21 November 2012

So I figured that those of you who noticed my absence deserved an apology, or at least an explanation. The truth is, I don't really have much of one. There are certain things I've struggled with in my past, and new things that have only just come up, and none of it's easy at all. These past few months have been really hard, and the more I tried to deal with it in my real life, the more I pulled away from my online friends. It's really rare for me to even talk to anyone these days, and as time went on I got very discouraged by the lack of people who seemed to even notice (with the exception of PiB, who always asked how I was doing and whom I appreciated very much during all of this), which is why I unfollowed everyone I cared about and eventually deleted my Tumblr altogether.

There are certain people, or at least a person, to whom my absence really hasn't been fair. It's particularly not fair because I'm a hypocrite, or at least a really bad friend. I don't have any excuses, really, other than the fact that I was probably a bad friend before any of this. I don't think I ever got over the months I spent last winter without my best friend, and when it happened again I was definitely not equipped to go through the same thing. The truth is that I could have been a better friend and tried to understand, but I didn't. I was selfish- I am selfish. When I was diagnosed last month, all I could think about was how much I really missed the people in my life that I would have talked to about it before, and I've been so focused on myself and my problems that I stopped caring about other people's.

All things considered, I don't really expect to be around in your community any longer. I'll really miss it, and the friends I made from being part of it. But I never really felt like I fit in much in the first place, which was really my own fault for not making more of an effort to be visible. At any rate, I'm done writing for a while. I haven't been able to write anything for months; I don't know if it's my depression keeping me from doing anything, or if I genuinely don't have any muse left for the Pesces and the story I created around them. I'd like to say I'll return one day, but I probably won't. I get too sad when I think about everything related to it, and I think I just need to look around for something that makes me feel happy again. I don't know what that is yet, but hopefully I'll know it when I find it.

So, I'm sorry. I wish I could have done things differently, or at least felt differently about everything. Really, when it comes down to it, you deserve better than me.

25 March 2012

Character Bio: Phillip Evans

Age: Elder
Occupation(s): Policeman (formerly), Retired (currently)
Traits: Can't Stand Art, Angler, Loves the Outdoors, Charismatic, Family-Oriented
Sign: Cancer
Favorites: Blue, Pancakes, Country Music

Unlike his wife, Phillip Evans has not led an exciting or varied existence. Having lived in Riverview his entire life, he's not fond of change and tends to resist it in all forms. Isabel has often tried to get him to try more things, insisting that change isn't as scary as it seems, but his fear of the unknown has always held him back from chasing the same kind of opportunities that Isabel always has. He likes to tell her that she is his big adventure, a statement that warms Isabel's heart long enough for her to drop the subject. 

While he comes across as rather stern, Phillip is a compassionate and caring man underneath his gruff exterior. His guarded countenance and brevity made him a perfect candidate for the police force, and he served his community well over the past  thirty years. Now that he's retired, however, Phillip enjoys fishing and hiking, hobbies that he will never be too old to pursue. 

While he initially disliked Moe- whom he saw as a stranger who took his daughter away, despite the fact that she moved to Barnacle Bay long before she met Moe- he has recently begun to get along with his son-in-law much better than he used to. Perhaps part of Phillip will always resent the change that took Jane away from him and sent her to Barnacle Bay, but at least he realizes now that it wasn't Moe's fault. And, of course, living near his daughter again has made him more agreeable in general. Additionally, the two are both avid fisherman, a fact that will provide ample groundwork for a better friendship, should the two men choose to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Character Bio: Moe Pesce

Age: Adult
Occupation(s): Fisherman (formerly), Doctor (currently)
Traits: Workaholic, Good Sense of Humor, Handy, Angler, Loves the Outdoors
Sign: Gemini
Favorites: Orange, Spaghetti, Classical Music

The hub around which the entire family centers, Moe is a family man at heart. He spent the majority of his time in Barnacle Bay waiting to find Mrs. Right, and when he met Jane Evans, he knew he finally had. While the beginning of their relationship was quite rocky (thanks to one Chase Cruz), Moe eventually won her over with his kind nature and hilarious jokes. 

A short while after the birth of their twins, Sophie and Ethan, the Pesces picked up and moved to Twinbrook, though Moe was initially against the idea. But he has always had a hard time saying no to Jane, and up until recently, their marriage has always been a harmonious one built on equality and communication. But Moe's jealous nature, combined with Jane's nosiness and Chase's interference, led to a sizable rift in their relationship, one that is only just now being repaired. Over the past few years, Moe has had to learn to curb his jealousy and control his emotions, and he's become a better person for the experience. 

