Singularity -1-

This is something I wrote a few years ago, but never got around to posting. I have since expanded it greatly, and hopefully will continue to do so. Please read and review!

"This is fan fiction for the Whateley Academy series. It may or may not match the timeline, characters, and continuity, but since it's fan fiction, who cares? To see the canon Whateley Stories, check out Whateley Academy at ( http://www.crystalhall.org )"

Singularity

-*-

Andrew read through his history text, as was the practice every day from two to three in the afternoon. He wasn't particularly interested in the Holy Wars, it kind of upset him to think of people killing each other in general. He read on, however, because it was his History period, and Mother expected him to know this material.

He assumed, naturally, that everyone read books and learned at home between six in the morning and five in the evening, just like him. That children should not be allowed outside on their own. Everyone's parents kept their children safe and controlled, just like him. Sometimes he almost resented the way it felt, the unchanging life in the house, felt himself wanting something more, something he couldn't describe because he had no experience. And each time he felt this, he berated himself for it, after all, his parents loved him and wanted only the best for him.

Why would people attack each other, start holy wars and do terrible things to each other? The books didn't explain very clearly, though there was some mention of heresy and heathens and pagans. But what were those, all he knew is that they were different from people like him and his family. But why kill people for being different, did that make them bad? It didn't make any sense, but then he couldn't remember ever reading about a war that did.

He put such thoughts out of his head for a moment. Today was a special day, his thirteenth birthday, and nothing would keep him down for long. Maybe Mother and Father would get him a new telescope, or an encyclopedia CD for his computer! Maybe he could even go to the park, if it wasn't too busy!

Trips to the park had been few and far between, always monitored and always on days when almost no one else was around. But it felt so good to get out now and then, play in the fresh air and sunlight. Some sunlight filtered in the barred, rippled-glass windows, but it just wasn't the same. He couldn't see anything clearly through the glass, just vague shapes and colors, occasional blobs passing across the gray line through the green of the yard below.

Andrew looked down at his body, tall, skinny, gangly even. He was always knocking things over with his elbows and tripping over things. It only started a few months ago, but it was almost like someone switched off his proprioception, and his arms and legs kept wandering around without letting him know. Dad told him it was just him becoming a man. Andrew hoped not. If being a man meant knocking things over the rest of his life, well he didn't really know what he wanted, but that was definitely not it.

He ran a hand through his short-cropped reddish-brown hair, and rubbed his green eyes before checking the clock. It was almost three; he could put his book away and move on to scripture work. He closed the history text and stood up from his desk, only to knock his chair over. When he bent down to pick it up, he backed into his desk and turned around just in time to see the delicate blown glass apple falling from his desk to the hardwood floor. He dove for it, knowing he'd never catch it in time...

But somehow, he did. The apple seemed to slow in its fall, almost coming to a complete stop, mere inches above the floor, leaving Andrew time to land, his hand cupped under it, before it suddenly finished its tumble into his waiting hand. He lay there on the floor, elbow aching where it bounced on the wood, staring at the apple, for several seconds. That was a close call, Mother would have been mad!

"Andrew, have you started your scriptures yet? After you finish them you can play the spelling game!"

He loved the spelling game; it was his favorite computer game. He could beat even the highest levels, though it became challenging when the time limit grew shorter with each word to spell. After all, even a fast typist takes a moment to type "trapanasomiasis" or "soliterraneous." "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilico-volcanoconiosis" still stumped him every time though. Spelling it wasn't so hard, but typing it in a single second was just too much to ask.

"Yes, Mom, I'm starting it right now!" Andrew quickly placed the apple where it belonged, everything had to be JUST SO, and started his work.

-*-

The park was so wonderful! The sun shone brightly in the mid-aftenoon sky, and everything looked sharp and colorful. Andrew played catch with Father, with his *new football* while Mother set up a blanket and picnic foods. Maybe this meant he could start going outside more often, since he was getting older. The football wasn't all that exciting in and of itself, but what it might mean was *exhilarating.* Even with all the cars making noise and fouling the air a little with their pollution, Andrew loved going to the park, and maybe this was a sign he would be going more often!

He'd been watching for people to pass nearby, though Father had picked a mostly secluded area of the park to spend time. Still, Andrew caught glimpses, and for the first time in his life, he noticed that some of them were different. One woman that passed by seemed to have brownish-colored skin, as dark as his new ball. Another had metal bits in his eyebrows, and hair in almost scary spikes on top of his head. Green hair! Mother and Father didn't seem to notice; maybe they thought he wouldn't notice. He never had before after all.

"Andrew, pay attention, you have to spread out your fingers on the lacings when you throw. And when you catch, pull the ball into your middle with both hands. See how I'm holding it?"

Andrew tried to pay attention, but today, something was different. Maybe because it was his birthday, maybe because he had caught the apple and still didn't know how, but he was questioning things. Were there some people who normally had brown skin? why would anyone put metal things in their face? Why, there were even two men walking by just now holding hands, what did that mean? Those and a hundred other questions rolled around in Andrew's head as he threw and caught the ball. Well, dropped more often than caught, but he was trying. The afternoon passed slowly, and Andrew let his thoughts drift as he and Father sat down for a light snack.

"Andrew, it's time to go home. Your mother has to make supper and I still have some work to do." Andrew had no idea what Father did, but that was just another question among many today. He walked home with a slight sulk, making sure his parents could not see. After he washed up, he caught Father upstairs in the hall.

"Can I help Mom with supper tonight? Maybe then I can play a little more outside if I help her get it done faster." It seemed perfectly logical, and yet Mother and Father stared at him like he had grown a second head.

"No, Andrew, that's your mother's job. We all have our jobs, and we must each do our own. Now come on, tonight your job will be to clean the gutters." Andrew tried not to hang his head and sigh.

Andrew's family lived in a two level brick building, connected on both sides by more and more of the exact same structure, like eight houses squeezed together under one roof, spanning the length of a block. Cleaning the gutters meant climbing a twenty foot ladder and scooping out the accumulated muck with gloved hands. It was not a pleasant task, and Andrew wondered if maybe it was some sort of punishment. He knew better than to ask to help Mother do her work, he was a boy and wasn't supposed to do the same things Mother did.

Not that Andrew would complain; that never seemed to help things. The punishments would just become steadily worse and worse until he complied without complaint. He had tested that once, long ago, and spent a week with no computer, sitting gently on a bottom red with marks from a thin flexible stick, aching from holding all of his textbooks piled on his outstretched hands for ten minutes without dropping them, having dropped them the previous four tries.

Compared to that, cleaning the gutters wasn't much of a hardship at all. He trudged downstairs to retrieve the ladder from the maintenance closet.

Half an hour later, standing near the top of the ladder, Andrew scooped a handful of brown sticky foul-smelling muck from the aluminum gutter with a scowl. No one could see his face up here, so he didn't bother hiding his mood. *Splat* went the slime on the cement below, he would have to wash that off with the hose after he was finished.

