You Can Always Go Home

(NOTES: This story takes place between the summer of 1994 and September 2004 in the Alternate Reality timeline. Adrienne Gritault and Donovan Parker belong to me; Laurenz Devereaux, Alenard Lapin and Gabriel Boudreaux belong to Danielle. The concept of Faganís Mob belongs to Marvel, but as it wasnít really explored, a lot of liberties regarding the way itís run were taken by Danielle and myself. The story is almost biographical, with no dialogue and is written from Adrienneís P.O.V. simply because it was easier to do it that way.)

My childhood wasnít easy. As the illegitimate daughter of a thief and an assassin born at a time in Guild history when relationships between guild members was frowned upon, I was shunned by both Guilds and abandoned by them to the streets of New Orleans. I was quickly taken in by Faganís Mob. Fagan was like me, he had grown up as an outcast in Guild society, unwanted by either side because he was mixed. He started an orphanage of sorts, mostly for the other Guild "mulattos" but also for other New Orleans orphans who had no place to go.

Being part of Faganís Mob was better than being on the streets alone. He and his staff gave us a place to live, food, water, clothing and training as thieves and assassins. We were a family, closer to each other than to either Guild, to our own flesh and blood. The youngest children did small jobs for the Mob, learning the ropes of thieving especially. The older children and young adults did the bigger jobs.

Depending on who we were and how we felt, we werenít necessarily given the training of both sides. My cousin Alenard and I, for instance, only chose to do thief training, whereas our other cousins, Laurenz and Gabriel, chose both, focusing mainly on the assassin training. The guys are all older than I am, and theyíre more than just cousins to me, theyíre brothers. I grew up with them, and trust them with my life.

I spent the first twenty years of my life living with the Mob. I became a pretty decent thief, and like the others, when I got old enough, I helped run the orphanage and take care of the children. Unlike the Thieves Guild, the Mob built up a fairly good system; we ended up with a lot of money as a group. It was all handed over to the Mob leaders, but if there was something we needed for survival, the money was there to get it.

It wasnít a great life, donít get me wrong. There was a strict set of rules, and each rule had a specific punishment if it was broken. As children are wont to do, I broke a few of them in my time, and as severe as some of the punishments were, I never felt like they were unjust, because I never knew any different. We never went to school outside the Mob headquarters, but the Mob leaders taught us things other than just our thief and assassin training. We learned how to read and write, plus they taught us basic math, world geography and history, all of which was key in helping us be better thieves and assassins.

By the time I was nineteen I wanted out for awhile. I had figured out there was a whole different world outside the Mob and I wanted to be part of it, I wanted to experience it. So I went to Fagan shortly before I turned twenty and asked for his permission to leave. He was really good to me all my life and this time wasnít any different. He gave me money to get out of New Orleans and go wherever I wanted. I knew he was getting ready to turn over leadership of the Mob to one of the guys, although I wasnít sure who, and he warned me that I might not be welcome to come back in the future, depending on how things went within the Mob. I accepted that and his gift and left the city not long after I turned twenty. For ten years, I didnít look back.

I moved to Atlanta. I donít know why I chose that particular city, but I did. I guess I liked the idea that it was close to New Orleans, but not too close. I got an apartment and used part of the money Fagan gave me to open my own business, a restaurant/bar called, simply, Adrienneís. It was hard to get the business going, and the money soon ran out. I couldnít just call the Mob up and ask for more money, especially since I knew Fagan probably wasnít still in charge. So I didnít. I tried to get a loan at a few banks, but they didnít want to lend money to a girl who had nothing. I ended up taking a job as a stripper at one of the other clubs to get money. Thatís where I met Donovan.

He was the owner of the strip club I worked at. It might not have been the smartest move Iíve ever made, but I needed the money desperately. I didnít want to be a stripper, I wanted to run my own restaurant/bar and I even told him up front that this wasnít permanent. He was fine with that and hired me on the spot. It didnít really occur to me at the time to use my training as a thief to steal money and jewels; I was out of New Orleans and far away from that part of my life and I wanted to keep it that way. I didnít want my life as a thief to be part of my life in Atlanta. Looking back, I think I was wrong to keep the two lives separate.

