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DomLuka

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DomLuka last won the day on August 10 2014

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5,546 Adept Scribe 3rd Class

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  1. Oh I really hope you can come back and give us more of your great stories :D

  2. I really love your stories, I had have read most of them multiple times. I hope you come back and finish the unfinished one.

  3. Happy Birthday

  4. I really love your stories and hope there will be updates on those marked as in progress. I'm dying to know what will happen next. I just love your writing :)

  5. Dom, You are featured on the blog. You must respond!!!

  6. Please come back... :'(

  7. /emoticons/default_hug-transparent.gif" alt=":hug:" /> X100

  8. Read your stories several times over (and profess to having a huge crush on Aaron:P) and just wanted to let you know that your writing is much appreciated. There's probably more than a few fans dying to get their..eyes..on more of your work so Ill end my little message with a silent prayer for more breathtaking stories from you in a not-so-far-away future.

    =)

  9. Read your stories several times over (and profess to having a huge crush on Aaron:P) and just wanted to let you know that your writing is much appreciated. There's probably more than a few fans dying to get their..eyes..on more of your work so Ill end my little message with a silent prayer for more breathtaking stories from you in a not-so-far-away future.

    =)

  10. Missing your stories. Hope you're doing well.

  11. I just read Desert Dropping this week and it is a really good story. I was sad when I reached the end. I could relate to all the characters on so many levels. Will there be a sequel?

  12. ya it's been a year >.

    i love your work! keep it up.

