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"Yeah, I will. Thanks, Lena."
Head bent, twenty year old Adam MacLeane paced the kitchen, freezing when he heard a sudden noise.
"I think he might be back. I gotta go. … Yeah, I'll tell him to call you..."
With a swift movement, he disconnected the call, sliding his phone back into his pocket before quickly making his way to the door. If this was really his brother Sawyer, as he hoped, he wanted to get to him before their irate father had a chance to lay into him.
Sawyer had been gone without a trace for more than 48 hours. He hadn't answered any calls, his friends had been unavailable, not even his girlfriend had had a clue as to his whereabouts and had been just as worried as Adam himself.
It wasn't unlike Sawyer to go on a bender for a night, but two? Without telling anyone? Without at least dropping a hint to Adam or his girlfriend Lena? Completely unheard of.
That none of their mutual friends had been around, either, had only made the whole situation more obscure and honestly, truly worrisome. As if they had all just vanished.
"If that is your stupid dipshit of a brother," Connor MacLeane hissed through clenched teeth, storming out of the living room so fast that Adam had to hurry and try to get to the door before he could.
"Dad…" Adam sighed, clenching his jaw to suppress his growing anger.
"I'm fucking livid!" The older man glared at him in passing, quickly focusing back on the door from where they heard scraping noises. As if someone had trouble finding the keyhole.
Was Sawyer maybe just stupid drunk? Whenever he was out with that shady friend of his he turned into an even worse version of himself. (That friend with the grating British accent, who had flirted a little too obviously with Adam's ex-girlfriend even before she had been an ex. What a complete douche...) Adam shook his head at the mere thought. If they had all been worried for nothing, he'd make sure himself that Sawyer felt their wrath.
He immediately felt guilty for thinking that way, however, when he heard his dad continue with his tirade. "Kid better have a damn good explanation or I'll beat the living hell out of him - and if I find out that you covered for him, Adam…" Connor's eyes flickered dangerously and his younger son couldn't help grimacing. They were almost grown men now, yet the older man instilled the same fear in his sons he always had.
"He'll wish he never came home," Connor was just gritting out, when the door flew open with a gust of wind, bringing in a soaking wet Sawyer along with the icy cold and rain of a storm that had been raging outside for hours.
"Sawyer." Adam's voice and that of his father overlapped as they called out his name, but he merely stared past them as if he hadn't seen or heard either of them. His eyes seemed almost empty, his expression blank, both in stark contrast to the vivid story his blood stained clothes and battered face were trying to tell.
Adam's breath caught in his throat. "What happened," he tried to ask but the words got stuck just like his gaze got stuck on the blood on Sawyer's hands.
"What the hell happened to you?" Connor brushed past his younger son to get to his eldest, grabbing him roughly by the arms. Sawyer flinched, trying to focus his gaze on that of his father, whose larger form was hunkering over him.
"Dad." Adam laid a hand on the man's shoulder, but got shrugged off immediately. His body tensed. He knew Connor's temper all too well, and he knew his brother. The two of them were like dynamite, always ready to explode around each other, and with Sawyer covered in blood already, Adam doubted the outcome of any outburst on either side would be anything but futile.
So he forcefully shoved himself between the two, ignoring his father's outrage as best as he could and shielding his older brother at the same time.
His eyes finally found Sawyer's, and he tried locking gazes, tried getting his brother's attention.
"What happened, man? Are you hurt?" The question seemed dumb. There was so much blood. But he couldn't be sure it was really Sawyer's. Or whether someone else was involved.
Did he maybe have a car accident?
"Unbelievable," Connor growled, now from behind him, shoving Adam, but the younger man was not a child anymore, was stronger these days, and despite his father's larger frame, he could finally withstand his anger. It didn't stop the old Salvatore from griping. "Tell me why the hell you didn't find the time to at least call?! Just a minute out of your precious day. As long as your lazy ass is living in my house, you listen to my rules, and you tell me where you are! This behavior in the past two days is outrageous! Two whole days, Sawyer! Without a word."
"Dad." Adam rolled his eyes, running a hand through his already ruffled looking hair. He felt so achingly tired all of a sudden. "Not now, okay? Let me deal with him."
"Adam, I don't think you understand—"
"I do, okay?!" He interrupted his dad, shooting him a glare, then forcing himself to calm down. He was absently holding Sawyer's arm, noticing a small tremor in his brother's muscles. A shiver.
Something was really really wrong. Sawyer still hadn't said a word.
"Please, dad. Let me take care of this. Just… just go back to the living room or, why don't you go to sleep. It's almost two in the morning."
"He owes me an apology and an explanation."
Connor sounded like a petulant child, and Adam's mouth turned into a hard thin line. But for the same old reason, he bit down anything he wanted to say and settled on an appeasement instead. "I know, dad. And you'll get both. Tomorrow. Okay? Please…"
He hated pleading. Hadn't he just sworn to himself he'd finally tell the man where to shove it? After the breakup with Gracie and his decision to go to the big city with Alex, he had felt so liberated, so ready to leave behind his old home and all the ties binding him to this dark place.