Of course, that isn't the only struggle Moe has had to deal with in recent months. While he's devoted to his family and would do anything for them, his workaholic nature has begun to show up in full force, making it hard for Moe to juggle his family and his career. He likes being good at what he does, and he likes feeling as if he's making a difference. But while his family has always been enough to curtail that selfish streak, his recent problems with Jane have made it easier for some old habits to come slipping back in. It isn't apparent to everyone else yet, but Moe has begun spending more and more time at the office, and it's difficult for him to fight his natural instincts. 

24 March 2012

Chapter One Summary

Our story centers around a family struggling to stay together despite the problems that seem to follow them everywhere. Originally from Barnacle Bay, the Pesces have relocated their family to Twinbrook in search of a new life and a fresh start. While he was once a doctor with a good salary and excellent prospects for the future, Moe has left that career behind him and intends to embark on life as a fisherman, while his wife Jane has recently been hired as a teacher at the local elementary school. Despite the initial bumps in the road- including Moe's reluctance towards the move- the Pesces settle into a comfortable routine that seems to please everyone, including their rambunctious twins, Sophie and Ethan. They quickly find out, however, that their new life is anything but simple.

Shortly after arriving in Twinbrook, the Pesces discover that part of their past hasn't exactly stayed behind in Barnacle Bay. Jane's brooding and troublesome ex, Chase Cruz, has also moved to Twinbrook to start a new life. When they confront him, he explains that he has moved to pursue a fresh start of his own, and claims that he'd had no idea that Jane and Moe had moved into the neighborhood as well. But is his explanation genuine?

Moe and Jane resolve to not let Chase get in the way of their new start, and for a while it seems like their plan will work. As the twins grow out of their toddler years, the Pesces entertain ideas of expanding their family. While Jane wants a new baby to fill the void that the twins left, Moe is looking forward to the twins growing up and giving them back some of their freedom. After all, twins are a handful to raise, and it's about time they get a break. Before they can come to a decision, however, Jane finds out that she's pregnant, and the Pesces are forced to reevaluate their plans.

Moe decides to go back to work as a doctor, and he and Jane prepare for the baby's arrival. Meanwhile, the younger Pesces have become quite close to Lucy, who- unbeknownst to them- is the daughter of their parents' dreaded enemy, Chase Cruz. When Chase comes to pick up his daughter after a playdate, all three adults are surprised to find out that their children have become friends, and the encounter doesn't go smoothly at all. We find out that Lucy is the daughter of his ex-fiance, Amy Jenkins, who was murdered and left Lucy in Chase's care.

Jane and Moe try to keep their distance from Chase, but he seems to be everywhere, particularly when it comes to Jane. After an unfortunate encounter in the laundromat involving mixed signals and pregnancy hormones running high, Jane returns home to Moe and tells him about Chase's attempted kiss- an admission that doesn't go over well. Moe's jealous nature rears its head, and he never fully trusts Chase or his intentions. Jane assures him that she has no feelings whatsoever for her ex-boyfriend- except perhaps loathing and hatred- but Moe's newfound jealousy and her own muddled-up hormones certainly make for a lot of fighting.

It isn't long before the baby is ready to join the Pesces, and Jane and Moe expect their third- and final- pregnancy to be a breeze. But when Moe forgets to call the babysitter, the twins are left alone in the house- and when Sophie and Ethan are left to their own devices, trouble is sure to ensue! Sure enough, the Pesces return home from the hospital to find that the twins have somehow managed to set their stove on fire, and Jane settles her children in for a nice, long lecture.

The twins begin to mellow a little after the arrival of their little sister- fortunately for Jane and Moe! Izzy Pesce is definitely the spoiled princess of the Pesce clan, and it isn't long before she has the entire family wrapped around her finger- including Jane's parents, Isabel and Phillip Evans, who visit their granddaughter, make Moe feel uncomfortable, and announce their intention of relocating to Twinbrook all within the same evening.

Izzy's arrival and Isabel and Phillip moving to town aren't the only changes invading the Pesces' lives, however. After the pregnancy, Jane finds it exceedingly difficult to go back to work, and winds up quitting to pursue her dream of becoming a reporter. While Moe hopes that the change in career will help his wife settle down, it proves to do the exact opposite when Jane stumbles upon an article regarding Amy Jenkins' death- a death that was never fully investigated. This discovery sets her on an investigation of her own as she begins to question everyone who knew Amy Jenkins prior to her death- including Chase.

Never one to know when she's bitten off more than she can chew, Jane's questioning lands her in hot water with an unknown party who doesn't want her digging around. But it isn't until the unknown culprit throws a rock through the front window that Jane realizes just how dangerous her snooping is. She promises Moe that she'll stop looking into the case, but it's difficult for her to stay away. Fortunately, raising Izzy takes up a lot of time, and when the twins and Lucy begin acting suspicious, there's plenty to take Jane's mind off of Amy Jenkins and her mysterious death.

