January 11, 1993

The wind was howling and the rain washed away the dirt off the streets in Waterfall Creek. The waterfalls and the woods were one of the many characteristics of the town that was usually quiet and peaceful.

Perhaps not always. Perhaps not in J.L.Meierstreet, where a mother had spend many nights putting her two young daughters too bed while her husband was passed out drunk on the couch. On this nights, she found her daughter in her arms once again.

She tried desperately to comfort a little girl with dark hair. The girl had just been taking a nap, but was woken by a harsh strike of thunder. The mother wiped away the tears of the scared child. Another girl, almost 2 years younger and with curly blond hair, came walking into the room, followed by the man who was her father. She was holding his hand and looked like she never wanted to let go.

The father looked at his wife and they shared a concerned look. "This is no ordinary storm." the father spoke, and he looked at his wife who told her daughters to get up and told them to go to the attic stairs. "We can't run. You need to call your parents." The women spoke, and her husband walked over to the phone.

They would have called their family. They would have gotten their daughters to safety. They would have fought the people that were after them. But they ran out of time sooner than they thought. It all happened really fast, two fast for the mind of a 4 year old and a 2 year old to even start to comprehend. The wind was still howling, through shattered windows this time, as the oldest of the two sisters lead them out of the closet their mom quickly hid them in. Tears were streaming down her face and then the little girl screamed: "Mommy!"

Then everything went silent. The only thing that could be heard was the storm outside. Two lifeless bodies laid on the wooden floor, their hands intertwined and the woman with a perfectly formed tear on her face.

The older girl looked around and with a brave expression on her face she walked over to her parents. She kneeled down beside them and wiped away the tear of her mother’s face with her little hand. But it was too late. There was no way she could help her parents.

Outside the first sirens could be heard, but the sound of rain was louder. The house got filled with the sound of sobbing and tears, and for minutes on end the two little girls were alone. Alone with their tears and alone with their grief. Their parents were gone, leaving them behind. They would never be able to see their daughters go to school for the first time, meet their first boyfriends, or attend their weddings. Things would never be the same.

This day would go into history as the tragic and mysterious death of Lillian and Christopher Silverstone-Greene.

Sunday August 19th, 2007

Today was the last day of summer vacation. For the students of Saint-Joseph High School it meant the days of eating ice-cream in the park and spending the days at the beach were coming to an end. For the boarding students, this was the day where they would drive onto the school parking lot, take in the large u-shaped building, and sigh. It meant a loaded parking, lots of parents and excited students. Mainly freshmen, the ones you could identify because they were actually excited to be going to high school now. Claire Silverstone had a similar excitement last year this time, but the reason was very different.

Claire was excited because going to High School meant sharing a room with her older sister Payton. Up until last year this time around they had been separated by their age gap. Payton was two years older than Claire, but only one year ahead in class. Not by a lack of academic performance, however. Payton was amongst the top 5 of her class and she studied well. She simply had an unfair advantage, a result of that other unfair event that happened in her life. From a young age Payton was prepared for the family destiny in magic, but her basic skills got neglected. By 1995, young 6-year old Payton didn’t possess the skills she needed to go to Saint-Joseph’s Primary school. And so she stayed home another year, where her aunt Lucy took up the project of teaching Payton what she needed. Payton had good memories of those times. When Aunt Lucy made them dinner every night and the three of them would read together. Of course the lesson was learned by the time Claire enrolled, and by 1997 the two sisters had both started their journey in Saint Joseph’s.

That same Claire was now a sophomore, and she knew every single place of this school inside and out. She knew where the newspaper office was, because her sister was usually around there. She knew which bathrooms to use and which ones to avoid. She knew the science classroom, part of the school where the classroom number system seemed designed by aliens. And she liked it here. Payton was just happy to have her little sister close to her. After all, with their secret being close to people was an obstacle.

Claire sighed when she stood before the open window and looked at the parking lot and garden. Her blond curls danced when she leaned forward and smiled. She was looking at the family saying goodbye. A boy, she guessed he was fifteen years old, was saying goodbye to his parents. He then looked down at the girl who was crying, and Claire watched the boy get down to his little sister’s level and assure her everything would be okay. Claire knew this, because Payton had done the same thing to her. The boy then ruffled through the girl’s thick black curls, before his dad picked up his bag. When his mother gave him a last kiss he walked towards the building Claire was in now. And as he reached the steps, Claire smiled, remembering that exact same moment 365 days ago. Only Claire wasn’t as lucky as these two children. She never got to say goodbye to her parents. She couldn’t even remember what her mother’s voice sounded like.

"Hey Claire." another voice called from behind her, the voice Claire knew resembled her mom’s the best. Claire turned around to face her sister and then frowned, not able to understand why Payton was carrying binders labeled ‘newspaper’ on the last day of freedom. Claire had actually planned a final day with their friends, but Payton’s social responsibilities seemed to be putting a stop to that now. She always joked that without her, the school would be lost. And that might not have been that far off, with all the disasters Payton avoided. Both socially and magically. And she loved every part of it.

A couple of days before, she had gotten a letter stating she could become junior editor at the newspaper if she wanted to. Claire figured that was probably the reason why Payton was trying so hard. She would have to please Samantha Washington, head of the social committee at the school and newly appointed editor in chief at the school newspaper. Her father was principal Edmund Washington so nobody was surprised by that. Claire hadn't spent much time with him. She managed not to get into that kind of trouble.

Her clumsiness however had put her in more than one embarrassing position. Claire vividly remembered being locked out of the cafeteria in the middle of winter when Justin dared her to go outside. Then again, Claire should’ve known better than to accept a dare from him. Justin had always been mischievous. It was no coincidence that it was Justin’s track and field teammate Lincoln who had ‘accidentally’ broken the handle of the cafeteria door.

"Aren’t you cold?" Payton then asked, commenting on Claire's current attire. Payton was concerned. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But Claire’s floral summer dress wasn’t abnormal for this time of the year. “No, not really. When the sun peeks through it’s warm behind the glass.” She replied, turning back around, looking out of the window again. Claire was just enjoying the time for shorts and dresses as long as she could.

Payton nodded, accepting the fact that if Claire had her mind set on a certain outfit, not even an apocalypse would change it. Maybe that was what was so fascinating outside, an apocalypse? Her curiosity taking the better of her, driven by her journalism instinct to find out everything, she walked over to the window and crossed her arms before her chest. As Payton stood next to her sister, she took in the annual phenomenon of move-in day. Some kids crying, other kids being happy to have some freedom. Overall there were a lot of emotions going on. Too many for Payton’s liking.

Then her eyes caught a car that drove towards the far end of the parking lot. First a blond female, pretty young to already have teenage kids, stepped out of the car. Then three males exited the car. One with blond hair and two with darker hair. The older one, closing the driver seat door, stepped away from the car a bit and took in the chaos in front of him. The other dark haired boy, hair almost shoulder length, walked around the car to the side where the others were. Then, the two youngest boys each grabbed a suitcase and Payton frowned when she felt a certain kind of horror coming over her. Like an instinct. Fight or flight.

"So what was the cover story again?" Jason asked, his irritation about this whole situation evident. "And what did you guys change to fit the cover to us instead of Lauren and Nate? I mean, we do have a room for ourselves, right?" he added. Elisabeth chuckled, then she nodded. "You've been scouting this town months before we got here, you have seen how the kids these days interact here. You’ll do great. But yes, you have a room you’ll share between the two of you. We asked for that." James then walked up to the others too. "For now we need you to just keep an eye on things. Figure out if there’s any eminent dangers here. Just get a feel of the town.” James began. “You guys stay for a little while, we get our covers going and then we can pull you out of school."

Seth threw a sports bag on his shoulder and then looked at Elisabeth. “And we’re orphans right? You guys are the guardians… We can mention the house right?” Seth asked, and James nodded. He wasn’t sure why Seth was repeating all of this, because they went over this last night in detail. “Yes, we made that paperwork legal. The ongoing story is that we’re renovating it. Which Alyson and Dylan will do once they get here.” James said. Seth then nodded and took the student-ID out of his pocket, before he patted Jason's shoulder. "Let’s go, we don’t want to be late for orientation.” He said with a smile, and Jason rolled his eyes. “I don’t need an orientation to know this is going to be exhausting.” Jason said, but he still started walking towards the building in front of them anyways.

Payton shook her head in confusion. She didn’t feel right about all of this, but she doubted if it were just her emotions or also those of Claire. Claire looked at her sister and then out of the window again, but the boys had disappeared from their view already. “Dawson” Payton then mumbled, and Claire looked at her sister. “What?” She asked, and Payton looked at Claire. “Their names. I happen to come across the student lists. There were two new names. Seth and Jason Dawson.” She said. Payton had only noticed because Jason’s name had been right under Mike Creeton. “Those two boys are in our class.” She concluded.

“What are you thinking?” Claire asked her sister. Payton was the only one she wouldn’t read the thoughts of. Payton shut her out most of the time anyways, because she didn’t want to feel everything everyone around her was feeling. “It’s strange, don’t you think?” Payton said, not really giving Claire an answer. “They don’t even look like they are sophomores or juniors. They lift two suitcases with just one hand…” Payton said, not able to finish her thoughts when she heard a knock on the door. She then walked up to it and opened the door to see Mr. Washington.

“Ms. Silverstone. I just wanted to inform you on the fact that you and your sister will have some new neighbors this year…” he said, before looking down at his paper and Payton looked at the principal. “Seth and Jason Dawson.” He then said, and Payton smiled politely while she felt like she could punch something. “Oh okay. Great.” Payton said, and she was aware of the fact that it didn’t sound convincing at all. “Well, I hope you girls will show some school spirit when they arrive. You would be surprised at how much you guys actually have in common.”

The last sentence came out with a little bit of a sad tone, and Payton felt the sentence carried more emotion behind it too. Mr. Washington then walked back towards the stairs, but just before she closed the door Payton could hear him say something. “Yes, gentlemen. End of the hall on the right. I hope you boys will enjoy it here.”

Payton then leaned with her back against the door and sighed, closing her eyes and letting the entire room go silent. The only sound that can be heard in the room is two heartbeats, and you’d only hear that if you were a vampire standing on the other side of the doorway. Payton then opened her eyes again, and moved quickly towards her sister when she heard someone knocking.

A few seconds went by before there’s another knock, and this time Payton got up and walked towards the door, placing an athame on the bookshelf, within reach if needed be. “Hi” Seth said when the door finally opened. He then looked aside to Jason, but he was just staring at her. Payton never noticed, because it all happened rather quickly. “We are your new neighbors. Our room is…” Seth continued. “I don’t care.” Payton said and then closed the door.

