Chapter Fifteen

I gasped as Nathaniel sent a hard punch to my gut, but I didn't have time to think about it anymore than that as his fist assailed towards my head. Ducking quickly, I jabbed his side, hard, with my left hand before standing up again and sending a side kick towards his chest. Nathaniel fell backwards and hit the floor with an audible thud but it wasn't long before he sprung back up onto his feet again and began bombarding me with punches and kicks. It took all the concentration I had to block and dodge everything he sent my way. We were both sweating and breathing heavily as we fought - neither one of us willing to admit defeat. It wasn't until Nathaniel tackled me to the floor unexpectedly, making my back hit the hard surface with enough force to knock the air out of me and then I deciding to send my fist straight into Nathaniel's face that we both decided enough was enough.

Groaning and clutching his jaw with one hand, Nathaniel got off me before reaching out his other to help me up. Taking deep breaths to refill my lungs with air, like Mr Creed had told me to do in this situation a million times before, I grabbed his free hand and let him hoist me upwards. Neither of us said anything as we made our way over to the other side of the training room and sat back down on the mats, both of us exhausted, sweaty and somewhat injured. Nathaniel moved his hand away from his mouth and began to move his jaw around a bit, trying to get it feeling like normal I suppose. I watched a thin line of blood trail down from the crack in his lip that definitely wasn't there before I punched him. A small sense of pride built up in my gut. It was good to know that I could hit someone with an adequate amount of force.

"You pack quite a punch, Hazel. That's definitely going to bruise tomorrow," Nathaniel said, reaching behind me to grab the first aid kit that hung on the wall.

"Thank you," I replied breathily, still struggling to get more air into my lungs. "You know, you'd think that I'd be used to being winded going by the amount of times Mr Creed has floored me, but it still seems to catch me by surprise." This time my sentence came out a little stronger, but it was still obvious I was out of breath. Nathaniel laughed and nodded his head slowly while wiping his lip with the antiseptic wipe from the first aid kit. I reached my right hand up to my gut and rubbed where he had hit me earlier. It hurt a little more than I thought it should. Best get that checked out by Dani or Michael. They both know a lot about this sort of thing, I thought.

"What's up?" Nathaniel asked while putting the packet of antiseptic wipes back into the box and closing the lid. "And don't reply with your stomach because I'm not on about that. You're a bit put off about something, what is it?" Shrugging my shoulders, I took my hand off my gut and reached out to grab the first aid box so I could hang it back on the wall. Once I did, I leaned back and looked around the room. I'd spent many a day in this training room since Mr Sheppard announced that we were going to go after Tom. I needed to be ready for when we ended up face to face and I would make sure that we did. I wanted to be the one to get him. It was me he blamed for Mrs Monroe's death and it was my best friend he pushed over the edge. If it was me he wanted, it would be me he got.

"I just wish that we could do something right now," I finally said, turning my head so I was facing him now. He smiled at me and nodded before leaning back against the wall, letting his head touch it as he looked up at the ceiling.

"Me too, but sometimes it's better to wait and have this sort of thing planned out. I know that Jasper is coming up with some sort of plan but…" he trailed off, glancing at me before returning his gaze to the ceiling and shaking his head slightly.

"But what?" I asked, turning around so that I was facing him now. He glanced back towards me again and then back to the ceiling before sighing loudly and sitting so that he was facing me properly.

"I'd much prefer it if Cedric was the one doing the planning." As soon as the words left his mouth my eyebrows shot up and I gave the most shocked expression that had ever appeared on my face. "I know, I know," he said, shaking his head and looking down at the mats we were sitting on. "I just feel like if it was him in charge then we'd actually be doing something right now, instead of just waiting around. Oh, by the way, if you tell Cedric that I said this I will make sure to kick your arse in next time we train together." The shocked expression fell off my face as I looked at Nathaniel and raised one of my eyebrows.

"I'd like to see you try," I replied, smirking at him. We both laughed for a moment before falling into silence. "I won't tell him, don't worry. And, for the record, I agree with you. I just know that Ced would've done something by now. We would be one step closer to getting Tom if he was calling the shots."

"You really trust him, don't you?" Nathaniel asked, looking at me right in the eyes and reached up and pushed his hair back. I stared at him for a couple of seconds before nodding and then looking towards the door that would lead to main room of HQ where Mr Creed was probably sat.

