End has been edited on 6/15/12

Troy opened his eyes slightly, and then they shot wide open as he scrambled to the corner of his bed. Where the heck am I? Why is it so dark? Where did all these animals come from and why are they staring at me like that? Troy's muscles tensed as he waited for them to attack him, but they didn't move. After a few seconds, he blinked and realized they were toys. Oh yeah. I'm in my room. Sighing, he unclenched his body and checked the time. 1:57. Laying back down, he closed his eyes and rolled over… and over… and over… and over…

Finally, he stopped moving and simply stared at the shadows that the softly glowing holo clouds cast. Eventually, his eyes drooped closed, yet he still couldn't bring himself to dream. After another fifteen minutes, Troy sat up and sighed, rubbing his face. Perhaps some tea will ease his nerves.


Dulani slowly stumbled into the kitchen. He clutched his head, his hangover so painful he couldn't even remember why he decided to get drunk in the first place. He doesn't even like alcohol! Yanking open the medicine cabinet, he noisily shoved around the assortment of drugs until he found the aspirin. Popping open the bottle, he swallowed three pills dry, then thought for a moment and swallowed a fourth. Tossing the bottle back into the cabinet, Dulani jumped and spun around when he heard a mumble. At the sight of a form on the island chair, the man was about to smile until he realized it was the doctor's son, sleeping. He grinded his teeth; now he remembered the reason he'd been drinking!

Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, Dulani grabbed a large knife on the counter and slowly stepped towards the big man. Licking the cold blade, he thought for a moment about the consequences of what he was about to do. Master won't be pleased, that's for sure. His disappointed face would be too much for Dulani to bear so, raising the knife, the man decided to kill himself as well when he was done with his master's precious white boy. He swung down, only to have his wrist grabbed a split second later…


Troy slowly awoke to a wonderful feeling in his neck. Yawning, he grunted, "Let go of my neck, old man." Smiling, the doctor obeyed, stopping his massage to simply rest his hands on the boy's shoulders.

"How did you sleep?" he asked. "Your face was flat against the cold granite."

"Still more comfortable than my bed", Troy chirped, his voice straining as he stood up and stretched. His father looked up at him, eyebrows furrowed.

"Do you want me to get you something firmer? The bed is on the softer side-"

"Don't get rid of it; I just need to get used to sleeping on an actual bed. It's been sixteen years after all", the younger man said, an edge of hostility in his voice. Understanding the warning, the doctor backed away and folded his hands neatly behind his back. Troy wrinkled his nose at him haughtily, but the rude expression was ruined when his stomach growled. His father laughed as he walked to the stove, and Troy struggled to not drool when the man presented him with a plate heaped with French toast.

"Eat to your little heart's content, dear boy. You'll need the energy." The man leaned forward and kissed Troy's cheek tenderly. Then he pouted as he ran his fingers through his thick, gorgeous locks. "You're going to the facility today, correct?"


"Alright, well, be careful… and here." He held up a small card. "I made you a license since you wanted to drive there yourself." Troy smiled as he took it.

"Thank you."

The doctor smiled cheekily and walked away. "Have a nice day, and be sure to wear sunscreen; your skin is still sensitive to light and I hate freckles." With that, he disappeared. Troy's smiled left his face, and he glared mildly at the wall before scrubbing at his hair to eliminate the ghostly remains of the doctor's touch.

After he finished eating, he went upstairs and took a long, steamy shower, then changed into a pair of dark blue jeans and a green turtleneck. Troy cautiously opened the door to his parents' bedroom and peeked in at his mother who was, as usual, sleeping. He walked up to her and kissed her forehead, and the woman awoke. "Jason?" she mumbled.

"Nah, it's me", Troy answered with a soft smile. Sophie opened her eyes and looked at him with furrowed brows a moment before smiling.

"Oh, Troy. Good morning." She yawned and blinked a few times before noticing his clothes. "Where are you going, baby boy?"

"To the city. Do you want anything?"

"No, no, baby. You go enjoy yourself." Sophie sat up and looked down at the man's feet. "Just make sure you wear shoes. I don't want you leaving footprints around like yesterday."