But it isn't long before those distractions wear off, and with the arrival of Jebediah Kane, a private investigator who recently moved into the neighborhood with his extensive family, Jane can't help but start digging once more. She hires Jeb to follow Jenni Baker (née Jones-Brown), but his findings come up empty. She continues enlisting the help of two of Amy's former friends, Angie Morris and Matt Schtick, but the investigation is slow and frustrating.

Unfortunately for Jane, the plot thickens when someone attempts to blackmail her with pictures of her and Chase, and Moe's jealousy begins to get worse. But Jane can tell him the truth- that she was simply questioning Chase about Amy's death- their house catches fire, burning to the ground and destroying the majority of their belongings, leaving the Pesces to move into Jane's parents' house. Things between Jane and Moe only get worse, and it starts to become noticeable even to the twins, who believe that the tension between their parents derives from their fight with Lucy's father.

Having inherited their mother's nosiness in droves, the twins set up a fake picnic intended to drive their parents together and force them to make up. And to everybody's surprise, it does seem to work. Moe and Chase reach a tenuous truce, with Chase apologizing for continuing to harass Jane and Moe realizing that Chase isn't always a major douche. While at the picnic, Jane receives a call from Angie telling her to meet her so that she can give her a book she found that might shed some light on Amy's death. But by the time Jane arrives, Angie has been attacked by an unknown assailant.

While Angie recovers from her attack, Jane and Moe struggle to communicate, but he does manage to give her the book Angie had brought with her to their meeting. Jane realizes that the book is Amy's diary, and that it contains several pieces of incriminating information- namely that Amy was being blackmailed about some forgeries she had unknowingly created, and that her blackmailer was none other than Jenni Jones-Brown (now Jenni Baker). Jane heads to Jenni's house to confront her, without telling anyone where she's going or what she's up to. Jenni admits to blackmailing Amy, but has a solid alibi for the day of her death and claims that she never actually received any money from her.

Jane goes to the cemetery to visit Amy's grave and think about the information she's uncovered, but someone follows her, having received a phone call from Jenni regarding Jane's suspicions. Now that she's getting close to the truth, it seems someone has decided that her snooping simply can't be tolerated anymore. Jane is attacked from behind and kidnapped, and it turns out that her kidnapper- and Amy's murderer- is none other than Matt Schtick, Amy's former friend and a local firefighter. As he starts to explain his motives to Jane, she begins to realize that he is far more dangerous than she originally thought.

He and Amy had grown up together, but their friendship had always been rather one-sided. Amy was selfish, manipulative, and blind to the damage she inflicted on those around her, particularly Matt. He had always been in love with her, but she constantly chose men like Chase, and Matt could only stand by helplessly while she made bad decisions- including the ones that led to her being pregnant and heartbroken when Chase cheated on her and left town. She and Matt had gotten into a fight that resulted in neither of them talking to each other until they were much older.

But when he admitted his feelings to her, she seemed repulsed by the very idea. For Matt, that had been the final straw. He had been involved with Jenni's blackmailing plans, hoping that by allowing Jenni to ruin her life, he'd be able to swoop in and be her knight and shining armor. When he realized that she had never felt about him the way he felt about her, he became blinded by rage and stabbed her.

By the time Matt is done recounting his story to her, Angie has informed Moe and Chase of the information she read in Amy's diary, and the two rush over to Matt's house to save Jane. While they attempt to use stealth to steal the element of surprise, Matt is waiting for them, and a standoff ensues. When Jane startles Matt, the bullet he intends for Chase misses and hits Moe. Matt is initially shocked at his actions, but recovers quickly enough to catch Chase off guard and knock his gun out of his hands. The two fight, but Matt loses his balance and falls over the balcony, crashing on the ground below.

Moe recovers in the hospital, and Jane briefly leaves his side to attend Matt's funeral. She and Chase are the only visitors, and she reflects on the sad picture this paints of Matt's life. Coincidentally, this is also the day of the twins' birthday party and official entrance into their teen years, but Jane is delaying her attendance as much as possible. Seeing Moe in the hospital has hit her hard, and she has a hard time celebrating when he is stuck in a hospital bed. Chase tells her that he can no longer stay in Twinbrook, as the guilt over Matt's death and the grief over Amy's have been weighing heavily on him. The twins celebrate becoming teenagers with their friend Lucy, not knowing that it will be the last time they see her for a while. 

22 March 2012

Character Bio: Angela Morris

Age: Adult
Occupation(s): Stylist (formerly), Day Spa Owner (currently)
Traits: Friendly, Artistic, Excitable, Adventurous, Neurotic
Sign: Aquarius
Favorites: Turquoise, Cookies, Pop Music

While her parents moved to Simssouri decades ago from Shang Simla, Angie has lived in Twinbrook her entire life. Unlike the majority of her high school friends, she never moved away, choosing to carve out a life for herself in the small swamp-filled town instead. Despite this, Angie possesses an adventurous spirit, and is always ready for new opportunities, wherever they might pop up. 