“Wait.” The boy with the dark hair said. Seth frowned, because Jason’s timing was odd to say the least. But Jason just nodded to his friend, before Payton looked back at him. “We are clearly new here, so we don’t know anybody. What’s your name?” Payton took a deep breath and looked at the person in front of her. Not that he was a person any longer, not to Payton. He was a vampire. The only thing different between this one and the others from the past, was that he didn’t know her name. And she would rather keep it that way, until she figured something out. “I am rather busy. You can take a tour downstairs if you want. You’ll meet new people. Have fun.” She said, then quickly shutting the door successfully this time.

On the side of the hallway, two minds came to the same unexpected conclusion. “A witch? Are you kidding me?” Said the blond one, Seth. The other one went with his hand through his hair. “So they were still here after all. See I told you we should’ve looked closer. But no, they were so convinced this town would be clear.” Seth sighed and he sat down on the bed. “Yeah well we couldn’t go near the school either before we were enrolled. That might have blown our cover.” Jason said. Seth cursed something, Jason couldn’t understand, perhaps it was even another language.

“Doesn’t change the fact that they’re here.” He sighed. Jason then looked at him when a thought suddenly raced through his mind. “It’s both of them, right? The second person in the room, was that the baby?” Jason asked, and Seth confirmed it with a nod. “I saw a picture in a picture frame. It was them. They’re the Silverstone orphans. They’re the last remaining witches of their bloodline.” And that was the last thing they thought they’d come across in a high school.

They knew this city was a famous city because of the witches. They had lived here for a few times throughout the years, and they had an understanding with the witches that allowed them to live in the town as long as they didn’t draw attention. Which they didn’t. The Dawsons were a group of vampires who renounced the culture of their species – killing humans, who were ‘inferior’ to them. That’s not how Jason, Seth and their friends thought. The fact that they were having this discussion in a high school dorm room said a lot about that.

“She probably knows. I mean she has to know, if she’s a Silverstone, right? They must have some sort of instinct to spot people like us.” Seth spoke, aware of the fact that he should no longer refer to the Silverstones as little girls, like the legends had always told. “Maybe.” Jason mumbled. Seth looked up. “So what do we do now?” “Now we act as normal as possible. We go downstairs and take the tour. But you should keep your eyes and ears open for hints.” He said. Seth nodded and together they walked back downstairs.

Across campus, Justin was busy moving into his dorm room too. Last year he had shared room 217, but this year he had asked to move to a single bedroom. He had been lucky, because most single bedrooms were usually taken. And so now he was throwing his clothes in the dresser, eager to finish moving so he’d be able to do some gaming, mainly the game he got recently when his dad left again to be deployed overseas. Justin was insanely proud of his dad, to the extent where he did a presentation on him when he was 11.

Most closely to the Silverstones room was Katie, who also had her room on the third floor. Unlike Justin, it was Katie’s second year dorming in a single-room, which her parents had requested after dorming with Payton the first year of high school. Katie’s grades hadn’t suffered dramatically because of their late night karaoke sessions, but enough for Mr. And Mrs. Sampter to file a move-request. Which Payton didn’t mind, because then all Aunt Lucy had to do was smile nicely at Mr. Washington to get Payton and Claire to share a room.

Payton turned around after she was done looking through the keyhole and she looked at Claire. “Vampires.” She said, her hand moving towards the necklace around her neck. Then she frowned. Why didn’t they seem to know her? What games were they playing showing up on their doorstep right now? Quickly, Payton stepped away from the door and stood on the other side of the room, an athame in hand, and her little sister looking at her with big eyes. But nothing happened. Nothing but a bit of soft rumbling across the hall. “Why aren’t they attacking?” Claire then asked whispering, and Payton slowly put down the athame, coming to a shocking conclusion. “I don’t think they planned to. I don’t think they planned any of this.” Payton said, then looking at the door again. “They had no idea we were here.”

Claire frowned in disbelief. Every single vampire that had entered town in the last 14 days had been here for one mission and one mission alone: to kill them. “Are you sure they’re vampires then? Payton, maybe they’re just from another country or something. You know the school has that international program…” Claire started, but Payton cut her off. “International students don’t knock on your door and then completely freeze when they see you. Not like that. It was like they were being crushed from the inside and they were trying not to let it show. They were vampires alright. And they know who we are too. The question is, why aren’t we dead yet?”

Claire then got up from her bed and walked up to her sister. “Because we’re not dying. Payton, relax. Maybe you need to do some more digging into them. You have access to stuff at the newspaper right?” Claire said, then taking the athame from Payton, despite the fact that Claire had no skill in using it. “You should go do that. I’ll be here. Promise I won’t open the door until we know more about them.” She said, and Payton looked from her sister to the door. “Okay.” She said, then grabbing her bag. “Be careful.” The older of the two sisters then said, and Claire nodded. “You too.” She replied, and then Payton left their shared bedroom to head downstairs, while Claire texted her friends to cancel their plans for the afternoon.

On the ground floor in the right wing was the school newspaper. When Payton finally got there she started her research. By the time she was done it was 5.42PM and the sky outside had started to get dark. She could feel her stomach complaining from not eating dinner. Then, Claire knocked on the door to Payton’s office with a salad bowl in her hand. “You always get so worked up, so I thought I’d bring you this.” She smiled.

Outside the newspaper office she then caught a group of people. The angle of the blinds prevented her to see much, but when she walks closer she can clearly see them. "Are they...?" Claire started. Payton looked at Claire and then looked behind her. As soon as she recognized the vampires from the parking lot on move-in day she urged her sister to be quiet. Both sisters then returned their gaze onto the hallway, where four people entered the principal's office. Seth, Jason and the man and woman they saw earlier. They looked slightly older, in their thirties perhaps, as Payton concluded now that she saw them up close.

When the door closed, both sisters let out a breath they had been keeping in, and Payton looked down at her boot where she kept an athame. She could walk in there, kill them and put a spell on Principal Washington to erase his memory. "Payton?" Claire then said, looking at her older sister while holding back tears. Payton blinked, and a terrifying thought came to her. If she'd kill them like that, or in their sleep, she'd be no better than those who killed her parents.

"Okay..." Payton then said with a shaky voice, while her hand reached to grab Claire's hand. She kept staring at the door for another ten seconds or so, before breaking her gaze and leaning in to hug her little sister. "I won't. It's okay." Payton said. Claire sighed relieved, and clenched her arms around Payton's body. "I don't want to lose you to that kind of darkness, okay?" Claire said, for once sounding like the adult between the two of them. But admittedly, Claire had seen enough darkness to have matured very early on in her life. Despite of Payton's efforts to try and shield her from it. Claire read minds and so sometimes the horrible things of the world couldn't be hidden from her. But at least she could prevent her sister from doing one of those things. For now.

Meanwhile, Mr. Washington sat down on his chair, and then greeted the Dawson family. "So... Mr. Dawson." he said as he loosened the button of his suit, taking on a bit less formal posture. Seth looked aside at Jason. This would be one hell of a conversation. He just hoped they had prepared this right. "Nice to finally meet. So, I have here the student records of Jason and Seth. I wish to overview a few things, because things happened rather fast when they were enrolled. Don't worry, there's nothing wrong. We just like to have a talk with students and their caretakers, especially boarding students. I'm sure you understand." Mr. Washington said, while searching through the file, obviously looking for something in specific.

James was prepared for any questions he might get. “Of course. We would answer any questions you'd like." Elisabeth smiled. Mr. Washington then looked up at the lady and smiled back, before he continued reading. "Well, according to the records we were given, both the boys lost their parents in an accident of some sorts..." Mr. Washington read, his finger pointing at the line where that information was written.

James straightened his back in an attempt to regain some composure. They had rehearsed this last night, but truthfully they couldn't have known what questions the principal would ask. But luck was on their side, as this matter they had discussed thoroughly. "Yes. It was an unfortunate event, 7 years ago. There was an accident at the high-school reunion." He stated, not providing too many details, other than the ones the principal had in his file. Elisabeth rested a hand on Jason's shoulder, a gesture that made all of this even more weird. "I used to babysit these two." She said. "I was in my twenties at the time, these boys were 13 and 12 years old. I had seen them grow up... Mr. Washington, they didn't have any family left."

Mr. Washington nodded and made notes. James continued. "My wife and I were given guardianship over them. We can't have kids of our own, so raising these boys was a pleasure. Just a few weeks ago we moved here from Chicago. We wanted something quieter. Those teenage years can be troublesome enough..." James then said, nailing the parenting tone as if he had actually been dealing with teenagers growing up these past 4 years.

"Do you have kids?" Elisabeth then asked to revert the attention from Jason rolling his eyes. Mr. Washington smiled and looked at James first, then at Elisabeth. "I do. I have a daughter, Samantha. She is Jason's age." He then smiled before facing the boys in the middle. "I'm sorry for your loss. We have a very big range of people from different backgrounds her at Saint-Joseph's. You will notice quickly that this school is like a family on its own. You’ll manage to fit in soon enough, boys." The charismatic man said.

Seth nodded. "And our staff is here to teach, and to help. So if there is anything, ever... You can let us know." Mr. Washington added. Jason nodded, straightening his jacket. "Now, since you are new boarding students in your junior and sophomore year, I suggest you explore the school a bit. And if you have any questions, I’m sure you’ll find the people across the hall from you very kind. Payton and Claire Silverstone are also siblings. Our school's social worker pointed this out and I thought it might benefit to have some friends around. And if you'd like to talk to our social work...”

Mr. Washington couldn't finish the sentence before Jason cut him off. "We're good, thanks." Jason said. Mr. Washington looked a bit surprised at Jason's attitude, which Jason then realized. But he couldn’t help it. The last thing he needed was a reminder that the Silverstones were living across the hall. Not with James and Elisabeth sitting right there. "Well, if you don't mind, there's some technical information I need to go through with your guardians. You can wait outside the hall if you'd like. There's chairs in front of the newspaper offices..." Mr. Washington said, his tone a lot more formal. Jason didn't catch on to it right away. Only when Seth got up and his chair scraped over the wood floorboards, Jason's mind returned to the present. "Yes, of course." He mumbled.