He had basically only waited for Sawyer to come back home so he could say a proper goodbye and maybe encourage his brother to come with him.
And now said brother was standing before him like a statue, lost and forlorn and not saying a single word.
Adam wasn't listening to his father long enough to hear his reply, instead solely focusing on his older brother.
"Come on, man," he cajoled, trying to get him deeper into the house, but it was as if he was rooted to the spot. "Can you tell me what's going on? Was there an accident? Do I need to get you to a hospital?" He indicated the blood on Sawyer's jacket, on his shirt, his pants with a nod, and inclined his head. "This yours?" When there was still barely a reaction, just the same empty stare, a chill crept up Adam's spine. His brother was never this quiet. He was never lost for words and he certainly never left out an opportunity to be the center of attention.
"Sawyer, you're scaring me," he admitted, tightening his hold on the other's arm just as Sawyer abruptly collapsed in on himself, almost dragging a startled Adam with him, who tried to keep him from hitting the floor. Shocked, he knelt down, cradling his unconscious brother in both arms, staring wide eyed at him then over his shoulder at their father, who looked genuinely perplexed.
"What the hell?!"
Trey peaked around the corner into the large foyer of their house, squinting to see in the darkness.
His younger sister had been gone for almost three days. Emmett, their older brother, always playing the parent since their mom and dad had basically left them to fend for themselves, had glumly walked the hallways well into the small hours since her unannounced departure, always waiting, always hoping for her return.
The police was treating it like just another teenage girl that ran away from home and would be back soon enough, maybe overwhelmed by finals, or boy trouble. But Emmett had known better, and so had Trey.
His little sister was the only person he truly cared about, truly worried about, and so it hadn't been just Emmett who had paced the rooms and called numerous friends and acquaintances over and over. Trey had done the same.
Now Emmett was asleep in the large reclining chair in the living room, so exhausted that he hadn't heard the small sound from the lock being opened. But Trey had been there, and he had known.
She was back.
She was sitting not far from the door, arms slung around her bent legs, head resting on her knees. Until it wasn't resting there any more and she whipped it up in an abrupt movement, though not to look at him as he thought at first, but to bang it harshly against the wall behind her.
A gasp escaped him, his legs already breaking into a run before his brain had quite begun to comprehend what was going on.
Then she did it again. And again. A few more times before he finally reached her, hands clawing at her arms in order to lift her up off the cool floor and against his own warm body.
"Stop!" he hissed when she tried to fight him, tried to continue banging herself against the wall. "Raven. It's me!" He had to say it a couple more times before eventually she seemed to snap out of it and looked up at him out of wide and fearful eyes.
His strong, sassy sister, so vulnerable, so broken, with streaks of mascara and tears on her face.
"Who hurt you?" I'll kill them, he wanted to add, but knew better than to say it out loud. Not now. Not when she was in this state.
Dana stared out the window, listening to the loud staccato of the rain against the pane. It was so cold and unwelcoming out there, but in here, there was warmth and coziness.
Or, there should have been. She lay in her bed, blankets strewn over her and the shivering bundle she was holding in her arms: her granddaughter, Cassie, who had been gone for a while before finally reappearing just a few hours ago.
Quite unlike herself the girl had not told Dana where to she had vanished and the old woman had been worried sick about her. Then, tonight, Cassie had finally been back.
Dana had found her crawling up the stairs to the door, drenched in rain and something much more disturbing, and the poor girl had shaken so hard back then that she could not even walk unassisted.
"They're dead; he's dead" she had cried out, so much agony in her tone that it had broken her grandma's heart. Those had remained her only words. Cassie Storm had fallen silent after that. She hadn't spoken to the doctor Dana had called, nor the two nice police officers. She hadn't said a word, hadn't elaborated anything. No explanation.
No one had found a dead body, or more than one.
The cops had left their number, and told her they'd be back in the morning. The doctor had strongly recommended she stay at the hospital, but Cassie had had a breakdown at the mere mention and Dana had decided to keep her home. For now.
The reluctant doctor had given Cassie a sedative and attended to a few strange marks on her body that looked like she could have had an altercation of some form, could have been beaten up. A split lip, bruises on her arms, her abdomen. Scratches on her cheeks and legs. But nothing that explained all the blood on her clothes...
Eventually, though, they had gone on their ways, promising to return come morning, leaving Dana to deal alone with the mess that was her grandchild.
No amount of hot bath water, hot tea, warm and dry clothes, no amount of blankets seemed to be able to stave off the cold that seemed to be emanating from her granddaughter's body.
Something had happened to Cassie. Something very bad.
Someone was dead.
But Cassie was alive. Thank goodness, she was alive. If only Dana knew what had happened and whether her granddaughter would ever be okay again.
Grace opened the door in a flurry, sassily swinging her hair back. The blonde girl was ready to give a few choice and cheeky comments to her late night visitor, whom she expected to be none other than the formerly AWOL Ms. Cassie Storm, who had been supposed to help her with the preparations for the winter ball but hadn't answered any of her calls in the last two days, instead surely cozying up somewhere with her likewise absent boyfriend without telling anyone about it.
