Chapter 2: Shadow's POV

I stood in the kitchen, remembering the laughter, tears, and anger that once lived here. Gone was the one person that brightened our lives. Her smile haunted me as I thought back to the promise I made my brother as he died.

Tears filled my eyes as I reread my baby sister's first letter in 10 years, seeing from how she wrote it that she was scared and terribly sad. I knew that she was blaming herself and was scared that if she returned we would reject her.

I closed my eyes feeling terribly guilty and sad as I thought, 'I'm sorry brother I failed to help her."

I slowly allowed the memory to wash over me taking me back to a time when our gang was more or less intact.

Broken Free stood in the doorway, her eyes were lost of all joy and life she used to have and was now plagued by an overwhelming depression. Dark circles under her eyes revealed her loss of sleep.

I looked at her and asked softly, "Free will you let me near you?"

She stared at me vacantly, silent as she has been for almost 3 years. I moved toward her slowly, making sure she knew I wasn't going to hurt her.

I gently hugged her and we stood there for almost an hour before I noticed she had fallen asleep. Carefully picking her up I set her in her bed she shared with our youngest sister, Flames. I tenderly pulled the blanket over her, noticing how incredibly thin she was. I sighed to myself and sat in the rocking chair beside the bed, knowing she would wake from a nightmare sooner or later.

As they slept I began to consider what to do. She had become withdrawn when her best friend, Ray, died. She had built a wall around herself in order to mot get hurt again.

I was beginning to hope that just this once she wouldn't have those nightmares when she screamed, filled with terror and despair. I quickly shook her, watching as she opened her eyes and flinched when I touched her.

I hid my hurt and grief from her as I gently whispered, " Free its Shadow. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to help."

She whimpered crying out so quietly, "S-shadow?"

I gently pulled her into my lap, gently rocking her as she struggled to speak. Her voice was raw and hoarse from so many years of no use.

"Shadow, I'm sooooo sorry!" She finally choked out and I simply let her finish crying before telling her it was OK now.

I carefully pulled her to her feet and helped her to the kitchen. She sat on the counter watching me, curiously as I pulled out a semi large microwavable bowl and milk.

"Free what herbs do you like?" I asked as I glanced at the variety of herbs and spices her father had.

She glanced at me in surprise before moving so she could see what there was. Quietly she pulled out honey, mint, and chamomile. She set them on the stove and watched as I put the milk and the herbs in the bowl and heated it in the microwave.

I pulled it out and carefully poured it into a cup and handed it to her. She gave me a blank look, and just stood staring at me as if asking me, 'What do I do?'

I gave her a smile that promised secrets and said, "It'll help with the nightmares Lil Free."

She put the glass down, the weight was too much for her to hold. She gave me a quiet, unbelieving look and I grinned at her and picked up the cup.

I carefully held her, once again amazed by how thin and breakable she was. She noticed immediately what I planned to do and tilted her head so it was resting on my shoulder. I tilted the cup and slowly she began to drink. She finished and began to squirm as I put the cup in the fridge and watched as she started to turn drowsy.

She wondered back into her and Flames room and began to sleep, curled up and once again I was watching over her.

"Shadow!" Raven called as he stood in the dining room with several hospital files, as if to draw my attention.

Turning, I asked, "Raven why is it the tow of you seem to be so frail? Surely something happened."

I watched as he winced and saw the signs of him retreating inside himself and whispered softly, "I just want to help lil bro."

He glanced at me, his brown eyes dark and haunted as he turned away and for a solid ten minutes there was a stony silence as I felt him slowly breaking down the barrier he built just enough to open up.

"You know that I hate storms. Have you ever wondered why?" His voice was soft and filled with heart shattering grief.

I shook my head, a tad confused, saying, "No I had figured you were just scared of them. Didn't think there was a reason, brother."

He let out a small, shaky laugh, one of despair. In times of hardship either you cried or laughed. I waited patiently for him to go on.

"When I was 3 my kitty had ran outside during a very terrible thunderstorm. I ran after and my mam ran after me. I had gotten the kitty and when I turned....I" he paused, his body shaking as I hugged him, tears fell unchecked to the ground as he whispered, "I turned and saw her get struck by lightning."

That shocked me. I never knew that happened. I felt him shaking even more and gently whispered, trying to comfort him, "It's not your fault Raven."

He pulled away, turning to face me snapping, "If I hadn't have gone into the storm she'd still be here!!!"

Now I understood, he was blaming himself while hiding it. I firmly gripped his wrist, staring directly in his eyes saying sternly, "It is not you fault Raven!! She knew that it could happen and chose to come after you! You can't control your mother's choices! You were 3 Raven!! You did what ANY child would've done!"

He winced and tried to pull back but I hugged him not wanting him to push me away any longer. He struggled for several minutes before burying his face in my shoulder, close to breaking down and crying.

I shifted into a more comfortable position as he finally began to cry. I gently whispered soothing words as time passed. Slowly he cried himself to sleep and I began to wonder how long he had been holding it in.

"SHADOW!" Raven shouted pulling me back to the present.

I turned and felt the quietness within the house and once again I felt guilt eat away at me as I saw his eyes, filled with despair, how badly he missed his younger sister.

"What is it?" I asked handing Flames a sandwich for lunch before glancing at him again, seeing him staring distantly out the window, as if he was remembering the past.

"So much, its not going away!" he muttered trying to desperately get something of his hands that wasn't there.

I carefully made him stop just as his hands clenched into fists. I held him still and watched as he fought me and I could see the strange and frightening look in his eyes that he always got during these episodes.

His eyes slowly returned to normal, their kindness and warm relaxing me as he muttered, "Free's home."

I glanced to see Free standing in the driveway, looking afraid and terribly child like.

I watched her, wondering if she'd go to the door and come in. When she didn't I gently pushed Raven towards his room, saying, "Go rest Raven. You haven't slept all week."

I watched as he began to protest and I gave him a stern look saying, "Bed now Raven Michael."

He scowled at me and walked away, and I made a note to check on him later.

Opening the door, I said, "Come on in kiddo. We have been waiting for your return."

I watched as tears filled her eyes as guilt washed over her. I saw her struggling to say something but all that came out was a wail of despair.

Swiftly I crossed the distance between us and held her, whispering soft words of comfort as I took her inside, out of the eyes of the prying neighbors' eyes. Sitting her on the couch between Darkness and I she revealed the scars she had inflected and I found myself scolding her just as Nightful walked in, his eyes cold with betrayal and hurt as he said, "Welcome home Free."

I found myself staring in the past as I remembered the first time she had done this.