Seth stepped in front of Jason quickly. "Thanks a lot sir.” He said shaking his hand politely before stepping aside. Jason absently shook the hand of the principal before walking out the room. Seth was right behind him but when Seth closed the door, Jason was nowhere to be seen. Seth sighed, rubbed in his eyes and then looked up as he registers two heartbeats close by. He then glared at the flickering lights above him and as his eyes trailed back down he was no longer capable of ignoring the source of the heartbeats, sitting on the other side of a glass wall. Claire looked at him, catching his eyes in between two rows of blinds, before looking back at her sister who was calling her name. He could hear Payton telling her not to look at him, and Claire did just that, focusing back on her sister.

James and Elisabeth then emerged from the office 100 heartbeats after Seth had closed the door, James’ expression speaking louder than words. Seth wished to give an explanation to that, but then they too disappeared in front of him. So Seth got up from the little seat and walked to the Great Hall too. Before leaving sight, he looked back once more. However he soon realized that was a mistake when he saw Payton. Payton Silverstone. And she was staring right back at him.

As both sisters made their way to the room, neither of them found the courage to look at the door across from their room. They didn’t say much either, with Payton simply throwing her bag on her bed before walking to the bathroom. “I’m going to change.” She mumbled and shortly after Claire heard the shower turning on.

Claire then sat down on the ground beside her bed, grabbing a box from underneath it and taking out the papers that were in there. One in particular made Claire’s fingertips freeze and as she took it out of the box she sighed deeply at the bold letters on it. ‘Silverstone Family Tragedy – Home invasion kills parents in founding family bloodline.’ The words made Claire shiver. But they also made her determined. They made her strive to fulfill her destiny; to graduate SJBS, get married, start a family and restore her family’s name drenched in blood. And no vampires were going to change that.

By the time Payton exited the bathroom, Claire wass asleep already and Payton sighed as she walked over to her sister’s bed, switching off the lamp on her nightstand. She then pulled up the sheets a bit further, before she walked back to her own bed and covered herself. Ideally she would have wanted to talk to Claire now, before the first day of school started. Payton still had a dozen things to say about what she should and shouldn’t do. But then again the last things Payton wanted was for Claire to adopt the same paranoia she had going on right now. Yet Payton knew this was bound to give her a restless night. Too many questions were running through her head. Why were they here? Why now? Who were they? And who were those two other people? As she thought about the possible answers her eyelids started to become heavy and eventually she drifted off into a rather restless sleep, with one phrase repeating in her head: Things are going to change around here.

Monday August 20th, 2007

The next morning Claire was getting ready for the first day of school and as she emerged the bathroom she stood in front of the mirror and started combing her hair. Claire’s blonde hair was one of the many things Claire had inherited from her dad’s side of the family, while Payton had the signature dark hair most of the Silverstones had. She didn’t envy her sister for it. However she did envy her for the extra hour of sleep she had. Payton was a junior now, and they had first period off on Mondays. Luckily neither one of them had a 6th period on Mondays.

Claire then finished her hair before pulling her bag from underneath the bed. Off the new pile of 2007-2008 school books she grabbed the ones she’d need for economics, before she opened the door. It looked like she had everything she needed, and so she left the safety of her own room and headed onto the third floor hallway.
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A few minutes later, Claire found herself emerged in the busy crowd in the Great Hall.

Then Claire spotted Justin greeting a few of his teammates, and she descended the final few steps of the staircase before she started walking towards him. The first thing she noticed was his new hair and she could tell he was nervous on what she was going to think of it. "You look good. How was your trip to LA with your dad?" She then noticed his Red Socks shirt and added: "You better not have worn that one in California." Justin laughed and hugged her. He kept a big smile on his face when he shook his head. "No, of course not. My dad got if for me. I wanted to wear it."

Claire nodded, looking at the announcement board. “What where you looking at?” she asked, and Justin turns back to the list with names. “I was looking at the new people.” Justin replied. Claire nodded and said: “I know. Payton told me.” trying to sound as normal about it as she could. “Do you know anything else?” Justin asked, but Claire shook her head. “No, other than they live across the hall from us. Haven’t spoken to them yet.” And she wasn’t planning on that either.

“So there’s a huge line for breakfast with the new menu. But my mom gave me this cereal bar so…” Justin then said, as he took a bite out of it. Claire smiled and looked at the line that formed at the cafeteria. “Yeah, I’m not that hungry anyways.” She said, something she had already decided to say before she came down. Her stomach was upset at the thought of sitting in a classroom with a vampire. Not that she could tell Justin that. “Should we just go to econ already?” Justin then said, and Claire nodded, until she started to frantically search through her bag.

“Econ. Crap. I could swear I put my calculator in here.” She mumbled. Justin couldn’t help but shake his head and he started laughing. “I knew it. I knew you would forget something. Mike owes me ten bucks for that.” He gloated. Justin really seemed too happy about that for Claire's taste and she looked a little annoyed by him. “Seriously? You made a bet about me forgetting something? With Mike?” She said as she closed her bag again “I thought you guys were a little more mature than that.” She added as she started to walk backwards. “I’ll make it in time. I’m telling you. You keep me a seat, I’ll see you there.” She said, knowing the odds were stacked against her big time. But she didn’t want to risk making a bad first impression on her first day by not having her calculator. And she couldn’t be late either, because that would result in detention.

Justin then glanced at the clock and sighed. He would wait for Claire, but then he’d risk being late himself and so he headed for the stairs. He and Claire had made a tradition to go to the first class of the year together. But maybe that was before. Maybe Pierre being gone meant things were changing. But one thing remained. He still had the best sprint of the school, and as he set off to be on his way to class he clocked his watch, before he started a miniature sprint to the classroom. He made it to his seat just as the bell rang, and he clocked his watch again. 58 seconds. Must have been a new record.

Claire was a bit less athletic than her best friend, and when she finally arrived at the third floor she was out of breath. Exhausted but still alert, as she looked around her carefully. But there was nobody in the hallway or following her, and so she entered her room. Luckily she didn’t have to look far for her calculator when she found it on the desk with a note in the handwriting of her sister. ‘You forgot your calculator again. Have fun at school today!’

Claire took the note and then put the calculator in her bag. She smiled towards the bathroom door where Claire could hear the blow-dryer. Sometimes Payton knew Claire better than she knew herself. Something that came in handy for moments exactly like these. Then her mind went back to school, and when she checked the time she saw it was 9.03AM. She was definitely going to be too late if she didn’t run, something she was dreading already. But she did, only to be stopped when she bumped into someone in the hallway. Losing her balance, she tumbled backwards and landed on the ground.

Claire didn’t need to look up to see who was standing there. She tried to smile, but she didn’t think she was selling it at the moment. She wasn’t fooling anyone with that look on her face at least. Yet she couldn’t hide it. The fact that he was literally towering over her, made her unable to decide if she should kick him or beg for mercy. But when he kneeled down next to her he wiped both of those options off the table.

For Seth it was a habit, based in decades of manners and being raised as a gentleman. “I’m sorry. Can I help you up?” He said while throwing his bag from his shoulder. Out came a thermos can, and the bottle rolled to touch Claire's leg. The horrible thought of what must be in there then emerged in Claire's mind, causing her to get up quickly. She had to say something. Something that oozed power. Something that screamed ‘I am Claire Silverstone’ without well, actually screaming that. “I ehm...It's okay. I'm okay. It’s not your fault.” She rattled. “I just wasn’t looking where I was going.” She then added. Truthfully the blame was entirely on her. Her clumsiness would be the death of her one day. But this encounter put that in a whole new perspective.

When Seth finally noticed what was going on he quickly let go of her arm. He could see her posture relax a bit more, but her heartbeat was still off the charts. "I’m fine, I just… Never mind.” She stepped around his body and then walked towards the stairs without looking back. Her hand was shaking but she tried to look composed so she reached up to her hair, putting a strand of it behind her ear.

“I'm Seth." He then said suddenly. The sound of his own voice somewhat blocked out her heartbeat in his ears. “Seth Dawson. I live across the hall from you guys. Me and my brother are new here.” Claire stopped walking two steps away from the stairs. She turned around slowly and then said: “Yeah, I heard my sister say something about that.” her voice soft, fragile. She was contemplating the fact if she should say her name. She hadn’t planned on introducing herself when she was making plans last night. Then again she also didn’t expect him to introduce himself either.

She tried to smile and then said: “My name is Claire.” No last name, she decided. There was a chance that he already knew, but that didn’t matter. She just didn’t have the guts to tell him her last name. But Seth nodded and said: “It’s nice to meet you, Claire. Sorry again for all of this.”

When the bell rang she didn’t say anything more and started descending the stairs. But her mind was completely consumed by the encounter. She was just confused about everything. He confused her. He intimidated her. But he didn't kill her. In fact he acted almost friendly, kind of open and even a little concerned. Which made all of this an even stranger encounter and it simply made no sense to her. And she had no idea what to do now. From when she was little, her caretakers had told her never to trust vampires. They were bad, they were dark and they were craving blood. Yet, none of those things she had seen in the guy she was just talking to. Two things she knew. There was something different about him. And she was still running late.

She arrived in Central Hall and made her way to the other stairs. Economics, 2nd floor. She took a deep breath when she reached the first, and prayed she wouldn’t trip as she made her way to second. When she finally made it to the classroom door, she could hear the teacher already beginning his little introduction speech, and Claire sighed at losing a good first impression for a class like Economics which she liked a lot. Now she was going to be labeled as the girl who was late on the first day. All that over a calculator and a vampire.

Seth just stood there in the third floor hallway, unsure of what to do in this situation. James didn't exactly give him a handbook on what to do if they ran into the Silverstones at school, and so he grabbed his phone out of his back pocket. A few seconds later, the second school bell rang, and Seth almost had to cover his ears. It was loud, very loud, but it reminded him where he was headed before he bumped into Claire Silverstone. And so he started running.

He just reached the 2nd floor in time for an elderly man to yell in annoyance: “You must be Ms. Silverstone. You are late.” in the classroom he was headed to. Seth then walked in the door two seconds behind Claire, coming to a rather abrupt stand-still from his high-speed run. He then saw the teacher, his disapproving look at Claire and he knew he'd feel bad if she got in trouble because of him. “Sir, if I may interrupt.” He said, not even trying to pretend to catch his breath. He didn’t really wait for a reply. “I bumped into Claire in the hallway. Since I’m a new student, I did not know where to find my locker. Claire was just kind enough to show it to me.”

Most of the class was now paying full attention to the scene at the front, including Justin who saw the look on Claire's face. When it appeared Seth was done, Claire braved herself to look up. Seth looked at the balding man who had turned red out of anger, but he knew well enough that after yesterday’s talk with the principal, he would get away with this if needed. “Sit down and if you move just an inch I will have you banned from my class, failing this year.”