Andrew never had been much for heights, and the wind up here made the aluminum ladder rattle worryingly against the bricks of the wall. Andrew grabbed the gutter to steady himself, then went back to work. He managed to get the job mostly finished, when a gust of wind shook the ladder like a leaf in a storm. Andrew grabbed for the gutter again, but his slimy gloved hands failed to find purchase.

"AAAAHHHH!" He screamed as he toppled from the ladder, the hard cement rushing up to meet him, but something... changed. It felt odd, like the beginning of a headache but without the pain, and he was floating, slowly drifting toward the ground. He settled on the cement like a feather, his eyes wide in confusion, before a gust of wind hit again, and lifted him up into the air again!

He changed something again, this time he was sure it was him, and he was falling again, this time sideways! And not as fast either, just a little faster than the wind was blowing him in the opposite direction. The ground drifted lazily up to meet him as he fell back towards the ladder.

Just then the front door opened, and Andrew stopped whatever it was he was doing. He landed on his rear painfully, right beside the ladder, as Father stepped outside.

"Andrew, are you alright?!" Concern tinged Father's voice, as he looked up at the ladder, now tipping precariously, and steadied it with his hand. "Be more careful, Andrew, had you fallen from higher up, you might really have been hurt!"

"Yes, Father, I'm sorry, I'll be more careful."

"It's supper time, you can put away the ladder and come in. You can finish the gutters tomorrow."

Andrew put his gloves and the ladder away, noting with disgust that he'd landed his rear right in a pile of muck thrown from the gutter.

-*-

It was late, the last hours of Andrew's thirteenth birthday. And what an odd day it had been. He stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. What had happened? Something had changed about him, something not normal. Something different. Did that mean he was different somehow? Bad, or broken, maybe? Did he need to be fixed somehow, to get rid of it? But he didn't want rid of it. That difference saved his life, what if he needed it to happen again, and it wasn't there? He wondered if maybe it wasn't part of becoming a man, but he'd never seen Father do anything like that. He was pretty sure he would have noticed.

If his parents knew he was different, would they still love him? Would they do to him the things the Christians did in the Crusades? And was being different really wrong in the first place? That woman with the brown skin didn't look like she was evil, but then, how could he tell? The man with the metal in his face had looked kind of scary. But he hadn't been doing anything wrong...

Andrew hadn't done anything wrong, or at east he was pretty sure he hadn't. But he sort of thought Mother and Father might not like him doing whatever he did when he fell. Or when he caught the apple! He'd been taught that being different was evil, but he didn't *feel* evil. Maybe if he just tried not to think about it, it wouldn't happen again.

He didn't want it to, did he? The thought wouldn't leave him alone. Was it so wrong? After all, it had come to him naturally, no pacts with the devil or sacrifices or anything. Was it truly so terrible to be different?

That thought rang in his head like the death knell for everything he had ever known. What if he *could* be different? Obviously people were going about being different outside his home every day, if the people at the park were any example. Maybe his parents wouldn't hate him if he were different.

Sleep eventually claimed Andrew, his dreams haunted by visions of a world radically different from his sheltered little home. Fantasies where green women floated around the dark daylight, and men washed dishes and had babies while women fought wars. Andrew himself dreamed of being a girl, looking much like a younger version of his mother but with purple hair, and somehow, this didn't distress him nearly as much as the rest. A tall man in a blue dress leaned out of nowhere and kissed her-

WHOA. What a weird dream! Andrew was so disoriented, he felt like he was floating. A moment later, he realized he was. Less than 6 inches from his ceiling, blankets draping off of his prone body, he hovered in the air. Perhaps he was still dreaming?

He concentrated, and drifted down to his bed. Well, that didn't prove anything, he could do that in a dream, right? He pinched himself. It stung.

"Andrew, it's time to get up! Your English work is waiting on you!" He didn't waste any more time, weird floating abilities aside, his work had to be done or there would be consequences.

-*-

It finally dawned on him as he read about natural forces in his Science book: he was manipulating gravity! It was impossible, but it made more sense than anything else did. He was somehow changing how gravity affected things. He played with it while Mom did laundry, making his pencil float up and then fall down, then fall sideways. With a little practice, he could make it fall, and change direction, and again, and again, until he had it flying in a fast circle.

"What the hell are you doing!?" Mother stood in the doorway. The pencil fell to the desk so hard if left a dent in the wood, and the pencil shattered into splinters and graphite dust.

"Mom! I didn't know you were there! I'm sorry, I won't do it again-" Before he even finished the sentence, she was dragging him by the ear out the door. In minutes, they were in the car on the way to church.

"Don't worry, Andrew, no demon will possess my son! I'll take you to Reverend Marshall and he'll cleanse you of the evil infecting you!" Mother was small, only five feet and three inches tall, but she had the kind of attitude that makes you do *exactly* as you're told, before you realize you're doing it. Andrew inherited his reddish brown hair from her, and his green eyes. Father had gifted him with the thin, lanky frame.

"But Mother, I don't feel possessed! It's just something that happened yesterday." He was crying, he saw what they did to people in his church that were possessed, it looked like it hurt a lot. And worse, it couldn't do any good, he'd read about demons in scriptures, and he'd never seen anything of the sort, so he *couldn't* be possessed!

"It's not normal, only demons can do evil magic like that, so Reverend Marshall will make it go away."

Shortly, they arrived at the church, a small building in a clean, neat section of the city, with a big cross hanging over the door. Andrew imagined it was the Sword of Damocles, hanging over him by a thread, which Reverend Marshall might soon cut.

His Mom rushed inside, dragging him along.

"Reverend, come quick! Andrew is possessed, you have to save him!"

Reverend Marshall rushed out of his office, clad in his ceremonial robes; perhaps he never took them off. He stood an impressive six feet plus tall, and his shape suggested massive muscles under those robes. He hurried over and grabbed Andrew's wrist.

"Hurry, woman, what makes you think he is possessed by devils? Is he speaking in tongues? I do not smell the evil stench of sulfur, and his skin does not burn." Andrew could almost thank the reverend for pointing out so many things against the idea, if not for the fact that it sounded as if he were encouraging Mother to claim these things about Andrew.

"I found him making a pencil fly around his desk! It is black magic, Reverend, you have to get the demons out before they damn my son!"

Reverend Marshall nodded harshly, and carried Andrew to the very same red-draped altar that four days a week became crowded with people from their church's congregation, crying and praying and poking their hands with the sharp nails kept lying on top of it. Reverend Marshall picked him up and set him on it. Andrew couldn't help crying, and started to struggle.

"Hold him still, woman, the demon makes him struggle, and he may become much stronger!" Reverend Marshal went into his office while Mom held me down.