Throughout high school, she had a good eye for fashion, and it wasn't long before her art teacher suggested that she give the fashion industry a try. Angie spent the next few years honing her style, and it wasn't long before she was hired as a stylist at the local salon. It was there that she met Jane Pesce, a meddling reporter who would later become a close friend. It was also there that she reconnected with Matt Schtick, an old acquaintance from high school who would later attack her for knowing too much about his evil plans. 

It's hard to imagine anybody who would want to harm Angie intentionally, however. Her kind nature and friendly countenance make it easy to get along with her, and she's someone who simply doesn't hold a grudge. You'd have to burn quite a few bridges with Angie before she wrote you off for good. Naive, easily impressionable, and trusting to a fault, Angie is a perceptive person nonetheless, and she will always tell you the truth if it's within her power. She's a good friend to have in your corner, though she may try to make you over without your noticing! 

19 March 2012

Character Bio: Izzy Pesce

Age: Child
Occupation(s): Student
Traits: Clumsy, Loves the Outdoors, Easily Impressed
Sign: Capricorn
Favorites: Pink, PB&J, Songwriter Music

Named for her maternal grandmother, Izzy is the youngest of the Pesce clan, and one of the quietest. Next to her brother and sister, Izzy tends to be forgotten, so it's no surprise that not much is known about her. She hasn't featured much in the Pesce's adventures, but that's sure to change as she grows up and finds her own niche.

Of course, she's already starting to find her own path in life. Now that she's out of her toddler years, Izzy is proving to be almost as intelligent as her siblings, although her artistic talent skews more towards ballet and music than painting or writing. Her parents enrolled her in a class shortly after her birthday, and she quite enjoys it. When she's not in school or at her ballet lessons, Izzy can often be found playing outside in the dirt. But lest anyone immediately peg her for a tomboy like her sister, one glance at her appearance proves otherwise. She's completely enamored of anything pink, and much of what she wears or decorates her room with is absolutely drenched in the color.

Socially, Izzy is a bit... odd. She has yet to make any real friends, despite her parents' best efforts, and she seems content to hang out with her siblings or simply by herself. With her overactive imagination and complacent temperament, Izzy is happiest when left to her own devices, and it's led to some difficulty interacting with her classmates. Unbeknownst to her, Jane and Moe have even begun discussing taking her to see a therapist. Only time will tell how her strange brand of confidence and social misfit will develop.

18 March 2012

Character Bio: Isabel Evans

Age: Elder
Occupation(s): Chef (formerly), Retired (currently)
Traits: Over Emotional, Good Sense of Humor, Family Oriented, Natural Cook, Artistic
Sign: Taurus
Favorites: Pink, Tri-Tip Steak, Classical Music

Ah, Isabel Evans- the proud matriarch of the family. Kind, emotional, and supportive to a fault, there isn't much that escapes this formidable elder's attention. She's a shameless gossip, and she enjoys knowing exactly what's going on in every corner of her neighborhood. Many a neighbor or passerby has been irritated to glimpse Isabel hiding behind a hedge, pretending to garden. It's easy to see where Jane gets her meddlesome ways from! 

But of course, she's much more than simply Jane Pesce's mother. Isabel has led a colorful and adventurous life, and while she's made her share of mistakes, she looks back on her past with pride and contentment. After all, how many Sims can say that they've studied with monks in Shang Simla, or that they were once a model in Starlight Shores? Not many! Isabel enjoys recounting each and every one of her adventures to those who will listen. In fact, other people often have a hard time escaping one of her fond reminiscing sessions. 

Originally from Riverview, Isabel has had a lifelong love of traveling and exploring all that life has to offer. Her true love, however, has always been cooking. She became a chef soon after her marriage to Phillip- the other love of her life- and spent the next forty years doing what she loved. She counts herself lucky to have found a job she enjoyed so much, and those who have ever tasted her cooking agree. She has a distinct talent in the kitchen, especially when it comes to desserts. While she is now retired, Isabel still enjoys cooking for her family and loved ones- and bringing a pie over provides the perfect excuse for a little gossip! 

Character Bio: Lucy Jenkins

Age: Teen
Occupation(s): Student
Traits: Adventurous, Photographer's Eye, Friendly, Perfectionist
Sign: Virgo
Favorites: Blue, Egg Rolls, Pop Music

Lucy is a fairly happy-go-lucky girl, and you'd never know from looking at her that her mother was brutally murdered when she was just a child. After Amy's death, Lucy was raised by her father, Chase, whom she'd never met before (as he didn't know of her existence until then). While their initial relationship was awkward, Lucy now gets along quite well with her father, and has become an energetic, friendly, and intelligent teen. 