    ur the best :D

  13. Taking five, or taking a year!!!!!! Hope all is well.

  14. Thanks to Jim for editing! Oliver looked across the small but comfortable room as he sat at the end of one of the two twin-sized beds occupying the space, his fingers slowly drumming one of the thirty-or-so photographs scattered over his mattress. Looking the pictures over carefully, he selected one and held it up to the light. “I like this one,” he said before looking towards the other bed again. “Of course you like that one,” his brother answered, rolling hazel eyes that matched Oliver’s. “It’s got Frank in it.” “They’ve all got Frank,” Oliver pointed out, frowning as if he thought he was being teased. “I just like this one ‘cause he’s on his bike... like in the one you took for me.” David smiled. “I’ll take more for you soon.” “Oliver?” a curious female voice was heard before Jenny Woodmoore appeared in the opened doorway with her camera strap over her shoulder. “Are you talking to someone?” Oliver looked towards the space where he’d pictured his brother a moment before, and then shook his head at Jenny. “Nope, Jenny. It’s just me in here. See?” She smiled at him, and moved to look over the pictures on the bed. “Did you pick one yet?” she asked. Oliver nodded, smiling as he held up his chosen photograph. “I like this one,” he told her. Jenny looked thoughtful for a minute. “Yeah... it’s a nice one. But how about one Frank’ll like? Like this one?” she asked, selecting another from the pile. “It’s got both of you in it.” Oliver looked at a picture he specifically remembered Jay taking when he’d followed Frank up a tree to see a bird’s nest, and ultimately shook his head as he held the one of Frank on a bike higher, as if he didn’t think Jenny had taken a good enough look. “This one.” Jenny laughed. “Okay,” she agreed, taking it. “Let’s go see how fast they can get it printed on a card.” “Okay, Jenny,” Oliver replied, stepping into his shoes as he stood up. “Can we go now?” “We’ll have to if we don’t want to be late. Jay should be here in just a minute.” “I should feed my chicken while we wait!” Oliver exclaimed, as if he’d just remembered. “You know, I fed all the chickens this morning, Oliver,” she pointed out. “But this one’s lucky, and she likes it outta my hand,” Oliver objected. Jenny sighed as she followed him out of the room, through the house and into the small backyard surrounded by a newly painted picket fence. She knew better than to argue. Oliver had made a lot of adjustments since moving in with her family over ten months ago, but he’d still been irritated that his chicken had to live in the backyard with the rest of the regular birds, and not in its special cage in the garage. She supposed that if feeding it separately made him feel better, she shouldn’t argue. Besides, that chicken was the only thing he’d taken from his family’s home besides a few old pictures his brother had taken, and her family wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. Even when he’d insisted on having two beds in his room. Jenny watched as Oliver all but chased his chicken away from the others and picked up the kicking animal once it was cornered. “So are you looking forward to today?” she asked him. “Still glad we’re going?” “Yeah,” Oliver replied. “I’m gonna tell David about Frank’s card. And on the phone, he told me he’s got a surprise for Frank, too.” Jenny raised an eyebrow at that, but when Oliver looked back at her, she simply smiled. “Well, I guess we’d better hurry then, huh?” And she was grateful when she heard the old truck Jay had recently purchased from Mr. Dron pull into her driveway. ............................................. “That’s enough... Mom, that’s enough!” Frank insisted as he piled the rest of the mountain of sandwiches Jessica was putting together onto a piece of plastic wrap. “There’s only gonna be four of us... and we’ll only be thirty minutes away.” Jessica ignored him as she moved towards the refrigerator. “Are you sure there’s no room in that cooler for cake?” “Positive. We’ll do cake when I get back, alright?” “Alright. Help me clean this mess up before you go.” Frank looked at the meager amount of crumbs on the countertop and rolled his eyes, but still grabbed a rag. Cleaning. Always cleaning. It had been like that ever since they’d moved into the new house. It was actually located in town, had a real backyard, and his mother’s favorite part--a new kitchen that always had to be clean. Have you called your dad yet?” Jessica asked. “No. Rudy said not to bother them.” Jessica turned from what she was doing and raised an eyebrow. “What?” “I don’t know what they’re doing,” Frank admitted. “Figured they probably want to have the party on the boat or something.” “There’s not enough room on the boat!” Jessica objected. Frank shrugged. “Tell Dad that.” Not that it would work even if she did. His father was quite attached to the little houseboat he’d rented for summer. Frank hadn’t taken up his dad’s offer to spend the night on it yet, but then, apart from Oliver’s little boat, he hadn’t been very enthusiastic about boarding one. At least overnight. And besides, with his father making good on a promise to take time off during the summer to be closer to his kids, Frank found himself with plenty of opportunities to reconnect with his dad that didn’t involve remembering the last time he woke up floating on the water. “I already told him we were doing something here,” Jessica continued, beginning to look suspicious. “Maybe they’re hiding a present from you... but I’d know if they were, unless they’re hiding it from me, too. You didn’t ask for a dog, did you?” Frank looked at his mom, and chose to smile instead of following the urge to roll his eyes. “With three cats in the house? No.” “Four cats,” Jessica replied, and when Frank opened his mouth to respond she aimed a finger in his direction to silence him. “I know about the one you brought home last weekend. Don’t bring home anymore, and let that poor thing out of your room already.” “Actually...it’s in your room now. Ran under your bed this morning.” “Frank...” “I think I hear Jay’s truck,” Frank conveniently interrupted as he grabbed the cooler and headed into the newly carpeted living room. “You do not hear Jay’s truck!” Jessica called, following him. But, a moment later she was ignoring Frank’s dubious look as she heard the familiar sound of Jay’s engine. Frank grinned. “Gotta go. I’ll be back before dark.” Jessica sighed and rushed to the door before Frank had a chance to open it, lifting her hand to his shoulder as a few lines of worry touched her forehead. “Are you sure this is how you want to spend your birthday?” “It’s fine, Mom,” Frank insisted. “Besides, I promised Oliver, and it’s not his fault David only gets to see visitors once a month. If we don’t go today it’s another thirty days, and it’s already been over six months since...” “Okay, okay,” Jessica cut him off as she raised a hand in defeat. “I just want you to have a good day. Do you want me to go with you, just in case there are any problems?” “There won’t be. We already called ahead, and we both know you don’t really wanna go.” “It’s not that I don’t want to...” “Mom. It’s fine. I gotta go, alright? See you tonight.” After leaving a quick kiss to her cheek Frank was outside, tossing the cooler into the bed of Jay’s truck and moving through the passenger door to overcrowd the bench seat where Jay was at the wheel and Jenny and Oliver occupied the middle. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel, but Frank was comfortable enough with his company not to mind. Jay and Jenny had been good friends to Frank, even forgiving him when they discovered that he had no eye for photography whatsoever. Jay had once said it was nice to have a friend who didn’t know everything about him down to the bad haircut he’d had when he was eight, and in him Frank had found the kind of person he could call up late on a Monday night just because he was too bored to come up with a good reason to sleep. It was something he’d missed after discovering that his friends back home were too interested in their own lives to care anything about his new one. Jay had also made his transition into a new school easer to tolerate, not to mention the events surrounding last summer had built an odd, but strong bond between them. Over the last year, Frank had even helped him coordinate a second funeral for Odetta Grover, where Jay was finally able to make certain everyone knew the mystery surrounding her death. The small town had been surprisingly accommodating, placing a memorial on the land Odetta had once lived on, right where the Seabergs’ last house had once stood. Frank had found that he liked Jenny, too. He’d been a little concerned when his mother had been less than enthusiastic about the idea of taking Oliver in, and he’d even admit to being annoyed when Jenny’s family was quick to offer Oliver a home. But, Frank had to admit that it had worked out for the best. The Woodmoores had been able to provide things that Frank’s couldn’t. Like a stable roof over Oliver’s head to begin with. The Seabergs had been in and out of tents, neighbors’ houses, and even an old cabin behind Mr. Dron’s house for over a month before they found a more permanent residence that qualified as suitable. Frank wouldn’t have wanted that ordeal for Oliver on top of everything else. And Jenny’s family had also been able to provide Oliver with something that Frank would have had a hard time giving. Independence. It had been no smooth adjustment when the state had taken David. Oliver had been devastated, and Frank’s instinct was to never allow him to feel like he was alone. But, Frank’s own anger over David having to leave had turned his support for Oliver into something that managed to seem overbearing. He’d hardly wanted Oliver to speak with anyone else unless he was present. It was the Woodmoores who’d shown him that Oliver was stronger than that. He’d settled in with a family who’d been able to support him and reintroduce him to society. He was going to church, and school, and he’d even taken a part-time job where Jenny worked, something that had been his idea. But, even though Frank was no longer Oliver Martin’s only friend, there were still things that he only shared with Frank. It was only on occasion that Oliver mentioned his parents. He’d once asked Frank if it was wrong to be sad about what had happened to them, since no one else seemed to have a good thing to say about his mother or his father; and only Frank knew that Oliver stalked the old women after church, listening to their rumors regarding his family only to mull over it over later, hiding his hurt behind a crooked smile when he saw those same ladies around town. But the hardest for Oliver, and Frank thought for himself, too, had been David’s absence. He’d been gone for almost a year. At first they’d been told that there was a chance David would be charged with murdering his father, but with all witnesses insisting that there was some sort of self-defense involved, the notion was soon dismissed. But even then, David’s troubles were just beginning, and no one had been able to do anything about it when it was decided that he’d be held in a hospital until a more “suitable” arrangement could be made, even after the Woodmoores offered to take him in along with Oliver. Matters didn’t improve when David attacked a nurse two weeks later, and didn’t bother to deny it. Frank didn’t know the particulars, but during one of the few phone calls David was allowed to make to Oliver, he’d told his brother that the woman had reminded him of their mother. Over the next months, he’d undergone evaluation after evaluation, held in juvenile detention centers and inpatient mental facilities. Jessica had repeatedly insisted that David was getting the help that he needed, but while Frank could admit that David probably needed help, he had ultimately dubbed the entire situation as just plain unfair. David Martin wasn’t the way he was because he wanted to be. He’d become exactly what he was made to be, and as a result people were afraid of him. He didn’t belong in a school with kids his own age, or out walking the streets with Frank and his friends. He was unpredictable and bad-tempered, and he wasn’t afraid to act out negatively towards any adult figure who attempted to control him. At least, that had been David Martin until two months ago. The Woodmoores had called to announce that David was being transferred to yet another private hospital. But, this one didn’t have bars on the windows, and while his contact with the outside world still had to be limited, Frank had learned that David was making progress and there was talk that he’d eventually be released. Although, no one seemed to know if that day would come before the twins’ eighteenth birthday. The facility was only a half hour down the interstate, and when David did see visitors, it wouldn’t be through a glass window. Although, for this first visit his doctors had requested that only family speak with him. Frank had been disappointed when Oliver had mentioned this, but at least Oliver would get to see his brother. And in a way, Frank thought, he wouldn’t be going alone. Especially after Jay, Jenny and he flooded Oliver’s ears for thirty minutes with well wishes for David. .............................................. “Why d’you keep asking me the same question? You already know what I’m gonna say.” Dr. Grant Devling looked past his spectacles at the young patient sitting across from his desk. Just a boy. Dark hair, hazel eyes that sparked with intelligence, and a lopsided smile that appeared every time Dr. Devling looked at him as if reading a book. “Just in case you decide to change your answer... and because I think you want to. Sooner or later, David, I’m pretty sure you will.” David looked thoughtful for a moment. Maybe he would change his answer if he thought it would get him out of there sooner. But then, he knew better than to say so. Hospitals were strange places. And doctors. Doctors just like Dr. Devling, who insisted that he wanted to help David get out even as he came up with reason after reason why David shouldn’t. And if David said he wanted out-- because god help him, who wouldn’t?