"Mommy, please, I'm not possessed, really! It's nothing, I promise I'll be good, I won't do it again-" Mom just held him down in spite of his struggles, and then something cold splashed on his face.

"In the name of the Holy Trinity, cast off your wicked ways! Any foul demon that infests this child, begone, for this is holy ground! Let the pure water blessed by God wash away the stench of corruption!" Andrew continued struggling and crying, he knew he wasn't possessed, but no one would listen to him! The cold water got in his throat as he cried, and made him cough. He felt like he was going to drown, and the preacher wouldn't stop splashing him from the bottle.

The large, delicate glass bottle suddenly jumped out of the Reverend's hand, flying up to the ceiling to shatter into a hundred pieces, leaving a sizable dent in a roof beam. The water splashed, but upwards, none of it dripped down on Andrew.

Reverend Marshal took this as a sign. "The boy is possessed, see how he fights the cleansing water! But it is not enough, this demon is too powerful. He must be driven out by pain, by the pain our Lord Jesus suffered!"

The Reverend was in a frenzy, and before Andrew knew what was happening, had shoved a nail through each hand, right where the Jesus on the crucifix had been nailed up. Andrew screamed, it stung like nothing he had every felt, and burned, he was sure he could feel the sharp nails rubbing against bone and tendon.

Andrew writhed in pain, trying to move, but Mother held him in place easily. Moments later, the preacher shoved something on his head that hurt too, it scratched his forehead and the scratches burned like barbed wire, but it seemed minor compared to the pain in his hands.

"We may have to burn the demons out, they are very strong. Hold him still, I'll have to pierce his ribs with a hot iron." Andrew couldn't see very well through his tears, but his Mom never once relaxed her grip.

Andrew was so scared he couldn't think, but then something happened in his head, just like when he fell from the ladder. All the pews, the altar, Mother and the Reverend fell up. Andrew watched in surprised as the world turned upside down for a moment, then back again, and everything was lying on the floor again, except in total disarray. The Reverend and Mom lay in a heap on the floor, and Andrew was floating again.

He yanked the nails out of his hands, one at a time, screaming in pain again both times. Then he pulled the scratchy thing from his head, it scratched his hands too, and at a glance he identified it as thorny branches wrapped several times in a circle. His hands felt slippery with blood, and something warm dripped into his face, but he tried to ignore it. He couldn't go through this. He wasn't a demon; he was the same person he'd always been! His parents had to have been wrong. Maybe about everything. He started running, not caring where, just running as fast as he could. He heard shouts behind him, and drove himself to run faster, shoving past people on the sidewalks, faster than he had ever moved in his life.

-*-

Everything looked scary. Neon signs advertised live nude dancers, people in strange black outfits with chains and leather and motorcycles seemed to be everywhere, girls dressed in almost nothing... He was going to be killed walking around here!

One girl wearing a see-through top and a skirt that didn't even cover the bottom curves of her rear caught his eye for a moment, and in his distraction he bumped into someone and bounced hard enough to land on his own rear.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" He stood up again, trying to hide his hands and turned to run, when a strong arm caught him by the shoulder.

"Hold on kid, I ain't gonna hurt ya. Are you okay? What happened to your hands? Your face is all scratched up too!" It was a woman's voice, and she sounded concerned, not angry, so Andrew stopped trying to run and turned to look.

Big was the first word that came to mind. She stood perhaps five inches taller than him, and he could see muscles rippling in her arms as she held his shoulder and dusted him off. The next thing he noticed was the vast array of metal stabbed through her face. Little rings hung from her eyebrows, a spike from her lower lip and more rings from the upper, even rings in her nose! She cupped his hands tenderly.

"Who did this to you, kid? Fuck. Don't worry, I'll help you, you gotta clean this up before it gets infected. God damn, kid, someone did a number on you. How they missed the bones and ligaments I don't even know."

"Andrew, ma'am, my name is Andrew Harding. Thank you for your concern, but I don't want to impose, I-" He was kind of scared, the woman was even scarier when she was angry. But she had an authoritative way about her he had trouble resisting.

"No way, you're comin' with me, you look scared shitless and I wouldn't feel right leavin' you hurt and scared alone in the street. My shop's right over there. So, who you runnin' from, Andrew? Your parents, the police?"

"No, Ma'am, umm, well... I'm not possessed!" Andrew cried, his hands hurt, and he didn't want this woman to think he was possessed too, she might take him back for the exorcism...

"Never said you were, kid. And stop calling me ma'am, it makes me feel old. Name's Deb." She led him to a store called "Pin and Ink," he thought it must be a stationery store, but the name was misspelled.

"Okay, kid, don't worry, I see a lot of this kinda thing." She smiled like she was telling a joke, but Andrew didn't understand, so he just nodded. "Now, this may sting a little, but it will keep those wounds from getting infected. Looks like someone tried to start you out with an eight gauge needle, huh?"

Andrew stared at her like she was speaking in tongues.

"No, the preacher poked nails into my hands. He was trying to drive out the demons, but I'm not possessed. I can just, do things."

"Oh, you can do something unusual and your church thinks you're evil, huh? Well, listen, ain't nobody gonna stick you with anything here 'less you ask 'em to." She wrapped gauze around his hands gently and taped it in place. "Listen, I don't wanna freak you out or nothin', but if you need a place to lay low, I got a spare bedroom in the back. Kid like you could get in real trouble wandering the street. Now, what about your parents, if you go home, will they take you back to that church?"

"Mother's the one that took me this afternoon. She would take me back. Father... He would take me back too. I can't go home..." Andrew felt the weight of what he was saying, he couldn't go home. Everything he knew was gone. But if he did go back, they would hurt him more, stab him, burn him, maybe until he died. That had happened before in the church, everybody had been very sad but it didn't change anything.

"Do you mean it? Can I stay here? I... I have no where else to go."

-*-

"So, this is your shop? Pin and Ink, I thought it was a stationery store. This looks more like an art studio. Do you sell art?" Deb stared at Andrew for a moment like she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"Andrew, this is a tattoo parlor. I do tattoos and piercings, and even some scarification and branding." Andrew returned the stare, as the meaning of those words slowly became clear to him.

"You mean, you draw pictures with ink on people, permanently? And... stab things into them? And they PAY for that?"

"Hey, now, don't you even start judging me or my clients, kid. You don't got the slightest clue. Don't knock it till you try it."

Andrew waved at his hands, still wrapped in gauze, with little red spots right in the middle.

"Yeah, well, it ain't like that, Andrew. For one, I would NEVER do a piercing or tattoo or anything on someone who didn't WANT it. It can be really exciting and... pleasant when you do it right."

"I don't know, I can't imagine it feeling good to be stabbed, but as long as you're not gonna do it to me, I guess it's not a problem." Andrew wasn't all that sure, but frankly, given the options, he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

"So, what are you gonna do? You can stay here as long as you need, sort things out an' all. You ain't the first runaway I've kept safe. You got a plan?"