Donovan was the only thing that made being a stripper half decent. He showered me with gifts and praise and complimentsÖand I fell for it all hook, line and sinker. I thought he really cared about me, really wanted me around. We eventually started dating and things were going great for awhile; he was my first boyfriend and I thought I loved him and he loved me.

By the time I was twenty-four I managed to save enough money to get my business running really well. I stopped stripping, and ran my place full time. I thought my life was really on track; I had a boyfriend, a business that was really taking off and I could stop stripping. I was happy. But then the world caved in on me.

Donovan changed when I started taking more control of my life. When I was a stripper, he had more control over what I did and how I did it. But when I stopped, he lost that control and he didnít like that one bit. He became very possessive and abusive towards me. He didnít like that I spent so much time at work. He didnít like how the guys would come into the bar at night and flirt with me. He didnít like me having control over my own money. He wanted me to spend more time with him and less at work. He wanted me to start stripping again.

When I told him I was going to do what I wanted with my life and my money, we got into a huge fight and he beat me up. Even though I grew up with three guys who were older than I am, I thought I loved this man and I couldnít bring myself to fight back I thought everything he said must be right and that I was wrong. So I gave in. I started spending less time at work and more with him, either at the strip club or his place. I dressed the way he wanted me to dress, I went where he wanted me to go, I did things he wanted me to doÖbecause I learned pretty quick after the first time he beat me up that if I disobeyed him, he would beat me up or sexually assault me.

I was essentially his toy. I very seldom made any attempt to go against him, because I couldnít handle being beaten and raped for having my own thoughts and opinions. I thought it was normal, that every relationship was like this, simply because I didnít have anything to go on. I didnít have any other examples or guidelines to work from. I didnít like the way I was being treated, but I couldnít figure out how to get away from him.

Eventually, when I was nearly twenty-nine, he raped me so brutally one night after I didnít show up at his place when he told me to, that I couldnít handle it anymore. I left him and didnít go back. I refused to answer the phone when he called; he was banned from coming into the restaurant; the bouncers I had in my employ accompanied me wherever I needed to go.

But I couldnít avoid it forever, and for a year, I lived with his constant threats. He called my apartment, my cell phone and my business upwards of five to ten times a day, threatening to hurt me. The threats got worse and more graphic, more detailed as the year went by and soon I was terrified of him. I was living in constant fear that heíd get a window of opportunity to carry out the things he was telling me heíd do to me.

Donovan called me two weeks ago and like I always did when he called my apartment, I let the machine get it. His message scared the crap out of me more than anything. He was standing outside my building, watching me through the window as he left the message. He said "Tonightís the night, you troublesome bitch. Youíre going to regret ever leaving me." I panicked. Being who I am, I couldnít call the cops; what would they do? Once they found out who I am, theyíd arrest me for the things I did as part of Faganís Mob. For being half thief and half assassin; the Guilds are both wanted by the authorities in so many states itís hard to keep track.

I called one of the bouncers who work for me and asked him to come over and search the grounds around the apartment. He did so, and when he gave me the all-clear, I took nothing but my cell phone, whatever money I had and the clothes on my back and got in my car. I left without warning anybody. I asked him to make sure the restaurant continued to run smoothly and he assured me nothing would happen to it. I told him I didnít know where I was going, but that I would call as soon as I could safely do so. And after that, I started driving.

I left Atlanta, fearing for my life, unsure of where I was going and what course my life would take. I didnít even really notice what I was doing until I was out of Georgia and it occurred to me that I was instinctively heading towards New Orleans. After ten years of self-imposed "exile" from the people I considered to be my best friends, my family, I was going home.