-- it was like a sign to his captors that he needed to stay longer. Made no sense. “I don’t think so,” David replied. “It’s been the same the last sixty-one times you’ve asked, and I think it’ll be the same the next sixty-one.” “Sixty-one? Really?” Dr. Devling replied with mild interest. David nodded. “Yep. Been here sixty-seven days, came to see you sixty-two of ‘em, and including today, you’ve asked me sixty-one times. Check if you want,” he added when Dr. Devling looked surprised. He knew he was right. David had developed a strange habit of counting days. He felt trapped when he didn’t. “I’m not sorry my parents are dead, and if you ask tomorrow, I won’t be then, either. And I’m still not sorry I helped one of ‘em get that way... so what d’you think? Am I still broke in the head?” David wasn’t being a smartass. It was a real question that he expected a real answer to. All these doctors, they seemed so interested in fixing him. And maybe, he sometimes thought, he needed fixing. But other times, times like this day, he’d sit in Dr. Delving’s office thinking that he was the only one around there who made any sense. After all, he was telling the truth--something the doctors obviously didn’t like to hear, knowing that if he lied... they wouldn’t want to hear that, either. “You’re not broken, David,” Dr. Devling replied as he wrote something down on his clipboard, and David resisted the urge to roll his eyes. If Dr. Devling really believed that, David thought, he wouldn’t be stuck in the man’s office. “But, we’ll talk more on this tomorrow.” “My hour’s not up yet,” David pointed out, wondering what Dr. Devling had in mind for the next fifteen minutes, since there was no way he was going to let David leave early. “You have a visitor coming today.” “I know that.” “Are you excited?” David shrugged. “Guess so. Haven’t seen him in a while.” “Are you close to your brother, David?” “Says so there in my file.” Devling smiled tiredly. “You must be looking forward to talking to him. You know, most people here see up to four people at the same time and don’t get as much out of their visits. I think it was smart to ask to only see your brother. I think catching up with him will be good for you.” “Him, too,” David replied. “Can I go now? I wanna get a shower before he comes.” “In a few minutes. Do you have your journal?” David sighed, and lifted the folded notebook he’d been holding in his lap. Like every day, he dutifully opened it and read aloud the carefully written detached, impersonal words that he’d written down five minutes before his appointment with Dr. Devling. “This morning I woke up at six thirty when the man-nurse knocked on my door, real loud. I thought that was rude. I laid in bed for seven minutes and thought about what breakfast was going to be. I hoped it was gonna be French toast and not that oatmeal stuff. When I got up I brushed my teeth first, and....” “Did you write about your brother coming?” Devling asked. David frowned at the interruption, shaking his head. “Why would I? It hasn’t happened yet.” “Yes, but I’m sure you’ve been thinking about it. How are you feeling, David? It’s been quite a while since you’ve seen him, aren’t you nervous?” “What for?” “Well, according to quite a few police reports your brother was very upset about what had happened to your parents. Are you worried that he blames you for your father’s death?” “I’m the one who shot him, ain’t I?” David remarked. “Credit’s mine. Oliver knows it.” “The credit? Is that how you think of it?” David thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know. Sounds better than blame, I guess. I don’t think there is a right word. It just happened, and if I had to go back, it would happen again. I ain’t sorry that he’s gone, and neither is Oliver.” “Are you sure about that?” David narrowed his eyes, and held a burst of temper in check. He didn’t like when Dr. Devling used an argumentative tone. David was damn sure that the man did it on purpose just to push him, and when David got pushed, something always happened that made someone decide he needed to be locked up by himself for a while. And he didn’t even want to think about the drugs, especially today. “The only thing Oliver’s upset about is that we’re not together,” David said, finding a smile. “But when I see him, I’m gonna tell him not to worry, cause that’s all gonna change.” “What do you mean it’s going to change?” “We’ll be together again.” “David... you do realize that Oliver will only be visiting today? No one’s coming to take you home.” “I didn’t say today, did I? But I’ll be with my brother again, Doctor. He needs me.” “Oliver is living with a good family right now,” Devling said as he flipped through his notes. “He’s made progress with them. You don’t think he’s better off right where he is?” “He needs me,” David repeated. “And someday, we’ll have our own life. The right way this time. It’ll take time to get there, is all. I’m not stupid, you know.” “No, you aren’t. I’d like you to start setting some goals for yourself, think about what you want to do when you get out of here.” “I got goals.” “Can you give me an example?” David shrugged. “That’s easy enough. First I gotta walk out the front doors of this place with you waving goodbye... then I gotta be on my own for a while. I’ll get Oliver when it’s time.” “Alright... what about school? Your tutor tells me you make a good student.” “Maybe. But she don’t teach me nothin’ I don’t already know. That’s what books are for.” Devling smiled. “Then maybe it’s time to introduce you to some advanced classes. It’ll keep you from getting bored.” “Oh, I’m not bored,” David insisted, tapping his temple with his index finger. “I’m always busy up here. I don’t need a teacher to tell me what to learn.” “You know... there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help sometimes, David.” “I get that. Like you’re helpin’ me get ready for being out there again. But...it’s just... a man should always help himself, too. I mean, in the end, that’s all you’ve really got to count on.” A frown creased Dr. Devling’s brow, but instead of responding, he momentarily looked away from David as the phone on his desk started ringing. “I want you to write about that in your journal. Explain it. We’ll go over it tomorrow, alright?” “If you say so,” David replied as he stood up. “But, I don’t think I’ll feel like talking about that tomorrow.” Dr. Delving lifted the phone receiver as he watched David head for the door, and then politely put his caller on hold. “David?” Devling called curiously. “What do you want to talk about tomorrow?” David smiled. “Frank. You should ask me about Frank.” ...................................... It wasn’t what Frank had expected. The facility was gated and guarded, but driving in was more like entering a modest retirement home than a prison full of legally insane inmates. “We can walk in with you, Oliver,” Frank insisted. “Maybe they have a waiting room or something.” “I can do it myself,” Oliver replied, his focus on the building in front of him as he took a few steps away from Frank, Jenny and Jay. But, he suddenly stopped and turned back to smile at Frank Seaberg. “I wish you could come with me, Frank.” “Me too,” Frank replied. “When you get in there... maybe find out when David can have more visitors, alright? We’ll come back when we can... and have a good time. With your brother, you know?” “Okay, Frank,” Oliver replied, and then reached into his back pocket, smiling sheepishly when Jenny opened her mouth to object to what he had. “Oliver,” she hissed. “That was for later.” “I wanna give it to Frank now,” Oliver insisted, presenting his friend with the birthday card Jenny had helped him with. The picture of Frank on the front of it didn’t look as good as the real thing to Oliver, but it would do, and he felt good when Frank smiled. “Happy birthday, Frank.” “It’s really great, Oliver,” Frank said. “Thank you.” “You didn’t open it yet,” Oliver pointed out. Sensing Jenny and Jay looking over his shoulder, Frank opened the card slowly, and laughed at the real picture that Oliver had slipped inside. It had been one of Frank’s own attempts at a self-portrait. He’d held up a camera and managed to get one of his eyes, his nose, and the bottom half of Oliver’s face. Sliding the picture aside, Frank found pencilled-in smiley faces next to Oliver’s handwriting. “Happy birthday, Frank,” Frank read aloud. “I love you, from Oliver. P.S. Your real present is a hat to wear when you’re fishing. I hid it under Jenny’s bed.” “You’re not supposed to tell him...” Jenny started, only to have a laughing Jay pull her back. Ignoring the bickering couple behind him, Frank pulled Oliver in for a quick hug. “Thanks for the hat. You can show me when we get back... I think we’re gonna eat while we’re waiting for you. Should I save you a sandwich?” “Okay, Frank.” “Good luck, Oliver,” Jay said as he pulled down his tailgate, his words prompting Oliver to head towards the building once again, stopping twice to wave to his friends. Oliver wanted to see his brother. He’d said so plenty of times. Wished for it. Been sad when it didn’t happen. And, every one of the few phone calls he’d been allowed to have with David had left him feeling empty afterwards. Alone. And as he walked through the front door of the hospital and found a nurse behind a glass wall talking to an older man in a white coat instead of his brother, Oliver felt disappointed, and perhaps a little cheated. Walking right up to the glass, he startled them both when he lifted his hand to knock on it. “Where’s David?” he demanded in the same, firm tone that Jenny always used to get her way with Jay. The nurse looked at him curiously, obviously at a loss for how to respond, and the man in the white coat looked bewildered before realization suddenly touched his features, and he actually laughed. “Oliver? Right,” he remarked. “You couldn’t be anyone else. I’m Dr. Devling, your brother’s my patient. Why don’t we get you signed in and I’ll take you to him myself.” ................................. “This is bullshit,” Frank remarked, looking across the parking lot at the doors that Oliver had disappeared into. He sat at the end of the tailgate, opposite to Jenny, who was on the other side of Jay. His feet dangled above the ground and he’d mindlessly just picked all of the meat out of the sandwich in his hands, tossing it to the ground until only bread was left. “Okay,” Jay said irritably as he took the remains of Frank’s sandwich and tossed them over his shoulder. “Next time, you stay home.” Frank sighed. “Sorry. I mean, I know Oliver needs this time with his brother, but seeing how he’s all the family David has...” “Frank,” Jay cut him off, “why do you wanna see David, anyway? You really don’t even know him... you told me that even before...” “I just think it sucks he’s being treated like a criminal. It’s like they’ll never let him out.” “I agree,” Jenny said quietly. “It’s not fair.” “Hey! Hello,” Jay remarked. “He is a criminal.” “Jay, that’s not...” Jenny started. “Look,” Jay cut her off. “I know I didn’t like the guy for a long time, and I thought he was...well, you know what I thought. But this isn’t about that. I get it was his dad that killed Odetta, but...” “But what?” Frank demanded, sounding defensive. “Oliver and David are innocent; after everything they’ve gone through...” “Oliver is innocent,” Jay said. “David shot his own father.” “I was there,” Frank retorted, “and trust me...” “It doesn’t matter if Brian Martin deserved to die,” Jay said. “It wasn’t for David to decide. What he did...” “If he hadn’t done it, I don’t think I’d be here talking to you right now!” Frank snapped. “And you can’t look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing in his place, so I don’t wanna hear it from you.” “It’s not the same thing, and I’m not so sure I would have,” Jay replied. “And, even if David did have another choice about it...” “What?” Frank demanded. “I’m not so sure he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger, anyway.” “Okay!” Jenny shouted, moving off the tailgate long enough to force her way back up again, this time between them. “You’ve both made your points. Can we stop now?” Jay frowned, glancing past his girlfriend to eye Frank. “Look, Frank... I’m sorry, but I think the guy needs to be here. I know you feel like you owe him something... but would you really feel safe with him free out here, maybe sleeping in the room down the hall from your little sister? There’s something about David... it’s just not right. I canfeel it.... and what about Oliver? I know Oliver wants his brother back, but do you really think that’s what he needs?” “I think...” Frank said quietly, “… that David deserves a second chance. He’s lived in prisons his whole life. He’ll never get the chance to change what that made him if he doesn’t get out.” “Maybe,” Jay agreed. “But I’m more worried about what happens if they let him loose and he doesn’t wanna change.” ................................. When Oliver Martin hugged his brother, the only sound made was the whoosh of air as it escaped David’s lungs. David didn’t hug him back, but neither brother had really expected him to. David wasn’t big on hugs, and he would have been the first to admit that he wasn’t very good at them. But Oliver didn’t mind as much as David didn’t mind his brother wanting to be close. This was the way they were, and instead of returning such a display of affection, David simply stood there and took in old familiarities, like the lemon fragrance coming from his brother’s hair, and to notice a few changes, such as the way he’d either gained a few pounds, or perhaps Oliver had lost a few. Glancing towards the door that locked on him every night at eight o’clock, David found Dr. Devling watching them, looking at them the same way people used to years before when they’d been allowed to go to town with their parents. Something about seeingtwo of them invited people to stare, to look for differences, to wonder... it had made David uncomfortable at one time, but now, he let the doctor look on curiously, all the while staring him down until the older man figured out that he was intruding and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “David, just make sure to stay in the visiting areas with your brother if you leave your room, and don’t forget your meds are coming at two o’clock.” “Sure,” David said blandly. “Make sure you let ‘em know I want some of those little yellow happy pills.” Devling responded to David’s smart remarks with a shake of his head, and David listened as his doctor’s footsteps moved down the hall, paused, and then moved on again. This hospital had proven to be a lot different from the numerous other places that had watched his every move, but still, he waited until he was certain that he and Oliver were alone before he placed his hands on his brother’s shoulders and gently pushed him back, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards when Oliver met his eyes. “I’m glad to see you,” David said quietly. “Me, too, David. I came all by myself, just like you said.” “I see that. Who brought you up here?” “Frank. And Jenny and Jay, too. They’re waiting outside, David. And Frank wants to see you, too. Can I ask him to come in a little later? That doctor said...” “No,” David said quickly, touching Oliver’s shoulder and guiding him to sit on the narrow, heavily blanketed bed that occupied the small room decorated with blue-bird printed wallpaper. “This visit’s just for us, alright? You remember what we talked about, right?” Oliver’s brow wrinkled as he nodded. “I remember, David.” “Good. Now tell me everything about the Woodmoores. They treat you good?” Oliver nodded. “They let me go to school. A real one, David. And Jenny doesn’t talk to me like I’m stupid. She says we’re friends.” “You got your own room?” Oliver nodded again. “And I got two beds in it; one for you, David. But sometimes Jay sleeps there. He’s my friend, too.” “Jeremy Flaskis?” “Yeah. He’s my friend, David.” Oliver repeated, as if to convince his brother. “Since when does Jeremy Flaskis want anything to do with you?” “I don’t know, David. But, one time at school he hit a guy for being mean to me... he got in trouble for that.” “Huh.... So, what time do you go to school? You take a bus?” “No. Jay gets us and Frank in the morning, and...” Oliver told David everything from what color the carpet was in his room to the kind of chicken he ate at Frank’s house on Saturday nights when he went over for dinner. And there was a lot to tell. Like, how Frank’s family got a new house, and how Mr. Seaberg came to visit a lot and always invited him to go out with their family. He talked about how he didn’t like not waking up in the same room as David, and how sometimes he got lonely even in good company, and that Rudy had drawn a picture of him and David together, which he kept hung up next to his bed. He talked until he realized that David wasn’t doing any of the talking. “Are you mad at me, David?” Oliver wasn’t sure where the question came from, just that he needed to ask it. David didn’t look too surprised, either. “Why would I be?” “I don’t know,” Oliver said, shrugging uncomfortably. “Sometimes I think... maybe if I was better, or different, you wouldn’t be in here.” David’s eyes drifted, his lungs releasing a slow breath. “You’re not the reason they won’t let me go, Oliver.” “Then I think... maybe you’re mad at me about the way things were before,” Oliver said quietly. “That wasn’t your fault, either. You can’t help what you are. None of us can.” “But I remember things, David... things I didn’t before. It’s like I’m having dreams, but they’re not dreams. I don’t tell no one. Not even Frank.” David raised an eyebrow. “Why not?” he asked, and then Oliver fell exceptionally silent. “If Frank’s such a good friend, why don’t you tell him the truth?” David pressed. “Because,” Oliver whispered. “You’re my brother, David... and Frank thinks Dad killed Ms. Grover.” Apart from blinking, David didn’t have much of a reaction to this news. “What do you say when Frank says that?” David asked. “Nothing, David,” Oliver whispered. “I don’t say nothing.” David smiled. “That’s