"Well, I haven't had much time, I just kinda ran without thinking. But, well, maybe I can learn to use my abilities or something. And I need to finish my education, I've been home schooled up until now, but I'll probably have to go to a public school now."

"Well, nobody's gonna force you, but it is a good idea. Kids that drop out around here usually end up walkin' the streets."

"What? Like living out there with no place to sleep?"

"Kid, I'm talkin' about prostitution. There's always dirty old men that'll pay to have sex with a young boy, and around here, too many of them find out it's the only way to survive."

Andrew grimaced at the thought, what a terrible way to live! How could anyone do something so degrading!

"Why don't they finish school, so they can get a real job?"

"It isn't that easy, Andrew. Everything costs money, food, a place to live, even school. And for whatever reason, these kids end up alone out there, no money. Young kids can't exactly get legal jobs, so they do what they have to ta survive."

"Is that why you took me in? To keep me from ending up like that? Thank you, that means a lot to me. I know it's not legal to shelter a minor runaway."

"Eh, it ain't illegal unless you get caught, and you and other kids like you deserve a chance, 't's all there is to it. All I ask is that you help keep the shop clean, and you keep an open mind, 'cuz we get all types in here, and I don't want you judgin' my customers. You do that kid, maybe you'll learn enough to survive on your own."

"Yes, Deb, that sounds more than fair."

-*-

The shop had an interesting business, Andrew decided. He watched people come and go, businessmen who wanted to try something new, people in leather with piercings in places that looked very painful... None of them paid him much attention, so he was able to observe and learn as he worked. Everything had to be clean, even cleaner than back at home. Tools had to be kept sterile and well maintained, and messes had to be cleaned up quickly and thoroughly.

He watched as one man entered the shop for a nipple piercing, he seemed scared and nervous at first, but Deb quickly calmed him, she was very good at making people feel at ease. Then, when she pushed the needle through his nipple, the look on his face was a strange mixture of wince and smile, like he was in pain, but felt good, too. Andrew blushed and hid when he saw that the man had an erection. To his surprise, he did too. Why was piercing so exciting?

-*-

The next day, Deb took Andrew shopping. She drove him in her beat up old brown Buick Regal to a second hand store and had him pick out a week's worth of clothes. They didn't seem to have the pressed button-down shirts and black slacks he was used to, so he asked Deb for help.

"Why don't you just get jeans and tee-shirts for now, they're comfortable, and those clothes kind of make you stick out anyway. Trust me, you'll like these better."

Andrew picked out a small assortment of jeans, and some tee-shirts, and Deb nodded and paid for it all.

"I'll pay you back, Deb, you've already done so much for me-"

"Don't worry about it, it's not that much money. And I'm gonna give you an allowance, for helping keep the shop clean. I can't pay a lot, but you deserve to be paid for your work and you'll need the money."

-*-

A few weeks passed, and Andrew grew accustomed to his new way of life. The customers were each unique, and Deb always showed them respect. He was learning a lot too, Deb was teaching him the kinds of things one needed to know to survive on the real streets, things not to say or do, things to watch out for. A lot of it seemed strange, but Deb was willing to explain, in detail, why each odd custom was necessary. Andrew realized that his parents had really kept him from seeing what a good thing diversity was, in trying to keep him from having to deal with some of the harsher bits of reality. He decided that maybe it was okay to have special powers, and started practicing using them.

The shop gave him plenty of chances to use his abilities in small ways, picking things up, cleaning up messes... He tried to hide what he was doing, but he was pretty sure Deb had seen him a couple of times. She never said anything about it though, so he didn't bring it up.

He was getting pretty good at control, by changing the direction things fell, and the strength with which they were pulled, he could make things fly around pretty much however he wanted. He could make objects attract each other and repel, as gravity affects any object that has mass, and affects energies too! The more he thought about it, the applications for the power seemed endless, if he learned what to do with it!

However, he was often interrupted in his concentration by other things. He paid careful attention to his work, and liked watching the customers too; he was learning so much from them!

One customer in particular caught his eye, a pretty girl wearing skimpy clothes. She had a tight tube top on, with nothing underneath it; he could see the bumps of her nipples through the fabric. She was also wearing a plaid skirt, like a school uniform but much shorter, exposing the lower curves of her rear in a way that was apparently rather popular with the girls that walked the streets around here. He even caught a glimpse of her panties, red satiny ones. Below that were fishnet tights with a few little rips in them, going into ankle-height high heels. He couldn't stop staring, she was so daring, and the clothes looked so naughty, but fun...

"Excuse me, but I wanted to get some piercings done." She asked Deb at the counter.

"Sure thing, what were you thinking of?"

The girl stuck out her tongue, grinning brazenly. "I want my tongue done, and a belly button ring."

"Alright, let's take a look at the hoops and barbells, then, huh?" Deb guided the girl to look at the jewelry case, and Andrew couldn't help watching her rear as she bent to look at them. After she made her selection, Deb led her back to the counter. She glanced at Andrew and winked, and he immediately blushed to his toes, and hid around the corner in the hallway.

"Okay, now that's done, let's get you up on the chair. Is this your first piercing?" Deb chatted with her the same as always: open, friendly and disarming.

"Yeah, but I think it'll really help my look. The men love tongue piercings, the other girls tell me it makes them go crazy, and they pay more. The belly button ring is just for me though, I think it's gonna look so great!"

Andrew inched around the corner and watched as Deb readied her tools.

"Yeah, I hear ya. Well, you just be careful, don't let 'em go too crazy, huh? Now this is gonna sting a little, but don't fight it, if ya relax it kinda feels good. Are ya ready?"

The girl was breathing heavy, her tube top stretching with every breath, then nodded. Deb placed her tongue in between some pliers-like tool, and slowly, carefully, inserted a needle in the opening. The girl winced, then sighed softly as it went into place.

"All done, that was the hard one. Now, are ya ready for yer navel ring, or do ya need a minute?" The girl nodded, apparently she wasn't quite ready to talk yet, maybe getting used to the piece of metal in her tongue. Deb took a moment to set up for the next piercing, slowly.

"Okay, here we go with the navel." Deb leaned over her and again slowly inserted a fresh sterile needle, Andrew could clearly see from his position across from Deb. Then he noticed something that made him gasp, just at the same time as the girl sighed again.

She had an erection.

He ducked back around the corner, confused and embarrassed, and excited too. She was a boy? But she was so pretty, very definitely a girl! And she talked about being a prostitute, too! She had to be the most interesting person Andrew had seen come into the shop, ever!

-*-

"Deb, that girl that was just in here... Was she a boy?"

"Oh, so ya noticed. Andrew, th' answer is more compl'cated than just yes 'er no. She's a girl, but she's a boy in some ways too."

