It's Complicated

Ace's Past: In Cold Blood

Lucy was able to come home first. She acted as though nothing had happened at first. Her arm was going to take a long time to heal, but not as long as Anne's injuries would take to heal.

Once Anne came home, it was as if nothing had changed. Roger was still not there, Rouge was still hopeful, and the girls acted as though they had never been injured. It baffled the toddler in a way, because to him it felt as though everything had changed. Before, he never had to be careful when he played with Anne or Lucy. He had never seen his Mama casting longing looks out the window. He had never felt despair because he thought his Daddy would never return home again.

He learned things had changed though, once Lucy's arm had healed after about seven weeks. It had been nighttime. Anne was fast asleep, and Mama was supposedly asleep too. Ace had been sleeping, but the sound of something falling on the carpeted floor had woken him up. He opened his eyes where he lay, looking over the bedroom.

Lucy was awake, standing by her bedside. The moonlight was shining over her and the breeze from the window - which was supposed to be closed - blew the curtains and her hair out around her. She held something long and thin in her hands. Ace watched her as she stood there, still for a few moments. Then, she began to pull at one end.

Ace's sleepy eyes widened a fraction, but he made no movements. Part of the black came off of, revealing shimmering silver. The glint the edge made in the moonlight awed Ace. He had no idea what it was, but he felt that the atmosphere in the room became slightly more threatening.

Lucy held the metal parallel to her face. "I won't let them get away with this," Ace heard her say into the dark of the night. Ace watched as she turned around, opened the window even more, and sit on the edge. Ace noticed that the screen was against the wall. He couldn't see what happened, but she maneuvered herself out the window. All he heard was a light thud, and then the sound of footsteps pounding on the ground.

Ace fell back asleep despite seeing Lucy jump out the window. He didn't know why, all he knew was that the candle in the room smelled really sweet. And when he woke up the next morning, Lucy was there as well. She smiled at him like nothing had happened, and Ace wondered if he had dreamed a strange dream, because he was sure she had disappeared into the dark night.

Despite the fact that Roger sent money to them every few weeks, Rouge started working. She worked as a cleaning lady. She would often come home smelling of bleach. Her hands would be dry often as well.

It was the beginning of summer when that happened. She would leave Anne, Lucy, and Ace home alone. She left at five in the morning and returned as late as six at night. By then, it had been about three months since Roger had left and the girls had been hurt. Anne's injuries had finally completely healed.

On the third day that Rouge had started work, which was every day of the week, Anne asked Lucy an odd question.

"Teach me how to fight."

Lucy had been playing with Ace in the back yard, the two of them chasing each other through the growing green grass. As soon as Anne had asked that, standing on the back porch and forcing them both to look up, Lucy had stopped running. The two stared at each other, eyes clashing in a battle of will. Ace watched them both, surprised Anne had asked a question like that.

"Fine," Lucy had said. "I'll teach you how to fight, but I'm not going easy on you."

Lucy had Anne sit on the porch steps. Ace wasn't allowed to go onto the grass until Lucy said so. Ace had whined, but Anne told him to listen to what Lucy said. So Ace sat on the porch, playing with some toys that they had given to him, but mostly he watched.

Anne had her butt handed to her almost every time she charged at Lucy. They held nothing back, and Lucy was surprisingly a good fighter. She had lightning quick reflexes, she was light on her feet, and she didn't hold back with her kicks and punches. Despite Anne's strength from years of dancing and her incredible flexibility, she couldn't even lay a finger on Lucy, who always knocked her to the ground with precision and accuracy.

The two would spar in the back yard every day. If it rained, Lucy would show Anne how to build strength and accuracy. She would hold a pillow and tell Anne to punch it or kick it. Every time they did that, Lucy would hold a smaller pillow, forcing Anne to throw her punches and toss her kicks more carefully.