good, Oliver.” “It’s not lying, David? It feels like lying.” “It’s not lying,” David insisted. “It’s Dad’s fault she’s dead... and it’s in the past, right? What does it matter now?” Oliver sighed, frowning. “I don’t like thinking about Dad anymore, David... I don’t like thinking... I don’t like...” He paused, taking a deep breath to calm himself. “I want you to come home, David. I don’t want you to be sad anymore. You’re sadhere, David.” David’s eyes widened slightly in surprise, and then he laughed. “You don’t gotta worry about me, Oliver. I’m gonna make sure you and me are together again, and it’s not so bad around here. People cookin’ and making sure you eat three times a day. You getta watch TV when you want, and go outside in the morning, and where else can you wear pajamas all day long without someone hollerin’ for you to get your ass dressed, huh?” David waved roughly at himself, his chin turned down as he looked over the matching blue one-size-fits-all pocketless pants and shirt that consisted of such thin material he was convinced that the nurses got more than a glimpse of his ass when the light hit him the right way. “These are actually kinda comfortable. Don’t gotta put a lot of thought into what you’re gonna wear every morning. You should try ‘em.” “I sleep in shorts, David.” David grinned. “Who said anything about sleeping?” he asked, a sly grin aimed at his brother. “Oliver, when we talked last time... do you remember, when I asked you to do something important for me?” .................................................. “Dr. Devling, you have a patient waiting in your office, and Adam wants you to go over his meds with him again... the color of one of his pills has changed and he wants to make sure no one’s trying to poison him.” Devling graced the short woman peeking into the front offices with a wry smile. “No alien transmitters this time?” “You’ve obviously brought Adam a long way,” she replied, and then with a nod, left him. But. Dr. Devling didn’t wander off in search of Adam like he normally would have done, or send someone by his office to tell his appointment that he’d be delayed. Instead, he continued to stare at the small, wilting desk plant that one of the employees had brought in months ago, and he thought about the one patient he saw on a daily basis that he didn’t seem to be helping at all. The boy was one of the most impersonal people he’d ever come across, and over the past few months, he hadn’t been able to make the slightest breakthrough with David Martin. If Devling was certain of anything, it was that David was far from being ready to be released. But, he wasn’t sure that David belonged there, either. David refused to talk about the incidents leading to his current condition, or to express any remorse for them, but Dr. Devling wasn’t exactly ready to transfer David to another program just yet. In fact, being moved around so much had likely become part of the problem, not to mention, given his history there wasn’t likely anything David despised more than being locked up. It was difficult to believe that David Martin knew how to trust anyone, so now it was encouraging that he hadn’t objected to seeing his brother. Dr. Devling had promised him a private visit, in hopes that seeing Oliver would encourage David to start working towards progress. Perhaps if Oliver came more often he could suggest that he participate in one of David’s sessions. Oliver might have had some mental disabilities, but Dr. Devling was willing to do anything that could help at this point. Maybe, he thought, gathering up his binder, he could intrude on the brothers for a few minutes to discuss it. Lifting a phone, he dialed David’s hall, confirming with the orderlies that they were still in the room, but when he hung up, he changed his plans since the information he’d received wasn’t what he’d expected. Waiting casually in the main hall, he flipped through David’s file until a familiar face with a visitor’s tag appeared moving in his direction. He’d treated twins before, even some that had to wear nametags so that he could tell them apart, but these brothers were something else. Almost like an illusion. When they were side by side there were differences, a broader nose, thicker chin; and the facial expressions, their attitudes, made them so individual that it was like they didn’t really share the same face. But separated, the mirror image they presented of each other was spooky, and watching Oliver Martin walking towards him had Dr. Devling feeling as if he’d slipped into the future, right to the day that David would walk out the front doors and find a better life than he’d had before. Oliver didn’t acknowledge the doctor as he passed by, almost as if he didn’t even remember meeting him a few hours before, which Devling decided was entirely possible. Oliver struck him as the type of person who had trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time, but still, he fell into step beside the boy with a friendly smile on his face. “Oliver, I’ll walk you out.” Oliver looked up, smiling as if he’d just noticed his company. “Okay.” “You know, I think it’s good you came today. Your brother’s had to make some difficult adjustments, and I think seeing you will help. I’m hoping you’ll visit again soon.” Oliver released a little laugh, and grinned. “I’d like to see my brother again soon,” Oliver replied.” David’s not bad. He’s my brother.” “Well, no one’s saying he’s bad, Oliver, but I think...” “He’s my brother. I know him better than you do, Mr. Devling. He’s going to be better really soon.” “Really?” “Yep.” “Well, Oliver, I don’t think you understand...” “Do I give this to you?” Oliver interrupted, removing his visitor’s tag and holding it up. “I can keep it if you want me to.” “Um...I’ll take it. Oliver...” “My friends are waiting for me outside. It’s Frank’s birthday.” “Frank? He was there the night your father was killed. David mentioned him. I was wondering if you could tell me a little about him.” Oliver looked up expectantly, and when the doctor wasn’t more specific, he shrugged his shoulders. “I like Frank. It’s his birthday. I gave him a card with his picture on it. Frank takes good pictures... there’s Frank!” Oliver said, suddenly pointing out the front windows to a group of three hanging around a pickup truck, and in the time it took Dr. Devling to look, Oliver had slipped out the door, and when Devling spotted him again, a crooked grin was flashed in his direction as the boy waved goodbye to him. ...................................... “Jenny, stop trying to be his shrink, will ya?” Jay complained. “All I said is it wouldn’t kill him to spend one night on that boat with his dad. It’s not like Mr. Seaberg hasn’t been trying.” “Well so has Frank,” Jay retorted. “And he can work it out with his dad without you. They’re fine.” “It’s not like he...” “He, is still sitting right here,” Frank remarked with a roll of his eyes. He liked having friends he could confide in, he really did, but sometimes he couldn’t decide if these two particular friends were there to amuse or annoy him. He was happy that this time he wasn’t required to put too much thought into it, because as soon as he saw Oliver moving towards them he slid off the tailgate to meet him. “Hey,” Jenny called, her argumentative demeanor fading. “How was it?” Frank wanted to know the same thing, but as Oliver came closer, he found himself wondering if he already saw the answer on Oliver’s face. Something seemed off. Oliver looked tired; drained. Frank was quick to look at the building accusingly, wondering what Oliver had seen in there. “Oliver?” he asked, getting close enough to touch his friend’s shoulder. “Is David okay?” Oliver finally met his eyes, curious for a moment before a lopsided grin spread over his face, his features becoming much more familiar. “It was good, Frank. We played a game.” “Checkers?” Jay guessed. Oliver shook his head. “Nope, not checkers. Can we go home now? It’s Frank’s birthday.” “Sure,” Frank agreed, sliding an arm around Oliver’s shoulders to lead him to the truck. “You can tell us how David’s doing on the way back.” He looked at Oliver and affectionately moved his hand up his neck towards his hairline. Oliver laughed, shifting like he was being tickled as he caught Frank’s hand and brought it back to his shoulder. “Okay, Frank,” he agreed, and sometime over the next several hours there was cake and gifts in the Seabergs’ living room, along with the argument over a puppy that Sam and Rudy had been hiding on a houseboat. ...................................... Early on a Wednesday morning, on a boat owned by Jeremy Hill, Jeremy Flaskis snapped a picture of two unsuspecting boys on a small motorboat. “Jay,” Jenny Woodmoore called irritably from behind him, “I didn’t borrow Jeremy’s boat so you could take pictures of other people all day. Stop spying and get over here.” Jay smiled. “I’m not spying. I don’t do that anymore... it’s just, they’re getting kinda close to where the Martins used to live, aren’t they?” Jenny sat up from where she was sunbathing to look across the water where Oliver and Frank were definitely drifting towards a red roof, but seemed too busy talking to notice. “So what? They’re talking.” “Yeah,” Jay agreed. “But Oliver’s still steering... see that?” “Maybe he wants to go by his old house. No crime in that. He’s probably missing his brother again... he’s been kinda off since he talked to David. I think we should drive him back there on the next visitor’s day. What d’you think?” “I think you mean I should drive him,” Jay remarked, feigning irritability in a way that made Jenny laugh. “And, I guess so... Hey, maybe we should turn around and catch up to...” “No,” Jenny said firmly. “You promised all day--with me; and if I have to remind you again I swear I’ll go drop you off in that boat with Oliver and Frank so I can find a boyfriend who likes to watch me.” Jay held up his camera as he slowly turned to face her, smirking. “Watch you... with, or without the lens?” “Without,” Jenny decided as she brought her hand to the camera and pushed it down. “I’ve forgotten what color your eyes are.” “Then you better check,” Jay said, leaning closer to her, and with Jenny busy studying Jay’s eyes, and Jay busy studying Jenny, neither of them noticed Oliver Martin’s motorboat drifting out of sight behind some brush, and if they had noticed, they probably wouldn’t have cared. And Frank, who was in Oliver’s boat, didn’t exactly care, either. He hadn’t paid any mind to Jenny or Jay since they’d passed by twenty minutes ago, waving. Since then, it had been the pinhole-sized leak in the bottom of the motorboat and the occasional water moccasin that occupied his mind. Oliver had taken them further out than Frank had been comfortable going in a long while, and while his ego had prevented him from making complaints thus far, his nerves were slowly outweighing it. “Oliver?” he finally said. “Are you ready to eat yet? We can find my dad... have lunch...” “I’m okay, Frank.” “Oh. Alright... Do you remember where that spot is yet? Maybe if we could stop for a while...” Frank stopped when Oliver glanced back at him, grinning. “Frank,” Oliver said, before dropping his voice into an amused whisper, “are you scared?” “No,” Frank said quickly. “I just wanna know what the plan is. Last week all you could talk about was some place where you wanna catch baby frogs...” “Tadpoles, Frank.” “Whatever; tadpoles, to fill up your tank--last week you were calling them baby frogs... And now, you changed your mind about that because you wanna go fishing, but if you haven’t noticed, we didn’t bring any fishing poles, so unless you plan to catch ’em with your hands I don’t see that happening, either.” “Actually,” Oliver replied, glancing over his shoulder, “I didn’t notice. But that’s okay, I got somewhere better to go. Okay, Frank?” Frank frowned as Oliver turned his back once again, and found himself staring at it as if the answer to every question running through his mind was supposed to be on Oliver’s shirt. And Frank did have questions. Not all of them had to do with where they were going, either. There had been plenty of things bothering him since his birthday, and not the least of which had to do with the realization that he hadn’t been enjoying Oliver’s company as much as usual. “Okay... Oliver.” Frank took hold of the sides of the boat, sliding forward where he more or less forced Oliver to make room for him on the narrow bench at the back of the boat. “Can we stop for a second?” “Right now, Frank?” “Right now,” Frank insisted, and to make a point, he reached around Oliver to kill the engine, leaving the boat adrift on the water, and the two of them in silence until he broke it. “I wanna know why you’re not talking to me.” Oliver cocked his head, baffled. “I’m talking to you right now, Frank.” “You’re avoiding me,” Frank replied, matter-of-factly. “You’ve been doing it all week. And Mrs. Woodmoore told me about the problems at her house.” Oliver crossed his arms. “She’s lying,” he was quick to say, and Frank’s frown only deepened. “You don’t even know what she told me,” Frank pointed out, and when Oliver turned his eyes down, he sighed. “Look, just because they noticed some money missing doesn’t mean anyone’s accusing you of doing it, Oliver. Jenny doesn’t think you did... and I... Oliver, I’m not going to ask if you did it. You know... I don’t think I even care. I was talking about the other stuff. I wanna know why you’ve been acting weird ever since you saw your brother. Did David tell you to stop talking to me or something? Or to Jeremy? Because you don’t call anymore, and every time I see you it’s because I come dragging you out of your room. And I see the way you’ve been looking at Jeremy when he can’t see you. Did he do something to make you mad, because if he did, it better be good if he catches you grinding your teeth at him... or is this something else?” “Something else?” Oliver repeated, suddenly seeming uncomfortable with Frank’s eyes so close to his. He stood, having no trouble with his balance as the boat rocked beneath him and he slowly stretched. Frank looked up. “Yeah,” he replied, his voice beginning to sound unexpectedly cold. “I guess I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened between now and when you last talked to David.” Oliver returned his gaze to Frank, the corner of his mouth twitching as he itched his shoulder, and then released a small laugh. “What?” “It’s an easy question, Oliver,” Frank replied, finding his way to his feet, somewhat slower than Oliver had. “Did something happen with your brother? I think he said something to you... maybe he did something that wasn’t good. I’m just wondering, because it’s not like you’ve talked to me about any of it.” Oliver snorted and reached out to take a playful swipe at Frank’s shoulder, seemingly oblivious to the way even the light touch forced Frank to retake his balance. “That’s silly, Frank. I just saw my brother. He can’t say anything bad. You’re my friend.” Oliver grinned widely, but for once, Frank wasn’t eager to smile back as he slowly reached out and placed a hand on Oliver’s shoulder, mostly to continue holding up his own balance. “I wanted to be your friend. But I’m wondering,” Frank said, dropping his voice into a secretive tone, “when you just saw your brother, David, did you tell him the same thing before you left him trapped where you’re supposed to be?” Frank snatched his hand back, and something sparked in the other boy’s expression. The boat rocked beneath their feet, and Frank fought to keep his knees securely locked as a small bout of lightheadedness reached him. He’d done things that weren’t very well thought out, and he’d spoken out of turn before. But this time, on a little boat hidden out of plain sight, and facing something he hadn’t realized that he feared until now made him feel as if his words were about to cost him. Suddenly not trusting his own legs, or the boy in front of him, Frank could only stare, his instincts becoming defensive as hazel eyes stared back at him, and the crooked smile that faced him a moment later was far from comforting. “How long have you known?” David finally asked, and the attempted communication surprised Frank. