusted with many things. Including the responsibility of defending his brother and cousins.

Leo hurled his bookbag onto the floor of the foyer on entry to his home. The copper bowls that were his eyes held so many fervent emotions-fear that would never leave him, anger toward everyone around him because they just didn't understand, and a strong desire for a release. Or an end.

His first stop was the kitchen. The third drawer to his left held the kitchen knives. He slowed down a bit and reached hesitantly for one of the knives. The drawer, he closed slowly once he had selected a knife. Then, it was up to his room with him. He climbed up the stairs holding the knife at his side so tightly his knuckles were white, and his hand was shaking.

That annoying voice surfaced again, "What are you doing? Put that down!"

He ignored it completely this time. Once and for all, he would be ending his pain, ending his torment, ending his fear.

Not bothering to lock it, Leo closed his bedroom door behind him. He stared at the knife's blade with the same transparent look he had given the wall just the day before. After zoning out for a solid seven minutes thinking over his life, over this decision, over this end, he raised the knife shakily to his neck. As he was about to slash the blade across his neck, his door was opened.

"Leo! My god-put that down!"

Leo didn't turn to face his cousin. Instead, he closed his eyes and struggled to steady his hand.

"Th-think about what you're doing, Leo... You don't really have to do this..."

Sinking deeper in his silence, Leo tightened his grip on the blade's handle and closed his eyes tight, determined to actually do the deed this time.

"Leo, please! Don't do it, man."

The blonde picked up on the trembling fear in Mason's voice. It suddenly hit him-he couldn't do this.

The hand holding the blade opened, and the weapon clattered to the floor. His legs gave out from under him, and he dropped to his knees. Mason was on him in a flash. Kicking the blade as far away as he could, Mason knelt beside the cousin that he had come so close to losing one to many times. He wrapped his arms around Leo securely offering what comfort he could.

Leo, for the first time since the incident, choked out shakily, "I-I can't take it... Ma-ason, I just can't..."

Mason said fervently, "You can-Leo, I've seen you. You're strong. The strongest person I know. You can whether this storm."

"Mason," Leo cried quietly, "Y-you just don't understand...what it's like...this pain..."

Tightening his grip around him, Mason gathered the best words he thought he could offer, "Leo...if your still alive after all you've been through...there's gotta be a reason... There's just gotta."

That's my message to all you who are depressed, considering suicide, or have tried suicide:

If you're still alive after all you've been through, there's got to be a reason.

There is a reason-believe me. There's always a reason.

Even if you're buried up to your neck in crap, if you're still alive, you can make it out. You just gotta start diggin'.