Troy sighed but didn't argue. "Fine. Where's Anais?" Sophie silently pointed to the corner of the room before curling up and going back to sleep. Troy walked up to the crib and looked in, where tiny Anais was sleeping peacefully on top of a bear. Smiling, Troy reached down and stroked her hair, making the infant grunt and smile in her sleep. After bending down to kiss her wrinkled ear, he walked to the cage next to his mother's side of the bed. Pinky, Sophie's ancient and quirky vulture, was staring at herself in the mirror, attempting unsuccessfully to fix the loops of her favorite bow with a claw. Reaching into the cage, Troy quickly fixed it himself and then left the room, not paying any mind when the half feathered beast snapped at him.


I just wanna be okay!

Be okay!


I just wanna-

Esther punched the alarm off the nightstand, but the resulting crash only woke her even more. Groaning, she sat up in her bed and rubbed her eyes. After a few seconds of listening to Ingrid Michaelson some more, she realized that it wasn't her alarm that interrupted her sleep. Blindly snatching up her phone, she answered it with a gravelly, "H'lo?"

"Good morning, my la-la-lovely!" Esther winced at Dave's perky voice.

"What do you want?" she snapped after taking a quick glance at her clock, not caring if she sounded rude. It wasn't the first time he's woken her before six, and he knows she hates that!

"I just love the sound of your manly voice in the morning. It reminds me I'm in good, strong hands", he giggled, making Esther roll her eyes and clear her throat.


"In all seriousness though, I just like hearing your voice when I wake up, even if you're yelling at me." Esther heard the clink of glass and assumed he was eating breakfast. Her suspicions were affirmed when she heard crunching. "So- nom, nom- how'd you sleep?"

"I really hate you sometimes, you know that?" she growled.

"Yeah, but since it's usually in the morning and I'm safe in my own home from your strangling clutches during this time, I don't really mind… Nom! Nom! Crunch! Nom!"

"You sound like a squirrel."

"Does that make you my nutty friend?" He laughed, and Esther couldn't help but chuckle back as she threw off her covers and stood up to stretch.

"Alright, idiot, you got me up. I gotta get ready for work now, so I'll call you later, 'kay?"

"I swear you call me idiot more often than you say my name…"

"Stop giving me reason to call you that then-"

"Woah, woah! I didn't say I didn't like it. Honestly, it's kind of growing onto me, like my favorite wart. Tell me, darling, do you have a favorite wart too? Perhaps on your thumb, like I do?"

"EW!-" Esther was interrupted when Dave burst out laughing.

"I'm just kidding, Es. But now that I've fulfilled my mission of getting a smile-and-or-grimace on your face, I'll let you go beautify yourself. Bye!" The line went dead, and Esther shook her head, smiling. Dave is just so… adorable. Immature and annoying sometimes, yes, but most times his child-like affection was sort of... endearing. Rather reluctantly, she got out of bed to get ready for work.


"Ah, Esther, come here for a sec", Dave called her over as soon as she stepped off the elevator. She walked over to him.


The man uncomfortably tapped his fingers on the desk, unsmiling. "That big guy you hang out with, Jackson, it seems there might be something up with him, but since he and I aren't exactly friends, and you two are practically related, maybe you could talk to him instead, ya know?"

Esther's eyebrows furrowed. "What's wrong with him?"

"I think he might've hurt himself. I don't know if he thinks no one noticed, but that bald head of his had a bleeding lump the size of a second head on it."

"Oh!" Esther hurried to Jackson's office and opened the door without knocking. "Jack?"

The man jumped and quickly hid the ice pack that was pressed against his head. His pained expression became a bright smile. Swallowing the chunk of pepperoni in his mouth, he chirped, "Oh, hi! What brings you here, shawty?"

"Don't try that innocent act on me! What happened?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about", the man said, grinning like the Joker before taking another bite of pepperoni.

"I'm talking about this!" Esther jabbed the bump on his head with a sharp fingernail, and the man winced as he slapped her away.

"Jeez, woman, haven't you ever heard of the word gentle?" Jackson hissed. Then he sighed, eyeing the pepperoni stick for a second before taking a mournful bite and tossing it in the trash. "… It's Chelsea."