Ace liked watching as they fought in the grass. They always laughed after, and they helped each other patch up any injuries, though normally it was only bruises. Lucy was a good teacher and Anne was a good pupil. Anne never complained about being injured or tired. They would just spar from nine in the morning to lunch time, and then one in the afternoon to four in the evening, when Rouge was likely to return.

"Hey Lucy, can you teach me to fight too?" Ace had asked one day, running onto the grass as their lunchtime break rolled around. Lucy had looked at Ace and then laughed, rustling his hair with her hand.

"When you're older I can teach you, yeah," Lucy had promised him, taking his pinky in her own to make a pinky promise. Ace had cheered about that while Anne, laying on the overgrown grass nearby, grinned.

It had been almost six months since Roger had left. It was Rouge's first day off in what seemed like forever. She had taken the kids to go swimming in the lake behind their house. They could've easily gone by themselves, but going with Rouge was more fun than going alone.

(Besides, they had sparring to do when Rouge wasn't home. They hadn't missed a day so far. This was the first time they went to the beach all summer.)

Ace didn't know how to swim all that well, so Anne and Lucy were trying to teach him in between their contests of who could hold their breath underwater longer, or swim the fastest or the farthest.

Ace was playing in the sand, building sand castles without buckets when he first heard the sound of engines roaring in the distance. It was just his family at the lake at the time, so they had no idea where it was coming from.

"Mom!" Anne had yelled, emerging from the water and running to her mother, who was now standing. "Mom, there's about ten boats coming from the South Blue River! I thought boats weren't allowed in the lake?"

Rouge stood slowly, taking a few steps forward, her feet sinking in the sand. Ace looked from her to the boats, watching as they approached them from the river.

"Go into the woods."


Ace stared at his Mama, brows furrowed as Lucy ran out of the water.

"Mom, why? What's wrong?"

"Get in the woods and hide now!" Rouge yelled, picking Ace up from the ground swiftly and shoving him into Anne's arms. Anne and Lucy stared at Rouge, stunned. "Run!" She yelled at the girls. After a few seconds, the two girls backed up, then turned around and darted into the thick brush behind them, far from the path that led to their house.

Anne held Ace close as she and Lucy ran through the thicket. They were small, so they were able to avoid most of the branches, but they still had to duck every once in a while. Their bare feet stung from sharp rocks, thorns, and thick tree roots sticking out of the ground, but the only thing on their minds was to run, as Rouge had told them.

Ace was crying loudly, holding onto Anne. His cries stopped in place of a stunned silence when they all heard the gunshots and the explosions nearby. "Mama!" Ace sobbed out after a few seconds. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he held onto Anne.

"This way!" Lucy panted, taking a sudden left turn. Anne followed after her, the two girls running as fast as they possibly could. They ran deeper into the woods, but nothing could stop the sound of explosions in the distance or the threatening calls of men approaching. Lucy looked up, eyes searching. She slid to a sudden stop. "This tree! Climb it!" She turned to Anne. Anne nodded.

"You first, then take Ace," Anne told Lucy. Lucy nodded, jumping and grabbing onto the branch. She pulled herself up with ease, holding onto the branch from below and then turning her body so she sat on it. She quickly grabbed onto the tree trunk and then reached a hand down.

"Hurry Anne!" Lucy whispered as Anne held Ace up.

"Ace, hold onto Lucy!" Anne told the toddler, who quickly took hold of Lucy's hand. Lucy held him tightly and pulled him up. She maneuvered the toddler onto her back.

"Hold on tight Ace, and keep quiet," Lucy ordered before reaching a hand down to Anne. "C'mon Anne!" Lucy whispered quickly, the approaching voices of the men causing a cold sweat to form on her forehead.

Anne looked in the direction of the voices then turned to Lucy. "Lucy, remember our promise? Now is the time I follow through with my end of the deal, so you uphold yours!" Anne whispered, beginning to jog away.

"Anne, are you crazy? Get back here!" Lucy whispered, turning and watching with furrowed brows. Her hand clenched tightly to the bark of the tree trunk.

