"Well whatddya know, Brittany Spears is havin' another baby. Whoooo, that girl is nuts." A young girl chuckled as she sprawled on her bed, flipping through the glossy pages of her magazine, gossip drenched headlines jumping out in bold, commanding letters. She tugged at the rim of her plump, apple hued hat, grinning in satisfaction. The exposed world of these worshiped celebrities had for a long time been her guilty pleasure, secretly craving the trend set outfits displayed in must-have columns despite the fact that they would never fit her. They were for adults and teenagers, both of which she preferred not to imagine herself becoming.

Absentminded, she scratched at the smooth, coco skin on her arm, pondering on the subject of her reading material. A rap at her door caught her attention, and without her consent it opened, revealing a rather cheery teenage girl.

"Hey birthday girl, whatcha doin'?" Her thick, black ringlets bounced as she entered, closing the door softly behind her least her captive attempt to run.

"What do you want Cree?" Brown eyes narrowed, the girl crunched her pretty face in a grimace, dispersing tension throughout the small room.

"Can't a girl say happy birthday to her own little sister? Come on Abby," Cree plopped herself on the bed, lowering the magazine from her siblings face as she gushed, "What do you wanna do today? I could take you shopping for a birthday gift, you can pick whatever you want! We could get you some new earrings, or get rid of that nasty old hat-"

"It's NOT a "nasty old hat"! It's MY hat, and I ain't getting rid of it!" She snapped, gripping her hat as though her sister might try to force it from her, "And I don't want any stinkin earrings either!"

In her typicality of a teenager, Cree rolled her eyes, ignoring her sisters outburst as she continued to snuggle up to her, "Calm down Abigail, you don't have to get rid of your stupid hat and earrings if you don't wanna. We have to do SOMETHING though, I mean, after all," Her teeth emerged in a grin, glistening with malice, "You only turn 12 once. One more year, Abby, and you'll be a teenager! Oh can you believe it!"

As her sister melted in utter bliss, Abby's grimace evolved to a scowl, inching closer and closer to that invisible line of anger that would trigger every defense in her body, "Would you shut up girl! I'm not doing ANYTHING with you today, you hear? Now get out of my room!"

"Don't talk to me that way!" She shot up, lavishing her sister in a mean glare, "You need to get over this attitude of yours Abby, it's not my fault you're obsessed with being a dumb little kid!"

"Being a kid aint dumb! In case you don't remember, you were a kid, you were one of the best kids I knew! And now look at you, always worrying about your hair, and your clothes, you turned your back against your whole team, the whole Kids Next Door!" Abby slammed her laminated booklet down, raising her voice more than she meant to but too aggravated to be cautious of her parents ears. It seemed they were safe though, as no shouts of concern made their way through her wall.

Cree heaved in frustration, standing on her feet with a hand to her hip as she shouted, "Oh let it go already! So I stopped playing your little baby game, big deal! It's just a waste of time anyway! You actually think your making a difference? Every kid grows up eventually, like it or not, you'll be a teenager soon too and you won't even remember your little snot-nosed friends!"

"Girl, you better shut your mouth!" Abby jumped to feet, lifting her chin to meet her sisters' heated gaze, her little hands clutched into fists ready to fly when needed.

"What's the matter Crabigail, don't wanna admit the truth? Afraid of the big bad decommissioning?"

"YOU sure were afraid of it!"

"That's totally different!" Cree flared, "I kept my memories so I could help teenage operatives finally get rid of you stupid Kids Next Door!"

"Yeah, right." Abby scoffed, "You dedicated your entire childhood to the Kids Next Door!"

"Yeah, 'cause I was dumb and didn't know any better! Look," She flipped her hair with a nature as though she had already won this battle, "Like I said before, you know it's true. It's just a waste of time. You're gonna forget your friends and your friends are gonna forget you. Why do you keep fighting it Abby?" She knelt down to her sisters' level, placing a hand on her shoulder as she softened her tone, "Why do you keep fighting me? We're sisters, you know? We're supposed to always be there for each other. Just accept being a teenager and we can be teammates again, just like old times. You know we'd make such a good team, no one could beat us. Come on Abby…"

With a leap, the line had not only been crossed, but stamped and tattered to little shards of its former self, lumping into her throat until it choked. Hurt and fear gurgled into the depths of her mind until it engulfed her whole, controlling her body like it was delicate puppet, raising her hand to slap her sisters' touch away. Her throat cleared, but it too had become a device easily conquered by anger, words spitting out like warm embers.