"Patient 1274. Your Chelsea. Poor baby's finally gone off the deep end."


Jackson rubbed his face stressfully. "I was with one of my teenage patients, Brian, ya know? I was talkin' with him, and we hear screaming outside the door. Little red just randomly bursts into the room, swingin' a bat she got from who-knows-where while being chased by six nurses holding tranquilizer guns and blankets. At first, the chickadee just runs around the room, beating on the furniture, but when she saw me, she went ballistic! There I was, running from the little nut who was being chased by the even bigger nuts, and I'm screamin' for my life, she's screamin' from craziness, the nurses are screamin' for us to calm down, and Brian- goodness, I love the kid, but let's face it, he's an idiot-, he's just gigglin' and screamin' for the heck of it! As soon as little red heard him, she practically began to froth at the mouth as she ran at him, and I swear, if I hadn't grabbed her right then, she'd have killed the poor noob." He tenderly touched the bump on his head. "Anyway, she attacked me instead, and the nurses were going to tranquilize her, but…"

Esther gasped. "What did they do with her?"

"… O'Harris came in right then with a horrible smile on his face, and… well..." Jackson fell silent again, suddenly finding the paperweight on his desk very interesting.

Esther's jaw set as she grabbed the man's collar. "Spit. It. Out."

"They let him have her. He's taken her to lockdown."

"They can't let him put her in lockdown; she's just a kid!"

"I tried to stop him, Esther, I really did. I even went to the big man… but, you know how everyone's too afraid of that freak to tell him off-"

Esther ran out of the room.


"O'HARRIS!" she hollered when she finally made it to the lockdown floor. There was no reply, but from an open door she heard a cackle that was undeniably the doctor's. "Where is Chelsea?" she yelled at him when she entered the room.

The doctor turned to her, smirking. "You mean this miserable mutt?" He stepped aside and motioned to the girl curled up on the floor. She wasn't restrained in any way, but she didn't touch the doctor, only trembled with her head between her legs. "She isn't nearly as tough as she acts. It's quite disappointing actually."

Esther bent down. "Chelsea, are you-" The girl screamed and backed away when Esther touched her.

"Leave me alone, you monster! You're the worst of them all! I've heard about you; you're gonna KILL ME!" she howled before burying her face in her hands and bawling some more. Esther reached out to her.

"Baby, I'm not going to hurt you! Don't you remember me? It's Esther!"

"No, GET AWAY, you evil, black hearted- Esther?" The girl peeked from between her fingers at the woman. Esther smiled, but Chelsea began to bawl again. "I can't believe you joined their side too."

"What do you mean?" Esther asked worriedly. "Who's side?"

"THEIR side!" Chelsea screamed. "Everyone, even the girls, you've all turned against me! This morning, a lady came into the room with my pills, and I swear she poisoned them! She was lookin' at me with these nervous eyes, cuz she knew I'd guess what she did with them! So I chased her away with the bat that I keep hidden in my secret place, and guess what? A whole army of white coats came after me with guns and sheets; they were going to suffocate me and then shoot me! I tried to run, but they were all over the place and… and…" she gasped for air before glancing at O'Harris. "And then he came… and you… Esther, why would you turn against me?"

"Sweety, I didn't…" Esther reached towards the girl, but quickly retracted her hand when she scratched her.

"DON'T TOUCH ME! All of you, you're all insane and cruel. Esther, you want to strangle me right now, I can see it in your eyes!" Chelsea shrieked, finally removing her hands from her face as she backed away. Her nose was bruised and pouring blood.

Esther stood up and swung at the doctor so fast that he didn't have time to dodge the slap or the one after that. "You HIT a CHILD?"

"Out of self defe-" Esther kicked him, and O'Harris let out a grunt as he sank to his knees. She was about to let out a string of vulgar words at him, until he suddenly began laughing as he looked up at her. "That's exactly what my wife did when I first met her. Of course, I had provoked her… point is, I think you should know I fell instantly in love with her after that." He winked.

"You're a pig", Esther spat, but he responded with giggling.

"She said that too!" He giggled some more, stopping only after Esther ran out of the room. Then, clearing his throat, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.