"Yeah, I guess I do," I replied, not really sure why I did. I mean, he had essentially broken my heart and I knew for a fact that he wouldn't hesitate to lie to me about something. But deep down, I guess, I knew that he would only do all of those things to protect me. Things weren't as awkward between us anymore and it was nice. It felt like I was starting to have a bit of closure with that whole topic, but only a little. Now I just need some closure with Tristan, I thought. But I knew that that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. He had been too big a part of my life for so long for me to just get over losing him. I didn't think I ever would.

The door to the training room opened and as both Nathaniel and my head shot up to look at the person walking in on our little chat, we were both pretty surprised to see that it was Mr Creed himself. Although, neither of us showed the surprise that we definitely feeling – that would be a bad habit to get into. Mr Creed's eyes assessed us as we both stayed seated on the mats, looking at him curiously. There wasn't any reason for him to be in here. Well, I didn't think there was one anyway. His eyes met mine briefly before they snapped back to Nathaniel. Mr Creed's head jerked towards the door quickly, telling Nathaniel to get out of the room. Nathaniel got up and winked at me before heading towards the door. What surprised me the most about this whole situation was that Mr Creed didn't follow Nathaniel out of the room. Instead, he shut the door behind him and made his way over to me. With every step Mr Creed took closer to me I could myself getting more nervous. I had no idea what was going on and why he wanted to talk to me by myself. Part of me wanted this to be about how we were going to bring down Tom, but the other smaller and more selfish bit of me wanted this to be about us. Mr Creed held out his hand to me, offering to help me up. I took it without hesitation and ended up standing a little closer to him than I would've thought was necessary.

"Tristan's parents are here again, Hazel. They're collecting the rest of Tristan's things. I think you should stop by and see them this time," he said, letting go of my hand, but keeping his eyes on me e whole time. "I know you chickened out of going to see them last time. You were down here with Ackerman the whole day. You need to go and see them…for your sake as much as Tristan's." Mr Creed sighed quietly when I said nothing back to him. His eyes flitted towards the closed training room door and then back to me before he reached back down and held my hand in his again. "Hazel, you know you have to do this." Sighing, I nodded my head and gave him a small smile.

"Why do you always know rig thing to say? ...And how do you always get me to do stuff that I avoid?" I asked him, tilting my head slightly. The smirk that I hadn't seen in a while emerged on his face before he answered.

"Years of training," he replied before pausing for a bit. His eyes bore into mine as his smirk stretched out into a proper smile and he squeezed my hand. "And I just know you." Slowly I nodded at him before reluctantly pulling my hand out of his grasp. Mr Creed was right – I had to go and see Mr and Mrs Hawkins. I couldn't avoid them forever.

"I'll see you later, then," I called out to him as I made my way out of the room. Mr Cred didn't call out a farewell or say anything back to me and for some reason that had me worried.

My footsteps were quiet as I rounded the corner of the corridor, heading towards the boys dormitories. I did this more out of habit than necessity. After all, if I decided to chicken out (again) then at least I'd be able to make a clean getaway and they wouldn't even know I had been there. But the fact that I had the option of a clean getaway probably wasn't helping reinforce the fact that I had to talk to Tristan's parents. I didn't even know why I was so nervous about seeing them. Over the past five years I had known them, talking to them had never been an issue. During those five years Tristan was still alive, I thought. What if they knew that I had been there with him? What if they blamed me, too? I already had my guilt. I didn't want to see the anger or disappointment that I was feeling personified onto them. That would just be too much. Yep, this is exactly why you chickened out last time, I thought as I tightened my grip on Tristan's hoodies. I had gathered all of the ones that I still had of his (it came to a grand total of four) and were clutching them all tightly to my chest as I walked down the painfully familiar path to his dormitory.

Voices grew louder as I reached the turn in to the boy's corridor. From there I could see Tristan and Mark's bedroom door being propped open by two boxes – boxes that probably contained Tristan's things. I could already imagine Mr Hawkins standing in there with his black hair slicked back while adjusting the tie that he would be wearing with his pinstriped suit. Meanwhile, Mrs Hawkins would be sifting through Tristan's things, putting them in corresponding labelled boxes. All her hair would be pulled back out of her face and tied up in a neat bun so that her perfectly done make up, which was done in such a fashion that it made it look like she wasn't wearing any at all, would be visible for all to see. They were the stereotypical business parents. The only thing that was missing from the little scene I was imagining in my head was the look of grief and pain that should be on their faces. It just didn't translate in my head. The only facial expressions I had ever seen them pull were their 'intimidating business' face and their 'I'm so happy and proud that you got that grade' face. My brain just couldn't comprehend their faces doing anything different. That's probably what shocked me most when I had run out of corridor and entered the room to see them.