Shortly before starting high school, Lucy and her father moved to Sunset Valley to escape the memories of Amy (as well as her murderer, Matt Schtick). Lucy was fairly unhappy about the move, especially since she'd become very close to the Pesce twins- Ethan in particular. But whatever potential feelings were there were cut short when she moved, and Lucy has since had to form new friendships- and new relationships. 

Much like her mother, Lucy has quite a busy social life, especially when it comes to guys. Fortunately, however, Lucy did not quite inherit all of her mother's self-centered ways, and she tries to treat everyone fairly. But she can get caught up in her own life at times, and like Amy, she doesn't always realize when she's hurting others.To her credit, however, she's always quick to try to fix something if she perceives that she's messed up. 

While she is a member of the popular group in her new school, Lucy's hobbies and interests skew more towards the artistic- something she definitely inherited from her mother. She's an avid photographer, and she entertains ideas of traveling the world and capturing it all on her trusty Hikon QX40di Gladiator. 

Housekeeping and General Notes

Hey, everyone! Now that this chapter (or season, or part, or whatever you'd like to call it) is officially done, I'd just like to update everyone on what to expect next.

I'm not going to drop off the grid like I did before, but I will be having a bit of a hiatus (two or three weeks) to clean up my blog and prepare for the next chapter. There's a lot of general upkeep to do; several of my old posts are now obsolete thanks to a computer crash and lack of pictures, and I'm planning on creating a chapter-long summary so that people who are new to the story can skim it and get the general idea. I also need to fix several appearance-related things, such as the bright red accent that I would prefer to be a bit easier on the eyes.

That being said, I will be spending these next few weeks creating the aforementioned summary, a f.a.q. page, character bios (some of which are already up!) and coming up with a good plot for the next chapter. I'm still interested in hearing everyone's ideas and feedback, so hit me up if you have any!

So to wrap up, expect Chapter 2 to start sometime in April, and keep your eyes peeled for shiny information!

Character Bio: Sophie Pesce

Age: Teen
Occupation(s): Student
Traits: Loves the Outdoors, Easily Impressed, Athletic, Rebellious
Sign: Aquarius
Favorites: Spiceberry, Cookies, Indie Music

The troublemaker of the Pesce clan, Sophie has done everything from set the house on fire to convincing her brother he could fly if he jumped off the swingset. She seems to live for causing mayhem, but underneath her mischievous exterior is a caring, compassionate girl who enjoys being around the people she loves.

Unlike her brother, Sophie would rather be outside playing sports than cooped up inside. The two couldn't be more different; her brother is quiet, unassuming, and intelligent, while Sophie is brash, reckless, and outgoing. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of siblings who get along better. They have always been partners in crime, covering up one another's mistakes and aiding and abetting the other when they get in trouble.

Sophie is also the more popular of the Pesce siblings. Her natural affinity for soccer and karate have given her a nice perch in high school society, but she's always wary of the popular clique, choosing to be around her fellow athletes instead. She's an established tomboy who hates dressing up, which has made her feel rather like she's the unpretty one in her class. She has a hard time accepting her looks, though she'll never outwardly admit this.

While she's never been a straight-A student, Sophie genuinely loves English and tends to actually make an effort in that class. She entertains hopes of being a famous author one day- though she'll have to survive long enough to become one!

Character Bio: Jane Pesce

Age: Adult
Occupation(s): Teacher (formerly), Reporter (formerly), Freelance Writer (currently)
Traits: Good, Family-Oriented, Bookworm, Hopeless Romantic, Childish
Sign: Capricorn
Favorites: Violet, Indie Music, and Crepes

Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Jane developed a reputation as a sweet child with a penchant for meddling. She's the type of person who tends to become a mother hen in just about every situation, and whether they like it or not, she's determined to protect the ones she loves- often from trouble she's caused.

After graduating from Riverview University, Jane moved to Barnacle Bay- a decision that her parents, Isabel and Phillip Evans, still resent- and promptly met two gentleman by the names of Moe Pesce and Chase Cruz. While her initial impulse led her to choose Chase, Jane quickly regretted it when the relationship soured and even became violent on one occasion. Fortunately for her, Moe was there to pick up the pieces, and it wasn't long before she fell deeply in love with him.

After their marriage and the birth of their twins, Sophie and Ethan, the Pesces moved to Twinbrook, hoping that the change of scenery would provide a fresh opportunity for a peaceful life. What they found in Twinbrook, however, was far from peaceful. With the arrival of Chase, new tensions, and an old murder that just begged for Jane to solve it, their first few years in Twinbrook were certainly eventful.