"I don't understand." Andrew wanted badly to understand this, for some reason it was very important to him.

"Well, I don' understand entirely either, but I do know that some boys wanna be girls. Or maybe they are, on the inside, the way they think and feel. Some girls wanna be boys, same way."

"How can that be? I mean, you're either born a girl, or a boy, right?"

"Well, most a' the time, yeah. But sometimes, babies're born somewhere in between. And sometimes, they're born with the body of one, and the mind of another. She's not the only transgender client I got, but I hafta admit she's prolly the prettiest."

"But, how do you know then, whether you're a boy or a girl? I mean, really know?"

"Andrew, that's somethin' everyone has ta figger out for themselves. No one can tell ya who you are but you."

Andrew thought about this as he cleaned up the shop. There was something fundamental about that, something that made more sense than anything he had ever heard.

-*-

For the next week, Andrew researched. Deb had a computer in the back of the shop, and he searched the internet (What a wonderful way to find information!) for everything he could find on the subject. Much of what he found he discarded, he wasn't interested in pornography (well, not right at the moment anyway) but he wanted to know everything he could about what it meant to be transgendered. It was a driving need, one strong enough even to overcome thoughts of his unusual ability over gravity.

He kept seeing, over and over again, his mental image of that girl, so feminine, so natural, how could she be a boy when she was so obviously a girl?

In the end, what Andrew realized is that she wasn't a boy. That part, the penis, didn't define her as a person, and so it simply wasn't important. What was important was what she felt.

And he started to wonder if he might feel the same way.

-*-

"Deb, can you take me shopping again? I want to get some clothes."

"Sure, Andrew, I'm just closin' up the shop anyway. You after anythin' special?" Deb knew what Andrew was thinking, she'd seen him researching after that girl came in, but she wanted him to tell her in his own time, his own way.

"Yeah, I want to try some girl clothes. I'm not sure, but I think I might be transgendered." He was shaking, clearly he was trying to be brave and honest, but the idea scared him half to death!

"Well, that's just fine, I think it's a great idea to explore who you are. Have ya thought about this much?"

"Deb, I can't stop thinking about it. Before that girl, I didn't know that this kind of thing was even possible. But now, it's... it's all I can think about. I have to try and figure it out or it's going to drive me insane."

"Well, don't worry, I'm behind ya one hundred percent. No matter whatcha decide. Now let's go get you some clothes." Andrew felt somehow bolstered; if Deb was on his side, no one could stop him... Or maybe her.

They drove to the same second hand store again, and Andrew picked out an assortment of clothes. Skirts, tops, shoes, all chosen for their cut, color and most importantly for the simple fact that they were unmistakably feminine.

It was exhilarating, he found himself holding items up in front of himself to check for a likely fit, and whether or not it might look good on him. For over two hours he compared looks and arranged outfits, and if a few people stared, he didn't care; Deb said it was okay, so it was. Andrew spent most of the money he had saved working for Deb, but he never once worried it might not be well spent.

"Thank you Deb, that was so wonderful, I can't believe how much great stuff I found!"

"Sure thing, kid. I'm gonna take ya to a shop down the street a bit, you're gonna need the right underwear to go with that, and some makeup."

"I'm almost out of money, Deb, I don't think I can-"

"Call it an advance on yer pay. It's important, an' I think if you're gonna do this, you should do it right, don't you? Speakin' of which, you picked out a name yet?"

"Yes, actually... I was thinking Andrea, Andie for short. I want to keep as much of my name as I can, because I'm still the same person I've always been... Just maybe more real." Andie felt like she was walking on air, it was so wonderful to feel like maybe she was finding her real self!

"Umm, Andie, ya know, usually when people walk their feet touch the ground. You might wanna try it."

-*-

Andie suddenly had a lot more to do. She had her duties cleaning and maintaining the shop, as well as finding time to practice her gravity-controlling powers, and now also she spent time each day practicing with her makeup, hair, speech patterns and walk. Deb helped her with this, and she found resources on the internet to help guide her.

She found herself wondering sometimes if she was doing the right thing. After all, if she really was a girl inside, shouldn't some of this stuff just come naturally to her? It was tough, learning how to talk as a girl would, walk, and act... Even learning to control gravity was going easier, that seemed almost completely instinctive, the only real difficulty finding what her limits were. She confessed her confusion to Deb.

"Deb, why is all this so hard? If I'm a girl shouldn't this all come naturally to me?"

"Andie, all of this is stuff girls grow up learnin'. It's hard because yer crammin' years and years of practice into days and weeks and months. It's okay to have doubts, and if you decide this is wrong, that's okay. Just don't give up because it's hard, alright?"

Andie nodded and hugged Deb.

"Thank you, I can't tell you how much this all means to me. You're everything a mother should be, to me." Tears worked past her tightly closed eyes, and Andie didn't bother to wipe them away. It was okay for her to cry. She was so happy; for the first time in her life, she felt real. She felt whole.

-*-

As busy as Andie was now, practicing her gravity powers, practicing her feminine skills, and cleaning around the shop, time passed quickly. She didn't have very much time to go outside, but she made time every now and then, just to remind herself she was no longer confined like a prisoner. She walked around the area, there was even a park not too far away from the shop, though it took a little while to walk there. She would spend the occasional hour in the park, swinging slowly, just enjoying the breeze, the sunshine, and watching the people pass by.

Andie wondered about her parents, they must be worried sick; they did love her, she was certain of that, but she couldn't live with their beliefs and way of life, and she was pretty sure they wouldn't approve of hers anymore, either. It hurt, knowing that she might never see her parents again, that if she did, they probably wouldn't recognize her. If they did, they might do even worse than they already had, trying to "save" her. Her hands ached with the memory; two small circular scars in her hands a permanent reminder of why that scenario was undesirable.

She was practiced enough now, that not even a thorough inspection would give away the fact that she was transsexual, as long as she kept her panties on. She was grateful that she hadn't gotten far into puberty yet, her voice unbroken, and very little hair growth on her body. She hoped to begin hormone therapy, even if she couldn't legally do so, there were some online pharmacies that would "fill prescriptions" without actually seeing any such prescription, but Deb was making her wait a few more months. It was after all, a pretty big step. She didn't dare try to change her name legally, if she appeared at a government office she would surely be returned to her parents as a runaway.

Swinging in the park, she contemplated these problems, totally oblivious to the gang of Latino men creeping up behind her. The park was mostly empty, this being the time of day where most children were at school, or napping at home, and most adults had their own business to attend to.

"Hey, Rico, look at the sweet chica on the swings! Ain't that just a sweet picture?" The voice behind her was smooth, almost pleasant if not for the context of what was being said.

"Yeah, man, I bet she tastes as sweet as sugar. I wanna take a taste." This voice, presumably Rico, was nowhere near as pleasant, and Andie was already slowing her swinging, enough to climb out of the seat, but it was too late, a group of six older guys, maybe 5 years older than herself and much bigger, had surrounded her.