Grace couldn't really be upset with her, however. How could she begrudge Cass her well deserved happiness? (She did, though. Just a little bit. Because why was everyone else so happy when her own relationship was like a pile of debris? Nothing to hold onto anymore but painful reminders.) Quickly, she bit her lip to stop those thoughts.
"So, the love birds are finally back from. . ."
She didn't so much trail off as stop abruptly when she realized that the dark figure at her doorstep was not who she had expected. At all.
"Tyler?" Her brow knit together in utter confusion. "What are you doing here?"
They had flirted a couple of times. She had felt a bit guilty about it, until she had realized that Adam, her boyfriend, didn't care and that cocky douchey Tyler was surprisingly and legitimately genuinely sweet when he was with her, sweeter than her own boyfriend had been for a while. But a late night visit? They didn't exactly have that kind of relationship. They weren't even really friends.
"What are you doing here?" Folding her arms in front of her, she inclined her head to take him in. He was soaking wet, dark hood over his head plastered to his skin, mouth a - bloodied? - half bow in his face. There was a gash on his temple dripping rivulets of blood that were mixing with the rain, running down the side of his face.
And he wasn't wearing any shoes.
"Geez, what happened to you?" she asked with sudden concern, a mound appearing between her eyebrows like it always did when she was upset. When he didn't offer any explanation, or even a single word, she resolutely stepped forward, her socked feet instantly getting drenched, and tried to pull him inside by his arm.
A visible jolt ran through him and he flinched away with sudden force, making Grace stumble a bit.
"I'm sorry…" Dumbly, she looked down at her hand, noticing blood. "Oh gosh, did I… did you get hurt? Is your arm. . ." When she stared back at him, his face was hidden in shadows.
"I…" The small word was a mere breath. When he didn't continue, Grace smiled the smallest encouraging smile.
"Come inside," she whispered, because of course she couldn't just let him stand there and close the door in his face. Something was obviously not right. Maybe he and his bestie Sawyer had had a fight or something. She knew he practically lived with the MacLeanes.
But he still didn't move, just stood there, rain still showering down on him in torrents.
"Come on. Just get inside," she cajoled, beckoning with an outstretched arm.
"I'm sorry, I. . . I just. . . Didn't have anywhere else to go," he choked out, and her features softened with sympathy and ache. Maybe it really was a fight with Adam's brother then. (Adam, who she tried so hard not to think about…)
"It's okay." Her arm still outstretched, she cautiously tapped the fabric of his drenched hoodie, close to his face, but far enough away to not touch him directly. Just a small gesture of comfort. "Let's get you warm. If you don't mind a bunch of winter ball stuff lying around, mi casa es su casa." She was still smiling, although she felt uncomfortable and cold and an odd sense of doom or dread seemed to be hanging above them.
Tilting his head a little as if to make sure it wasn't a trap of some sort, Tyler stared at her until she nodded at him. "It's okay," she repeated, softly, almost as if talking to a small child, and eventually, he did follow her offer and made a first few dragging steps toward her and the door.
The warmth from inside seemed to be sucked out around them. Grace was ready to just get Tyler inside and close the door on the cold out there. Then she'd try and figure out what was going on, and what she could do about it.
His steps were so slow, so halting, she had to force herself not to break into her usual banter and make a stupid joke about him shuffling like an old man. This clearly wasn't the time, and she didn't want to set him off and make him run away now, not when he had said there was no other place for him to go. (He and Sawyer must really have had a bad fight. But what about his own family?)
When he was finally past the threshold, almost but not quite brushing against her as he entered her home, Grace shivered involuntarily, then closed the door. She slung her arms around herself, turning toward him. For a while, they were just silently staring at each other.
There was an expression in his dark eyes, blank, empty, so haunting that it pained her.
"What happened to you," she breathed, unable to keep herself from reaching out and hovering over the gash on his face. He flinched again, making a small step back, but she shook her head. "I'm not gonna hurt you. . ."
Their gazes locked again, but she wasn't sure he really understood or believed her. Awkwardness seeped into her unbidden, seemed to turn the moment into something charged, and just like always when she found herself in a situation like that, she began to ramble.
"Why don't I try and find you something warm to wear. I think there're still some of Adam's things lying around somewhere. I know, I know. You guys aren't exactly friends and don't exactly have the same style, but I'm sure it's better than freezing. I mean, you're soaked. Did you walk here or something?"
She gave a nervous chuckle, her gaze falling on his feet.
Only then did she remember that he wasn't wearing shoes. "Right," she made, as if to herself, staring at their socked feet on the cream colored rug they were standing on. Her mom liked the thing so much but hated it simultaneously for how inappropriate it was for a hallway ("Such a dirt magnet! It's so hard to get any stains out."). She had to think of that now as she saw it starting to turn dark underneath him.
Swallowing down a lump, she looked back up, into his face. There was something else there now, something even darker: pain. Despair.
"Oh gosh, Tyler, what the hell happened?"