But Jane isn't one to complain about the past. Instead, she looks to the future, obsessively worrying about her family and friends instead of herself- even when she probably should. Despite her intelligence, Jane has a habit of being rather foolhardy and impulsive, which can often lead her into trouble. A lot of trouble. She has a curious streak a mile wide, and once she gets something into her head, she's hard-pressed to let it go- even when it leads her into worse and worse situations. While she listens to common sense most of the time, there are certainly times when her nosiness gets the better of her and she simply has to know.

Her tenacity, intelligence, and tendency to rush in where angels fool to tread make her an excellent candidate for a reporter, but after her recent ordeal at the hands of the late Matt Schtick, Jane resigned from the newspaper and took up a job as a freelance writer, doing occasional pieces for various publications around Simissouri but spending most of her time working on a novel of her own. It's possible that the events of the Amy Jenkins case will provide the inspiration for her novel- but Jane won't reveal any spoilers to her friends and family, no matter how much they beg her.

17 March 2012

Finale: Part 2

All right... six months later, here it is, ladies and gents! The long-awaited finale of Chapter 1 of A Simple Life. Thank you so much to those of you who stuck by me through the ups and downs, and to all of you who supported me. You can find a soundtrack for this post here- I strongly suggest you listen to it while reading! Thank you once again, and I hope you enjoy the conclusion. 

This is it, Jane thought, an odd sense of calm taking root in her bones. This is how I'm going to die. She couldn't claim part of her didn't deserve it; after all, if she'd just taken Moe's advice and left well enough alone, she wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. Moe. She would likely never see him again, but the knowledge of the pain her actions would cause him filled her with a sharp pang of regret.

"What... what happens next?" she ventured finally, willing her voice to stop shaking. She had to at least appear to be strong. If there was any chance of talking him down, she had to take it. But to her surprise, his composure was crumbling even worse than her own.

"I... don't know," Matt admitted finally, sinking to the floor with a sigh of despair. "Things just spun so far out of my control... It was so much easier in the beginning. But then you had to go and unravel everything. Now..." He paused, glancing at her for a second before his gaze flitted back to the floor. "I don't know what I'm going to do." The hopelessness in his eyes reflected what both he and Jane already knew. Matt was a man out of choices, and when someone with no options left was cornered...

Well, it wasn't looking good for Jane. But she still seized his sudden change in attitude as if it were a lifeline, refusing to let go of the only chance she had to leave this shack alive. The self-assured and maniacal killer was gone; in his place was a scared, upset man who clearly had no idea how things had gotten so out of control. For a brief moment, Jane felt something like sympathy stirring within her, but she was quick to squash it. He's holding you here at gunpoint, she reminded herself. Don't you dare start to feel bad for him. It would only complicate things more if she started to believe that her captor felt any kind of remorse for what he had done.

Outside, unbeknownst to Jane or Matt,  things were already starting to become more complicated.

"Are you sure we're in the right place?" Moe whispered, panting slightly as he tried to keep up with Chase.

Chase simply nodded and waved for him to be quiet and follow him. Not for the first time since leaving the hospital, Moe found himself wondering where the hell Chase had gotten a Glock so quickly. The thought would certainly have been a disturbing one on a normal day, but tonight, Moe was just grateful for the protection. The idea of being indebted to Chase Cruz for anything at all ruffled his feathers, however, and it was not sitting well with him.

The two made their way up the rickety stairs, wincing as their footsteps creaked on the rotting wood. As much as Moe tried, he couldn't prevent his steps from causing a loud creaaak, and Chase shot him a dirty look. "Shut up and try not to get in the way!" Chase hissed, waving at him again. Moe mouthed a silent apology at him and tried very hard not to return the look.

"Wait... what was that?" Matt sat up, craning his neck to listen to his surroundings. The sounds of the Simissouri swamp were always present in Twinbrook, but even moreso out here in the middle of nowhere. It was difficult for him to make out precisely what he'd heard, but his senses were on guard for anything out of the ordinary.

Jane knew exactly what he thought he'd heard, and she fought furiously to keep the wave of joy from bubbling up inside her. She'd never had a good poker face, but it was vital to hide her emotions now. If Matt suspected what she thought... Well, she could only hope that Moe hadn't come alone.

Surely he wouldn't be stupid enough to do that... right?

"Stay here," Matt ordered, grabbing his gun and advancing slowly towards the door. As much as he loved this shack and the protection it had afforded over the past few months, it wasn't exactly easy to defend, especially if there was more than one intruder. The only way for him to gain the advantage was to have the element of surprise- if that was even possible at this point.