Claire didn’t say a word as she walked to the table next to Justin’s close by the window. Seth took a spot near the back of the class, and had everyone facing him instead of the board. “He is so dead.” Justin said whispering. Claire breathed in deeply. “You have no idea.” She replied, more in her mind then out loud. She then unpacked her stuff and stared at the chalkboard in front of the class, as the teacher explained the material they would be handling this year.

Most of the students still had their eyes glued on Seth when the teacher started to mention the subjects they would be discussing before the first midterm. A midterm that reminded Justin of his resolutions for the new school year, which would include Mike helping him prepare for the exams which he had last year. Justin was very determined not to let this year be a repeat of the year before. However the minute that thought entered his mind, Justin heard some girls giggle in the back of the class. Claire looked up too, and saw two girls waving at Seth.

Claire's face grew pale as she envisioned the scene of those two girls drained of blood, their necks slashed open by the guy behind her. "Please don't kill them." Claire said, her voice barely louder than a whisper. For the first time, Seth looked up. Not because the teacher was yelling at the girls to pay attention, not because the guy next to him had given him a 'lucky bastard' look. He had heard what Claire said, and for the first time since arriving at the school he realized why this could be potentially the worst idea possible.

Who were they kidding, pretending to be normal teenagers, a classroom full of students. Seth hadn't been 17 for ages. He was at least ten times that old. But because of that he did have better restraint out of the remaining Dawsons. Something that was seriously tested right now. He had to keep it together. He had to act normal, sitting at a school desk in economics class, trying not to get distracted by the scent of these people's blood, while listening to the girl in front of him begging not to kill two cheerleaders. He then recalled the fear in her eyes earlier, and he knew that wasn’t undone by telling one lie to a teacher. If they wanted to establish any type of truce, he would need to get their trust. And for what he knew about the Silverstones, there was a lot of damage control to be done. So for now he just didn't do anything. He waited out the bell-sound, and he got up from his seat.

When he reached the hallway he got his first look at what the school looked like with a crowd, and he took a deep breath. A thought then entered his mind and he grabbed out his phone. He dialed a number, and waited for the response on the other end but all he got was a voicemail. “Hey, it’s me. I need your help. Jason and I are lost. The Silverstones are alive after all. We messed up, big time. They hate our guts but we have this mission… Got any tips on how to handle this? I hope you’re well. Text me when you have the time.” He said, then hanging up the phone. Two minutes later his phone beeps. ‘They’re scared.

Rightfully so. All they see is fangs and blood. But you’re not like that. If anyone can show them that vampires have humanity, it’s you. You’ll convince them. In the meantime you know, don’t kill anyone.’ It read, and Seth couldn’t help but smile a little. Don’t kill anyone. Sure. But there was a point. His family was not like all the others. The Silverstones had no idea of all that.

Claire exited the classroom shortly after, and caught Seth looking around the hallway nervously. Then the view is blocked by Justin who is walking towards her “Sorry, I totally didn’t make it in time to walk to class together.” She said, and Justin shrugged. “We’re not 14 anymore. I can find my own way to class. However new guy over there apparently did had some trouble finding his way.” Justin then said, and Claire sighed. “Justin.” She said, but then he shook his head. “Nevermind. I should probably go downstairs. The newbies can’t arrive to the field before the star runner does now can they.” He said while turning around. She laughed at the cocky face Justin made. “Talk to you later, Claire.” He added, before he disappeared out of sight again. Claire smiled before making her way to her locker, and the art classroom after that.

Less dramatic than an hour ago in sophomore Economics, one of SJBS’s newest vampire students entered the science classroom full of junior students, immediately stopping all conversations. It had taken him a while to find the science classroom, and seeing Payton’s Silverstone’s face as soon as he walked in, wasn’t exactly encouraging. Among the other students turning towards Jason were Mike and Mila, the latter who smiled at the stranger who took a seat behind her. Then the teacher entered and Mrs. Vull’s enthusiasm required everyone’s attention right away. Mike didn’t understand how anyone could be that exciting about dissecting frogs, even if it was already second period. Luckily they’d only had to endure it for less than an hour, and when the bell rang to indicate morning break everyone rushed out of the classroom.

As they walked towards Payton’s locker, Mila noticed Payton was distracted and she wondered if she was wrong this morning. Maybe Payton wasn’t over Pierre just yet, and maybe this day was a lot for her to handle. “You okay?” she then asked. Payton looked up and nodded. “Yeah. Just a bit annoyed.” She replied. Mila wasn’t sure if it was the truth or not, but then she realized what the reason for all of it could be. “Samantha? Ugh, I know right? She’s been talking to everyone of how she and Dean are totally in love.” Mila said. She overdramatized it, but it was pretty close to how Samantha had actually told it to Katie, and Katie on her turn had told Mila. “I mean I’m glad for her, but it’s a bit much on the first day of school.” Mila added. Payton tilted her head.

Mike then stopped at Payton’s locker and he exchanged a look with Mila. “So, how’s your first day going?” he then asked Payton, who looked up briefly from putting away her books, her two friends standing on the other side of her locker door. “Fine.” She said, a bit confused about all the questions. Did they really notice? Payton was sure she got the secrecy thing down, but then again she had never had to keep her fear of vampires under control while being in the same room as one. Payton then closed her locker and smiled as Mike greeted Max.

Then several phones in the hallway beeped at once, and Payton opened the notification. “Back to school party.” Mila explained, as Payton looked at the invite. She frowned when Max mumbled something before walking off. “You going?” Mila asked, pulling Payton’s attention back again. Payton shrugged. “I’m not sure. Now, you do have your calculator right?” Payton asked, a grin on her face when she looked at Mila. “Hey that was last year, okay. I will not do that this year. I’m making a good first impression this time.” Mila said, referring to English last year where she took the wrong books to the class and was basically made fun of by the teacher in front of the entire class. Payton nodded and even smiled a little. “Of course you will.” She said. “Of course.” She repeated, as they started walking. Payton looked around once more in the hallway, and tried to bury the thought that amongst all of these students were two vampires.

Across school, Claire left her art classroom and she changed out her pencils for her literature books, and headed to English class, grabbing her phone to text her sister. ‘What are we doing for lunch?’ she typed, and a little later Payton replied with ‘Lunch with Mike. Don’t go to our room. Stay in crowded places.’ Claire read the text and sighed, before walking into the classroom. It wasn’t exactly a crowed place, as everyone was outside during break. But going outside would mean she had to admit it was too cold for the dress she was currently wearing, and she didn’t want to do that. She liked this dress.

Besides, Claire enjoyed the quiet classroom to work on her art, something she had been trying to do during last hour’s elective, but failed. Her mind had been floating back to Seth every couple of minutes. The way he helped her get back up. The way he came up with that lie. The way Payton said they had no idea they were even there in the first place. Maybe… Maybe they weren’t here to kill them after all. However that didn’t meant she trusted him. Not yet, at least.

Justin then made a loud entrance into the classroom pulling Claire out of her thoughts, and he sat down next to her with a grin on his face. “Ask me.” He said, and Claire rolled her eyes with a smile. “How was track?” she asked, and Justin barely let her finish the question. “I ran a record! A school record!” he said, then high-fiving one of his teammates as they walked by. Claire looked at him and she was genuinely impressed and proud. The coach had mentioned Justin really had some great potential. Sadly, SJBS was a boarding school and unlike other schools they didn’t focus on sports that much. In the back of her mind Claire had always feared Justin would go to attend the same school as his brother. Chris still lived with his mom and attended a smaller school 20 minutes driving from Waterfall Creek. But Justin had assured her SJBS was the best thing for everyone, including his mom.

Claire then flipped open her notebook as the bell rang, and shortly afterwards started taking notes on their reading assignment. The teacher then continued to explain the curriculum, and when the teacher mentioned Tuesday morning class, a few students started sighing. Seth, who had slipped in the classroom rather undetected this time, frowned at that. He then heard one student comment Englath, and he raised his hand. “What is Englath?” he asked, now for the second time today getting all eyes in the classroom aimed at him. Several students then shook their head, causing Seth to drop his hand. The teacher just pretended like he hadn’t heard the question, and continued to teach. That’s when Seth grabbed his notebook, and wrote down ‘Englath?’ The class went by relatively fast from that point onwards. So fast, that Seth was surprised to hear the bell ring, and as he gathered his stuff he found everyone else had already left the classroom.

The reason for that was the new lunch menu, which everyone wanted to try. And in cases like this, having the track and field star as your best friend came in handy. Claire entered the cafeteria with the majority of the other students, and glanced over to the familiar corner right away. There, Justin was taking a seat with his lunch, and Claire casually made her way to the table. Depending on the day, those six seats would be filled by Payton, Mike, Mila, Justin, Claire and either Pierre or Katie. Then Claire realized that there would be no more Pierre, and the sixth spot opened up now for Katie to join in whenever she wasn’t sitting with Samantha Washington. But today she definitely was. After all, the cafeteria on the first day was a total jungle and your behavior would determine if you’d be hunter or prey for the remainder of the school year.

[[File:ClaireC3.gif|thumb|left] “Claire, tell them about what your friend said in class today” Justin said and then he laughed loudly. Mila then took her seat at the table. “Wait, the new guy? The blonde one? You guys are friends?” she asked, and Claire looked at Justin with an annoyed look. “No, we’re not.” She said calmly. The thought of it terrified her at this point. “We just happened to both be late for econ. I… helped him find his locker.” She said, adopting the lie that Seth had used for their teacher. It was something Claire wouldn’t have come up with herself. “Oh, I see. Well they do seem rather uneasy at the school. Jason, that’s the other guy’s name…”

“So, what do you guys think of the menu?” Payton then said, as she interrupted Mila and took her seat at the table. Mike joined in shortly afterwards. “It’s better. The whole menu is. No more same old same old.” He said, before digging in. Payton looked at Mila and felt sorry for cutting her of, but she couldn’t hear any more about the vampires right now. Claire realized right away, and she avoided eye contact with Payton during the rest of lunch. Payton probably heard Justin earlier too, and if that was the case, Claire would have some explaining to do.

Luckily Claire got the rest of the day to think about that, and she managed to push Seth’s presence to the back of her brain most of the time. It helped that as a mind-reader Claire was actually interested in the science class about the human brain. Even projects and presentations went well, after Claire had decide this summer that she would display her artistic and fashion skills to get rid of her artist wallflower image. However her focus went away when Payton arrived in their room, and Claire knew an unavoidable conversation followed.