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “Maybe before now...I didn’t want to think it. Why? You could have...” “Waited? I was sick of waiting,Frank.” “So you used your brother?” Frank snapped. “I didn’t use him,” David replied. “I asked for a favor. Did it ever occur to you that I didn’t force him, Frank? He’s not as innocent as you wanna think he is. Got a little bit of me in him... and he knows I did this for us.” “David, I know Oliver wanted you to get out...I wanted you to get out, but after everything that’s happened if you don’t do this the right way you won’t have any kind of life. Unless you plan to keep hiding, and if you’re gonna do that, it isn’t going to be behind Oliver’s face. You have to go back. You know that, don’t you?” David lowered his head, his shoulders sagging as if his body was processing some deep thought along with his mind, and on his face... disappointment, as if he’d expected this moment, and moreover, expected a different outcome. And then he looked up, and the world began to move very fast for his boat-mate. Frank made a mistake, one he recognized very quickly when he chose not to follow his instincts and shove David right over the side of the boat. He’d had the opportunity, a split second when he could have pulled it off, and it was missed before he was raising his arms to fend off David’s, catching his balance as the boat rocked violently beneath his feet. But, balance didn’t prove to be enough, and when two firm hands came forcefully against Frank’s chest, he hardly caught his breath before the air rushed from his lungs and he toppled sideways in a dizzy, panicked haze. There was a strange crack in Frank’s ear, and he felt something wet trickling down the side of his face before he even made an oddly heavy splash into the water, the lake surrounding him like a cold, heavy blanket. His body twitched beneath the surface in his valiant effort to get above it, and as if to bring on one last terror he looked up to see the bottom of Oliver’s boat before the oncoming darkness surrounded his senses and he sunk slowly into it, unaware of the hazel eyes still watching him. David Martin’s mouth was tugged down into a frown as he watched the head of blond hair below the water fade away into the murk before his attention was turned to a snake weaving its way past the boat. Frank Seaberg was a disappointment, and would be a necessary sacrifice if he wanted to accomplish all that mattered to him. And just like all his life, all that mattered to him was taking his brother away from this place. He looked to his left, the back of the house he’d once been prisoner in coming into his sights. Somehow, all of those memories constantly on his mind seemed like a distant dream; something he’d never speak of again. The moment was a new one for him, and standing there on the little motorboat he knew there was a decision to be made. A change. And in an instant, he was somewhere better. At least somewhere better than Frank was, he imagined, as he looked down once again and tried to ignore a strange ringing in his ears that insisted that when they met again, his brother was not going to like this. “It’ll be fine. Trust me, Oliver,” he whispered. Because like himself, David knew that the only thing Oliver would ever be able to count on in this world... was David. ........................................ “Jay, look out!” Jenny screamed, and surfacing in the water, Jay casually grabbed a small snake around the neck and tossed it well away from his personal space before he swam closer to Oliver Martin’s boat and looked up to where his girlfriend was still standing in the larger one. “I don’t see him!” he shouted, and without waiting for a response, dived down below the surface of the water, knowing that Jenny’s watchful eye was on him until he surfaced again. She was crying, and Jay didn’t feel there was time for that. “Leave me here!” he shouted. “Get to Frank’s house and tell his mom...” Jenny’s attention was suddenly turned as she heard coughing behind her, and she left the edge of their borrowed boat to attend to it. “Jay, he’s awake!” Frank Seaberg groaned as he fell from the bench seat they’d carefully placed him on, and jumped when Jenny Woodmoore gripped his shoulders, calling his name as if he wasn’t right in front of her. Forcing his wet lashes open, Frank took her in before looking past her, his attention on a dripping figure until it became Jay Flaskis, kneeling next to him. “Frank, where’s Oliver?” Jay demanded. Frank coughed again. “What?” “We can’t find him!” Jenny said impatiently. “What happened?” Frank looked between the two of them, his mind seemingly working at an inconveniently slow pace before he found himself looking gratefully at Jay and his wet clothes. “Did you pull me out?” he asked. Jay frowned. “We found you in the boat--Frank, did Oliver go over or not?” Pulling himself up, ignoring the assistance from his friends, Frank made his way to the bow, looking over the edge at the small motorboat still drifting in the water. “Frank!” Jay shouted, as if a firmer tone would get his attention. “We have to go get Oliver...” Frank started. “Where’s Oliver?” jenny demanded. “It wasn’t Oliver,” Frank stated, raising his voice above both of theirs. “It wasn’t Oliver... with me.” He turned to them, meeting Jay’s eyes, and in a moment he knew that Jay understood. “It wasn’t Oliver.” “David did this to you?” Jenny asked. There was a fright in her voice, and a feeling of paranoia as she turned in a circle as if ready to ward off an attack. “If that was David...” Jay said. “We have to go get Oliver,” Frank finished for him. Jay cursed, his temper sparking as he looked at Frank. “I told you! I told you he was nothing like Oliver! He’s dangerous, Frank, we should...” “I don’t know,” Frank quietly interrupted, his mind on the last moments he remembered in the water as his eyes took in the boat where they’d found him. “Maybe David’s got a little Oliver in him after all.” “Frank,” Jay growled. “Wait,” Jenny said. “So... where is David?” It seemed to be a question the three of them had in common as they silently looked over the water for several long moments before Frank finally shook his head. “We won’t find him. He’s gone.” “For now,” Jay said, and in a whisper full of uncertainty towards the near to distant future, Frank agreed. “For now.”
  15. Thanks to Jim for editing! There was a lot about the night’s events that Frank was certain he’d never forget, and a lot that he thought was just plain insane, and even more that he had no way of comprehending; but at the moment, nothing confused him more than David Martin. In fact, as Frank sat on the ground at the bow of the boat, his arm around Oliver as they tried to get his nose to stop bleeding, Frank decided that he was tired of trying to figure David out. David was crazy. End of subject. Made perfect sense. But not really. The last long minutes of Frank’s life hadn’t made sense at all, because no one had seemed more shocked to see David on that boat than Brian Martin. In fact, Frank was under the impression that Brian had never expected to see David again, but now that he’d figured out that wasn’t the case, Brian seemed overly pleased with the more unstable of his two sons. He’d even produced a second weapon, and disturbingly, David seemed to be very comfortable with it in his hands as he watched over Oliver and Frank. Braving a glance over his shoulder, Frank saw his father watching him from above where he was seated next to the wheel. Brian was now in charge of navigation, and both of them looked irritated, but then, both of them had faces swelling in places due to badly aimed punches. And it was quiet. Except for the sound of the engine, the water hitting the sides of the boat, it seemed too quiet. The tension was suffocating, and the fear... Frank didn’t really want to think about the fear. “What are you doing?” Frank whispered. He didn’t know exactly why he was talking to David, but it was likely out of desperation. David smiled at Frank, much like a parent amused by a confused child. “I’m surviving, Frank.” “You’re out of your mind,” Frank retorted. “Look what your parents did to you... Your mom’s dead, David... and your dad...you’re helping your dad.” Nothing about the notion was comprehensible for Frank. “He was going to go to jail for a very long time. Now what do you think is going to happen to you? Neither of you will get away with this. Jay called people from your house... someone’s gonna know what happened. And what about your brother, David? What happens to Oliver?” Oliver frowned at Frank, as if he’d really rather not think about that himself. “If I were you,Frank,” David replied, “I’d be more worried about myself. See, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to anyone else. Think about it; if you don’t survive, and let’s face it, there’s a good chance you won’t, then what does it matter what happens to everyone else after you’re gone. They’re their own problem. It’s out of your control...I mean, unless you take control.” “And is that what you’re doing?” Frank replied. David shrugged. “Maybe. I might as well have it, right? I don’t trust anyone besides myself... and lately I’ve been thinking that it was stupid to think I could.” He seemed to direct this last remark at Oliver, who became visibly upset by it. “I don’t want you to be in trouble anymore, David,” Oliver said. “I know you don’t,” David replied. “But the thing is, that just isn’t up to you anymore, Oliver. Never was.” “David!” Brian suddenly called. “Stop playing around with them and help me look for a good spot.” David looked in his father’s direction calmly, right before he held his middle finger up in Brian’s direction. Brian snorted, and David rolled his eyes as he stood from the railing he’d been leaning on and flicked the barrel of his gun in Frank and Oliver’s direction. “Don’t go nowhere,” he remarked. “You won’t wanna miss what happens next.” Above them, Sam released a frustrated breath that he hoped covered his nervousness and looked at Brian. “This is ridiculous. Why don’t you just let the boys go, alright? We can settle this ourselves.” Brian laughed. “Sorry, Sammy. I just can’t bring myself to do that.” “They’re just kids!” Sam snapped. “I know, and trust me, we wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without them.” .................................... In the sixth grade, Jeremy Flaskis tried to join the football team at school. Twenty minutes into his first practice, he was tackled during an exercise and fractured his collarbone, and learned exactly why an athletic cup was invented. So after careful consideration, he decided that he wasn’t one to do pain and took up photography instead. But he’d always wondered if giving up on becoming the school’s most popular jock, perhaps the future homecoming king and maybe even superhuman babe magnet, had been worth abandoning just to avoid a long series of injuries that he would likely endure as a result of following those dreams. Waking up in the Seaberg’s bathroom with broken glass stuck in his hair only convinced him that he had, indeed, made an appropriate decision. “Jeremy? How many fingers, Jeremy?” Jeremy opened one eye, then the other as he stared up at the woman talking very loudly over him. “You’re pretty.” Jessica Seaberg liked to think that she had a sense of humor, but this didn’t seem like the time to display it. “Can you get up?” she asked. Jay thought about it for a minute, among other things. He thought until he remembered exactly how he’d ended up on the bathroom floor with sore places that he hadn’t even known he had, and then he answered her question by bolting upright, looking around as if he half expected to be assaulted again. “Are you alright?” Jessica asked. “Do you know where you are?” Jay gave a short nod, partly in response, and in part to test his stiff neck before his eyes settled on Rudy, who was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, looking pale in the face. Suffering a moment of confusion, the redheaded little girl he saw was his sister and his concern was immediate. “Stephanie?” Both Rudy and Jessica looked at him oddly, and he shook his head, attempting to pull himself together. “Rudy,” he corrected himself. “Are you doing alright?” Rudy sniffed, wiping away invisible tears. “He took Oliver.” Jay looked towards the door, and with Jessica’s assistance, found his feet. “We think they left the house,” Jessica explained. “Jay, what’s going on?” “We have to get out,” Jay replied, moving to try the doorknob.” “It’s jammed from the outside,” Jessica said, but she’d hardly finished the sentence before the bang of Jay’s body hitting the wooden door echoed through the room, and then again, and again as he repeatedly rammed the side of his body against it, and then for good measure, he started to kick. “Jay...” Jessica started to object, but realizing that the boy’s idea was better than any she currently had, she ended up next to him, the two of them attempting to knock the door in. “Mommy!” Rudy objected, covering her ears. “Maybe we should wait for help,” Jessica suggested, causing Jay to pause and look at her. “If they left the house, I don’t think there is help coming,” he replied. “Brian killed his wife... he knows we know it, and if he doesn’t already have Frank, I think he’ll be going after him next.” Jessica took a moment to digest what she was hearing, and a moment later she was kicking at the door with Jeremy again. Down the hall, past the kitchen and in the living room there was a coffee table wedged up against the back of the sofa. A keepsake Jessica had acquired from her late grandfather. Unbeknownst to her, someone had carelessly left a pile of old receipts and pages from one of Rudy’s many coloring books scattered over the surface, beneath a low-burning candle that had recently been standing decoratively atop the dresser in her bedroom. A stray cat that Frank had refused to place outside sat on the floor, wagging its long tail as it watched the shadows from the flame with interest, releasing a loud mew as a colored picture of a horse caught fire and went up in flames; and as the small fire slowly spread the feline’s instincts did exactly what they were supposed to do as the animal fled out a crack beneath the kitchen counter, into the woods, and away from the danger. ............................................. “How long was I down there, Frank? How long was I...nothing.” It had started sprinkling again, the raindrops tapping the trees, water feeling unclean as it dripped down from above. Frank’s shoes were soggy, his pants drenched from tracking through waist-deep water as they made their way into a little cove, away from the boat. No porch lights in the distance, no lights from the dock. He felt disoriented as he looked over his shoulder at David, who trailed the line Brian Martin led with Frank, Sam and Oliver somewhere in the middle. “You weren’t nothing,” Frank replied, insisting to himself that now was not the time to say anything cruel, anything provoking. “Just answer the question,” David responded. “Nine days. I think.” David released a bemused little sigh. “That’s all? Felt longer.” “I’m sor–” “Of course you are. Now,” David interrupted. Frank continued walking, sharing a glance with Oliver, who was in front of him. It was meant to encourage each other, but if that was the purpose, their efforts failed miserably. “Do I get to ask a question now?” Frank asked David. “You don’t have to,” David replied. “I already know what you’re thinking.” “I doubt it.” “It’s not that hard to figure out. You’re wondering the same thing that I was wondering for... what was it?Nine days.” “David...” “You want to know what’s going to happen to you,” David continued. “You want to know if this is really happening, if you’re going to die before the sun comes back up. Bet you’re wondering if it’s gonna hurt.” “Okay. Just stop,” Frank stated. “Wouldn’t that be nice? If we could all just stop... wake up in our beds tomorrow and know...” “Know what?” Frank asked. “That we’re somewhere better.” “You can stop this,” Frank whispered, his voice becoming a little more shaky than he was comfortable with. “David, you