Flippy took in the sights of his home. It used to be just a small club for young, homeless children to stay when they had nowhere else to go. But now, it was like a village inside a large building, There were builders for repairs and building rooms. There were foragers for gathering food, which they silently stole from the nearby stores. There were a few researchers to study technologies and discover new weapons and explosives. There were doctors to heal and cure diseases. There were warriors to protect the house from invaders; it could've been the Haven or the police. The police was very skeptical of the Tree Friends; all those years of robbery and treachery have added years and years of felonies on their criminal records.
"Is it… Always like this?"
Cuddles looked at him, confused.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, when did the Tree Friends end up becoming a whole separate society?"
Cuddles looked back at the sights.
"Ever since we were cast off from the city…"
Flippy looked at his blonde brother.
"Flippy, did you notice that none of us are employed?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Well, because we couldn't earn money ourselves, we needed the food. So, we began to steal for food. But we never steal money; we're too good for that."
"Have you all tried to get jobs?"
"Well… The government has denied us jobs."
Flippy realized his family's current state; they were viewed as nothing more than animals. They couldn't earn money for food, they couldn't live in anywhere but an abandoned warehouse, they couldn't be seen in public without being ridiculed by the police or just regular people. And this wasn't what Flippy wanted his home to be like. But he also knew it wasn't their fault; they were only living life the way the way they could. The city made them into common criminals, when really they were just people.
He almost decided to cry, but then remembered what he was doing a minute before.
"Which room is Flaky's?"
Cuddles pointed to a room in the far corner.
"Thanks. Wish me luck. Oh, by the way. I finally got a nickname now. Call me Flippy, OK?"
Cuddles got confused.
"Why that name?"
"Speak for yourself... Cuddle Bunny."
Cuddles got angry as Flippy limped down the stairs with his cane on his left. He hated the cane.
"I feel like I'm 70."
He walked slowly past the workers, taking in his new home. He came to the room Cuddles pointed to. It had a red, worn out wooden door with the name 'Flaky' on it. He grabbed the doorknob and slowly turned it.
In the room was a worn, metal bed with a red quilt, a small, old dresser in the corner with a mirror, and stacks of books around the floor, most of them medical books, but some are romance novels.
And no Flaky. The window in her room was wide open.
He sighed sadly and, painfully climbed out the window. On one leg, it was torture to do so. He painfully walked from the house. The grass was still yellow and dead. Barely any trees stood anymore. And he saw the river by the house where the Tree Friends got their water from. It was dirty and blocked by a small dam. It was worn and ready to break loose.
He saw Flaky's brown sweater on the ground, ripped off from her body. Flippy feared the worst.
"Oh god… Flaky!"
He limped as fast as he could, following the one thing that could lead to Flaky; her white flakes leaving a trail that must lead right to her. He followed them, still in pain from his leg. He then found her black dress, also taken from her body. He started to tear up as he continued to follow the flakes. Finally, he saw a bleach yellow bra draped on the ground. Now he knows she was in trouble.
He came to one place he's seen before; a shimmering lake with a small waterfall.
He saw a crying, blood-red haired girl kneeling down by the lake, staring at her reflection in the clear water. She was wearing only her underwear, and her arms were crossed over her naked breasts. Flippy had never seen her without a top on, and started to blush, but swallowed his dignity and picked up her bra, the walked up to the girl.
Flaky saw the young, wounded soldier behind her in the water. She never looked at him.
Flippy kneeled down to her, which wasn't easy to do, but he ignored the pain; this was the first time he'd seen her, in his normal state, for five years.
"What are you doing here?"
"I had to get away from that house. I come here all the time. It's the only place I can go to when I want to be alone."
"Why do you want to be alone?"
"Cause my life's a wreck."
"What do you mean, Flaky? And why are you naked? It's freezing out here."
Flaky continued to stare at the reflection. Then, she shut her eyes, stood up, brought her hand up and ran it across his face. Flippy held his face; she never hit him before.
She grabbed her bra and began hooking it behind her back.
"Felix, you broke your promise."
He still rubbed his cheek.
"You promised me that when you came home, you'd hug me like you used to."
Flippy knew that; he still felt guilty.
"Well, I'm here now."
He opened his arms, expecting a hug.
"Felix, it's not the same! You… You fainted as soon as I saw you. Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for that hug?!"
He had no idea.
"Felix, my life has been hell ever since you left! You're way too... Special to me. You… gave me hope."
"What do you mean?"
She stared back at her reflection.
"Felix, ever since I was young everyone I've ever known first saw me as a boy. Even Cuddles at first thought I was a boy. Do you know how low that makes me feel, knowing I'm a girl when everyone else thinks of me as a boy?"
