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Zack wasn't sure how he was alive. A lot of things happened that should have killed him, and everyone else he was with. He was pretty sure both of his shoulders had windshield glass sticking out of them and at least one of his legs was sprained. He couldn't be sure of course, as most of his body hurt. This wasn't a sensation he wasn't familiar with, not since after moving to Danville, as unfortunate as that sounded. He'd gotten used to it now, and if this was anything like the other adventures he'd had since moving, he'd be fine. Maybe he'd have to wear a cast for a bit, but that was ok.

It took some effort to get up from the ground. He'd landed facing away from the rest of the calamity that had occurred, but he could hear the whispers of the fire as the helicopter that they crashed with burned. He could also see, a ways away from them, the two pilots parachuting down, swaying gently in the wind. At least they were fine, he thought to himself. Good for them.

It's a good thing they landed in a patch of empty space outside the city.

He heard a groan from behind him. It seemed Melissa was also coming to. He pushed himself into a semi-sitting position, still unsure if he could use his leg, with the pain still pounding dully through it, and looked back. The redhead seemed roughed up but none the worse for wear, which was a miracle. Her clothes were torn in places and cuts adorned her arms but she seemed overall fine and was just getting up from the ground. He shot her a brief thumbs up before wincing slightly over the cuts all over his shoulders. She did the same.

The helicopter behind her was not much more than a wreck of bent metal and burning controls. It was trashed beyond belief, with it's blades either bent way out of shape or straight up missing, and once again Zack didn't know how in the world they survived. He knew they always survived somehow but every time it blew his mind. He looked around again.

Milo was nowhere to be found.

From his position Zack couldn't see everything that had fallen with them, but he expected to see some sort of sign of where their friend was. Usually he was the first one on his feet and making sure he and Melissa were ok, but now? Nothing.

Melissa helped him get up, and he found that he could in fact stand on both his legs. It hurt of course, but it wasn't an earth shattering pain. More like a moderately uncomfortable pain that he could deal with for now, as long as he didn't decide to go running again.

"Milo?" The redhead called out and Zack joined her in calling for him.

"Milo where are you, are you ok?"

There was no response.

"Should we be worried?" Zack asked, with a tinge of well earned concern ringing in his voice.

"I don't know" was the answer "I hope he's ok. Let's go look for him"

It was slightly harder to walk than he'd imagined, and he had a mild limp, but it turned out he didn't have to go far. A few seconds later he'd heard a scream coming from behind the ruined machine where Melissa went, and a few seconds after that he'd found himself in another nightmare all together.

Milo looked bad. He was covered in cuts and lying on his back, sprawled slightly haphazardly and what skin was visible between his torn clothes and the red of his injuries was pale, almost colourless.

And there was part of a helicopter blade going through his side, pinning him to the ground like a moth.

The next few minutes were a blur for both of them. There was screaming and crying and panic and at some point both of them were definitely trying to shake Milo awake after somehow managing to free him from the piece of metal pinning him to the ground.

The few things Zack thought he'd never forget of those few minutes were this: there wasn't a pulse. There wasn't breathing. There was so much blood and Milo was definitely dead.

He remembered falling to his knees in disbelief. How could this be? Sure some moments ago he was wondering how they survived, but… he couldn't wrap his head around it. Milo couldn't just be… gone… could he? No he couldn't be. But he was, he was gone, he was lying dead in front of him, the stupid helicopter blade painted with his blood and a pool of red slowly creeping its way from underneath his lifeless form.

He numbly felt Melissa crash to her knees beside him and sob into his shoulder. He almost automatically wrapped his hands around her and sobbed just as hard. Their friend was dead and it was the only thing they could do.

Until they heard a familiar voice gasp in pain.

Zack wiped some of the tears away and looked in shock as Milo coughed a few times and attempted to sit up. The attempt had failed and he fell back with an "oof" and clutched at his side.

The next thing he remembered was him and Melissa helping Milo up into a sitting position.