“Are you okay?” Payton asked first, and Claire nodded, moving some pillows on her bed to make room for her sister. Claire could tell Payton was as exhausted as she was. “Yes, I am. And before you say anything… I didn’t approach them, okay. Look, you know I forgot my calculator and as I came to get it we bumped in the hallway. It was a little… weird. But nothing happened. He could have killed me and he didn’t. And he also prevented me from looking like a fool in economics. ” She said.

Payton frowned, then looked at the door. “Did he say anything?” she asked, and Claire shook her head. “And what Justin was saying was just something from English class. He asked what Englath was and the entire class was looking at him.” She said. “It makes sense that he asked. He’s new here. He doesn’t know about stuff like that.” She said, and Payton looked aside. “Are you defending him now?” she said, and Claire tilted her head. “No, I’m not. But I’m not throwing athames at him like you were yesterday. In fact I am 100% sure you had one on you today too.” Claire said as she got up from her bed. Payton looked at her sister and pulled an athame out of her bag, causing Claire to lift an eyebrow.

“Payton, if anyone had found this we would have been in big trouble. You said last night that you wouldn’t do this. It’s dangerous.” Claire said, taking her seat again after putting away the athame. The words echoed through Payton’s mind, as she recalled some of her mom’s last words. ‘You’re her big sister. It’s your job to make sure she isn’t in danger’. “But we have to protect ourselves. We survived so long. We survived being raised by Aunt Lucy. We basically raised ourselves, but we survived.” “Yes. And I would like to keep it that way. You’re my big sister. I need you here with me. Not out there killing vampires. Payton, you can’t start a fight we have no chance of winning. They haven’t done anything to us yet. And if they will, we will be ready.” “Whén they will.” Payton corrected, and Claire gave her that point, just because she didn’t want to argue tonight.

“Okay. But promise me you won’t try to attack them. No athames in class. It’s not safe and I couldn’t stand it if something happened to you.” She said, and Payton noticed Claire’s voice broke. That hit Payton, and she sighed. “Okay. Okay, I promise. But let’s not cry okay. They don’t deserve our tears.” Payton then said, as she pulled her sister in for a hug. “Less crying, more hugging.” She added, resting her chin on Claire’s shoulder. Claire laughed through the tears a little, and then wiped them away as they sat in their embrace. The moment lasted for a while, until Claire broke a silence. “Thanks for the note this morning, by the way.” Claire then said, and Payton looked at her with a smile. “You’re welcome.”

Tuesday August 21st, 2007

Payton kept her promise the next morning as she left their room. She probably wouldn’t be very good with an athame at this point anyways, since she barely got any sleep. Between 11PM and 5.30AM she had slept maybe 3 hours. The rest of the night, her brain has played disaster scenarios of the Dawsons killing all her friends. The images were so vivid, Payton even saw them when she just briefly closed her eyes. Not even the new breakfast menu, which now featured oatmeal, gave her much joy. And so at 8.59, when most students were still searching for a parking spot, she had already claimed her usual spot next to the window at the back of the class.

Mike was still outside as he talked to some of his friends about the game he had been playing all night. "I will tell you how to pass that level, if you give me 10 bucks." He then said to one of the guys who had been complaining about a certain difficult level in the game. That's when Dean showed up, barging into the conversation. "As if you managed to reach that level." He commented. Some guys looked at Mike, but a few looked at Dean. Not everyone was a fan of his god-complex. "Do what you want fellas, but it's a scam and I'm telling you." Dean then said, before walking off again. Three guys that had previously been talking to Mike now walked along with Dean towards the school building. Mike too grabbed his bag at that point, and after an encouraging shoulder pad from Max Henderson, Mike walked to class.

Payton had watched the scene unfold through the window and sighed. As if she didn’t have enough guy trouble already. Not that she knew what Dean had said, but she could guess. Both guys had been in some sort of conflict since last spring, and the entire school knew it. It was only due to Mike's non-violent nature that it hadn't gotten to a fistfight yet. And so there was a certain tension always bubbling below the surface. Dean always seemed to have it out for Mike, ever since Mike took a stand and told Pierre what an asshole he was, rather than Dean who congratulated him.

Pierre was an asshole. Payton was the first in line to admit that. But Dean was certainly no angel child either. Most of the school just wasn’t aware of it yet. And so far, Dean and the other students were also unaware of the vampires in their class. But it scared Payton to think she had no control over that secret. All she knew was that if it got out, she and her sister would go down with those vampires. Payton could imagine what would happen. How the vampires would most likely kill anyone who found out. In fact, she didn't have to do much imagining. It had been one of her nightmares from a couple of hours ago.

A couple of minutes after he had left Payton's sight in front of the school, Mike walked in and took his seat next to her. “Why do these classes have to start so early in the morning? I like to sleep.” He stated, getting some agreeing nodded from a group of students who just walked by. Payton could tell Mike wasn't enjoying his morning, even without her empathic powers. So she smiled, deciding not to bring up the thing with Dean. She hoped a little teasing would lift his spirits. “You know, you can sleep at night. But I know you and my guess is that you have been gaming all night.” She said, looking at him.

She was right. He had been playing games all night. “Yes I know. But my mom gave me this new game before I got here and I couldn’t help myself. Tonight I will go to bed early okay?” Mike glanced at her again with a little smile, the one that usually made Payton realize she wasn't his mom, despite promising Diana, Mike's mom, to look out for him. Payton smiled back and then said: “Just saying, if you want to pass this year you should work a little harder than you did last year.” Sometimes she just felt like she had to guide him in the right direction. And most of the time he listened, so everybody gained.

A few minutes later the teacher started talking about their town history, Payton's mind drifted off almost right away. As per tradition, juniors started off the year learning of the history of Waterfall Creek, in preparation for fall fest where one students essay on the town's history was selected by the Culture Committee. Payton knew that history all too well, so this semester was going to be easy. But also painfully confronting. She was bound to be reminded of how her mom was a debutante, of how they were killed that day in 1993 and now she'd also have to watch and see Jason the vampire gloat of his unfair advantage. Then Payton frowned. He wasn't in the classroom.

She looked up when Mike poked her and she saw that the teacher was looking at her. “Miss Silverstone, can you answer the question? Or are the trees outside more interesting to you?” The teacher spat out. Payton had been warned for Mrs. Marin. Then, just as Payton was about to admit her defeat the doors opened, and Jason walked in. Just like that Payton's inability to answer the question was bumped to the bottom of Mrs. Marin's annoyance list. "Care to explain yourself?" Mrs. Marin yelled, since Jason was walking away from her to the back of the class. Jason then turned around and looked at the rest of the people in the classroom. "I'm new. Couldn't find the classroom. I'm sorry."

For a couple of seconds the teacher didn't move, and Mike thought she'd turn to dust if someone poked her. Then Mrs. Marin breathed out sharply, before walking back to the board. "We're on page 7. Keep up." She said quickly, before turning her attention back on the rest of the class. She seemingly forgot Payton was distracted earlier, and just continued teaching her class, to Payton's relief. She then opened her notebook and started writing some stuff down. That was a close call. And all because of Jason's late entry. Maybe Claire and Seth’s conversation had some effect. That or he was making a statement, which being late on the second day certainly wasn’t. And if that was the case, Payton didn't know what it meant. But she sure spend the next 20 minutes thinking about it, until suddenly a little note fell down in front of her. She opened it and found the sloppy handwriting of Mike on the inside.

‘Lunch together?’ It read. She folded the paper the other way and thought about it. She wanted to spend time with him, maybe talk about the Dean situation, but she still had to do a lot for the newspaper before the deadline. Things that would take twice as long with the little amount of sleep she had. And she also didn't want to give in to the transparent attempt of Mike to distract her from whatever was on her mind. She didn't want her friends to notice how startled she was by the arrival of these vampires. How worried she was for their safety, how the real reason for her distracted mind was that she was trying to find a way to keep everyone safe if things went south.

So she took a pen and wrote down: ‘Sorry, no lunch today. Deadline @ newspaper’ she put down the note in front of him and when he opened it he sighed. His worry only grew more, but Payton was already focused back on her notebook again for him to say something about it. He then looked over at Samantha, and recalled she had gotten a second strike for being half an hour late in class after lunch yesterday. Was Samantha putting all the workload on Payton? Mike knew Payton and Samantha weren’t exactly friends, but up until last year they had been able to work together fine. He then looked at the teacher who seemed annoyed with both of them, but he did like he hadn’t noticed, and wrote down what was on the board.

When the bell rang again he quickly collected his stuff and waited for Payton, who was finishing writing down the homework assignment. The sooner she was out of this classroom the better, but if she didn’t do the right homework she was going to be in Mrs. Marin's bad graces for potentially the rest of the school year. So she made sure to write down the pages, closed her notebook and packed her things together to go to her next class.

Then, just as she was about to meet up with Mike at the door, the teacher yelled out 'hold on' and Payton froze in her steps. She closed her eyes and sighed, before opening them again and looking at Mike. "Front of the school after econ?" Payton said, nodding to Mike as he walked out of the classroom. But to Payton's surprise the teacher was not talking to her.

When she turned towards the teacher she saw her looking at the vampire. Payton looked between him and her teacher, and looked towards the hallway where Mike had now left. She could leave, and praise herself lucky that the teacher didn't call her out. But she knew she should probably stay, because there was no way she trusted Jason alone in a classroom with a teacher. And so as the classroom cleared out, Jason approached the desk and Payton grabbed her bag where she started to search around clumsily, to stretch her time in the classroom.

Jason noticed, of course. And he knew exactly why she was doing it. He probably wouldn't trust anyone from his kind alone in a classroom with a teacher either. In fact, this was exactly one of the things James warned them about. Not to be isolated with one single person. So somehow, Jason felt good to know Payton was there. He now had a chance to show he could be trusted. "Is there anything wrong?" He asked, as he stood in front of the teacher's desk. The lady opened up her folder, and pulled out a paper. "Not yet. But you will need to fill these in. Administration noted you left these open. There's a copy for your brother, Seth, in there too. Please deliver these to the administration as soon as possible." Payton sighed of relief when Jason nodded and walked towards the door. “Administration is in the central hall...” The teacher then said. "Got it." He replied, before putting the papers in his bag.

Payton was gone when he looked up again and he sighed. So far he hadn’t had an interaction with her, but he knew it would be unavoidable. Like Claire and Seth yesterday, although that was mostly a coincidence. Seth’s words from last night then returned to Jason, and he rubbed his temples as he recalled the conversation. “Show them our humanity? Seth, there isn’t exactly much room for small-talk with the witches in James’ plan. We’re supposed to report on the town and the people. James told us not to engage with them until further notice.” “Yeah well too late. I engaged. And if we don’t turn this around, they might engage back. And I’m not fighting two teenage girls.”