"My sister was Numbah 11, and you aint her! You're just some stupid, emotional, selfish teenager who doesn't know the MEANING of the word teammate because all she can think about is herself! I will never, EVER, I don't care how old I get, be on your team, so you can just forget it Cree!"

The adolescent growled, teeth bared, eyes ablaze in fury as she lifted her hand in mid strike, "You little brat!"

Before her palm could connect to its target, however, Abby's own hand rose in defiance, and for the first time outside of a mission, collided with her sisters' cheek. Yet the anger remained, not pleased even with the display of physical action, and so the fight continued with a series of grabs, pulls, firm grips and hidden sadness that neither would admit. Relief from the battle came only when they heard the familiar sound of a male voice reverberate off the walls.

"What's going on in there, with the screamin' and the shoutin' and the angry voices…"

Out of habit and fear of being punished, the opponents pulled apart, praying their reddened faces and rapid heartbeats would go undetected as the door opened for parental authority.

"Girls, girls, what's all the ruckus? Your Mother and I can hear you all the way down the stairs." Indistinguishable mumbles scattered about the sentence, upholding a goofy but concerned tone from their father.

"Oh, nothing daddy, we're just playing around, you know us." Cree laughed off, holding her hands behind her back in an innocent position as she looked up to her father from the floor.

"Teh." Abby responded, rising to her feet. She tipped her hat, shadowing her flushed expression as she walked past her father with a lowered head, grumbling, "I'm takin a bike ride…"

"Well ok, but make sure to be back in time for your birthday cake, with the icing and the candles and the-ohhh, you know what I'm talkin' about!"

She ignored him, and continued to ignore him until she reached the front door and was able to shut him out, him and his rough laughter and ridiculous sweater and conversation with Cree over her allowance.

The tussle had done nothing but fuel her more, twitching her muscles for release of such a great amount of pressure. Mounting her bike, she peddled, pounding into the pavement, pumping her legs until they tensed with strain, only to be pushed harder. Her cheeks eased from the shade of red that meant rage to the red that meant work, letting her heart thump faster against her rib cage in a desperate attempt to keep up. It became painful to the point where it was rewarding, and even her exhausted body encouraged her to carry on, to burn each little bit of frustration from her pores and let it slide off in sweat down her forehead and neck.

She had planned to go directly to the tree house, but became so exceedingly pleased with how the exercise made her feel, flew past it, rounding the block once before her heart lurched itself into her throat and its pounding screamed in her ears. Again, the tree house came into view, and Abby finally submitted to her bodies limits.

With the press of a button located on her handle bars, a hidden passageway in the trunk of the tree was unlocked for her, closing only after the sensors detected that she had safely passed through. She parked her bicycle on its designated rack, and wobbled her Jell-O legs to the elevator, leaning against its walls as it carried her to the heart of the tree house. Her legs throbbed as though chiding her for working them so hard, but her heart was more forgiving at it began to slow. Despite it all though, the heat of battle and physical activity, she remained restless with a string tugging in the back of her emotions, commanding attention yet refusing to identify itself. It pulled and pushed and grew into a large, hazy ball of darkness that threatened to swallow her should she not obey.

Finally a light ding indicated she had reached her destination, and the doors slide open for her departure. Abby saw none of her comrades watching TV or laying lazily on the sofa, nor did she see any indication that they had been there previously in the day. The ball inside of her suddenly jerked, revealing its desire to be alone.

"Hey guys, you here? …Hel-lo?" No response. Not a single peep, not even the sound of engineering rearing its ugly head from Hoagies room, or happy, fast tunes floating joyfully from Kukis room. Though she hadn't exactly used a loud voice to announce her arrival, the silence of the house reassured her of its emptiness just the same.

Abby slumped her way to her room, comforted by the sight of her wooden door with the messy number 5 painted in big, red letters. Upon entering, however, her eyes became sore at the sight of a large, white banner spread across her room that read in colorful words "Happy Birthday". She shook her head and willed her tired legs to carry her into bed, where she found a "So Happy To Be Another Year Older" Rainbow Monkey, along with a card left by Kuki. She crawled on top of her mattress and shoved the gift down the edge of the bed, allowing her face to fall into the open arms of white pillows. The dark cloud swirled peacefully within her as if it were the eye of a tornado, and like those eerie moments of peace, it soon ended and, without warning or request, released a storm.

