The New World > The Badlands

24k magic — double-joining.


Darcy always felt like he had semblance of control, but maybe that was the kind of world his mother raised him in.

But for the first time, it didn't feel like it. Because she was gone. And the only person he trusted, a father figure who had taken him under his wing— treated him as his own— was the one who did it.

How could Doug? Smile and laugh in his face, promising Darcy she'd be home eventually as if he didn't know she was laying six feet below them as they spoke. He said she'd seen her just the other day, that she loved him and he was busy, then several weeks later he claimed to have found a letter explaining her absence. That she wouldn't be back for a long time, as she didn't wish to risk his safety, but what did that mean? His mother, more than anyone, knew that he could hold his own and that nowhere was safe wherever she wasn't.

That was red flag number one, but he wanted to trust him and so he pushed in to the back of his mind and hoped he'd been wrong.

Except he hadn't been, and the whole time Angelica knew, only telling him months later when he was on the brink of a collapse, almost as if she wanted him to suffer in his own conjecture, wondering if his own mother abandoned him.

What came next was only necessary. No way could Doug get away with his and the best part? He had no clue. Angelica would say that he didn't consider the consequences, but here was where she was wrong: he always did. He knew what she'd be losing: protection and guidance from one of the most powerful gangs in the city. And most importantly, status. But that's what he wanted. He wanted her to lose everything, it's what came at the cost of her hiding the truth.  And ultimately, avenging his mother's death was above all else. It was even more satisfying knowing that the asshole had no idea it was coming, and that Darcy took great pleasure in making sure the other suffered.

But now all of that was done and over with, the high diminished, and he's left to deal with the aftermath. Everything Angelica valued was something he valued. What else was there to live for if not someone at your beck and call? And he doesn't remember the last time he was granted the luxury of a bath. The heat did them no favors, the blazing heat blaring down on Darcy, who wore a long sleeved button down, now gritty from filthy makeshifts they'd laid in before.

For once, Darcy didn't feel like he had control and he hated that.

"We should find somewhere to settle down," he mumbled as he stripped himself from his vest, beginning to unbutton the shirt where he lavished a sleeveless white shirt underneath. "It'll be dark soon."

tw. alcoholism, death, abuse

She had never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question's sudden epiphany that they were, in fact, so tired of the bullshit in their life that change seemed to be the necessary evil. Daphne had always come to mind and suddenly the past felt like a second heartbeat.

Was it out of love that Daphne spared Angelica the pain of witnessing her father's alcoholism, or selfishness for making Angelica an orphan in the process? Of course, Daphne would always insist that Casey's death was the necessary evil that could lead the family to better times, but murder was still murder nonetheless and Angelica could never view Daphne as her real mom. She was Darcy's biological mother and after Casey's death, Angelica was spare parts dragging behind mother and son.

In fact, Angelica would call Daphne ❛ mom ❜ with a slight grimace on her lips. It almost felt rotten to taste those words trapped on the tip of her tongue, an ultimate betrayal to her own birth mother who had the fortune to die before discovering Casey's newfound intrigue with the glamorous and pretty Daphne. And perhaps Angelica was bitterly grieving with a smile on her lips when she figured out that Daphne's own demise was a result of the people she thought she could trust the most.

But subjecting two children to a cutthroat childhood surrounded by gangsters was merely a tragedy in waiting. She could have done so much more to protect Darcy and Angelica than thrust them into a dangerous upbringing with the promise of jewels and luxury to cover the burden of two children, but never would Angel confront her half-brother about her opinions because Darcy craved the nurture of his mother in the same way that his lungs craved the nourishment of air. Enough to be driven insane in the absence of it.

Angelica De La Fontaine would have sworn that her secret would go to the grave with her, but she was nothing if not destructive. When Doug buried Daphne, Angelica was afraid that she or — even worse — Darcy would be next in line.

Whilst she vaguely tried to encourage Darcy to leave with her, she had to admit she felt comfortable with whatever relationship she had established with the older men of the gang, despite the lack of trust she felt towards them at the best of times. Most never had the opportunity provide for a child, so a fatherless daughter that they could call their own was the next best thing. And call it daddy issues but Angelica quite enjoyed the attention. The comfort. The status which was so volatile in the gang that it terrified and excited her all the same. She became the shape that they had moulded her into.

Filth taught filth.

But then, one day, things changed. Doug had told her to lower her voice because she made too much noise, yet he hadn't yet realised that she had learned that from him. Had she been a boy — had she been Darcy — he would have told her to shout louder, at the top of her lungs if she so wished because the world always wanted to hear what a man had to say. So, one day, Angelica told Darcy the truth of Daphne's demise and they left the gang for good.