I barely stopped the whole drive from Atlanta to New Orleans. Something told me Donovan would follow me once he realized I was out of Atlanta and I didnít want him to catch up. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically when I showed up at the Mob headquarters. I didnít know what to expect; I didnít even know who was in charge. But I was home. And thatís all that really mattered to me. I knew that even if they wouldnít help me, they would protect me.

I went inside for the first time in ten years to find that Fagan had put Laurenz in charge. Laurenz was the oldest of the three guys I grew up with; seven years older than me. I didnít tell him everything at first, simply because I wasnít sure just how welcome I was. I told him I had a successful business in Atlanta, which was true, and I wanted to open one like it in New Orleans, which is also true. That first time, we only talked briefly, because we both had things to do, but I ended up feeling like things might be okay.

I got a rather expensive hotel room; theyíre all always expensive in New Orleans, donít ask me why. I slept from then until the next day. I spent the next two days looking for a place to rent or buy to open my own business and I had no luck. The city had changed a lot in ten years and the places that were available when I was growing up were no longer there. In desperation I went back to the Mob headquarters to talk to Laurenz.

Laurenz gave me a lot of faith in myselfÖhe showed me in a few short minutes that he believed in me and had faith in me. He gave me enough money to get started at either building a place or buying an old building, tearing it down and rebuilding it the way I wanted for my business. Plus, he told me of an apartment building he had recently purchased for the Mobís use and said I could live in an apartment there if I needed to. I was so grateful to him for that and hoped that I could pay him back for it someday.

On my way out of the headquarters with a briefcase of money in my hand, my worst nightmare came true. Donovan was outside, standing by my car, waiting for me. I froze; there was no way I was going out there. I quickly shut the door and dropped the briefcase. I was terrified, plain and simple. Laurenz automatically thought Iíd gone and gotten myself in trouble, that whatever had caught up to me was my fault; his voice told me as much when he asked me what was going on.

All I could do was stand there, shaking and crying, scared of going back to Donovan and scared that Laurenz would turn me out and make me fend for myself. He didnít though. He asked me to tell him what happened, and I told him as briefly as I could about my life with Donovan and how he was threatening my life. Upon hearing that Laurenz went outside. My cell phone rang; caller ID told me it was Donovan and I freaked out, throwing the phone away from me. A few moments later, I heard a gunshot, and then Laurenz came back in. He told me Donovan was dead and heíd never bother me again and I completely lost it. I had a major emotional breakdown and Laurenz protected me. He told me I could stay there and that he wouldnít let anybody hurt me. I eventually fell asleep, and when I woke up, I was in a bed, not in the Mob headquarters, but in an apartment.

Laurenz, Gabe and Alenard were all sitting there, watching over me, waiting for me to wake up. They told me the apartment was on the top floor of the building Laurenz bought for the Mob and that it was mine, rent-free, for as long as I wanted to live there. It was fully furnished; Laurenz had asked Gabe and Alenard to make sure it was ready for me to live there. Their own apartments are around it, I found out; Laurenzís is right beside mine, and a larger one across the hall is shared by Gabe and Alenard. Laurenz had also asked our cousin Danielle and her fiancťe Grace to go shopping with Mob money and buy as much clothing and things as they thought Iíd want and like.

I was so overwhelmed, it was unreal. I had left Atlanta with nothing, my life in ruins, my business abandoned, fearing that a man I had once loved would kill me. And in a very short time, I was surrounded by love and acceptance from three men I would easily die for.

I sit here writing this, two weeks after I left Atlanta. Iíve already gone back and collected my things; I canít stay there anymore. My assistant manager, Trina, is now running the restaurant full time even though I still own it and the money still comes to me. With the help of the guys, Iím working on getting a second restaurant up and running here in New Orleans. Itís going to be a slow process, but I know I can do it because Iíve got the support of the people who really matter to me: my family. I escaped from the terror-ridden life I was living and thanks to them I can move on, get past my ordeals and triumph as a new person living a better life.