Powerful sobs erupted from her chest to the point where she had to stuff the pillow even further into her face in an attempt to smother the noise. The effort gave little result though, as her voice broke into a chorus of cries. In the tears poured her confusion and hurt, and in the anguished sighs spilled her fears. Her chest heaved with the swarm of emotions, lifting and falling so rapidly she was forced to gasp for air in between sobs. She pounded her fist into the pillows, let her voice ring out in sorrow, and didn't attempt to clean herself as the fluids ran down her face in the safe knowledge that no one was home.

Perhaps when she called for her friends, however, she should have called a little louder. Tucked away in his room redesigning, yet again, the tree houses defense system, the respected leader of Sector V became startled at the sudden burst of piercing cries. The tears didn't sound as though they were endangered, but just the same he snatched up his S.C.A.M.P.P. and cautiously ventured into the hallway. No sign of struggle, but then again, he would have heard it if there had been. Weapon ready, he waited against the wall, listening more closely to the distressed voice when he realized he recognized it. A girls voice, obviously, and not high-pitched enough to be Kukis. Puzzled, he walked to the only possible source, Abbys room, and sure enough the cries grew louder with each step. For once, he forgot his manners in knocking and opened the door without permission, peeking inside only to be shocked by the scene before him.

Abby had not yet acknowledged his presence, and so continued her fest of sorrows, curling helplessly into a little ball around her pillow, eyes squeezed tight in an attempt to block out time and its laughter at her.

Nigel swallowed, wetting his throat so he could speak clearly as he softly called out, "Numbah 5…?"

He watched her body stiffen, caught in the act of vulnerability, sobs cut in mid cry with a clenched jaw. Her face remained buried in the pillow, refusing to look at him. Hesitantly, Nigel walked over to the bed and debated to sit or stand. He finally sat and placed his weapon down, glancing awkwardly to his teammate. Again he spoke, very gently, as though she were sleeping, "Numbah 5? …What's wrong?"

She remained quiet, but began to move, carefully keeping her face hidden as she wiped it with her short, blue sleeve, sniffling. In her mind, she turned and smiled, saying "nothing boss." When she tried to attempt it, though, her mouth simply hung open without words, unable to produce a single syllable. The concern in her leader only made matters worse as her eyes weld back up with tears, forcing her to lay her head back down and grind her teeth in order to keep her cries quiet.

At this point, Nigel's worry only heightened as he looked for reasons to explain his old friends' abnormal behavior. He searched for signs of a fight, and found them, though very mild, and rested his hand on her shoulder, repeating more firmly, "Numbah 5, what's wrong? What happened?"

His hand was warm, full care and concern, and at that moment Abby wished it wasn't. The tender motion cracked the barrier she had struggled so hard to keep intact; it spread like fire and disregarded her pleas to stay standing. Like a bursting dam, her lips parted, and before the sound could penetrate the room, she flung her face back into her pillows, emptying her pain into their soaked cushions. Nigels hand drew away from her, jolted by the quick action, but soon found their place upon her shoulder again, gently rubbing up and down like a rhythm. The movement calmed her enough to quiet her once more.

"Numbah 5, please…" Nigel urged, "Just tell me what's wrong, I'll help you."

Abby propped herself up by the elbow, cleaning her face again and then turning, crystal droplets still lurking in the corners of her eyes. Silently, she reached her arm up like a small child, suddenly needing, above all else, human contact. She craved desperately to be hugged and would accept the offer from anyone kind enough, even Cree if the situation came. If given the choice, however, her brave and somewhat paranoid leader would be one she'd prefer.

He accepted the gesture, helping her pull herself up into his arms as she rested her chin on his shoulder. Delicate, shushed tears rolled their way down her blotchy cheeks, leaving darkened spots on his sweater and seeping through to his skin until he felt the hot, salty liquid.

She sniffled, and in a gurgled, exhausted voice, made a request, "Don't forget me."

Nigel blinked, taken aback. He began to form words questioning what she was asking him, but stopped himself. Instead, he gave her a little squeeze of reassurance, and vowed in all seriousness, "I won't."

Abby smiled, though her friend couldn't see it, and lay still in his arms for a few moments longer, not quite ready to be on her own yet. Finally, she pulled back, sitting on her knees as she looked at him, her black braid a mess, her eyes a sad little shimmer of brown, her face still blotched up from the heavy weeping.

She gazed up into Nigels eyes, his glasses revealing them only because they had fallen to the tip of his nose, and resting her forehead against his, she asked pathetically but earnestly, "Can't I just stay a kid?"

They looked at each other. Neither moved, nor cried, or felt tension. They simply answered the question in silence.


Original plot conception by Unifilar of the KND forum. Hope you like it Uni!