** A/N: tw for mentions of familial & child abuse and violence

Long before Black Star could remember, Star Clan had been disbanded (more than disbanded, if the stories he'd heard from the other kids were true; rumor was they'd been slaughtered by a group of hired mercenaries straight from Lord Death's inner circle) and Black Star had been taken in as an infant by Lord Death. Or rather, not by Lord Death, but because of him. Sid Barrett had been the one to actually raise Black Star (if you could call it that), though he and Kid had more often than not found themselves under the care of Marie Mjolnir, another of Lord Death's inner circle.

The "inner circle", as it were, was comprised of Sid Barrett, Mira Naigus, Marie Mjolnir, Franken Stein, and Spirit Albarn. Once upon a time, Black Star had heard that Spirit's wife had been part of it as well, but when she'd left Death City without warning she'd forfeited her position. Black Star knew there were other people in the "circle", but they were never in Death City, so he could never bring himself to care.

When Black Star was eight years old, someone with white hair and stars in their eyes slipped in through his window.

"Daughter." Their voice was quiet, and Black Star had to strain to hear them from where he sat wide eyed in his bed, staring at the star tattoo on the person's shoulder that matched his own.

"I'm no one's daughter!" He said indignantly, crossing his arms over his still flat chest. The figure held a finger up to what Black Star assumed was their lips, but their features were now lost in darkness so he couldn't be sure.

"Son, then." Black Star eyed them warily.

"White Star?" His voice was barely more than a whisper; the figure nodded. His father. "You're dead!"

"They think what I want them to. Do you really think someone as meaningless as Lord Death could wipe out the likes of the Star Clan? We have been biding our time, Silver Star, and we need you now."

"Silver Star?" Black Star asked, eyes still wide, voice breathy. "I'm Black Star!"

"Black Star is their name for you. Silver Star is ours. Will you help me, Silver Star? Will you help your clan?"

Black Star had been an infant when his clan had been supposedly killed. Black Star did not know why. Black Star, being only eight years old, was kept in the dark- and like any eight year old, he hated this.

"Yes!" Black Star spoke quietly, his excitement barely suppressed- an adult needed his help! Of course they did, he was the biggest guy around! But it was nice to be acknowledged as such. "I will help you, Father."

"White Star."

"White Star," Black Star repeated, voice awed. He could even call this adult by his name?! White Star left soon after, swearing the young boy to secrecy and promising to visit again soon. "Soon", however, didn't mean until a year later, when Black Star was nine; that was the year he was permitted to meet the rest of the clan, and they began training him in secret in their style of fighting, giving him just enough information on their plans that he didn't feel left out- but certainly not enough that anyone would chalk any blabbing up to anything but the delusional ramblings of a child. Black Star felt he was finally given the respect he deserved. Unfortunately, as Black Star grew, this gradually changed.

It was the year of hope, the year of cruelty, the year he forgot the meaning of fear.

In his 14th year, he finally beat Kid in a fight; that night, furious that Black Star had used clan moves that would put him under suspicion, White Star beat him severely. He returned to Sid's house and patched himself up; everyone assumed his wounds were from his fight with Kid, and no one asked.

Several months later, Black Star came across a man beating a girl just a couple years older than himself in an alley. He felt his vision tunnel and by the time he came back to himself the girl was thanking him, the man unconscious across from them. He shouldn't have done that. He was a Star; Stars didn't save people.

"I'm Tsubaki," she said, giving him a gentle smile despite her bruised eye, puffy lip and split brow. She pulled medical tape and gauze pads somewhere from the folds of her outfit, reaching for Black Star's hands and beginning to gently wrap his bloody knuckles. "Um- I'm sorry... I don't have anything to clean them with, but you can do that when you return home, right?"

"Why're ya worried about me?!" He demanded, shaking his hand from her grip. Years with his clan had affected his speech patterns somewhat. "Maybe ya haven't seen yourself, lady, but you should be in a hospital about now ya know!" She lifted a hand to her face, a surprised look on her face, and inspected her own wounds before smiling with- was that relief?

"Oh, no, I'll be fine! If I treat these when I get home, they'll clear up soon. Thank you for your concern!" She stood, wobbling on her feet a bit before walking toward the unconscious man. Black star expected her to kick him or something, which is what he would have done, but instead she grabbed him under the arms and began trying to get him over her back.

"What're you doin'?" Black Star demanded, standing up from his crouch.

"He gets angry when I don't take him home after something like this happens," she said apologetically, slowly heading toward the entrance to the alley.

"Take him home?"

"He's my brother," Tsubaki said by way of explanation.

"You let your own brother treat ya like that?! An' you just go home with him after?!" Tsubaki gave a small sigh and a tense but patient smile.

"I don't-" she flinched as her brother twitched, "- have anywhere else to go."

He was going to regret this. "Yeah ya do, lady!" He was so going to regret this. "You're comin' with me! We got plenty of room, and no fuckin' assholes to beat up on ya!" He was already regretting this. Sid was going to kill him, but Black Star knew he wouldn't turn her away. She looked at him warily, doubt in her eyes and posture. He just offered his hand and a wide grin, and she put her brother down, tentatively placing her fingers in his.

Black Star pulled her toward the sun, and neither of them looked back.