can...” “You’re not listening,” David cut him off. “You can’t ask for my help. You have to trust yourself... you’re the only one out here you can trust. So... aren’t you going to ask?” “Ask what?” “What’s going to happen to you.” “I would... if I didn’t think you were going to tell me it was up to me.” “You don’t think it is?” “I don’t know, David,” Frank responded irritably. “If I had a choice I’d run... but then you’d shoot me in the back.” “So don’t run, it’d be a bad choice.” “David...” “It’s all about choices,” David said. “You’ll see... and if you let him in your head, you’ll probably make the wrong one. But it’ll happen, Frank. He’ll be in your head. He’ll put you in the dark.” “Is he in your head, David?” “D’you think so?” Frank simply shook his head. “What I think... is that you’re all a bunch of fucking lunatics.” David laughed something that was so void of humor that it only proved as another reminder that he was definitely not Oliver, and thinking of Oliver had Frank picking up his pace to catch up to him. Oliver, who had no place out here. It was a mystery to Frank as he wondered how Oliver could have turned out the way he had with a family like this. “I wanna go home, Frank,” Oliver whispered. “I know you do,” Frank replied, lifting a hand to squeeze his friend’s shoulder. Up ahead of them, Brian Martin suddenly looked back, his eyes settling on Frank. Sam saw it, and purposely moved in front of his son, but it did little good as Brian shoved him aside and grinned at Frank again. “Why don’t you come up here with me, boy,” Brian said. “We’ll get to know each other better.” “No,” Frank replied. “That’s okay.” Brian frowned and looked at Sam. “Nice boy you’ve raised,” he remarked, and then pointed his rifle at Frank. “I wasn’t asking.” Frank looked at Oliver, who shook his head. Frank couldn’t tell if Oliver was telling him to follow orders or to ignore them, but having a gun aimed in his direction didn’t really give him any desire to be disobedient. He glanced at his father, who had paled over the last few moments. Maybe, Frank thought, if he could keep Brian distracted then his dad and Oliver could get away. Maybe they could get past David. But then, the look on his father’s face was enough to tell Frank that that wasn’t going to happen. His dad wasn’t going anywhere. There was something funny about that; the fact that he had to be in mortal danger to get the old man to stick around. Something about it made Frank angry, and he found himself moving towards Brian Martin, now not only to avoid getting shot, but also in a blatant display of disobedience towards his father. He just wasn’t sure if it was worth it when Brian Martin threw an arm around his shoulders and pulled him against his side. Walking stiffly, Frank tried to ward off a sudden burst of nausea as they continued forward. “Nice out here, isn’t it?” Brian remarked, as if they were supposed to be on a peaceful nature walk. “I’ve been taking my own boys out here since the day they’ve been able to keep up. It’s good for fathers and sons to do things like that, don’t you think?” Frank found it in his best interest not to answer. “I bet there was a time when you and your dad spent a lot of time together,” Brian continued. “But that was a while back, wasn’t it? Now you don’t want to listen to him, do you? That’s disobedience, boy. A sin, you know. But, I’m sure you shouldn’t blame yourself, Frank. ‘Cause it’s not your fault, is it?” Frank found himself glancing back at Sam, wondering how he found the energy to be irritated with his father at a time like this. “Why don’t you tell me what he did, Frank. I know you don’t get along with him. But what did he do to make you so angry. You are angry, aren’t you?” Frank continued on in silence, but only until Brian Martin seemed to squeeze him harder. Something about it was smothering, warning Frank that he couldn’t get away with allowing this conversation to pass him by, and that was an irritation in itself. Not only had Brian Martin kidnapped him, now he was forcing him to think about festering wounds that Frank wasn’t yet willing to deal with, let alone during a crisis. “Is there a reason why I shouldn’t be angry right now?” Frank finally responded, causing Brian Martin to laugh out loud. “Of course you’re angry right now, but we’re talking about the old man, Frank,” Brian responded, lifting a fist and rubbing his knuckles against the top of Frank’s head in a way that caused him to wince. “Hey,” Sam said, “leave him alone!” “Is that what you want Frank?” Brian asked. “D’you want me to leave you alone, or do you want him to leave you alone?” “I want both of you to leave me alone!” Frank snapped, and with no further regard for his current situation, he found himself furiously pulling away from Brian Martin until Brian suddenly shook him, and Frank found himself face to face with Oliver’s father, the barrel of a rifle pointed at his chin. He stilled, his eyes intensely on his captor. “It’s time to calm down, Frank,” Brian warned. “I’m just trying to help you here.” “Go help someone else,” Frank retorted. “I would, but I think I’m better with solving father-son dilemmas,” Brian said thoughtfully. Frank raised an eyebrow. “If this is an example of your credentials, it’s not that impressive.” “Frank,” Sam warned, as if to say don’t antagonize the guy holding the gun. “You stay out of this,Daddy,” Brian growled, glaring at Sam. But his warning only escalated the situation when Sam took a threatening step forward, wanting nothing more than to separate his child from a threat. He was stopped short, though, when he found the rifle in David Martin’s hands aimed in his direction. “Don’t!” Frank shouted, speaking to David this time. He looked at Brian. “I’m angry, okay? Now just stop... please, just stop.” “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Brian asked, giving Frank a pat on the back that the boy visibly shied away from. “So let me ask you something, Frank. Why are you so mad at your dad, huh? Your parents got divorced, did they? I bet your dad didn’t work hard enough to keep the family together. Keeping your own together’s important, you know.” “Is that why you killed Mom?” David suddenly asked, drawing attention from everyone and a dirty look from Brian. David seemed pleased with himself, but nonetheless, shrugged and added. “I don’t really miss her or anything, I just think it’s funny... you talking about togetherness and all.” “You getting bored, son?” Brian asked him irritably. “A little,” David replied unapologetically. “But go on, maybe we’ll get this done sooner.” “Look,” Sam interrupted. “Why don’t you just tell us what you’re planning to do... better yet, just take us back home; no one has to know anything, I’ll take my family and...” “Now you want your family back?” Brian cut him off. “What do you think about that, Frank? Kinda highhanded of him, ain’t it? I mean, the nerve of this man, right Frank? First he leaves, now he wants you back? I’ll bet he’s already got that little sister of yours won over.” “Don’t talk about Rudy,” Frank snapped, his stomach knotting as he wondered where she was, and his temper flaring as he thought about his dad having lost track of her. Frank knew it was a mistake the moment he divulged those feelings to his father with one look, but it was too late. Brian Martin had already seen it. “Why don’t you just tell him, Frank. Tell him you don’t want him anymore. I can see it in your face... this bastard had the nerve to hurt you and yours, and now he’s back to do it all over again, ain’t he?” “That’s not true,” Sam insisted, looking at Frank as if he was losing him, but again, the look on Frank’s face told him he might have already. “Look, just leave my son alone!” “You don’t have a son anymore,” Brian replied. “Ain’t that right, Frank? Why don’t you tell your old man to get lost... then you and I can talk about things. What d’you say?” Frank stared at Brian Martin for a long moment, trying to understand the meaning behind his words before he gave a slow, careful, nod. “Okay,” Frank said quietly. “I don’t want him here.” “Because you’re angry,” Brian said. Frank looked at Sam. “Yeah,” he agreed. “I am.” And he meant every word. “Good,” Brian said gently. “Now you’ve just gotta show him, Frank. Make it all better... I can help you do that.” Frank wasn’t sure when it happened, but suddenly Brian Martin was turning him, turning him to face his father, and there was something cold and hard beneath his hands. “What are you doing?” Frank demanded, a panicked edge entering his voice as he looked down to see the rifle in his hands. “What are you doing?” “Shh. Shh, Frank,” Brian insisted. “It’ll be okay. I just can’t do this for you.” “Do what?” Frank shouted, but the answer to his question came when he found himself with a gun aimed at his father. ................................... Andrew Dron opened his eyes. He’d done that a few times before, too, but each time he’d considered keeping them open just damn inconvenient. This time was different, though. Perhaps he was slow to realize it, but Mr. Andrew Dron was pretty sure that not all was right in the world. He was also pretty sure that when this was over, he’d be grounding a few members of the town’s youth himself, if he couldn’t get their parents to do it first, and at least one of them would be working off any damage to his truck. He wanted to get up and see how bad it was; of course, that would have been made if easier if Andrew Dron had actually been in his vehicle. But he seemed to be in someone else’s. Looking up out the back window, he found it difficult to conclude where exactly he was, too, but there seemed to be something wrong with the sky. It was glowing crimson, and dark clouds seemed to be covering the sky, swirling about in unnatural patterns. But then, he wasn’t seeing it right, because as Mr. Dron slowly pulled himself upright he realized that he wasn’t seeing clouds at all, but a mass of smoke beneath quickly growing flames spreading through a structure that looked an awful lot like the Seaberg house. Fumbling for the door handle, Mr. Dron forced his way from the vehicle, catching himself on wobbly knees that didn’t feel as strong as they used to be and he stared up at the house, mouth agape and eyes wide before reflexes took over and his gaze drifted around him, taking in the family’s vehicles, the occasional fleeing cats, and most importantly, what he couldn’t see. He didn’t see the Seabergs, and common sense would dictate that if Andrew Dron could see a black cat disappearing into the woods fifteen feet away, then he’d likely see people fleeing a burning house, and anyone with the slightest bit of common sense would most definitely be retreating from the house in front of him. But, what Mr. Dron didn’t know was that behind a narrow bathroom door jammed with a chair and barricaded with a heavy dresser full of keepsakes, Jeremy Flaskis was trying very hard to get out as Jessica Seaberg shoved a wet towel against the crack at the bottom of the door to keep out the thick smoke that had recently assaulted them. “Jeremy, get away from the door!” Jessica screamed as she went back to her daughter, but didn’t dare get between the adamant teenager and the wooden surface he insisted on assaulting. It had cracked in three places already, but unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be enough. “It’s the only way out!” Jay retorted, coughing as he drew an arm over his mouth and nose, hoping to keep out the smoke that was already making him feel light-headed. He could hear Rudy crying, not the most encouraging of sounds, and as he turned to look at Frank Seaberg’s family he found himself experiencing a strong sense of helplessness as he saw the look on Jessica’s face and silently agreed with what she was thinking. Even if he got the door down, there was a still a chance they wouldn’t get out. The thought made him nauseous, made him feel cornered. Sweat broke out over his face as once again he scanned the small room for another way out, all his hopes eventually moving back to the door. “I don’t want to die in here,” he said decisively, and once again the side of his body felt the sting as it collided with the wood. ................................................. I don’t want to die out here. Frank wasn’t sure where the thought came from, but he was certain that he needed to have it. Furthermore, he didn’t want to watch anyone else die out in the cold woods, either. And as he realized that those fears had been somewhere on hold in his mind since the moment they’d left the boat, he’d never once considered that he’d be the cause of any of it, and yet Brian Martin was forcing his shaking fingers into place, and there was nothing Frank felt he could do to avoid it. One wrong move, he thought. That’s all it would take, and any number of things could go wrong. Things Frank didn’t want to think about while he was the one aiming the gun at his father. “What are you doing?” Frank asked again, his lips seeming incapable of producing a more intelligent question. He didn’t even know who he was asking, what answer he expected. His eyes locked with Sam’s, and Frank felt himself go numb from head to toe. It all felt so strange. Frank Seaberg of all people knew how delicate a relationship between a father and son could be given the right circumstances. And this man, his father... just that morning Frank had wanted nothing to do with him. He hadn’t wanted to talk to him, he hadn’t wanted to look at him. Now, nothing could have been further from the truth. There was so much Frank wanted to say, all the things he wanted his dad to understand. But, now that Frank wanted it, he felt like it was already too late. Over. And so completely out of his control that all he knew how to do was shut down. “Get away from him,” Sam demanded, but there was hardly as much heat behind his voice as there was behind the look on his face as he glared at Brian Martin. “Just leave my son alone... Frank... Frank, it’s okay.” Frank blinked, and quickly decided that he couldn’t have disagreed more. But then, he was having trouble giving his father any response at all with Brian Martin so close behind him, holding him in place. The man smelled like mint, and Frank had never been more disgusted by it. “All you gotta do is squeeze right here and this all goes away,” Brian said as he adjusted Frank’s fingers, which Frank had managed to paralyze somehow, as if he were willing one little digit to be stronger than Brian Martin’s entire body. “Take your time now, son. There’s no hurry. D’you feel it? D’you feel it, Frank? You’re in control now. You just do what you know’s right. This is the way it’s gotta be. You just let your old man know it now.” Frank would have attempted to look over his shoulder in disbelief at Brian Martin just then, if he wasn’t already eyeing David in the same fashion. David, who was suddenly avoiding his eyes, but still looking obnoxiously relaxed. And looking down at the rifle in his hands, Frank realized that he was in control. It didn’t matter that apart from the water gun he used to torture his sister with, he’d never had one in his hands before, or that Brian Martin was right up on him, ready to stop Frank from doing something that he would disapprove of. And for the briefest moment as he considered it, David Martin made sense to Frank. “Dad?” Frank said, so quietly that he swore the entire woods became still and a few people stopped breathing just so he could be heard. “Frank,” Sam replied, and Frank met his eyes again, his tired, red eyes that looked so much older than they had during past father and son talks, late night basketball games and unplanned weekend vacations that Frank had once been accustomed to. “Frank, you don’t have to do anything that...” “Yes I do,” Frank cut him off, causing not only Sam, but also Oliver to start looking very worried. “I have to say it. I am mad at you... I mean, I am really... just, pissed. And I didn’t want you to come here, and I don’t want to listen to you. I don’t want to hear what you have to say, because it won’t matter. It won’t change that you left.” “That’s right,” Brian interrupted. “You let him know, Frank. Tell’im you don’t need him anymore.” Frank’s brow