A/N: Came to the realization this morning that there is only about 5 chapters left of Alice's story, maybe a little more as I haven't actually written them yet, and some of htem may go longer. I am both amazed at, and disturbed by how quickly this story has come and gone. I didn't think anyone would like it when I first wrote it, and now I'm in the top 30 of Watty, and within the top 80 of romance. And that is entirely because of you beautiful people. I have never pushed for votes or comments, and you guys have still catapulted me up into a higher eschelon of writing. Thank you all, for the love and critiques, both make me better at what I do. Which is hopefully entertain you all, and take you into a world where you can become hero and victim, boyscout and badass, and hopefully come out the other end with a stronger sense of the characters. They're real only because you guys have helped me shape them that way.

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Alice was sitting alone in Malcolm's apartment, listening to the t.v babble on, not knowing what to do. Malcolm had left about twenty minutes ago to go confront his family, and in a stroke of perverse curiosity, Alice turned on the news to see what exactly his family had learned about her. It was worse than she had feared. The newscaster did a speil on Stuart, how he is wanted for statutory rape and repeated assault, and if anyone knows his whereabouts, to call this hotline.... blah blah blah. Not so bad. But then they segued into the 'possible' victim.

"There is a growing push in the neighborhood to crack down on domestic violence and abuse. Figure-headed by our own, until recently unknown, hero and survivor. Living in silence in our community for years, a young woman named Alice Doni Spade has endured the loss of her family, only to then suffer through six years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to protect her. None of the neighbors that were contacted knew anything amiss was happening in the house of the Walter family, saying that never once did the friendly family indicate that within their home was a disgusting den of violence and lust...." Alice ignored the rest of the sensation mongering. THey weren't doing it because they actually cared what had happened to her. This was just a way for them to boost their rating and make more money.

Alice numbly sat there watching the newsreel that went through pictures of Alice, the few that anyone had ever taken, and a somehow an image of her after Stuart's last attack. The one where Malcolm and Salali had taken her to the hospital. She stared at her own bruised and battered mug, stitches in her lip and a hopeless look in her eyes. "That's not who I am anymore..."Alice said softly to herself. She shook herself and turned off hte tv, not needing to see anymore. It was too quiet here without Monster or Malcolm around. After a week of having everyone around constantly, she felt devastatingly alone right now. So she called Salali.

Ten minutes later and Alice was tucked back inside Salali's apartment, Monster barking and jumping, puppy playfulness hyped up on treats so that Alice was laughing as he mobbed her. She ended up being knocked over and sat on the floor, hugging the scarred puppy as he licked her. Salali didn't say anything as the tears started to drip down Alice's face, Monster licking them away as he tried to comfort her. Salali helped her to her feet, the large Native woman hauling Alice up easily, and just as easily pulling her into a bone crushing hug. Alice felt choked, part from the lingering tobacco smell and Salali's impressive bosom, and part because Alice had no idea how to fix things. Her instinct right now was to run, leave it all behind and start over. She was 18 now, but still needed to finish her highschool diploma, no one would hire her without it, and Ace flatly refused to go back into stripping. She was all kinds of done with that, besides, everyone knew that's what she'd done now.

Eventually Salali coaxed the whole thing out of Alice, and the distraught dancer found herself spilling everything to the patient Native woman. How she felt when she first realized that Malcolm from the club was now Mr. Vega her teacher, the guilt she felt over seducing him away from Shawna, the pressure of trying to endure school, the stress of Stuart escaping and coming after her, the joy at Malcolm proposing, it all spewed out in an emotional mess, ending with her conviction that Malcolm's family was currently lambasting him and it was all her fault.

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