Meanwhile, Moe was struggling to get past Chase and look through the window. He had to know if Jane was okay, even if Chase thought it was foolhardy to rush in with guns blazing. It was easy for him to be patient, Moe reflected bitterly. It wasn't his wife being held at gunpoint, after all. He opened his mouth to voice this complaint, but Chase shoved him back before he had a chance. "Moe, I'm only going to say this one more time. Stay. Back. And don't get in my way. Do you want to be responsible for your wife getting shot because you couldn't keep your mouth shut?"

Moe glared at him in resentment, but heeded his advice. He hated to admit that Chase was right, but he had to admit that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if something went wrong because of him.

Moe burst through the door, aiming his gun at the two of them. Jane stifled a gasp as she saw Chase and Moe. They were certainly a strange team, but Jane was so grateful that she hardly cared. She sprang to her feet and started to the door, but Matt's voice rang out before she'd taken five steps.

"If I were you, I'd stop right there, Mrs. Pesce," Matt remarked calmly, still pointing his gun at her erstwhile saviors. "If you make any sudden movements, your darling husband will be the first person I shoot." The cool and collected killer was back, and Jane felt a ripple of fear run down her spine. Suddenly, she had no doubt that he would do exactly what he threatened.

Moe could hardly contain himself anymore. He wanted to body tackle Chase, to rush past him and save his wife, to disarm Matt somehow. But he wasn't in control of the situation, and Matt's threat had put him at even more of a disadvantage. Without the kidnapper saying it, Moe knew that the opposite would hold true as well; if Moe were to do anything even remotely stupid, Matt would have no problem turning his gun on Jane and pulling the trigger.

So he bit his lip and kept quiet, despite all of his instincts. He had to trust that Chase could take care of the situation somehow... though the how was something that eluded Moe, no matter how hard he thought.

"Listen to me, Matt," Chase began, his voice calm and reassuring. It didn't surprise Moe that Chase's grand plan involved talking; it was the one thing he'd ever been good at. "No one has to get hurt here," he suggested, layers of persuasion coating his words. "You haven't hurt Jane, and we don't really have any proof that you've done anything else... For all we know, you could be completely innocent. So just put your gun down, and we'll talk this out like rational people, okay?"

"Of course, Cruz. I'll just lower my gun like this," Matt demonstrated with a smirk. "And then I'm sure you'll keep your word and we'll all talk like the gentlemen we are." The word was pronounced with a smug emphasis, as if he was suggesting that Chase was anything but. It stung, but he was far more focused on maintaining his air of calm authority. Just take the bait, Matt, he thought, teeth gritted in determination.

But Matt would have had to be an idiot to take him up on the offer, and everyone knew it. It had been a weak attempt at best, and Matt knew enough to call Chase's bluff.

"Thanks, but no thanks," he replied, swinging his gun back up again. "I think I'll start by shooting you instead. You seem to be much more annoying than your cowering partner over there. We'll see how these negotiations go without you trying to smooth talk everyone, shall we?"

Jane gasped, her eyes widening in horror. She didn't want Moe to be injured, but she didn't like the thought of Chase being shot, either. No matter what had happened in their past, she didn't want anyone to get hurt because of her. But as soon as she started to move forward, time seemed to slow down and everything began to happen at once.

She could only watch as the gun discharged, the bullet traveling towards the two men- one she loved, and one she had used to love. Fear paralyzed her as Chase ducked and the bullet hit flesh, a bright red splash of blood blossoming out from Moe's stomach.


Matt's body hit the ground with a hard thud, and Chase was filled with a sickening mix of dread and relief. It's over, he thought, his body sagging against the rotting balcony railing. He closed his eyes, trying not to take in the gruesome image of Matt's lifeless body. There was no use regretting his role in the final outcome of this morbid drama; he had been fighting for his life, and those of Jane and Moe. He had been a cop once; that subconscious drive to protect others had never really left, and in the weeks to come, it would certainly help assuage his guilt.

But that didn't make it any easier for him to come to terms with the situation.

He glanced around for Moe, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when he saw that Moe's eyes were open. It was absurd for him to even care; the two of them were barely on speaking terms, and even that was by necessity. But saving someone's life- and having them take a bullet intended for you- tended to change how you felt about them. Whether he liked it or not, Chase could feel a tiny shred of guilt twisting inside him as he contemplated the fact that he should be the one bleeding on the ground right now. 

Would she look at me that way, if I had? The thought came unbidden to his mind, and he fervently tried to ignore it. But it stuck, like a splinter he couldn't quite grasp. He would always feel jealous when he looked at the two of them, but how much of it stemmed from residual feelings for Jane and how much of it was from the knowledge that he had no one who cared about him like that, he couldn't say. That was too complicated a thread to unravel at the moment, and everything hurt too much to think about. 

Memories of Jane, of Amy, of Matt's fall... all of them tumbled through Chase's mind, mixing into one large picture of pain and loss. As he lay there, hunched over and exhausted, Chase did the only thing he could do. 