"Protect Ace!" Anne told her, pointing up the tree, before she took off sprinting. Lucy was about to jump down after her, but then she cursed as she heard the voices nearby. She quickly looked up and grabbed onto a tree branch, pulling herself and Ace up as fast as she could. They quickly hid amongst the leaves and branches. Lucy put a hand over Ace's mouth, watching through the green leaves as the men ran through the area, splitting up and running in different directions as they yelled at each other about "catching the fucking traitor."

Lucy began to shake, mouth gaping before closing in a tight line. She stared down below her for a second, breathing heavily through her nose. Ace noticed as her shoulders tensed that she was bothered by something. He held her tightly in the best hug he could give in that position. She put a hand on his arms in a form of gratitude, still staying silent so they wouldn't get caught. There were still men close by, so they couldn't move.

The shot of a gun was heard. Lucy's whole body tensed, eyes wide, as she heard the men say "We got the traitor! Back to the house, quickly!" Lucy's eyes stayed trained on the ground as the men began to converge back in that one place, watching with trepidation.

What she saw made her face pale and her hand clench the bark so tightly she began to bleed. There were two men dragging Anne, who was limping, from the direction she had just run to the direction of the house. The men took her, a large group of twenty surrounding the girl. Lucy trembled. Ace stared with wide eyes, not knowing what was happening. He held back his cries because something told him if he cried and they heard, bad things would happen to himself and Lucy.

Lucy waited for ten minutes, waiting until they were completely out of sight to move. She slowly, cautiously descended the tree, getting to the ground. She jumped from the lowest branch and landed in a crouched position. She stayed there for a few seconds. There were no odd sounds or movements from the brush.

"Ace, listen carefully to me. We're going to save Mama and Anne," Lucy whispered. Ace nodded against her back. "I need both of my hands to do this, so promise me you will hold onto me like your life depends on it. Do not let go of me, no matter what." Ace nodded again, holding onto the girl as tightly as he could. Lucy didn't move for a second. She moved suddenly without warning, sprinting up the mountain, where she hoped she would find the house because right now she was horribly lost.

The direction Lucy ran in was full of obstacles. She had to use the trees on the mountainside to climb up the incredibly steep slope. Lucy ran as fast as she possibly could up it, trying to avoid the roots as well, panting as she climbed. Eventually she had to crawl. Her hands and bare feet were scratched by the harsh surfaces of the ground. Ace held onto her tightly as she climbed, trudged and ran, trying not to get in her way. All he knew was in the far distance, he could hear the yelling of men.

It felt like ages, but eventually, after running so much that she had to slow lest she collapsed from exhaustion, the pair reached the house. Lucy kept a decent distance, considering the fact that there were men walking to and from the house, all the men entering coming from the direction of the beach. The men departing carried equipment and boxes, things Ace had never seen before.

"Hello there."

Lucy gasped, turning. A tall man dressed in black stood before her. It was difficult to see him in the bright sunlight, but then clouds enshrouded the sun. His menacing grin was all Ace saw before he moved. He punched Lucy across the face, sending her rolling across dirt and rocks. Ace fell off of her back, landing a few feet from the girl after hitting his head harshly on the ground. He curled up in pain and then slowly tried to sit up using his trembling arms.

"Ace, run!" Lucy yelled. Ace looked up upon hearing it, staring at the man approaching him from where he lay on the ground. Ace tried to back away, but he fell to the ground once more. He noticed the man held something in his hand. It looked a lot like the knives Mama used in the kitchen. Ace had a feeling that he was going to get hurt badly. He scrambled backwards, but then the man stepped on the young boy's chest. Ace breathed in and out quickly, jaw trembling as the man lifted his right arm and the weapon.

Lucy came running at the man and jumped on him from behind. Her arms, wrapped around his neck, pulled up, forcing the man to take a few steps back. Ace scrambled backwards at his new found freedom, but then he stopped and watched. He was too terrified to move much further, and the scene before him was horribly screaming for his attention.