Zack found he couldn't speak. He knew what he saw. The helicopter blade, the lack of pulse, all of it. He knew he didn't imagine it. Melissa could confirm it, he was sure of that.

Milo Murphy was dead.

Until he… wasn't?

The gash in his side was bad but wasn't bleeding too much and didn't seem to be as deep as it was supposed to be. It definitely didn't go all the way through, even though it definitely did before.

Zack found his mind reeling from the events and was happy to pass out in an ambulance car which was apparently called in by the helicopter pilots once they've landed.

*****

A day later he was still thinking about it. His friend definitely died but yet he wasn't dead. He was unwell, yes, he was at the hospital, but he was alive and breathing and not impaled with a piece of bent metal in the middle of nowhere.

He had confirmed with Melissa that yes he did not imagine it and she saw the same things as him. He suspected she Kept seeing the same things as him, when she closed her eyes. It wasn't an easy vision to get rid of. He didn't doubt it would haunt him for a while still.

They couldn't come up with an explanation. One moment Milo was dead the next he was miraculously not dead anymore and a grievous injury seemed less grievous? Something was definitely up.

Rather than beat around the bush they decided to ask Milo directly. So, the day after their hospitalization they stormed into the Murphy suite, looking rather confused and beat up, considering their injuries have not healed yet. The boy himself didn't look much better, bandaged all over and with visible cuts all over his face.

Despite this he greeted them as cheerily as always. His mood soured somewhat when they asked him, in no uncertain terms, how the hell he wasn't dead.

"Well" he started "it's… it's complicated, you see… " He looked somewhat uncomfortable "i'm… not sure how to explain"

"Well" Retorted Melissa "We know for a fact that you died back then, and while I'm happy that you're here, I think an explanation is in order. Just tell us something, i'm sure we'll understand" Her tone had softened by the end, prompting Milo to sigh.

"You know, the Murphys used to be called black cats at one point in their history" Milo told them after a brief silence.

"What, cuz you're unlucky? I thought the thing about black cats being cursed was a myth" Zack laughed, a bit nervously

"Well" He continued, in a shaky voice "that too, but it's… it's that we have nine lives"

There was a beat of silence

"I'm sorry, what?" Zack heard himself say

"It's part of the… condition that we Murphys have. Along with Murphy's law comes… well, comes nine lives. If we die we can come back the first 8 times. There are rules to it of course, but… " He hesitated "we don't even know all of them ourselves"

There was another beat of silence.

"I'm sorry to tell you like this, i was sure it wouldn't need to come up" He sounded scared now, like he'd done something wrong

"So… you did die" The redhead asked, bewildered

"Yes"

"But then you came back"

"As you can see" He gestured at himself with a slight nervous chuckle

"And your family can do this"

"Not all of us, i think. Only the male line, those of us who have the Murphy's law condition"

"So your dad is the same?"

"And my granddad and so on" He shrugged "It sounds odd and unbelievable, I know, but it is what it is. We don't like to talk about it much, you understand"

"Yeah" It wasn't an easy conversation, Zack could see that. "So… that means you have 8 lives left?" He genuinely couldn't think of anything else to ask at the moment.

"Actually, I have 7 now. I had eight before.. " He trailed off, and his hand came up to his side, where the offending wound was "Before you ask, I lost the first one to lightning"

"But that-" Melissa started, before Zack could really process what they've been told, but she didn't get far into the sentence.

"You were there, yes" Milo continued, cutting her off "I'm sorry" He sounded small and sad "I didn't just black out back then" He shrugged again "i'm sorry again i didn't tell you"

Zack was lost. There were woods and there was fog and his mind echoed in a way that he didn't like and he was at a loss for words. There were multiple revelations in the conversation that he didn't know how to feel about. He supposed he should feel happy, and somewhere he did, that his friend was at least somewhat protected from the chaos surrounding him. Though mostly it just made his head hurt.

For now he could only really say one thing.

"You know, I never would have taken you for a catboy, but what do I know"

For this he promptly received a punch to the shoulder.