Seth did have a point. One that went against the mission, but a point regardless. But right now Jason was too conflicted to make a decision. Maybe he could try to get to the Silverstones, but he had no choice in doing what James asked. And he also knew in hindsight he and Seth were the only people capable of doing this. Where Lauren and Nate were perfect for the original plan; infiltrate modern society to get a feel of the people in town, Seth and Jason had by far the most experience in dealing with 'hostiles'. Only in this case, they were the hostiles themselves.

Jason then walked through the hallway, and grabbed the little yellow sticky note that read four things: Electives Music French Literature. Jason nodded, reminding himself that at least he had been able to list his own electives, and not those of Lauren or Nate. He sighed again and then looked around. He noticed several students were sitting together doing something that looked like homework. Three of those people were Mike, Mila and Katie, and Jason grabbed out his notebook. He wrote down three lines of text, before putting the notebook away and heading to literature class. If James wanted information, he was going to get it.

Payton saw the whole thing happen from across the Great Hall, but she relaxed a bit when Jason ascended the stairs up to the first floor. For a few seconds she considered following him, but then she recalled what Claire had said about starting a war, and so she just walked to her newspaper desk and sat down. But the image of the people in Jason’s classroom being completely defenseless stuck inside her brain. She was worried. She worried about everyone these days. Those stupid vampires really had screwed everything up.

She then checked the clock, and smiled when she realized Claire was in the middle of Englath right now. With a grin on her face Payton texted Claire. “English run-over?” she typed, and Claire’s reply is a single exhaustion emoji. Payton smiled at her phone, then her smile faded. “Them?” Claire had written, and Payton bit her lip. “Nothing happened so far.” Payton typed to settle Claire’s mind. And maybe to convince herself a little bit too. And it did help things, along with the fact that she spend her elective in her little office resting her eyes a little. It managed to pull her all the way through sixth period, after which Payton crawled into bed right away, and her eyes closed again.

A rude interruption came a little while later when a loud bang across the hallway awoke Payton. Payton practically jumped out of her bed, and looked around her room frantically for a couple of seconds. Claire then looked up from her drawing, and got out of bed as Payton walked to the door and opened it. Payton then frowned and tried to comprehend anything that was being said, but there was mainly silence in the other room right now. Then, Payton briefly glanced to her right, and she spotted Mila and Katie walking up to Katie’s room.

"This freshman walked into me and they just walked on without even apologizing. Just continued talking to their friends. I swear some kids here lack a basic dose of respect." Mila said with a sigh. "Although some new people at the school I would not mind bumping into." she added with a smirk at the end. Payton then closed the door after she caught on who Mila meant.

“So that economics class. International trade. If had known this class would be dedicated to me, I would have been more excited." Mila said as she sat down on the little chair in Katie’s dorm. Katie shook her head smiling. "You would have known had you not been distracted by some guy." she commented, and Mila blushed a bit before turning to another subject. “So, what’s the deal with Samantha and Dean? Are they dating?” Mila asked, and Katie shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know if Dean really cares about her, but Sam is crazy about him.”

Mila nodded, and then recalled the invite. “Are you going to the party?” she asked, and Katie nodded. “We should meet up before. We’re basically the only ones who live at the school, right? We can go to his house together?” Mila suggested, and Katie looked up. “Yeah. Good idea. We’ll meet up here.” She said, then walking over to her dresser, picking up some nail polish colors. “Can you do mine? You know I’m so bad at that.” Katie smiled, and Mila complied with a chuckle. “Sure. Come here.”

Over at the end of the hallway, the conversation was definitely not about nail polish. "Oh stop complaining" Lauren said. "They're the Silverstones. You get to be around them, figure out how their magic works." She smiled as if it was the single greatest thing ever. Of course Lauren would be a fan. But Jason was quick to shatter that image. "And if I make one wrong move, Payton Silverstone will personally cut off my head. And thanks to you and Nate, Seth and I have to be in classrooms full of students 6 hours a day without having prepared for that." He stated.

Lauren rolled her eyes and laid down on the bed. "Yeah well, I thought it'd be easier. After being a teacher in Chicago I thought I was good with groups of students. But teenagers are... hormonal. And the smell of sex that hangs around in these hallways." She pinches her nose dramatically, and Jason shakes his head. "They just weren't supposed to be here." He then said softly, as he puts the final book into the bookshelf. "The Silverstones were supposed to live in Texas, and this was supposed to be a simple mission. Not tiptoe-ing around the most powerful witches on the planet." He groaned. "At least Seth is taking it well." Lauren said with familiar optimism that Jason always admired in her. "But then again he's always been the social type. On the contrary of you." she adds, and Jason catches her squinting her eyes for a second, judging him for it. But he doesn't care. He had his reasons for being careful with people.

But he had to give credit to Seth. Last night Jason had found Seth’s notebook on the desk, containing notes from classes like Math, English and social studies. On top of one of the pages he had written ‘Englath’, which Jason didn’t understand at all. Must have been some sort of code, he figured. “So where is he now?” Lauren then asked, and Jason looked up. It was Tuesday evening now, but Jason didn’t recall anything special on the social calendar. Except for one thing. “Doing exactly the opposite of what he’s supposed to do, which is to blend in.” Jason said, as he walked to the window.

Across the school’s yard, and barely within reach from the window of their room, Jason spots a group of teens at the track field. Most of them are wearing a special jersey, one he’s spotted throughout the school several times. But some of them are standing around in their regular gym clothes. None of them seem older than 16, except for Seth. Jason looked up when Lauren chuckled, and frowned at her. "This is so not funny Lauren.” He said, looking back out of the window. Lauren shrugs. “Seth joining the track team is arguably the funniest thing I’ve seen this decade.” She said, before walking back to the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell James so you won’t have to be the blamed messenger.” She said. Jason was still looking outside when Lauren sighed and walked up behind him, demanding a proper goodbye. “I’ll see you back at home okay?” She said as she hugged him before she left the room and the high school behind her and ran towards the woods.

Once she gets there she called out Nate’s name at the spot they said they would meet back up when she came back from the school. A couple of seconds later, Nate emerged from behind the trees, his hands covered in blood but his face bearing a smile. It’s the type of expression Lauren can’t help but stare at, because it makes him possibly ten times hotter in her eyes. Or at least he would be without all the blood. “Rabbit?” She said as he approached her. He nodded, and then leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him back, but then gently places her hand on his chest. “Time to go back home.” She said. Nate shook his head. “Not yet. I need more.” He said, and Lauren frowns. Nate then looked behind her, in the direction of the school about a mile away. “Lauren I still want to do this. The school thing. We can still do it, if we try hard enough.” He whispered.

Lauren breathed out deeply, and rested her forehead against his for a bit. “Nate we can’t. I was just there, the smell is everywhere I don’t think…” “Hey, hey look at me.” Nate said as he quickly wiped off his hands on his shirt before placing both of them on the side of her face, looking into her eyes lovingly. “We can do this. If they can, so can we, okay. You belong there.” Lauren stopped talking at his touch, and just closed her eyes for a second after Nate reassured her. “Maybe next year.” Lauren then said, before she opened her eyes again and nodded at him. “James and Elisabeth wouldn’t be able to get us enrolled now anyways. We’ll do it next year.” She said, making it almost sound like a mantra. Next year. Nate sighed, but agrees. “Fine. Next year. Alright then, let’s get back home.” He said, and the two of them started running home, which is almost across town.

Halfway through their journey they both abruptly stopped though, and they looked at each other with questions in their eyes as they found a drained human body at their feet. “I didn’t.” Nate said quickly, but Lauren took his hand to let him know she never thought he did. But that did mean it was someone else, and she started the deduction to determine who it could be. “Wasn’t any of us. I know that. They wouldn’t risk upsetting the Silverstones now that they know we’re here. Every human injury would be blamed on us.” She said. Nate looked around and nodded. “Yeah and besides Alyson and Dylan aren’t even here yet.”

A few miles back, Seth finished filling out the form and walked back to the group. “Excuse me, where do I deliver this?” He said with the paper in hand. Three of the runners looked behind them from where Seth was approaching them, and Justin frowned. “You're a sophomore. Early admissions closed Mondays.” He said. “This is open tryouts for the freshman group.” He continues. Lincoln, one of the other runners walks up to Justin and his teammates. "Check his times. Maybe he's good." He said as he took the page, looked it over quickly before handing it to Justin. “Lincoln, that's not how it works." Justin said as he starts to look up at Seth.
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"Sorry dude, Coach can’t consider you unless…” Then his eyes caught Seth's times and he cut of his sentence. Justin is baffled for a few seconds. “That’s 0.02 below my record from last year?” Justin then looked up at Seth while one of the teammates grabbed the paper and gave it to the coach. "You can't be that fast." He said, recalling his run last year when he broke his personal record. It had taken everything he had and he had been building up to it this entire season. Seth shrugs and Lincoln nodded sympathetically at him. "Don't worry, Justin is not used to someone challenging him. He is by far the best runner out of all of us." he said. Seth smiled and then looked up when the coach blew his whistle. “Maybe not anymore.”

“Let's show these freshman we don't sit around." Coach Fieldman yelled. "Saphire. Da.. Dawson. Who is this Dawson kid?" Coach asked. Seth put up his hand. "On the track, now." The coach said once he saw him. "Gunner, Lincoln… track.” he added. Soon enough, the majority of the freshmen gathered around the track, and Seth was getting pushed towards the starting line, which he really wished they wouldn’t do. “What, now?” Justin looked aside and nodded. “Of course now. What? Can’t do it? You come here showing off with your time, you better deliver.” He said. Then he looked ahead of him and focuses on nothing but the starting sound.

Seth frowned and watched Justin. Then, before he knew it, the starting sound went off and Seth was not nearly ready. He saw the other three guys starting to move, and he put his one leg in front of the other. Inside his head the sound of a thumping heartbeat resonated. Not his own. He looked aside for a split-second, and sees Justin right beside him. Another thump. And another. And another… The cheers grew louder and pierced through Seth’s brain, and then the cheers climaxed. Seth sees the white line underneath him, and looked aside. On his left, Justin is roughly a few inches in front of him, and Seth sighs deeply. Maybe this was a big mistake.

