VII

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Six Years Later

Eighteen-year-old Nico smiled as he stepped into the small apartment he and his brother occupied. It was almost unbelievable how they'd gotten there from the little hideout Louis had led them to as homeless orphans all those years ago. 

From the very beginning, Louis had vowed, and made Nico do the same, that they would not resort to stealing to survive. The first day they began fending for themselves, Louis went out to find someone– anyone, who might employ him. Nico was too young to legally get a 'real' job, so he worked in different ways, earning a few dollars from people who would let him do odd jobs for them. 

Before the first week was out, Louis found himself washing dishes in a small kitchen at the back of a rundown restaurant. The pay was minimum, but it was better than begging. Louis determined that he would not lower himself to the degree of other homeless street rats who thrived on dishonesty, but would do honest work and make a living for himself and for his brother. By the end of the first month, together they had raised enough for two boys to live on, if they spent the money sparingly and didn't allow themselves to waste it indulging in the pleasures that most boys of their ages might have enjoyed. 

But living on the street had its own challenges. There, it was survival of the fittest. If you weren't tough enough, you weren't going to last long. Fights were numerous and inevitable among other street urchins, which was one of the reasons the two brothers tried to avoid them as much as possible. They quickly learned that if someone was treating them with kindness it was probably because an accomplice was behind their back robbing them blind while they were being distracted. 

Nico lost count of the many times they were forced to change locations because someone had found their spot and claimed it for their own. 

Another issue was the police. Louis and Nico had no doubt that they were being searched for, and their thoughts were confirmed when Louis one day picked up a soiled newspaper that had their picture emblazoned on the front beneath bold letters that spelled out 'M I S S I N G'. That was the day Louis decided they shouldn't stay in Manhattan any longer since the cops knew that was where they were from and would most likely be looking for them there. He quit his job and the next morning they boarded a bus which carried them to Queens. There they found an abandoned building that surprisingly was not already occupied by any homeless and served their purposes quite well. Before long, Louis was able to find a new job and they settled into their new home.

But Queens provided its own share of difficulties. Without realizing it, they were living on grounds claimed by one of the most feared gangs in the city: The Serpents. More than once, they had to literally run for their lives to escape members of the gang who wanted to hurt and take advantage of them. After that, they avoided Serpent territory as much as possible. 

When Nico turned fourteen, he too was able to get a job, bringing in a little more money for them, though they still didn't have a lot. Louis was then sixteen and worked as a waiter in a restaurant. As much as he disliked it, he found himself having to lie constantly to cover up the reasons he and his brother were not in school. But somehow, they managed to keep their cover.

Two years later, Louis turned eighteen, becoming a legal adult. He purchased himself an ID and got a better job. Within two months, they found a small apartment and moved in. 

With a comfortable home and good jobs, the future for the brothers was beginning to look bright for once. 

.o0o.

"Mr. Scott, please... I really, really need this job!" Nico was about to get on his knees to beg his boss who'd called him into the office the moment he'd walking in the door that morning. 

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