"Come on, chica, be nice and it'll be fun for you too. We just wanna play a little." One guy to her left reached toward her, slowly, like one might try to calm an unfamiliar dog. She was not impressed; the group was closing around her. She looked for a way to run, but they were already too close.

The one directly in front of her drew a large, nasty-looking knife from his belt, clearly they weren't going to listen to threats from one thirteen-year-old girl.

"One way or another, we're gonna get what we want. I don't wanna have to cut you, girl, but I will if you don't play nice." That smooth voice sounded totally incongruent with the obvious threat. They were within grabbing distance, too close already, and Andie knew she was about to be raped. In her building terror, she totally forgot the things she had been practicing, totally forgot she had any abilities. She was about to scream when the man with the knife pressed it to her neck.

"No screaming, chica, keep quiet." His hand cupped one of her breasts, surely he could tell it was nothing more than a rolled up sock. He was going to kill her, because she wasn't what he expected, he might rape her anyway first, she couldn't fight back, she just wished they'd all GO AWAY!

And then they did. The man with the knife flew one way, the others all flew other ways, directly away from her, as if launched by a huge slingshot. One impacted a tree and lay still. The others flew maybe twenty or thirty feet away before tumbling to the ground. Andie just stared. She didn't know she could do that. The swingset she'd been on was bent upwards, bowed away from her, the swing itself ripped free and plastered to the ground, the grass flattened under and around her as she floated above it. It was like being cocooned in a bubble of inviolate personal space.

Andie had to wrestle for control of her fear to make it go away, she couldn't touch the ground, so she couldn't move. After a moment, she finally managed to make herself let it go, and when it went away, she stumbled to her knees. Then she stood up and shakily started walking home. The gang members made no move to stop her, though most of them moved and moaned in apparent pain.

She managed to get in the door before collapsing in tears, Deb rushing to comfort her and find out what was wrong.

-*-

After her run-in with the gang, Andie started concentrating more on her powers. She didn't give up on her transition from boy to girl, but she knew she had to be more prepared. She needed to know what she could and couldn't do. But Deb just didn't have the resources for her to train. The weight bench in Deb's bedroom went up to three hundred pounds, but Andie quickly found that she could make it weigh nothing. She was afraid to try and make it weigh more than three hundred; it might damage the floor or the bench. She practiced her control on small objects, and found that as long as she knew where an object was, she could affect how gravity acted on it. It took more concentration if she couldn't see it, but she could manage, and once given a new gravitational acceleration in a specific direction, it continued that way (or if none at all, it continued floating) on its own, until something else interacted with it, or she adjusted it again. She also found that she could only change one thing at a time, though the changes were as fast as thought, so could be very rapid.

She also found that after extended use of her powers, she usually began to develop a headache. One time she kept practicing even after her head hurt, but in a matter of minutes, her head hurt so much it was impossible to concentrate on anything. She spent most of an afternoon resting in her room after that one. Deb never asked about her ability, though clearly she knew, she had seen Andie floating. Floating...

Andie thought about it, she could affect her own gravity! Maybe even fly, though it would be more like free falling in a direction she chose. She would have to practice that, preferably on a night bright enough to see where she was going, but dark enough that she would be hard to spot. That decided, she continued her cleaning.

-*-

Throughout all of this, Andie had been searching. If she had special powers, maybe she wasn't the only one. Internet searches turned up stories of "mutants," people born with fundamental genetic differences from the average human genome. Some of them were said to develop special abilities: psychic abilities, enhanced physical abilities, super high intelligence and the like. She thought maybe she was a mutant, one with psychic abilities of some kind, but she kept coming up blank on searches for places where such mutants existed, or perhaps came together. She was looking for a place where she might fit in, but either mutants were so uncommon that they had not come together at all, or any reference to places of mutant gathering were being blocked from the public domain. It was frustrating, how was she supposed to contact anyone like herself, if they were all in hiding?

"Deb, can I talk to you for a while?" She walked into the front of the shop just in time to see the very same girl that inspired her to find herself, getting a tattoo of a butterfly on her left shoulder.

"Oh, hi!" Andie blushed, would the girl recognize her?

"Hi ya! You're that girl I saw last time I was here, right? Good idea, giving up the tomboy act - ouch! - it really didn't look good on you. Hey, you should get some piercings, you know? You'd be totally hot with some eyebrow metal and maybe a nose ring, it draws attention to your eyes and you have such deep pretty eyes..." She trailed off as Andie blushed deeper and deeper.

"Umm, hi, I'm Andie. What's your name?"

"Whatta ya want it to be?" The girl giggled and Andie couldn't help but join in.

"Sit still or you'll mess up the drawing, kid." Deb cautioned, but she seemed on the verge of laughing too.

"Sorry, just something I remembered from an old movie. I'm Amethyst, Amie for short. Nice ta meetcha. So, whatta ya think, wanna get a piercing? It only hurts a little." Andie didn't know how to answer, but she did kind of want to try it, it was so exciting, kind of naughty and at the same time, it seemed almost primal, like native tribes she'd read about in far away places of the world.

"I don't know, maybe? So, do you live around here?" Andie tried to change the subject, not sure what to talk about.

"Kinda. My favorite hangout spot is a few blocks from here, and I can generally find a place to sleep. It ain't a great way to live, maybe, but I get by okay, and I got plans. Besides, I hate paying rent on public property. Fuckin' gangs around here cause too much trouble. Someone trashed a few guys last week and they've been harder on us working girls ever since.

"Oh, ummm, I think that might be my fault..." Andie confessed, she didn't realize she'd made Amie's life harder!

Deb yanked the tattoo gun away just in time as Amie sat up in the chair like she'd been stabbed.

"No way, you're the one that tossed six guys around like nothin'? I thought they must be talkin' about some drugged up bodybuilder! You'd have ta be some kinda ninja or some shit to pull that off!" She clearly didn't believe Andie, and Andie decided after causing this girl so much trouble, she deserved the truth.

"No, just some kinda mutant." She looked at the display case of body jewelry, and it lifted up into the air, moved sideways, then back, and settled back almost in the same place it came from. Deb gave Andie a harsh look that said 'Leave the merchandise alone!'

"Sorry, Deb, I just wanted to prove my point. Anyway, Amie, I'm a mutant, I can somehow alter how gravity affects things."

"Wow... You're like my sister!" Amie blurted out, then clapped her hands over her mouth. She looked like she wished she could take it back, too.

"Your sister can control gravity too?" Andie asked before really thinking about it.

"No... I guess you're okay, since you're a mutant too... My sister could make stuff appear out of the air. Our parents found out, and threw her out. I couldn't stay after they treated her like that, so I ran away. And now you know my life story, so drop it." Amie was sitting back in her chair again, and Deb was working on her tattoo again. Andie just watched in silence for a few minutes.