“Sorry newbie. Better luck next time.” Justin said once more, before he took in the congratulations. He then headed to the locker room quickly enough, to Seth’s surprise. Two of the other guys walked off to the side and hugged their respective cheerleader girlfriends while Seth passed them by. A few compliments came his way, but Seth barely paid attention. Halfway through the yard he sees Jason, and he has a look on his face he hadn’t seen often. But before Seth could start defending himself, Jason pointed at his phone. Seth then checked his messages and when he reached Jason he frowned. “A body? What the hell happened?”

Wednesday August 22nd, 2007

The following morning, the whole cafeteria was buzzing about last night’s track tryouts, even to the point where Katie tried to get Justin to explain how track works. “Really, it’s not that complicated. There are a few rules, but basically you just run as fast as you can.” Justin explained. Claire couldn’t help but smile a bit, even though the subject was Seth Dawson.

“Yeah but what about points and stuff. Don’t you win points when you run the fastest?” Katie asked. Mike thought it was funny how Katie knew so little about track. Then he remembered that Katie was usually at some social gathering with Samantha when there were track competitions. Sometimes Katie joined them for campfire at the beach, and she had even joined them on Mike’s movie night three weeks ago. But now that he thought of it, she had never been at a track competition. “Hey, why don’t you just come with us to the homecoming competition? We’re up against the tornados, and their best runner just graduated. Right Justin?” Mike looked aside, and Justin nodded in between two bites of breakfast. Mike then looked back at Katie, slightly chuckling because of Justin’s hasty reply.

“Oh. Sure. Yeah that sounds fun.” Katie said with a hesitant smile. She didn’t know what to expect, but it wouldn’t be like the nights she spend at Samantha’s house during sleepovers where they flipped through magazine and did the quizzes in them. “Really?” Mila then said, and Katie shrugged. “Why not.” She smiled, and Mike looked at Mila. “Guess you’re the only outsider now.” He then caught a glimpse of Jason and Seth, walking into the school cafeteria being greeted by some of the school's athletes. Claire noticed them too.

“I don’t know if I like those guys.” Justin said. Mike looked up and noticed how three girls have joined them in the ten seconds that they sat down at their table. “They do seem very popular with the ladies. Maybe you should take tips, Justin. When was your last girlfriend again?” “Speak for yourself.” Justin replied to Mike. Mila rolled her eyes as she sat in between them. “I’d rather sit in between two toddlers throwing food around the table then listen to you two bicker about how many times you got laid.” She said, as she got up. Katie looked up and smiled. “See you in math.” She said.

Payton then noticed Mila getting up, and she got up herself. “Claire, can you come upstairs as soon as you’re done?” Payton asked her younger sister. Claire nodded, before looking back at a few tables down. Payton just rolled her eyes and put away her tray. “Everything okay with your sister?” Justin then asked, and Claire bit her lip. “Yeah, she’s fine.” She replied, brushing off the subject as she returned her focus to the scene that took place a few tables away.

Seth and Jason didn't actually eat anything, but neither one of those three girls seemed to notice. Seth tried his best to carry a conversation with the girls, but he also noticed Jason was anything but happy with it. After a couple of minutes, he sighed and got up. "Excuse me ladies." He said, all but dragging Jason with him as he walked away from the table they had been sitting on. As soon as they were outside of the cafeteria Seth regretted that. "Sorry. I shouldn't have dragged you along like that. But you’re not exactly selling it at this point. Yes, there is a body in town. But we have nothing to do with that. So stop acting guilty.” Seth said, and Jason lifted his eyebrow.

“You know that won’t matter for the Silverstones. They’ll blame it on us regardless. So I’m sorry. In the prospect of another vampire dropping bodies, I don’t exactly have the time to chat with some cheerleaders. “Jason said, readjusting his bag on his shoulder. “Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I don’t belong here. I’m glad you found a thing you can put some energy in. And I will defend that to James. But I’m not good at this. Even if there wasn’t a body to distract me from this mission, I totally suck at socializing with them.”

Back at the Dawson house they realized that socializing with the humans had taken a back seat for keeping them alive instead. “I say we pull the mission.” James said, from the little desk in the living room where he had been writing for the past fifteen minutes. This was also the first time he had spoken since Nate had asked what Jason and Seth’s opinion was on the drained human body. “No.” Lauren said, as she sits down on the couch.

Nate wraps his arm around her almost instinctively. “Lauren, listen if James feels…” “Nate, I love you but shut up. I talked to Jason last night, alright.” Nate’s arm falls from her shoulder, but he quickly lifts it up again to calm down his girlfriend. She returns her attention back to James. “They’re doing fine. They had nothing to do with any of this. Don’t you trust them even a little bit? Don’t you trust me?”

“I trusted you. And then you came to tell me you wouldn’t be able to go to school.” James scoffed, before he walked off to James and Elisabeth’s bedroom. Elisabeth looked at Lauren, and rolled her eyes. Nate looked back at Lauren once Elisabeth left the room and tilted his head. “Why are you doing this?” He said, and it sounds a lot like a husband would ask when his wife decided to take him shopping. It’s some type of protest against it, for he doesn’t want to see his family broken like this. But it’s also a sign of support.

He asked her why she does it, but at the same time he also tells her that he will stand by her no matter what. Lauren smiled. “Because our lives should be about more than just surviving. It’s time we start living. It’s time they start living.” Lauren looked him in the eyes and kissed him softly. Nate didn’t like this type of PDA in the middle of the living room but he doesn’t do anything to stop her either. In fact he let her wrap her hands around his neck and deepen the kiss, until the sound of a closing door was heard throughout the entire house.

“We’re here.” A voice said from the foyer, and both Nate and Lauren sighed deeply before they got up from the couch. Lauren first walked up to Dylan and greeted him, before smiling from ear to ear as she walked up to Alyson and hugged her tightly. “I thought you guys wouldn’t be back for a while.” Lauren said, as Nate and Dylan walked off to check out the shape of their car – the one they dragged around every time they lived in the same house to build on it. The one they would rebuild and take apart and then repeat the whole process again with newer technology available. “Yeah, but then Nate texted us about a drained body and about Jason and Seth at the school and well, we had to come back.” Alyson explained.

Lauren couldn’t even begin to complain about Nate just texting Alyson and Dylan like that before discussing things with James. In fact now she didn’t even mind, because now that Alyson and Dylan were here things could turn out for the better. "I'm just glad you guys made it here so soon." Lauren said. Alyson smiled. "Me too." She said and then she looked up as James entered the living room again.

Lauren didn’t make eye contact with him, and instead silently announced she'd be in the garage with Dylan and Nate, while Alyson put her bag on the foyer table and walks up to James in the living room. "What's going on?" She asked, as she came to a pause in front of him. She crossed her arms, her face clear with judgement. How did James manage to mess this up in less than 10 days? James looked at her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I don't know, Aly. A lot of things are not going according to plan. But..." He pauses for a second, looking around in the living room which is empty aside from the two of them, a rare sight considering there's formally 8 vampires living here. "I think I know why." He then continued, and Alyson frowned. "I think you're not the only one of your bloodline to have come to see your family."

The news of Alyson and Dylan’s return quickly reached the vampire high school students, and Seth awaited Jason outside of his classroom when he got the text. As the door opened, Seth nodded politely at the students that walked passed him. Some of them didn’t bother returning the gesture. Maybe they felt like juniors shouldn’t show respect to sophomores. Maybe they were all spoiled brats. Then Jason emerged from the classroom.

“How did it go? I bet it wasn’t completely horrible.” Seth said as Jason walked towards him. Jason looked up at him and frowned. “I’m not a baby, Seth. I can handle myself.” Seth rolled his eyes and followed Jason through the hallway. “I know. Anyways, Alyson and Dylan got home.” He then said, his voice turning serious all of the sudden. Jason looked aside and nodded. “Good. Then we can clear out this whole situation.” Jason said, then he gets a text and he stops in his tracks.

“Alyson asked if Alyssa is with us.” He said softly, but Seth heard him just fine. “Alyssa?” He asked, as he tried to read the message upside down from where he was now standing across from Jason. Jason nodded as he put his phone away. “Of course it’s the first person Alyson thinks of when a body shows up. But you don’t think…” Jason said, looking around carefully before doing so, as to not alert anyone. Seth’s optimistic energy melted away immediately. “No, Jason. Alyssa is fine. She’s busy with something, but she’s not dropping human bodies here, in this town. She would have told us.” He said, as he went through his blonde hair with his hand. “Right?” For a second neither one of them knows what to do or say.

“It’s not her though.” Seth then said, confidence in his best returning, and Jason looked up. “I know.” He replied, before he grabs a piece of paper with his class schedule. “Another elective hour. Great.” Jason sighs, but Seth is not in the mood for a teasing comment. Not while he knows Alyson is at the house, potentially being given the perfect motivation to hate her nemesis, his best friend, even more. However Alyson isn’t at the Dawson house for long, because when Seth walks into their room at the end of the day, Alyson is sitting in one of the chairs.

“Looks nice enough.” She said as Seth walked in, as if they were just discussing the weather. “Neighborhood could have used a bit more research.” She then jokingly added, as she got up to embrace Seth. He smiled and threw his bag in the corner of the room. “Alyson… I had no idea you’d be…here. You guys got here quick.” He said, sitting down on the bed across from her. Alyson shrugged. “When some monster drains humans in a town you once called home, you find the fastest way there.” She said, and Alyson's tone indicated she was not here for small talk.

And just like that, Seth’s fear turned reality. He immediately looked away from her and sighed. “Aly, it wasn’t her.” He said, his teeth a bit clenched because he has had to defend Alyssa to her a few times too many this past decade. But Alyson isn’t done. “Just like it wasn’t her in San Diego? Just like it wasn’t her in Vermont? When did she get here, Seth?” Alyson asked.

This is when Jason entered, and he frowned at what he saw. “Aly, what’s going on? Is this about your stupid feud with Alyssa again?” Jason asked, smacking his bag on the table. Alyson lifts her chin but didn’t look at him. Jason replied her childish game by rolling his eyes. “She’s not here, and she hasn’t been in forever. In fact she is keeping her distance from us, so we certainly didn’t call her over here.” Jason stated, before revealing a fake wall of books in the bookshelf which hides their stock-pile of blood.

He opened one of the bottles, and took a few sips. “And I’d appreciate if you stop throwing around your accusations which are solely based on a century old feud.” He then said, as he grabbed his bag again and walked back out of the room. It was almost time for dinner, but for the first time this week he would not rather spend it in his room. But he didn't feel like going to the cafeteria either, so he headed outside and found himself a quiet spot outside to read a book. Anything not to think about the possibility that someone was draining humans.