And she would continue to shout at the top of her lungs until someone would listen to her. Never again would she accept a man like Casey look into his daughter's gaze with his glazed over eyes, silently wishing that she was more like her brother. Never again would she sit back passively and stew with resent at the way Daphne would prioritise her own blood over the blood she so-selfishly spilled. Angelica would have taken her father's abuse over Daphne's indifference any day. And, never again would Angelica allow another man to try and silence her when she had information that could ruin him.

If God created all man equal, then where did she fit in?

And, most times, Angelica refused to choose healing. She was a stubborn girl, and the thought of making things right with her brother felt futile when she would protest and argue that she was doing the right thing for their own benefit. She'd stab her brother in the back, but then nurture his wounds for him. So she chose self-destruction every time, hoping to learn was it was like to have wounds when she had grown up so privileged that she had always been untouchable to most. And then she'd learn again, and again, and again. And, this time, her path to self-destruction had taken a more sinister turn when Darcy avenged his mother's death. Darcy's revenge opened up wounds that would only hurt the De La Fontaine kids in the end. If blood was the prize of her self-destruction, then Angelica surely should have been proud of her brother.

But, this time, she wasn't.

Whilst her brother stripped layers off to accommodate the approaching balmy coast, Angelica tightened her arms around her torso, choosing to remain as obstinate as always as she closed herself off. Lips contorted into a glimmer of a sneer, shrugging her heavy tote bag further up her shoulder. For once, he was right. Angelica ached with the desire to settle down somewhere. She wasn't sure whether she could bear another night out in the wilderness when the home comfort of a warm bed seemed far more desirable to her.

❝ I'm not spending another night out here, Darcy. Even if it gets dark out, I'm walking until we find a place to stay. I don't care. ❞ Angelica explained in a fractious murmur, fixing her hair in a tall ponytail until hesitating at a structure in the horizon.  ❝ Is that...? ❞ A place to stay? Giving her brother a side glance, Angelica shrugged before marching ahead in the direction of her discovery against any better judgement. If Darcy were to object, she'd stubbornly refuse to listen and dig her heels in.

The biggest problem with the siblings was that they were too alike. They'd die going at each other's throats in disagreements, unaware that it were as if they were in constant confrontation with themselves. She would continue to approach the nearing buildings until spotting silhouettes in the distance. Allowing her arms to eventually fall to her side, Angelica puffed up her chest and anticipated trouble. Nowadays, it was all she could expect in the way the world worked.

Ruslan never knew his parents.

His grandfather said he met 'em once, but it must have been before he could remember anything. The best he knows them is from pictures hidden around his grandparent's home, nothing but a secret memory that they tried to dispose Ruslan of knowing.

Instead, he was raised by his them— his grandparents— primarily his grandfather. A militaristic man who didn't believe in gentle, he didn't believe in soft. By the time Ruslan was eight, he was handling guns nearly bigger than him and hunting down his dinner. His grandma was well for only four years of his life before she started to deteriorate. Then, it was just him and his good ol' dede Mirac.

Well, kinda.

His grandfather did share property with the Kaplan's, a younger family of four, where his late wife, Ayla, resided. Late night, when the sun went down and their family slumbered, he and Ayla would just sit down and talk. It's from her that he learned what gentle meant and eventually, what love meant. He and Ayla just made sense. Ruslan dreamed about having the 'perfect' family from a young age. He wanted to check all the boxes, and Ayla was the perfect candidate to help with that.

Years later, and he's gotten everything he thought he's wanted. Two beautiful kids and a beautiful wife and yet, there is this nagging voice in the back of his mind telling him that it isn't enough— that there is something missing. He thought it'd be quelled with a second child but when the excitement deterred he was left feeling empty again. Bored. And he isn't sure as to why.

To distract him from those thoughts, he often works. That way when he gets home, his wife is nearly, if not already, asleep and won't be awake to bother him. Tonight, he's on patrol. He quietly treads behind two other people as they engage in conversation with each other. It's no surprise that Ruslan is the first to spot them— the strangers— off in the distance. "Hey you two" He interrupts, pointing off in the distance. Without another word, he makes his way over to them with the other two trailing behind.

"I advise you to stop where you are. You're on Badlands territory now," he warns.

As he advances closer, the two figures become much more than silhouettes and it becomes clearer that it's a young man and woman. The young man, he observes, wear minimal— but expensive— looking jewelry that would have held value in the Old World and he's surprised that it hasn't been mugged from him on their trip. His eyes land on the young woman and it's there, for a heartbeat too long, is where they stay. Upon realization, he quickly tears his eyes away to once again look towards the young man.

"What brings you here?"


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