Ace watched, entranced by what was happening. Lucy tightened her arms around the man as the man tried to throw her off, holding her arms in a bruising grip. He kept moving, slamming into the trees. She grit her teeth but didn't let go, despite the fact that Ace could see her back was bleeding. It wasn't as if a two piece bathing suit provided much protection.

The man brought up his knife and grabbed one of her arms despite the fact that his face was turning purple. He snatched her hand in a crushing grip as she dug her heels into his abdomen with quick, forceful jabs. He brought the knife closer, his body shaking, and grabbed her pinky finger.

Ace's eyes widened as blood flowed. The finger fell to the ground with a soft thud. Lucy's eyes were wide, tears flowing from her eyes like a downpour. Her mouth opened, and Ace thought she would scream, but she didn't. Instead, she bit down on the ear next to mouth hard. She bit so hard that she drew blood. At the same time, despite the desperate thrashing of the man who kept trying to crush her against trees, she tightened her arms and legs. The man's lips turned purple as the whites of his eyes turned a brighter red than they had been just moments ago.

The man brought the knife up again, about to try to cut off another finger, but she reached out instead. With her already bloody hand, she grabbed the knife's blade from his trembling grasp. The sharp edge cut into her palm. Ace watched as the blood flowed smoothly, dripping down her arm and then drizzling to the ground once it reached her elbow. The man tried to say something, but his oxygen-deprived lungs couldn't make a sound. She brought the knife up, flesh against the skin of her arm, and dug it deep into his neck.

It was violent. The blood of the man gushed out not just from his neck, but also from his nose and mouth. Tears streamed from his eyes. He fell to his knees. Lucy refused to let go. She kept her grip strong, digging the knife deeper into his jugular. The pulsing of his dying heart pumped blood out increasingly slower, but the amount of blood spilled only seemed to increase. A puddle of it formed on the ground, but it had also been smattered all over their surroundings. The trees, the grass, the bushes, Lucy, and Ace were covered in his blood.

The shining sun emerged from behind the clouds shortly before the man fell over. He made no more movements. Lucy still clung to him for a few moments before moving, removing first her arms before forcing her feet out from beneath his dead weight. She stood slowly, refusing to look at Ace. She was covered in blood, a mixture of her own and of the man she had killed. It stained her hands and face. Her lower legs were drenched from where blood had fallen on them after she had stabbed the man.

"Lucy?" Ace asked with a trembling voice. His eyes stayed trained on her. The knife was still in her hand. The metal was drenched in the life of the man. "Lucy?" She didn't move, her body tense. After what felt to be forever to the young one, she then turned to look at him. The blood on Ace was mostly on his face, specks from when she had stabbed the man's jugular. She knew she had more on her. The sunlight brightened the blood on her face and made the tears forming in her eyes shimmer.

"Come on," She said, voice quiet. "We need to save your family."

Ace noted that she didn't say our. She hadn't done that since the first month she stayed. But he couldn't say anything of it. Lucy picked up Ace before he could mention it. He clung to her back, not looking at the murder scene behind him. Lucy had saved him, but the toddler would never be able to forget seeing his sister murder someone so brutally. Even if he was grateful for her saving his life.

Lucy stared at the surroundings of the house, looking for an opening. She found one against the side of the garage, which was connected to the house. She observed for a few moments, making sure no one was nearby. She sprinted, holding Ace close, to the side of the garage. She laid herself as flat as she possibly could against the wall. She crouched with Ace slowly, moving against the wall until she was near the front of the garage. She peered around the wall, straining her neck to move as far as it possibly could. No one was there. She kept as quiet as possible, listening for voices or footsteps. She heard none nearby.