Mr Hawkins was indeed standing in the middle of the room with his hair slicked back and in his pin striped suit, but he had none of his normal 'let's get this done' attitude about him. His posture wasn't as stiff and instead of straightening his tie, he reached up and loosened it before walking over to Tristan's bedside table and gathering the things on there. Mrs Hawkins was far from the image of perfection that she usually was. Bits of hair were falling out of her usually pristine bun and her eyeliner had been replaced by a ring of red around her eyes. A couple of tears cascaded down her face as she sat on Tristan's bed with one of his photographs in her hands. Both of them had pain and grief written all over their face.

I stood their awkwardly in the doorway, unsure if this was a good time to speak to them or not. It seemed like too tender a moment to disturb them. My clean getaway plan was looking very appealing right then, but I didn't get a chance to use it as Mr Hawkins turned around and saw me in the doorway. I was expecting anger to fill his eyes and for him send me straight out of the room after demanding an explanation as to how I could've let something like this happen to Tristan. However, Mr Hawkins stood there with a box in his hands and his facial expressions softened into the kindest way I'd ever seen.

"Look who came to visit us," he said, turning to his wife. Mrs Hawkins' head slowly moved up as she tore her eyes away from the picture in her hands. When she saw me standing there awkwardly in the doorway she immediately left her seat on the bed, came towards me and engulfed me in a hug. I tried my best to hug her back with as much emotion as she was hugging me, but it was a hard thing to do considering she had trapped one of my arms (the one that was holding the hoodies) between us. "It was nice of you to come, Hazel. I'm glad you did," Mr Hawkins said to me after his wife had let me go.

"I was nervous about coming to see you both," I said to them, looking down at the floor space between us. "I didn't know what to expect or to say. I just…It's been really hard for me. I can't imagine how much harder it must be for you two and Toby." Pausing, I looked up to see both of them smiling softly at me and that's when I knew, for sure, that they weren't angry at me – that they didn't blame me. But then again, they didn't know the truth about what happened. If they did, they'd blame me as much as I did. "Anyway, I brought some of his hoodies that I still had. Here you go," I finished, holding them out towards Mrs Hawkins. Before I even had my arm fully outstretched, she pushed them back to me and patted my shoulder.

"He'd want you to keep them, dear. We were always buying him new hoodies because you had some of his. He'd moan, but you could tell that he liked the fact that you had something of his with you," Mrs Hawkins said, another tear falling down her cheek and Mr Hawkins nodded in agreement, before turning back to Tristan's bedside table and putting more things into the box he was holding. I looked down at the hoodies draped over my arm and played with the sleeves of them before looking back up to meet Mrs Hawkins eyes.

"Thank you," I said, giving her a small smile as tears threatened to leave my eyes. No matter how many times you think or say to yourself that you can't cry anymore, you always will and that's because you care. If you didn't care, then you wouldn't have cried in the first place.

"You were a good friend to Tristan, Hazel," Mr Hawkins said as he walked closer to the door with the box still in his hands. "Thank you for that. We weren't always there for him, but you were. Thank you." With that he shifted the box so he could hold it in one hand and moved to walk out of the room. As he walked by he reached out and squeezed my shoulder. It was the most affectionate thing I'd ever seen Mr Hawkins do and I couldn't help but feel privileged that it had been towards me.

Mrs Hawkins and I stood there in silence for a couple of minutes after Mr Hawkins had left. I had no idea what to say to her or if me just leaving would be a better idea. My head was desperately trying to think of something that would break this awkward silence, but luckily I didn't have to. Mrs Hawkins held out the photo that she had been looking at to me. I gently took it from her hands and looked down at it. As soon as I saw what it was a smile spread across my face and I felt a small pang at my heart. It was a picture of Tristan and me at the end of year party from last year. He was sitting down and smiling straight into the camera while wearing his white dress shirt and black tie. I was sitting on his lap in the dark red dress that my mum had bought just for that party. We were hugging each other tightly and our smiles were beaming. We had just finished making a joke about how Lottie was still pining after Jake even though they'd broken things off earlier that year. Lottie decided to shut us up by taking a picture.

"He looks so happy in that," Mrs Hawkins said, smiling down at the picture in my hands.

"Yeah, he does. It was a very fun night. I'm glad Lottie and I managed to convince him to go in the end. It wouldn't have been as good if he wasn't there," I replied, handing the picture back to her. She hesitated before taking it from me, as if when she did it Tristan's smile in the photograph would suddenly stop. "I don't think I have a copy of that one. I'll have to get Lottie to print one off for me," I babbled on, acting like I didn't notice her hesitation.