He began to cry.

The day of the funeral was one of the foggiest and dreariest days Twinbrook had seen in a long time- a fitting atmosphere for such a dismal event, Jane thought. She hadn't made an effort to dress up for the occasion, as she didn't quite feel that she belonged there at all. Still, she felt an odd sense of obligation to both Matt and Amy, a need to find closure in both their deaths and shut the door on the events of the past few months.

The cemetery was virtually empty, with only one or two stragglers wandering aimlessly near Matt's coffin. Even the priest was in a hurry to leave, and Jane couldn't help but feel a surge of sadness that the poor bastard hadn't had anyone who wanted to be with him at the end.

"What are you doing here, Jane?" Chase's voice cut through her thoughts. She turned and nodded at him in greeting, the corners of her mouth pulling downwards even as she tried to smile. "Isn't it the twins' birthday party today?" 

"My parents will be there," she responded, her voice still subdued and fragile. "I'm supposed to pick up Angie when I go visit Moe, and we'll swing by the party later." She knew that her kids wanted her there, that it looked strange for her to NOT be there when they officially became teenagers, but something didn't feel right about being there without Moe. Any kind of celebration would have felt strange to Jane right now, but birthday parties were Moe's domain. He was the one who cooked all the food, set out all the decorations, planned all the activities. He had always been the life of the party.

But now, with him lying in a hospital room, it just seemed wrong to go on without him. She was resigned to the fact that she would need to show up eventually, but she was also grateful for the delays that her trips to the cemetery and the hospital would afford.

Chase said nothing. Perhaps he understood, though she wouldn't expect him to. But perhaps he simply realized that there was nothing left to say. The past few days had been filled with police interviews, questions, lies... entirely too much talking, as far as Jane was concerned. Silence was nice. Silence was familiar.

After a while, she cleared her throat and looked around the cemetery. "I can't say I'm surprised that no one else showed up... Though if you'd asked me six months ago, I would have expected someone like Matt to have more friends. But..." Her voice trailed off, but she didn't need to finish the thought. Six months ago, she hadn't known the real Matt at all.

"What if we could have done more?" she asked suddenly, turning to face Chase. His startled expression spurred her onward. "I mean... I still can't help but feel as if so much of this was my fault," she added, her eyes downcast. "If I hadn't kept digging... If I'd just left everything alone... Maybe things would have worked out differently."

"How?" Chase demanded, raising his eyebrows. "Jane, the man was a killer. He killed Amy. He tried to kill Angie. If you think that stopping a man like that makes you a bad person... Well, you're wrong." He shook his head firmly. "You did the right thing for everyone. For Amy." His voice wavered as he fought back the emotions her name still brought him.

"Yeah?" Jane looked up at him again, studying his face for several seconds. "I suppose you're right about that... But I don't know. I just feel like I put so many people in danger, including my family. Who knows what our lives would be like right now if I hadn't gotten us in so much trouble?"

Chase laughed sharply, shaking his head again. "Jane, you used to be more optimistic than that. Your family's had its share of hardships over the past few months, that's true. But think about everything that's happened because of it."

"Your parents moving to Twinbrook..."

"New friends..."

"New possibilities for the future."

"And just look at your kids, how smart and brave and wonderful they grew up to be. It seems to me like you could have done worse over the past few months." He paused, trying to figure out the right words to say what he needed to say next.

"Jane... Lucy and I... Well, I got a job offer in Sunset Valley, and I decided to take it. We're leaving next week." His voice dropped off at the end of the sentence, as if he could hardly believe it himself.

Jane looked up at him in surprise, trying to mask the dismay she felt at this news. True, her past with Chase was complicated, but for him to move away... She couldn't help but think about how Sophie and Ethan would take this news. "For how long?"

He shrugged. "A few years? I don't know how permanent it will be... But I just can't be here any longer." He gestured around the cemetery and trees. "Everything about this place reminds me of Amy, and now Matt's..." He couldn't finish saying it. "There's just too much here that I don't need in my life anymore." Like you, he added silently.

Jane nodded slowly. "I understand. But Sophie and Ethan...

"I don't know how they'll take the news. I think both of them were rather fond of Lucy. And with all three of them starting high school soon... I think they'll miss her a lot." It was a lot for her children to get used to, Jane knew. Growing up and losing their best friend all at once... But they would have to adjust, just as Jane and Moe were still having to adjust.

"Sunset Valley's not that far away, you know," she pointed out eventually, breaking the silence. "You and Lucy will come visit us, won't you?"

Chase nodded, trying to hide his surprise- as well as his dismay. "I think Lucy would like that." And who knew? In a few years, Chase might be willing to give Twinbrook- and the Pesces- another try. There was no way of knowing what his future might hold.

What any of their futures might hold. 

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