Lucy made the sharp turn from the outer wall to the garage interior. The car was in the garage. She quickly slinked next to it, traveling against the surface slowly. The door into the house from the garage was open. The voices within were loud, belonging to men who yelled and screamed threats. Ace couldn't hear it, but Lucy could hear the crying of a girl. The cries of Anne.

Lucy clenched tightly to the knife she had still not dropped. "Ace, hold on," She whispered so softly Ace barely heard it.

Lucy ran as fast as she possibly could, running through the entrance. There was only one way to go, right, which she did swiftly. She ran into a man emerging from the parent's bedroom. She moved quickly, so fast the man couldn't react. Without hesitation, she used the knife to stab the man in the abdomen. As fast as her strength allowed, she pulled the knife out and continued down the hall. The only other voices came from the kitchen.

There was a loud bang, one that hurt Ace's ears. Then Lucy was falling. She landed with a heavy thud on the ground, coughing as the air was knocked out of her. Ace heard heavy footsteps approach. He squeezed his eyes shut and held as tightly as he could to Lucy.

Large hands ripped the toddler from the older child, who was lifted roughly from the ground. Ace screamed and thrashed, trying to escape the grip of the stranger, but the grip was relentless. Ace felt the grip tighten and he thrashed more, crying out at the pain that it brought.

Ace hit the ground hard. He yelped as his body connected with the wooden floors, followed by crying. It had all built up and he could no longer handle everything he had seen that day. He couldn't hold back the wails anymore.

A large hand struck him across the face, shocking the toddler into silence. He didn't get to see who had hit him before he was yanked upwards. He was so disoriented. He heard rustling and muffled yells and screams in the background. He thought he saw Lucy's legs, but they were pulled out of his range of sight.

"Hello, Ace," A voice rough on the ears, a voice that sounded like it was from Ace's nightmares, spoke to the child. Ace looked up, faced with a man he had never seen before. Insanity glinted in his beady eyes. His unbuttoned shirt revealed the markings Ace had seen a while ago on those papers he had found in the garage. "You've seen this symbol before, haven't you?"

Sniffling, Ace nodded.

"Ace, do people call your daddy Roger?"

Again, Ace nodded, but this time slower. He blinked at the man looming over him. He couldn't see his face all too well because the kitchen ceiling light was behind him. The kitchen fan also kept changing the shadows running over his face, making Ace feel slightly nauseous for some reason. His throat felt tight and dry in a way the child had never felt before.

"Did your daddy help a girl named Lucy?"

Ace held his nod as the rustling behind him became louder. He was about to turn to look, but the man gripped his chin. Ace was forced to look at the man. He tried to ignore the feel of the big, burly, grimy hands on his chin as the man talked.

"Did your daddy help a girl named Lucy?"

Despite the trembling of his body and the cold sweat forming on his forehead, dripping down the sides of his face slowly, Ace nodded.

"Is Lucy's hair blond, or black?"

Ace's lips twitched. The shaking of his body became more violent. He sniffled as he stuttered out the word "Black" through the swelling of his cheek from the harsh slap and the falls he had taken.

The man straightened slowly, a vicious grin forming on his face. His lips pulled back, revealing the threatening grin. The grin made Ace feel weak, and he fell from his feet to his butt. The man spoke some language Ace had never heard before. He only knew it was bad because of the way the man looked at Ace. Ace felt like he was a piece of meat when he was looked at by those sinister eyes.

The man lifted his foot, and Ace had no time to dodge it.

He woke up to his world on fire. He coughed as he awoke, body curling up into a trembling ball. It was incredibly hot. It overwhelmed his already overwhelmed mind to the absolute breaking point. All he could see were orange flames covering every surface in the house. His eyes couldn't keep focus. The irises trembled as they looked everywhere they could move. He began to hyperventilate, unknowingly inhaling the smoke from the flames. It caused him to cough even more.

"Mama! Daddy!" He wailed out, followed by coughs that caused his whole body to spasm. His loud cries were the only thing he could hear over the crackling sounds of the fire and the crashing sounds of burning surfaces falling to the ground in heaps.