"You meant a lot to him, Hazel. I hope you know that. Here, you should keep this picture. It was in the frame on his bedside table." Mrs Hawkins handed the picture back to me before following in Mr Hawkins' footsteps and leaving the room. "Goodbye, Hazel," she called out to me as she rounded the corner and it was obvious she was trying not to cry.

I turned and left the room quickly, not really wanting to be there when Mark got back to it. He'd want his space to try and get used to the emptiness. It'd be so weird for him. He and Tristan had been rooming together since we started at Brooksworth. I headed straight for my dorm room and found it empty – I couldn't tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I opened up the wardrobe and hung each of Tristan's hoodies carefully as if they were one of the expensive dresses my mum bought me and put them inside there. Moving around to the pin board that hung on the side of the wardrobe, I moved some bits of paper out of the way and pinned the picture of Tristan and me in top right hand corner. Smiling, I reached up and ran my fingers across it one more time before leaving the room to find Mr Creed. He was the one who told me to go and speak to Mr and Mrs Hawkins, might as well tell him how it went, I thought. But I just knew I was finding an excuse to go and see him.

Casually, I walked into his classroom and shut the door behind me. Mr Creed looked up from his laptop and smiled at me before finishing off whatever he was typing. It had been a while since we had been alone in his classroom. In fact, the last time we had had been when Mr Sheppard walked in and that whole bit of drama had started. A nervous sensation began to build up in my stomach, but I did my best to stop it. There wasn't anything to be nervous about, was there? Nothing is going on. You're just here to update a friend/mentor/colleague about what happened with your dead best friend's parents. Relax! I thought, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that there was still something to be nervous about.

While Mr Creed continued his typing, I walked over to the science benches and stared down at the worksheets he had laid out for his next class. I smiled as I looked over them, they were so simple…wait until they get to A-level chemistry. The sound of Mr Creed's chair scraping back filled the room, soon followed by his footsteps. I stopped my evaluation of the worksheet and looked up to watch as Mr Creed walked around to where I was and leaned casually on the bench.

"So, not as scary as you thought it'd be, huh?" he asked, resting his hands on the edge of the desk.

"It was at first and there were a fair few awkward silences, but it wasn't that bad. I got to see Tristan's parents in a whole new light. I just wish I would've seen them like that under better circumstances," I said, smiling sadly at Mr Creed before looking down and fiddling with my school tie.

"It's always said that it takes the worst circumstances to bring out the best in people," Mr Creed said softly as he watched me fiddle with my tie. We stood in a comfortable silence for a couple of minutes and I could feel that usual electricity between us start to build up again. That was always the signal for me to leave his presence before I said or did something that we'd agreed not to (even though we'd both been bending that agreement lately).

"I should really go now, sir. I just wanted to tell you how that went since, you know, you basically told me to man up and go see them. So, yeah, thanks for that," I said with a laugh as made to move around him and head to the door. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what way you look at it) I never made it three steps past him before Mr Creed grabbed my arm, stopping me and spinning me round to face him.

We were standing even closer than we had been in the training room and I could feel his breath washing over my face. My heart was going into overdrive and my stomach was knotting itself like it was in the navy. Mr Creed closed his eyes and leaned his head forward so his forehead was resting on mine. I could feel the closure that I thought I was beginning to have, on the whole with us, this morning slip away from me.

"It's too easy for me to feel this way about you, Hazel. This has gotten so complicated hasn't it?" he asked, a sad smile on his face.

"Yeah, it has," I breathed out; taking in every detail of him as quickly as I could before the inevitable scenario of him backing away from me and me leaving the room played out.

"It's about to get even more complicated as we go after Tom," Mr Creed said, finally opening his eyes so that they met mine. "Jasper is sending me down to London to follow up a lead on Hacard's disappearance. It's not going to be long before we move in for Tom," Mr Creed paused there and moved his head back from mine slightly. "Well, it wouldn't be long if I were in charge. But I'm not, so who knows."

"So, you're not going to be around for the next couple of days?" I asked, not entirely sure how to take this. It might be a good thing that Mr Creed wouldn't be around. I mean, I might actually be able to reclose the closure that I was achieving earlier. But I couldn't help but feel a little more vulnerable without him around. Mr Creed made me feel safe.

"No, I'm not. Don't worry, you'll have Ackerman around. I'm sure he'll be more than happy to hang around you," he said, with only a hint of sourness in his voice.

"Nathaniel is great and all, but he's not you, is he?" I replied, smiling up at him. A small smile crept its way onto Mr Creed's face before he let out a long sigh and brought his hand up to brush some hair away from my face.