creased, his grip on the rifle becoming increasingly nervous as Brian Martin’s grip tightened, as if he were becoming excited over what was supposed to happen next. Frank took in a deep breath, released it, and then found himself with half a smile that found very odd on his mouth given his current predicament. “I can’t do that,” he finally said, still looking at Sam. “Because I don’t want you out of my life. I never did.” Sam nodded. “I know,” he said, while his eyes begged Frank not to do anything stupid, and he didn’t mean by shooting him. As it seemed, Frank realized, that was the least of his father’s concerns. But, that didn’t change that Frank’s finger was still way too close to the trigger, or that he was entirely unsettled by it. Frank moved his hand carefully, hoping that Brian Martin wouldn’t notice. He moved it away from the trigger, his forearm over the top of the long gun, and pushed down. Brian Martin still had control over where the rifle was aimed, but from the current position, neither of them would be getting a shot off, and as Frank stiffened his posture, and Brian tightened his grip, it became clear that if either one of them tried to make another move they would be inducing a struggle, and while being on equal footing with Brian Martin for the moment did tend to ease a little of Frank’s nerves, the fact that David was still holding a weapon simply did not. “Oh, Frank,” Brian said, sighing heavily. “I’m afraid that this isn’t going to work. Obviously, you’re a very misguided young man. I’m disappointed. And, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask, one more time, for you to do the right thing here.” Frank swallowed hard, adjusting his grip on the weapon in front of him as Brian did the same thing. “I already did... why don’t you just give it up, alright? No one’s getting shot.” “Frank...” Brian warned. Sam glanced sideways towards David, his hands becoming loose at his sides as he contemplated his next move, but the boy seemed to sense it, and suddenly Sam found himself standing between two rifle barrels instead of one. “Frank,” he called. “It’s okay... it’s okay, Frank... you just...Frank...” “They’ll kill us all, anyway,” Frank said, matter-of-factly, his voice becoming strained as he turned slightly to eye Brian Martin. “But I swear you’re not gonna get away with it.” For the first time since Frank had found himself with his hands on the rifle, he looked at Oliver, who’d not only been silent, but had also managed to effortlessly fade into the background. He hadn’t left, though. In fact, he seemed to be taking in every detail, every face, and every terrible moment as he became torn apart inside. And now he was looking at Frank in a way that seemed so helpless that Frank decided that he wanted to be anything but that. He tightened his grip on the rifle, looked to see where David was, and then spoke to Brian Martin one more time. “Get your hands the fuck off me.” Perhaps Frank had tried to produce a certain amount of authority with his words, but he wasn’t very surprised when it didn’t work. He did think, however, it was rather rude for Brian Martin to laugh at him before he said, “David, seems Frank isn’t going to cooperate. Why don’t you show’im what his choices are.” And then to Frank’s surprise, Brian Martin did let go of him. Of course, it didn’t make much of a difference now that David was at his side, seemingly not bashful when it came to aiming a rifle at Frank’s head. “Your choice, Frank,” David whispered as Frank glanced sidelong at him. “Your choice, David,” Frank retorted, and then jumped when Sam raised his voice. “Frank! Look at me... just... do what they say,” Sam stated, nervously taking in his son’s situation and ready to get Frank out of it the only way he knew how. “Please... just do what they say, Frank.” Looking at Sam as if he’d lost his mind, Frank shook his head. “Fuck you!” “Frank!” Sam said again. “David, time’s up,” Brian said. Frank heard a soft click, a muffled noise as David took aim, and closed his eyes tightly. He heard his father as Sam started to yell, but something had stopped his dad short, and the shot never came. The lights didn’t go out, and when Frank opened his eyes to look in David’s direction, he was horrified to find the back of Oliver’s head separating him from Oliver’s twin. “Get out of the way, Oliver!” David ordered, for the first time sounding truly angry. “No, David,” Oliver replied firmly. “I won’t forget anymore... I won’t forget anymore, David. If you hurt Frank, I won’t forget.” David stared at his brother for several long moments before a strange smile curled his mouth and he narrowed his eyes. “You act like it would be hard for me to go through you to get to him.” “David!” Brian suddenly said, moving to get a better view of his children, and for a moment, David’s eyes drifted to his father, waiting for the old man to remind him that Oliver always had been, and always would be the favorite. But this time something was different. This time it didn’t happen. “David...it’s getting late. You better get on with it if we want time to bury your brother next to your mama... least we can do before we get out of town, don’t you think so?” .................................... Jeremy Flaskis cried out in pain as his body collided with the door again. He seemed to lose a little bit of the force he was putting behind it each time, and this last time, seemed to be all that he had left in him as he sank to the floor and looked at Jessica Seaberg, who had attempted to get through the drywall in the shower with broken pieces of glass from the mirror, only to reach bricks. Rudy, on the floor between them, looked tiredly about before she suddenly went to Jay, the currently available body in the room, and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. He hugged her back slowly, falling into a state of numbness as he realized that he’d just given up. Jessica must have seen it, because a moment later she was pulling them both off the floor. “Jay, turn on the shower,” she ordered. “You and Rudy get in and stay in.” “What?” he asked dumbly. “There’s too much smoke,” she said, coughing. “The fire could be in here any second--stay under the water!” When Jay didn’t budge further than standing up with Rudy still wrapped around him, Jessica turned on the water by herself and shoved him towards it before she took her already bleeding hands towards the bathroom door and attempted prying open the cracks that Jay had already left in the wood. Behind her, Jay carefully placed Rudy in the tub, adjusting the water temperature when she shied away from the cold shower. He lifted one foot to step in after her, trying his best not to think about the prospect of burning to death, and then found himself ducking as the sound of glass breaking somewhere in the house came before Rudy’s high-pitched scream. Jessica, whose reaction had been similar to Jay’s in front of the door, looked back at the two other sets of wide eyes in the room before hearing a crash outside the bathroom door that sent her stumbling backwards, deeply inhaling the smoke managing to make its way in as she struggled to pull herself together. But then Jay was there, pulling her away from the door and halfway across the bathroom floor before they both jumped as it flew open. Seeing the tall shadow standing before them as the smoke flooded the room and the flames became visible from the hall, Jay yanked Jessica Seaberg to her feet and pulled her back further. All he could think was Brian Martin, and how this time he’d manage to take him down. He’d need his arms for that, he decided, which made it inconvenient that Jessica’s hands were cutting off the blood flow in his left one. Jay didn’t let that slow him down, though. Breaking free from Jessica, he charged the man standing between himself and the way out of the burning house. Jay hit the man’s body hard, but didn’t find nearly as much resistance as he’d expected, only two hands gripping his shoulders in surprise as they both toppled over into the hall where the weight of their bodies crushed the chair and Jay could feel the heat of the fire on his skin as the flames reached the dresser. Feeling blind and disoriented, Jay drew back his fist, paying little attention to the way that his victim was violently coughing and struggling beneath him rather than fighting back. “Jeremy, wait!” Jessica suddenly shouted, and her voice was followed by one that snapped Jay’s attention from his anger and fear to utter confusion. “You idiot! Get off me before I beat your backside so hard your grandbabies’ll feel it!” “Mr. Dron?” Jay demanded, just before an uncomfortable fit of coughing hit him and he lost control of everything going on around him until Andrew Dron pulled him to his feet and Jessica was pushing Rudy into his arms. “We can get out through Frank’s room,” he heard Jessica say, and assuming that Frank’s room was away from the flames he took Rudy and headed further down the hall, keeping low when the ominous black cloud seemed to surround them so thickly that he only knew Mr. Dron and Jessica were still with them when he heard them choking on the smoke or bumped into another body every so often. “Which way?” Jay finally shouted, feeling overcome and heavy with Rudy still strapped to his chest. He didn’t startle this time when Mr. Dron grabbed him by the waist and hauled him up, and he didn’t fight it as he was led to a broken window. Feeling the fresh air on his face through the cloud of smoke, Jay set Rudy down and after a quick look around, pulled the blankets from Frank’s bed to throw over the broken glass before climbing through the window. His feet hit the ground outside, and upon turning around, Mr. Dron was pushing Rudy into his arms. “Get back now!” Mr. Dron ordered, and deciding to take the old man’s advice, Jay took Rudy back, holding her against her own coughing as he watched the girl’s mother and their neighbor escape the burning house. ...................................... Silence. So much silence that for a moment, Frank almost wanted to hear a gun go off. To break it. To end the tension. And then... “It was never Oliver.” This coming from David, didn’t seem directed towards anyone, but as his eyes cleared it became clear that that was in fact his brother who he was speaking to. “It was never you.” “Oliver,” Frank whispered, his hands once again adjusting over the rifle, “Oliver, get out of the way.” “Yeah, Oliver,” David mimicked. “Get out of the way.” He shook his head, frowned at his brother. “I always thought you were in the way, you know. Just didn’t say so... didn’t wanna hurt your feelings. It would’ve, wouldn’t it?” Oliver seemed to consider his brother’s question for a moment, along with David’s strange posture before giving a short nod. David sighed. “Thought so. You get your feelings hurt too easy. Like I’ve always told you...” “I can’t let people in to hurt me,” Oliver finished for him, and the comfortable moment of understanding that passed between them seemed to be an awkward one filled with silence and tension for everyone else. “I wouldn’t have hurt you on purpose,” David continued. “I know that, David.” “But I did think you were in the way,” David said. “You got everything, all because you were...because you got hurt, and I hurt you, right? But you know what? I wasn’t the one. It was Mom, did you know that?” Oliver’s weren’t the only set of eyes that widened. “What the hell are you talking about?” Brian demanded. “She dropped him,” David said easily. “I remember.” But that was the only explanation he offered his father before he found himself speaking to his brother again. “See, she hated me anyway… I always figured they both did, and sometimes I thought that if you weren’t around, things would be different. That if I didn’t have to watch out for you no more...but they wouldn’t have been different. And you know what else? Dad never hated me. Did you, dad?” Frank found himself turning his head slowly, and in the dark he could see Brian Martin, seemingly growing uncomfortable. And making Frank uncomfortable, it seemed that he was looking at the rifle in Frank’s hands, regretting that he’d given it up for his game. But that was unfortunate for Brian because Frank, who’d felt like the weapon was burning his hands moments before no longer felt very eager to give it up. He gripped it tighter, and when Brian’s eyes lifted to his Frank was quick in his attempt to distract the old man from whatever he was thinking about. “He didn’t hate you, David,” Frank said, sounding louder than he’d intended. “But he was wrong. When he told you that you were bad... he said that because he wanted you to be. He wants you to do this to us because he doesn’t wanna get his hands dirtier than they already are, David. And you’re probably right... he’d be proud of you for it. So maybe you should take some of your own advice, because right now you might have the gun, but you’re not the one in control.” “Frank,” Oliver whispered. “I don’t think you should say anything else, Frank. David looks angry.” Perhaps Frank would have thought it was thoughtful for Oliver to keep him informed if he’d actually given a damn about what David was doing at the moment. Not that Frank didn’t see David Martin as a threat anymore. Frank Seaberg had simply found a bigger threat, and it was currently staring him in the face in a way that had his back quite literally up against Oliver’s. Frank wasn’t sure if Brian Martin had actually been listening to his little speech, or if he’d sensed a sudden change of energy now that Frank was no longer pointing the rifle at Sam, but it was clear that things were no longer going as the twins’ father had anticipated, and it agitated him. His eyes continuously drifted to the weapon he’d handed over to Frank, and his feet moved one at a time, small steps forward in a way that suggested he hoped that Frank wouldn’t notice. Of course, Frank did notice, and he wasn’t the only one. When Sam had come to attempt righting things with his family, he’d expected a challenge ahead of him. