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Layne and Serkis played with fire.

I led the show.

Pandora was a Riddle in herself.

Requiem was the true illusionist.

Cassidy – merely the obsessed fan.

And Gothik’s part? He was God.

Our family. The everlasting, never-ending, fully-functional, utterly devoted, insanely honest, contradictory, oxymoronic – Family.

What a ragtag bunch of freak show rejects. What a crew – when you’ve got enough freaks to start your own show, or, having the desire to start your own show – that might be alarming. So, where are we going? What’s the point?

There isn’t one, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll quit ranting.

Be there no method to my madness – I’m still mad, and that’s got to count for something.

The problem with Pandora was simple – she was a ticking time bomb. She came from a shattered home, born and bred to be broken. Yet, she was clean. Against all odds, she had no addictions. She fought too hard; too long for this. We put her back to work upstairs in the bar, leaving Cassidy to keep a close eye on her. We employed him to keep him out of trouble, provide an alibi…should he need one. Not that Mr. Cassidy Brogan would ever need one…but just in case.

She was the first to fall. Or maybe she was last.

Things resumed their usual state, with Pandora always on the watch. Perfect distraction.

Nobody called Requiem into serious question because she had Serkis-approval. They were identical in their morals for the most part, which were lacking on both sides. But Requiem’s silence hid it better. Both girls were trouble walking, but with Serkis you could see it coming from miles away. With Requiem, you wouldn’t know she was there until she slit your throat; even then, if she did it right, you’d never know. Ever.

And Requiem wasn’t the kind of girl to screw up. Screw around, maybe. But not up. Never. The price of failure is much too great, especially here and now.

In our game, all prices paid in blood.

All bets made in flesh.

When you got down to it, that was Requiem’s downfall –

Really. Bad. Luck.

I sat with Serkis once, smoking casually on the roof. She was lying on the edge of the building, an arm or leg dangling over. I picked up smoking because everyone else does; I’d rather give myself cancer than get it secondhand. She turned her head to see me.

“So kid, what’s doin’?” she asked simply. I sat with my back against where she lay, stretched out. She loved to flirt with disaster – she’d be screwed if it decided to flirt back. I shrugged.

“The usual.”

“Usual?” She raised an eyebrow. “You’re 18 soon, you’re growing up on me.”

“Aw, tear, tear.”

She took her foot and nudged me between my shoulders. “You brat. What would you like to do?”

“What do you mean?”

She laughed. “I don’t think I could be any clearer. You are turning 18 years old – you’ve existed on this damned planet in this horrible century for two years shy of two decades. And we’re going to celebrate, un-der-stand?” She spoke slowly, like I was a toddler, nudging me with the words at the end. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Ha! You’re alive. Oh man, laugh and everything – where’s a photographer when we need one?”

I nudged her back, careful that she wouldn’t go off the ledge. She wavered a little, nudged me harder, and smiled. “Beast,” she whispered. I growled at her.

“You might be rabid,” Serkis joked, sliding off the ledge to sit next to me. I felt better knowing that she was safe…or more safe than usual. I shrugged.

I’d honestly forgot about birthdays. Nobody seemed to get older…but me.

If you’re good enough at it – age merely becomes another illusion. Snap the cape, pull away in that infamous solitary gesture and… ta-da. The rules disappear.

We were masters of our art. Years of practice. Unimaginable experience.

If you only knew…then again, would you want to?

I’d ask you to attempt to imagine our mental state, collectively. But that would be irrational. You can’t know, you can only pretend.

Serkis looked at me casually, trying to hide the turning gears in her mind. “Well?” She asked.

“I want the day off.”

She frowned. “That’s it?”

I shrugged. “Should I want something?”

And she grinned, jumping up abruptly. She dusted herself off, dragging me to my feet awkwardly. She put her arm around me, her other hand gesturing broadly. “The world, kid, and nothing less.”

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