Flippy didn't say anything.
"I can't blame them though; I never liked tea parties or dressing up or makeup. I liked sports. I liked playing with you and Cuddles. But…"
She stared at her reflection, like she was looking at a whole different person.
"That made me viewed as a boy. I hated being confused for a boy. It makes me feel ugly..."
She started sobbing.
"But you. You never called me a boy. And I was always grateful for that. And all my life, you were there for me. You were at my side every minute of every day…"
He tilted his head.
"I felt like I needed to protect you; to me you were always my best friend. Someone I couldn't live without."
"When you left, I was alone. I watched as I saw people in the club fall in love, get together and spend every minute together. All I did was cry, because I had no one."
She started hiccuping, like she always did when she was at her saddest.
"You were the only one who ever thought of me as a girl. But when you left, no other boy talked to me. I felt ugly. I felt uninteresting. And sometimes I'm so uncertain I'm a girl, I come here, where I can really see for myself."
"And you took your clothes off to prove it?"
"I took them off because they aren't pretty clothes. All other girls have cute outfits. All I got is that ugly looking sweater and stupid dress. I feel so ugly in it."
"You think clothes define you?"
"Nothing else does. Like look at you; you're uniform tells you're strong and confident. The one things I'm not."
She continued to weep, feeling lower than ever, feeling her friend feels what other boys feel; she's not good enough for him.
"Don't you see, Felix? I needed you to be here! Without you here, my life is nothing but one big joke! I can't live with myself if I don't feel safe!"
She stood up, and they met their eyes for the first time. He missed those ruby eyes, even though they were full of tears. Then, almost immediately, she ran to him and wrapped her arms around him.
"Please don't leave me again! Please!"
Her tears fell on his chest, and with every drop he felt himself losing more and more sadness. She started shivering again, hoping Flippy would hug her back. Then, she felt warm again. She felt his arms around her again, the first time in 5 years.
But then he let go, yet she still felt warm. She felt a camouflage jacket around her shoulders and a green beret on her head. She saw Flippy staring behind him, with his bare back facing her.
"My uniform means nothing to me. It's just clothes. So if you feel it automatically makes you strong and confident, then you can have them."
She felt nothing at all. She knew what he was trying to do; he was trying to cheer her up the only way he can. He turned around. She blushed at the sight of his army-toned muscles.
"Being alone sucks. I know, because I was alone when my team was killed."
He remembered Mouse and Sneaky, two of the finest men he had ever known.
"And throughout my days of being alone, I only thought about coming home. To you. Only to find home is just as much hell as it was out there. And you hate me now. My friends are dead, and now my dad is my enemy. My life's wrecked."
Flaky couldn't believe her ears. He was never one to show his true emotions before. She hugged him again, this time he brought her close, so he could lower his head to her shoulder, and he stroked her red hair.
"I can't believe you're this close to me already, Flaky. When you slapped me, I thought for sure you hated me. I was ready to leave here, cause you're the whole reason I came back."
She wept in his shoulder as he kept hugging her, holding her tighter and tighter. She had never felt so comfortable before, or so loved.
"I would never hate you. I missed you so much… Felix."
"I missed you too… Felicia."
She never heard his call him by her real name before, but somehow she didn't care; hearing him say it made her happier.
They then took each other's hands and stared at each other. They never felt so safe with each other; he was afraid for his life on the battlefield, she was afraid for her life in her own city. He needed love to feel safe from his evil side. She needed love to feel like she had something to live for. He needed protection from evil, she needed protection from evil.
They were made for each other.
"I got a nickname now. Flippy."
He smiled too.
"Just like you."
They both closed their eyes and leaned in, hoping to press their lips together.
"There you guys are!"
They stopped before their lips touched.
They both looked where the voice came from to see a perverted looking man wearing a yellow leisure suit and sporting an orange afro.
"Felix, Flaky, you need to come back!"
"Disco! Why are you here?"
"Cuddles sent me to look for you two. There's a club meeting in 10 minutes."
Then he noticed they were both half naked.
"Well… What's goin on here, huh? A little reunion loving? Heh heh…"
Flippy got angry and was about to punch him in the face, but then he saw Flaky's sweater and dress in his hand.
"Gimme those! Flaky, you just wear my uniform. I'll carry your things. Come on, let's go home."
He grabbed his cane, but then Flaky grabbed his arm, providing all the support he needed. So he put the cane on the pile he was carrying and they started walking. Disco lead them back to the house, dancing silently to imaginary music along the way. Flippy, however, seeing Flaky still trembling, held her hand as they walked. She looked at their hands, and smiled.
Feeling loved again. Finally.