Hands grabbed him and he immediately began to flail, trying to smack the offending hands away. It was a threat, they would hurt him again and he opened his eyes - when did he close them? - and saw that it was Anne. Her eyes were bloodshot and she bled from her mouth. She had bruises on her face and she was panting, which only struck it home harder that she was exhausted, which Ace could already tell from the faint trembling and swaying of her body.

She said nothing, merely holding Ace close as she stood. Ace looked at Anne, and then behind her. His jaw dropped. The tears welling in his eyes were tears of despair. On the ground lay Mama and Daddy - Daddy came back, just like Mama had said he would - with blood pooling around them. There were footsteps from the puddles, mainly the third puddle. Ace looked down, following trail of red footsteps. He realized they belonged to Anne. He felt something wet and warm against his leg. He noticed that blood dripped down to the floor with each unsteady step Anne took.

Tears streamed down Ace's face. His eyes were empty as he stared at his Mama and Daddy. His grip on Anne loosened until he was a dead weight in her arms.

The back door had been left open. Ace saw that the whole house was engulfed in flames. He didn't know how to react.

Anne slipped down the stairs of the porch. Her weak arms dropped Ace, who rolled a decent distance from his older sister. In the overgrown grass, she couldn't see Ace. She coughed, wheezing his name. Ace stayed silent, too shocked to do anything.

Anne suddenly cried out in pain, her voice high-pitched with fear. Ace tried to get up, but fell back down. Looking back at his leg, which he now realized was causing him searing pain, he noticed that it was bent at a horrible angle. It caused knots to form in his stomach.

Anne cried out again. Ace lifted his torso, looking through the thick clumps of blades of grass in the direction of her voice. He noticed she was being dragged away by the man who asked him questions earlier. Using his arms, he tried to crawl forward. He quickly ran out of breath and collapsed on his shaking arms.

He heard a loud bang, accompanied by a desperate cry. His head whipped up. He could only see the man through the blades, disappearing into the forest alone. His eyes could barely see the blood on the tree.

Hands picked him up. This time he had no reaction. All he knew was that whoever was carrying him was trying to run, but they were limping. Their leg was wounded. He could tell, mostly from the blood he saw trailing behind them. They were going down the mountain. He heard no voices, only the sound of the person's heavy breathing and pained, yet quiet, cries.

They went somewhere Ace had never been before on the lake. Ace was dumped into a small motor boat. He curled up along the floor of the boat as the person pushed the boat into deep water. They climbed into the boat with great difficulty, shaking the entire frame. The boat motor was lowered without care into the water. It shook the boat again. They pulled the choke out and then yanked the starter rope several times until the boat engine began to rumble.

The boat sped from zero to what felt like twenty to the toddler in a matter of seconds. He watched as they headed to the river. He looked back at the person. It was Lucy. She was crying as she steered the boat using the tiller. Ace looked back to the river ahead. He had never gone in this direction before.

Ace realized it was nighttime. Late, probably. The moon was high in the sky. He stared at it, wondering how long he had been asleep. The last thing he remembered was that the sun was nearly setting, but it had yet to actually set.

The toddler turned back to Lucy, managed to crawl to sit next to her despite his broken leg, and cuddled against her as she fell to the boat floor. The frigid night air chilled both to the bone, as well as the gruesome events that just happened. Ace was numb, and he didn't know if he would ever be happy again. Mama and Daddy weren't coming back, not this time. And he doubted he would ever see Anne again, too.

Lucy just felt guilt, because she felt it was partially her fault. She hated her past, especially the man who impregnated her mother, who eventually gave birth to Lucy. She hated feeling so helpless despite having so much training, despite having killed men twice her size on more than one occasion. She had a new mission now though, and that was to protect Ace. She promised Anne she would. So she tried to keep her eyes on the river as they drove into the distance, foreign to both of them, and their unknown future.

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