"Look, I'm sorry I blew up at ya, okay? Stop sulking. It's just a touchy subject, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. My mom went overboard when she found out about me, too... She tried to have me exorcised."

Amie laughed, "What'd she have a priest chanting at you and sprinkling holy water on you?"

Andie shook her head and held up her hands. "Mom held me down while the Reverend pushed big nails through my hands. Then he tried holy water, and when that didn't work, they were going to burn me with hot irons to drive the devils out. That's when I ran."

"Whoa, that's fucked up..." Amie looked impressed, and a little sympathetic.

"I know she thought she was doing what was right, but... I can't go back, so here I am." Amie nodded; she could clearly appreciate the sentiment.

"You know Amie, any time you need a place to sleep, if it's okay with Deb, you can share my room. You can even use my bed, I don't mind. No obligations or strings attached." Andie looked over at Deb, who nodded in agreement. Andie still felt guilty over making Amie's life harder.

"Just don't bring any johns around, I'll give you kids any help I can, but that kinda trouble I don't need. Andie was embarrassed at the mention of "johns" but Amie just nodded.

"Maybe I'll take you up on that... Honestly, I don't wanna go out there again. I've had enough of bein' the gangs' bitch. If it weren't for those fuckers I..." She trailed off again, clearly not wanting to talk about it.

"Please do, Amie... You're the first friend I've ever had, aside from Deb, and she's more like a surrogate mother to me..." Deb put the tattoo gun down, having finished her work, and wiped her eyes a little.

"Listen, Amie, if you're gonna stay here, why don't you and Andie go chill out in the back. Andie, you can show her around. I'll clean up out here now that I'm finished." Andie knew Deb didn't like for people to see her get emotional, so she steered Amie to her room and started showing her around.

-*-

That night, Andie and Amie both curled up in separate blankets on the floor and talked. Andie decided having a friend was just about the most wonderful thing in the world.

"So... What was your sister like? I never had a sister."

"She was cool, it's been a year since I saw her though. She's sixteen now, two years older than me. She was tall, and nicer than a lot of my old friends' older sisters. She picked on me sometimes, but she wasn't mean about it, you know? I really miss her, but at least I know she stayed in school. When Mom and Dad kicked her out, I sneaked a booklet about a private school from her stuff before they threw it out. It looked pretty cool, and she always seemed to have everything figured out, not like me."

"Your parents didn't kick you out though?"

"Nope, I ran away a week later. I just couldn't forgive them you know? Stephanie's my big sister and they treated her like she was trash. I couldn't forgive them, and I couldn't stand to stay in the same house with them, so I ran away. I've been through a lot because of that, but I won't ever go back, not unless they take Stephanie back. Maybe not then."

"I'm sorry... I can't imagine what it must have been like... I got lucky, Deb found me before anyone bad could. She's taken care of me like a daughter ever since."

"Does she make you dress like a girl?" Andie choked for a minute before answering.

"No! I didn't even realize I was a girl inside until I saw you the first time... I didn't know it was possible to transition, it was completely outside my experience."

"So, she's helping you then? That's cool, I started dressing up after I ran away, to avoid the cops, after all, they were looking for a boy. But it was kinda fun you know, like a game? Until that stupid fucking gang caught me and found out..." Amie got really angry at that, and Andie had a vague idea why. She wondered if it was the same gang that attacked her, but decided it didn't matter.

"They made me their bitch for over a week. It was so fucked up, but I learned to distance myself from it, and then it seemed like a good way to make money." Amie sighed, "I don't even know why I'm telling you all this, I try not to think about it."

"It's okay, Amie, I'm not going to judge you, I promise. That's something Deb taught me, everyone does what they have to do to get by. But if you want, I can help you get away from that way of life. Since you don't seem happy with it."

"Hell no, it's disgusting. But what else can I do? Nobody wants a fourteen-year-old ex-whore to work for them, and I'm not old enough to get a real job. Besides, I quit school when I ran away."

"I can tutor you, Amie, I'm actually a few years ahead of a normal high school freshman, from what I've read when I was looking into continuing school. Then you can go back to school when I do."

"That's great an' all, but it costs money. I have some saved up, but I can't go back to school around here, they'll take me back to my parents for sure. Besides, I have to go visit my sister, that's what I'm really saving for."

"Well, why not go to school where your sister is then? Maybe you can even move in with her or something."

"I can't go to the school she goes to, it's for mutants only. And she lives at the school, so I doubt I could live there either. I don't wanna get her in trouble if she's doing good. And she prolly wouldn't recognize me anyway."

"Do you like dressing up as a girl?" Andie asked a question that had been nagging her ever since Amie mentioned that it was just a disguise to escape her parents.

"Well, yeah. I mean, I am a girl, on the inside. It took me a while to realize it, but the disguise thing was just an excuse. It's part of why I ran away, too, I mean, if they can't accept my sister as a mutant, my parents would never accept me as a girl."

"Wow... Where did your sister go to?" Amie looked around reflexively - even in safe surroundings some habits were best to keep - and dug a worn, bent up pamphlet from her boot.

"It's a place called Whateley Academy. Maybe you could go there too, since you're a mutant. Anyway, it's all the way down in a place called New Hampshire."

Andie carefully took the pamphlet, clearly it was one of Amie's treasured possessions, and opened it up. Inside there were pictures of kids doing amazing things, clearly it was a school for mutants. Andie handed it back, carefully.

"No, keep it here, safe, for me okay? It's my only chance of finding my sister again, and I don't want it lost..." Andie nodded and tucked it gently into her nightstand.

"I promise I won't lose it."

"So, what about you, what are you gonna do? I think you should go to Whateley. Maybe you can meet Stephanie there!"

"That sounds great! Tell you what, we'll both go."

"Really? But what then? I mean, I could meet my sister again finally, find out if she's okay, but what about after?"

"Well, the booklet said it was right near a small town called Dunwich. No one there knows your past, so maybe you could make a living there, you know? And then you could see Stephanie and me any time, right? I mean, what have you got to lose? Maybe you can even finish school there, and even go to college!" Andie was getting excited, this was a chance for Amie to get a new start, and she really wanted to help the girl out. Not only that, but it would be a place Andie could find more people like herself and fit in, and finish high school! It was perfect!

"I don't know, Andie, what if I can't make it there on my own? At least here, I know what I can do to make money to survive on, but I don't think I could do that in a small town."

"Do you really want to keep doing it here? Besides, you won't be alone; Stephanie and I will be there for you. I promise I will be. Just give me a little time to save up for train tickets for us both, and this could be your way out! I'll miss Deb, but I can keep in touch with her, and maybe she can help somebody else who needs it if I can start making my own way."

"It's a wonderful dream, Andie, but I just can't rely on it yet."