"I'm sorry, Hazel…for everything," he whispered. That's when I did the exact opposite of what my head was telling me to do. I didn't back away, say my goodbyes and leave the room, like I knew I should do – that was the sensible option. Instead, I brought myself up onto my tiptoes and pressed my lips against his.

Mr Creed kissed me back immediately and I could feel his hand move its way to the back of my head, tangling in my hair and keeping me firmly in place. This felt a little redundant to me because I sure as hell wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. My hands traced their way up his chest to grab hold of the front of his shirt while his other hand firmly placed itself on the small of my back. Every inch of my body had tingles shooting through it as our lips moved in sync with each other's. We could've been standing there for a lifetime and I wouldn't have cared. In my mind this moment was so perfect that I never wanted to leave it. I could feel my heart thudding harder in my chest as he pulled me closer to him and my grip tightened on his shirt. It felt like there was no space at all between us and I loved every second of it.

Eventually we both pulled away from the kiss, but kept our grip on each other as tight as before. Mr Creed placed another little kiss on the tip of my nose, making my smile as I looked up at him, while his hand that had been tangled in my hair moved to join his other at the small of my back.

"When do you head down to London?" I asked quietly, fiddling with his collar.

"Tonight. Someone will be covering my lessons, so don't worry, you'll still have some work to do," he replied, winking at me. I laughed breathily for a bit before looking at him seriously.

"It's not going to be something dangerous, is it?" As soon as the words left my mouth I mentally slapped myself and shook my head. "Stupid question. Everything to do with you is dangerous."

"That's all part of charm," he joked, chuckling afterwards. "I hate to say this, but you better get going now. The bell is going to go in about a minute." Sighing, I nodded and released my grip on his shirt (which was now slightly crinkled) and took a couple of steps away from him, heading towards the door. "Don't' look at me like that, Hazel. This is not a goodbye. It's a 'I'll definitely see you later."

"Good. I've had enough goodbyes recently," I said to him as I reached my hand out to grab the door handle. Before I could pull the door open, Mr Creed stepped out in front of my and placed one last kiss on my lips. Smiling down at me as he pulled away, he winked and opened the door for me. "Good luck," I whispered as I walked out of the door, into the hallway.

"Thank you. I'll see you soon," I heard him say after me, closely followed by the sound of a door closing. I felt a proper smile worm its way onto my face. It was the kind of smile that I hadn't given since Tristan…it felt good to be smiling like that again. It felt like I was starting to heal, in a way. But at the same time it kind of felt like Mr Creed and I had just gone back to where we were before all of the drama…we really needed to talk about us. That conversation was long overdue. However, my good mood didn't last long.

At the end of the corridor, just like when I had come back from my tests, was where Lottie stood with a mixture of confusion, shock and hurt on her face. The smile fell from my mouth and my pace quickened as I hurried towards her. In her hands were several photographs that I couldn't get a clear view of from where as I was, but every time I tried to move closer to her Lottie took a step back away from me. I stopped in my tracks, two metres away from where Lottie stood. Neither of us said anything for a while. We just stood there – me looking confused while Lottie stared at me with the same facial expression she had earlier.

"What's going on, Lottie?" I asked, making to take another step forward but when I saw Lottie retreat again, I stayed where I was.

"I should be asking you the same question, but I don't think I'm ready to hear it right now. I'll just leave these with you," she said, spitting out the last sentence while throwing the pictures that had been in her hand at me. As they floated to the ground I saw the two things that those pictures had in common – Mr Creed and me. Looking up, back at Lottie, I saw her shake her head before she turned around on her heel and walked away. Slowly, I reached down and gathered all the pictures together. It wasn't until I got to the last one that I realised there was something written on the back of them, something that Lottie most likely didn't notice.

I'm not done with you yet, Hazel. – TM

At the end of this author's note is the results for the little contest thingy I had, just in case you wanted to know :) But anyway, I'm really sorry for the delay with this chapter. I was so caught up with school work and then I got some writers block that just wouldn't go away -.- But here it is now! I'm not entirely happy with it, but I intend on making the next chapter a bit better and maybe a bit longer than this one. The real actiony bits are coming up soon, so be prepared for that. I think that's all I have to say really :P Hope you all are having a nice summer! :D See you soon my lovelies 3 xxx

~ Contest Results ~

Thank you for all your entries :D I really enjoyed reading them. But there can only be one winner and that is MissKukyMonster :D Congratulations! Go ahead and check out her profile! Thanks again to everyone that entered XD xxx