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, it was still difficult to see Jessica. Regardless of the fact that their marriage was irreparable now, it was nearly impossible to be in the same room with her without thinking of her as his wife... and without thinking about how angry she was with him. And the kids... Rudy, he had been confident he could win over rather easily, not that that made his reunion with his daughter any easier. Guilty. That’s what Sam was, every single time she asked him where he’d been, and she’d asked a lot since he’d arrived. Frank wouldn’t even talk to him, and if he’d had one goal to accomplish while he was in town, it had definitely been to reconnect with his son. He’d known that would be hard, too. But, what he hadn’t anticipated was that Frank had a whole new life and a new excuse to avoid him every time they crossed each other’s paths. That very morning, Sam had hoped to find away around that and the very least, discover what his son was up to. Now, however, he wasn’t sure he still wanted to know. Perhaps it had something to do with the impression that everyone currently standing around him had developed a case of the crazies that had Sam feeling so lost. And while he had no idea what his own son had been talking about moments before, he was pretty sure that Frank had said the wrong thing, and Sam was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the way his son seemed to be boxed in. A quick evaluation of the turn of events had him somewhat confident that no one was pointing a gun at him anymore, and looking at Brian Martin, he wondered if that would change if he made a move. It didn’t matter, he was quick to decide as it became clear that Brian Martin intended to get a rifle back into his hands, and if that happened, all bets were off. It might have been selfish, but Sam found himself almost relieved that Oliver’s head was between Frank and the threat of David Martin, and that meager reassurance was enough to convince him to make his move. Sam caught Frank’s eyes, urging his cornered son to be calm, even while Sam’s actions were the last thing in the world that were going to help accomplish that. Frank, so watchful of Brian Martin and wondering what he was going to have to fend off next, felt panic rise in his chest as a shadow from the side rushed him, and before Frank could begin to comprehend what was happening, his hands were fighting to remain on the rifle as a strong force violently twisted the long piece away. “Frank!” Hearing his father’s voice so surprisingly close to his ear caused Frank to see more than his fear as he mentally shook himself, looked up into his dad’s familiar eyes, and relinquished the rifle to him. Seeing the barrel rise, and only knowing that he wanted to get out of the way, Frank turned, expecting to see Oliver. Only, something had changed during the brief struggle, and once again Frank was face to face with Brian Martin. “Look out!” Sam shouted, but in the chaos it was unclear who he was talking to. Still, Frank took it as good advice and was quick to backpedal away from Brian, who was quick to reach out and grab the front of Frank’s shirt. For a moment, all Frank could hear was the sound of tearing fabric as Brian pulled from the front and someone from behind grabbed him around the waist and pulled him past his father. He turned his head, alarmed before he determined that the eyes now facing him were Oliver’s, and not David’s. Meanwhile, Sam Seaberg was granted the pleasure of seeing the look on Brian’s face as the rifle aimed towards him stopped him cold, and at the moment, it didn’t seem to matter to either man that Sam had never fired a gun in his life. But then, it wasn’t exactly information that Mr. Seaberg was about to share now that the situation had turned in his favor, or so he thought. Behind him, Frank and Oliver weren’t so confident that this was a good thing, especially when they saw what Sam couldn’t. “No!” Frank suddenly shouted, moving forward even when Oliver pulled him back, and ultimately, he was too late from stopping David Martin from reaching his father. Sam turned at the last moment, only to take a hard blow to the bridge of his nose. Gritting his teeth to keep a pain-induced wail from escaping he lifted his hands to his face, not paying attention to the way the gun fell to his feet, and upon opening his eyes, he found himself staring down not one, but two barrels aimed directly at him, and behind one of those weapons, Brian Martin looked very ready to shoot him. Which, was likely the reason why Sam chose David to reason with. “Look,” Sam said carefully, “this doesn’t have to happen.” “Yes it does,” David responded adamantly. “Enough talking! Get back!” To make his point, David moved between the small space separating his father and Sam, pressing his rifle firmly against Sam’s chest as he walked him back, until Frank could reach out and touch his father. “Oliver!” Brian shouted. “Get out of there!” Oliver looked at Frank, and then towards his brother. “Oliver,” Frank whispered. “Just do it...don’t let them hurt you, whatever happens to us... just don’t let them hurt you, not anymore.” Oliver, still looking at David, seemed to find something that he didn’t like in his twin’s eyes as he shook his head and huddled closer to Frank and Sam Seaberg. “Oliver!” Brian said again. “No!” Oliver suddenly snapped, his eyes moving accusingly to Brian. “You killed my mom.” “She had it coming,” David casually remarked, before Brian had a chance to react. He studied Oliver for a long moment and then disapprovingly shook his head. “You pick the worst times to stop actin’ like a puppet, Oliver. Makes it fuckin’ hard to keep saving your ass. And y’know something? I’m sick of trying.” “I’m sorry I’m making you mad, David...” Oliver started, but stopped when Frank elbowed him. “And I’m sorry this has to happen,” David replied. “But see... it’s all I’ve been thinking about for... what did you say, Frank? Nine days.” “What do you mean? What you mean that’s all you’ve been thinking...” Frank demanded, but David continued as if he hadn’t heard him at all, and Frank became too busy resisting Sam’s attempts to shield him to repeat the question. “Sorry you’ve gotta see it this time, Oliver,” David said, his weapon becoming more apparent in his hands to those standing on the wrong side of it. “Hold it, David!” Brian suddenly said, surprising everyone. “You could hit your brother!” Frank watched David’s face in the shadows, that strange smirk growing across it again, and then his eyes widened as he watched David Martin spin around suddenly, the gun going with him. Brian froze in the step he’d been taking forward, his mouth agape as he stared at David, his own rifle pointed foolishly towards the ground. “I don’t think so,” David whispered. “Boy,” Brian hissed, his posture becoming intimidating in a way that suddenly seemed pointless. David looked his father up and down, meeting his eyes in the end. He’s looking at me now, David decided, and ignoring the sudden objections coming from behind him, David Martin fired a rifle for the last time in his life, and moved in to claim his kill. It seemed strange somehow. Brian Martin wasn’t really an intimidating man. Not like this, anyway, choking for his last breath on the forest floor. And David couldn’t stop looking. And there was no remorse: just fear. The kind that had him worried he’d develop a condition similar to Oliver’s and forget. He wanted to keep watching, and while he was watching, he realized that his father had stopped breathing, just as he mildly realized that Frank’s father was slowly prying the rifle away from his fingers. But then, he couldn’t watch anymore because Sam Seaberg’s shadow was blocking his view. Startled by this, David looked up into eyes that seemed to pity him, that made him vulnerable. He didn’t like it, and when Sam reached out for him, he took a step back. Sam hesitated, reached again, and then he did what no father had ever done before and wrapped David Martin in his arms. Feeling uncomfortable, but suddenly unable to retreat, David turned his head to find his brother’s eyes, which had become familiarly confused, but strangely accepting as Oliver focused on David, and not their deceased parent. Beside him, Frank was watching, too. He was once again trying to figure David out, and while the muscles in David’s face suddenly felt like they weren’t working right, he managed to smile over it. Taking a breath, he stepped away from Sam Seaberg and gave a small shrug. “What’re you looking at, Frank? You’re the one that said he’d pay.” ........................................... Jessica Seaberg was a firm believer in crying. When she was sad, when she was angry, or even if she just plain felt like it, she’d find a quiet place and cry until she just didn’t feel like crying anymore. But she’d always made a point to do so carefully, and never in front of her children to avoid making them worry. This time, however, with her house in flames and her son missing, Jessica Seaberg made an exception. Or rather, the exception was made for her when she couldn’t seem to stop, let alone communicate to Mr. Dron that it wasn’t her burning home that was upsetting her so much, which is why she left it to Jay Flaskis. It seemed to be a good choice, especially when Jessica discovered that Jeremy knew a lot more than she did, but what he was telling Mr. Dron hardly made her feel any better. “What does Odetta Grover have to do with this?” Mr. Dron was asking, as it became apparent that Jay’s nonstop outbursts concerning the night’s events weren’t helping his head injury. “Aren’t you listening?” Jay demanded, equally frustrated. “Brian Martin killed her! It was no accident, her getting in that boat! And he killed his wife, I saw Mary’s body! There’s a chance he killed David... but we don’t really know that for a fact yet... But look, if Frank was here, then he has to have Frank... don’t you remember how you got here, Mr. Dron?” Jay pointed towards the newest vehicle on the lot. “That’s one of the Martins’ cars... Frank could have brought it here.” “Mommy!” Rudy suddenly interrupted. “The fire’s getting bigger!” “Alright,” Mr. Dron said, “we should move away from here, closer to the water, and hopefully it won’t spread too far after all the rain.” “Hopefully?” Jessica repeated, sounding hysterical. “We can’t even call anyone, everything’s burning... half my family is missing! Hopefully?” “Jessica, I know it’s hard but you’ve gotta be calm now,” Mr. Dron insisted. “I promise you, someone’s seen the flames by now and help should be here soon. From there, we’ll try to get this fire out and organize a search party.” “That boat’s gone,” Jay pointed out. “They could be anywhere...I could take a car and get to my house, my parents could call out of town, get real cops here in an hour’s time.” “You’re not going off anywhere on your own,” Mr. Dron replied, guiding everyone further from the house as he spoke. “No. Please don’t go, Jay,” Jessica insisted, suddenly latching onto his arm like a lifeline. She felt like she was in a whirlwind of tragedy, and she didn’t think she could take losing another boy tonight. Closing her eyes, only half paying attention to Jay’s insistence that he go, Jessica made an effort to calm her nerves, but the tension building in her chest over her missing son was threatening to overwhelm her completely. The relief of having escaped a potential fatal situation had been short-lived as it became clearer and clearer that not everyone was safe just yet. Jay started to argue with Mr. Dron, and Rudy was clutched to her side. Jessica could hear the crackling from the flames as they took everything she owned, and she felt like covering her ears. The light rain, either coming from the sky, or just the trees, or perhaps both, tapped at the ground, and a low humming sound was coming from the lake, getting louder, closer. Jessica opened her eyes, and turned towards the water, squinting in the dark as the lights of a boat became visible. “Mr. Dron!” she shouted. “Is that them? Is that them?” As the arguing stopped, Jay and Mr. Dron moved closer, but it was Jay who shook his head. “No, the boat’s not big enough... Shit, I think that’s the Hills’ boat.” And sure enough, as it grew closer, Jay could see streaked hair behind the wheel and a blond head next to it. “Jenny’s with Jeremy, she probably got my message.” “Does that boat have a radio?” Mr. Dron asked, but didn’t receive an answer as he and Jay were already trudging through the water to meet them. “What the fuck happened here?” a wide-eyed Jeremy Hill asked as he stared towards the burning house while Jeremy boarded the boat and hugged his girlfriend. “You got a radio on this thing?” Mr. Dron demanded. “Yeah, but...” Jeremy started. “Outa the way!” Mr. Dron demanded as he caught sight of what he was looking for and pushed Jeremy Hill out of the way. “Is everyone okay?” Jenny asked, and then seeing Jessica and Rudy on the shore, she forgot about any response she was expecting, grabbed a few blankets from beneath the passenger seat and held them over her head as she stepped down into the shallow water and made her way towards Frank Seaberg’s family. She reached Rudy, but as headlights from the road became visible Jessica ran in the other direction to meet Howard Crook before she all but yanked him from his vehicle and began to speak hysterically. “This is a mess,” Jeremy remarked to Jay. “Yeah... so, I need your boat. There was a kidnapping.” Jeremy, who obviously wanted an explanation, but was reasonable enough to know this wasn’t the time to ask for it, simply nodded as Mr. Dron’s voice raised to speak to one filled with static over the radio. “You got a gun on this thing?” Jay asked Jeremy. “Jeremy shook his head, but a moment later, he was opening a box and retrieving a flare gun. Jay considered it for a moment, and then shrugged. “That’ll work.” “We’ve got more help coming,” Mr. Dron announced. “We can’t wait, we’re gonna go look for Mr. Martin,” Jay said firmly, as if he expected an argument. But, Mr. Dron only nodded. “I’m going with you.” “Well, where are we going?” Jeremy wanted to know. “We’ll check the coves first, anything that can’t be seen from here,” Jay said. “Hold on!” Mr. Dron suddenly interrupted. “We might not have to go anywhere.” He pointed out over the water where more running lights were visible as they moved straight for them, and as Jay took a closer look, he was quick to determine that it was the boat he’d seen earlier outside of the Seaberg’s house. “Jeremy,” Jay said quietly as he held out his hand. “Give me that flare gun.” .................................... The sounds of the boat moving through the water and the wind blowing past Frank’s ears was met with silence as he stood at the bow of the boat with Oliver, making eye contact, but unable to say anything. And really, what could he say? All things considered, he thought that Oliver was handling all of this well enough. He just seemed to be in a strange daze, was all, looking at Frank as if he expected to hear something soon that would make everything better. “You’re going to be okay,” Frank said, for the tenth time since they’d made it onto the boat. Because that was all he could say, and Oliver would nod, and they’d go back to their silence. And Frank couldn’t even bring himself to look back at David, who’d sat himself on the stairs next to the cabin when Sam had taken up the chore to drive them home. But he knew that David was there, watching silently thinking about... well, probably things that Frank couldn’t begin to imagine. And David seemed to be handling things well, too. But then, unlike Oliver, it was terrifying for Frank to see David like that because David Martin was most certainly not Oliver. David Martin had shot someone dead right in front of all of them. And he wasn’t sorry. Maybe it was understandable, Frank had decided. Maybe after everything, it was acceptable, what David had done. He’d been living in a nightmare his whole life, and wanted out. And if he hadn’t shot his father, maybe everyone else would have been dead, including Frank. So maybe, Frank thought, he should be grateful. But still, for David to kill his own father... murder, self-defense perhaps? Frank wasn’t sure what to call it. He just knew that after having been made to point a weapon like that at his own father, anyone who could do it without feeling would have had to be someone completely numb. Empty. So David Martin was a frightening individual, and so sad. It seemed that Frank didn’t know if he wanted to keep his distance, or reach out and comfort him. “David’s not bad,” Oliver whispered, as if reading Frank’s thoughts. “I don’t want them to take him away from me, Frank.” Frank had no response for that. Mostly, because he didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. The lines between right and wrong had somehow been blurred tonight, and as he looked up at his father, he felt that Sam was thinking the same thing. And something about that gave Frank the courage to tell Oliver what he needed to hear one more time. “You’re going to be okay.” “Oh my god!” Frank suddenly heard his father say, and instead of looking back, he looked forward towards the shore, his eyes resting on the orange glow of flames lighting the sky. It took another moment for him to realize what was burning, and when he did, he nearly fell over the railing before Oliver caught him. “Dad!” Frank shouted, as if the one word could destroy what he saw. But, the boat only moved faster, and Frank could only take in the scene. He saw another boat on the water, three figures on it. Decidedly, they weren’t his mother and sister and the fact sent him into a full fledged panic. “Mom!” he screamed, regardless of whether or not he was still too far away to be heard. “Rudy!” “Look. There.” David’s voice had been so quiet and calm that Frank had to look to his left to realize that Oliver’s twin was now standing next to them, pointing towards the shore. Frank looked, and after a moment of gathering his thoughts he saw two figures, a woman and a little girl. “Looks like they’re gonna be okay,” David said stoically. Relieved and tired, Frank looked back at David as Oliver began to wave to the people waiting for them. “So will you,” Frank found himself saying. “Both of you. I promise.”
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