-*-

The next day, Andie approached Deb, her curiosity finally winning out.

"Deb, can I get a piercing? I wanna know what it's like, I've watched a lot of people get them now and curiosity is getting to me."

"Well, sure, Andie, if yer sure it's whatcha want. You got somethin' in particular in mind?"

"I thought I'd try a small navel ring. I like the way Amie's accents her tummy."

"Alright, which one do ya want?" Deb led Andie to the display case, though she was pretty sure which one Andie wanted, since she'd been eyeing it all morning.

"The little silver one there, with the ball on it."

A few minutes later, Andie sat in the comfortable leather barber's style chair Deb had for the purpose. She was a little nervous and scared, but very excited. Amie stood next to her, holding her hand.

"Don't worry, Andie, it's fun. There's a little sting, but it's really exciting, and there's something about it that's just... Well, it's intense." Amie offered, trying to keep Andie's courage up. Andie, for her part, kept thinking of the barbed wire crown and the nails in her hands. But she wanted to get past this fear, she didn't want it to rule her. She winced as the cold piercing pliers gently took a small amount of flesh at the top of her bellybutton.

"Okay, you ready Andie?" Deb's voice was soothing, Andie knew she could trust Deb, so she nodded.

It stung, more than she expected but less than she was afraid it would. There was pressure, and sort of a pulling sensation. But it was really exciting too, naughty and primal and sexual in a way. It felt good even though it still hurt, and then it was done.

"Wow... I didn't expect that..." Andie looked down at the little metal ring with the little ball on it, lodged in her navel. There was a tiny drop of blood, but Deb placed a sterile cotton ball on it gently.

"Now you know how to take care of it, just keep it extra clean and let me know if it gets infected, okay?" Deb smiled, she knew exactly what kind of effect piercings could have. Maybe she would get another herself...

"Thanks, Deb, this is great, and it really catches the eye too!" Andie couldn't help playing with it, even though it still ached a little. Amie watched with a little smile.

"See, I told you it was awesome. You should get an eyebrow ring too, and maybe a tongue ring. You'd look totally hot with more metal!"

"I think I might, Amie, but not today. I wanna get used to this one first." Andie smiled, she knew she was going to get more, and soon. Trust made ALL the difference.

-*-

Several days passed, with Amie and Andie taking turns working at the Pin and Ink. One afternoon, Andie had the day off while Amie worked, and she wanted to get out again. She couldn't get enough of being outside, and Deb encouraged it, unlike her birth parents. She loved watching all the different people, delighting in their differences. Every one was unique, and Andie loved being reminded of that. She jogged around several blocks, simply exploring and exercising, watching people pass by.

That's when she saw him. The same guy that had threatened her with a knife. That same fear came back a little, so she steered clear of him at first... Then she saw the girl. He was holding her by the throat, pinned against a wall, all she could do was kick weakly. Andie was torn, she was afraid of this man, but it wouldn't be right not to help the other girl. Andie didn't recognize her, but she might be one of Amie's friends, and no one deserved to be treated like that.

"Hey, you! Why don't you let her go?" The guy casually flipped Andie the bird without even looking at her.

"Fuck off bitch, or you'll be next." Andie felt herself getting mad, this guy had no respect for anyone! All he wanted to do was hurt people.

"I said let her go, asshole!" That's what Deb had called the gang that attacked her in the park, and the word seemed to fit. It certainly got his attention, as he turned around and pulled out that same damned knife.

"Okay, chica, I warned you-" he cut off as soon as he saw Andie, recognition dawning. "You're the little bitch that almost killed Rico! We been lookin' fer you!" He dropped the knife and pulled out a gun. Andie was stunned, but she barely even noticed the gun.

The words "killed Rico" kept echoing in her mind. She almost killed someone! She COULD kill someone with her powers, easily. A ball of liquid fire sprang into being in her stomach, and she leaned over to vomit.

Which is why the bullet only grazed her arm, instead of passing through her midsection and several vital organs.

"Fuckin' bitch, die!" The situation came back to Andie as suddenly as she had spaced it off. He had a gun. He shot her. He was going to kill her.

"NO!" She screamed as loud as she could, and lashed out with her power. The man and his gun fell to the ground instantly, she thought she heard bones break. Her arm hurt, and she could see that the guy was having trouble breathing. The girl he'd been trying to hurt was long gone, and the guy wasn't hurting anyone anymore, but she almost didn't let up on the immense gravity pulling him down. Part of her wanted to kill him.

Then she let up. He gasped air like a fish dropped out of its bowl, but she was pretty sure he would live. Just to be sure, she found a pay phone nearby and dialed nine-one-one and asked for an ambulance to come and help him, but she didn't give her name or information. The police would definitely return her to her parents and she couldn't let that happen. She left the phone hanging and ran back to Deb's, this time she ran in and went back to her room, sitting on the bed and staring at the wall.

She had to get control of her powers, or she WOULD kill someone. When Deb and Amie rushed in, she was still staring at the wall, tears dripping from her cheeks, the sleeve of her tee-shirt reddish brown with dried blood.

-*-

"This is the second time I could have killed someone... I can't stay here longer, I'll get you in trouble, Deb."

"Kid, you know I don't care about that, and I know you didn't mean to hurt anybody. It's not your nature. So don't go off half-cocked-"

"Deb, I need to go somewhere they can teach me to control this power. Next time I might kill someone! Part of me... wanted to kill that guy today." Amie just hugged her while Deb shook her head, still holding the washcloth over Andie's shoulder. It was just a little scratch, it wouldn't even need stitches.

"Andie, no one blames you for that. Guy shot at me, I'd take him down however I could and if that meant him dyin', better him than me." Amie nodded as she hugged Andie.

"Yeah, Andie, you can't just let someone kill you. It's self defense." Amie had a point, logically, but it still didn't make Andie feel better.

"I just... I can't help thinking I'm a danger to you both right now, I have to get this under better control. And thanks to Amie, I know where I can go to do that. I love you Deb, you've been a Mom to me and a friend too. But I have to do this, for my own peace of mind."

"Well, I can understand that, Andie. I ain't holdin' you against your will, you have every right to make your own way. Just... don't forget me, you know? Keep in touch."

"Of course, Deb, no way would I forget you. So what about you, Amie? Are you coming as well? We could visit your sister, and I just know we could work something out for you there. And if not, well, there's always coming back here, right Deb?"

"Sure thing, Amie, you're a good kid, and I'd be glad to offer you a place to stay and work in my shop."

Andie nodded gratefully to Deb, "So, you have a safety net, wanna go see your sister? I've almost got enough for both of us to go, and it'll be just in time for the start of classes, I think."

Amie just stood there in the back room of the shop, looking at Andie and Deb wonderingly. Then she nodded, tears dripping down her cheeks, and hugged them both.

*****



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