Seth was standing beside the bed and looked from Alyson to the door where Jason had just left again. Turning back towards Alyson he tilted his head. “He’s right Aly. This needs to stop.” He said in a severe tone. Alyson grabbed her coat. “Only this time it wasn’t me. This time it came from James.” She said, with a look that explained she was surprised by it too. Seth frowned for a second, and then heard the door close across the hall followed by two voices talking on the third floor hallway. “Okay. We’ll discuss this more at the house tonight, okay?” He asked, and Alyson nodded. “Take care of yourself, Seth. Don’t let people fool you.” She said softly, before she pulled the door closed behind her.

Meanwhile, Payton rolls her eyes during Justin’s latest story, having realized that if she didn’t actively push back against the idea of Seth joining the track team, her friends might actually grow to like him. “You know I honestly don’t understand. He’s a sophomore, there’s a reason only freshmen get to join. If the coach starts allowing this, then what prevents other teams from adding professional runners to their team?” Payton asked. Mike frowned a bit and cleared his mouth before he said; “How is Seth Dawson to be compared with a professional runner? Sure he’s probably fast, but not that fast.” He said. Justin lifted an eyebrow, and Payton sensed Justin is intimidated, regardless of how much he tried to hide it. Payton put her fork in her salad once more, and sighed deeply. If only they knew.

“Back to school party? No I don’t think that’s for me.” Claire said as she walks to the cafeteria with Katie. “Oh come on, it’ll be just like those nights at the beach with the bonfire, last spring.” Katie replied, trying to convince Claire to the best of her abilities. But Claire didn’t change her mind. “Sorry Katie, but when I’m with you guys at the beach I feel normal. When I’m at a party hosted by Dean Lewis, school jock, I don’t exactly feel comfortable. Wouldn’t be the first party where there was rumored to be drugs involved.” Claire said. This turned Katie silent for a bit. “Fine, you don't have to come, Claire. But Mila and Mike are still going. Right Mike?” Katie asked as she walked into the cafeteria.

Mike puts up his thumb while taking another bite of lasagna, and Claire shook her head at him with a smile. “You’re really going to a party hosted by Dean?” she asked, and Mike frowned. “If there’s a party, there will be plenty of people. He probably won’t even know I’m there. Chill.” Mike replied.

Claire then shrugged and sat down at the table. “So what were you discussing before?” she then asked. “Payton was talking about Track tryouts.” Justin replied. Claire looked from Justin to Payton. “Are you writing about the track team tryouts?” Claire asked her sister. “No. I’m not writing about that. We have sports people for that.” Payton replied, before she got up and angrily put away her tray. She did, however, have other things to write about. Things that still hadn’t been finished. Things that she left them wondering about, as Payton left the table without saying anything more.

As she walked to her spot, Payton picked up chatter from the party she heard Katie mention earlier, but she blocks it all out and a while later she stepped over moss, ground and tree-root. She pushed a few branches of a tree to the side once she made it on top of the hill and stepped into the little open spot. There used to be a tree here, but they had to take it down because it interfered with the lighting for the track-field. That was several years ago, and shortly after, Payton discovered this little area. It was her little oasis.

She came here to write, or to listen to old piano music. She came here to think, or to be alone and empty her brain of all the things she had endured during the day - she loved the crowd in the newspaper, but she sometimes wished she could shut them all up. She also came here to feel safe. And in the midst of all the current vampire drama, that seemed not so strange. The door across from her room appeared in her mind again and she sighed deeply.

Her mind refused to let it go. Then she saw movement in the bushes, and her instincts proved not to be entirely useless. She grabbed one of the branches off the ground. "Is someone there?" she asked, but then she realized she was probably looking like an insane person while it was most likely just a squirrel. So she sat back down. She buried her face in both of her hands and breathed in deeply.

A few seconds later he emerged, his hands in the air. "I didn't mean to scare you." Jason said calmly, eying the weapon she was waving in front of her in a reflex. Payton had jumped up and immediately looked around to see if he was alone. "You were asking if someone was there. I heard it from over there at the school yard. I came to check if you were okay.” "You were spying on me in the school yard?" Payton asked, more angry now than before. Jason sighed. "Of course not." Jason said, then dropping his hands despite the fact that she had not given any sign of dropping her improvised weapon. He could take an 18 year old witch. Despite the stories he’d heard. She was a legend, although more a rumor in terms of just how many vampires she had killed. But seeing her now, Jason started to believe it. "You are Payton Silverstone. You have every reason not to trust us." He said. "And you have no reason to trust me, either." He continued. "But I'm asking you to do so anyways." He really wasn’t good at socializing.

Payton shook her head in anger. "Stay the hell away from me." She yelled, as she grabbed her stuff and holds it closely to her body. Like a shield, almost. She then walked by him and dropped the branch right in front of him. She stands there for a few seconds, looking him in the eye. "You better move back to whatever hellhole it is you came from." She then said, the words sounding sharp like daggers. She then started to walk away from the little spot they were in, her back turned towards the vampire as if to show him she had no fear. But on the inside she was trembling.

"I get you're mad. I just wanted to ask you something. About vampires. If you have been in contact with any lately..." He then said, stopping Payton in her tracks right away. It’s an odd question. Even worse is the fact that an overwhelming feeling of concern radiates from Jason. Jason was concerned about something…

For a second, her mind travels to the two vampires who were here last month. Her sister had no idea, because Payton killed them. Like that, she had killed 7 vampires already, in the 10 years she had been on this school. She would drop them into the bushes and at night she would return to bury them if they were not yet gone. Her killing methods of vampires weren't perfected yet. She sometimes nearly missed the heart. Something she would make sure she didn't do with this one. "Do you think I'm going to talk to you about anything?!" She said, raising her voice a bit. She knew she shouldn't ignore this, but she is too busy spilling her anger at him to pay attention to it properly. "Leave. I haven’t seen any of your friends. I suggest you look for them elsewhere.”

Jason picked up on the fact that she didn't look at him. "Of course you think I’m one of those. It’s the only type of vampire you know.” Jason mumbled, but Payton could hear him despite of it. He then looked up and shook his head. “If I wanted to hurt you, I would have done it already." He said. Payton lifted her eyebrow "Is that supposed to be reassuring ?" Jason crossed his arms. “Yes." he replied. Payton moved her chin up and looked at him. "Right." Payton then said, before she continued to walk as far away from him as she could. Then she stopped abruptly.

"Look what we have here. Jason Dawson" A guy said. Jason uncrossed his arms, and took a small step back when he saw the guy a few feet away from them. He was just standing there. In his long black coat and his shoulder length hair. But he looked at Payton in the same way Jason would look at a deer while he was hunting. "So it's true." he continued. "The Dawsons moved back to their town."

Payton’s breathing speeded up, and instinctively she grabbed her boot. However this time there was no athame. And when she looked up again there was also no vampire standing there. Instead, there were 2 guys on the ground, throwing themselves at each other. They weren't quiet either, with their growls and insults which could be heard from down the lawn. A couple of students were already looking their way, and Payton knew things would go south if she didn't act soon. "Hey you." Payton then called out. "Why don't you do what you really came here to do."

It was enough for the vampire to get distracted, and as he launched towards her she subtly stretched up her hand stopping him in his tracks. For a second Jason was baffled by her courage and most of all her power, but then he saw the opportunity for what it was and he threw the guy away from Payton, at least ten feet past the tree line. “Go.” He said as he turned around and looked at Payton, but all she did was drop her bag and put her hair in a ponytail. Jason tilted his head slightly, wishing she wouldn’t do that. What was she waiting for? He then sighed and as he was about to take off, he heard the students down he lawn whisper.

A few seconds later, Mr. Washington’s voice echoed through the yard. Payton looked behind her once, as Mr. Washington was yelling at Jason. When she did that, Jason noticed a little smile but her eyes were sad, maybe even scared. Was she thanking him? He had no idea. But Mr. Washington certainly wasn’t thanking him for rescuing them all from a vicious vampire. Instead, the principal was taking Jason to his office.

"Would you care explaining yourself, Mr. Dawson?" Principal Washington asked as he closed the door to his office behind them. Jason sat on the assigned chair, throwing his bag against the desk in front of him. "I don't know. He attacked me, came after me out of nowhere..." Mr. Washington opened a file with Jason's name on it, and wrote some stuff down. "Okay. Well we have a strict policy against violence. I'm aware that you are new to our school, so I'm going to give you a warning. But fist I need you to tell me why you were on that part of school property to begin with.” Mr. Washington looked at him with a severe expression. “We recently had some problems with students and... unauthorized substances on our premises. You don't know anything about that would you?" he continued.

Jason felt like he could punch him in the face, but he controlled himself. He had to control himself. "No, I don't. Like you said I'm new here, I barely know where the science classroom is. I can't tell you where the school's drug dealers hang out. Have a nice day." He said, before getting up and walking out of the office. He didn't have to take this. He was four times his age. And just because he wore clothes that made him look like a 17-year old, didn't mean he had to become a pushover.

In the meantime Payton found herself in the woods, surrounded by trees and as she looked around she heard leaves everywhere. Then suddenly she felt someone grabbing her from behind and in a matter of seconds she was pinned against a tree, a set of hands on her throat. She expected Jason to be the face she saw, instead it was the vampire from before. Her back scraping against the tree, she was being lifted into the air with ease, and as the grip on her throat felt tighter she slowly felt the last bit of air leave her lungs. Her legs were kicking, but soon enough they too gave up the fight, much like her hands. Breathe, breathe, breathe she repeated in her mind, not giving thought to using her powers now that the supply of oxygen to her brain was being cut off. Then she heard a loud voice, but Payton’s eyes blinked shut for her to see the source of it.

The source was Seth, who came in running from the edge of the tree line, walking into the tree line at first but as soon as he distanced himself he bridged the gap of a few hundred feet. As he did that his voice then made a loud growl, preventing the vampire from sinking his teeth into Payton's neck. Payton opened her eyes again when she crashed to the ground, coughing, and she tried to take in her surroundings. In between blinks she saw the two vampires struggling together. Her attacker clearly had the upper hand, but Payton was unable to focus to use her powers. Then, she saw another person appearing in between the trees, before she blacked out.

A few moments later she looked up at the sound of Claire's voice, and she opened her eyes again, groaning because of the pain. Claire pressed her index finger against her lips, before expecting Payton’s face with both of her hand. Payton let her, while her eyes glanced at the distance. She could hear the growls, but it sounded like a dozen animals fighting over one prey. Once Claire was sure, as far as she had any medical knowledge, she supported Payton to get up. She then frowned as she saw Jason grabbing the other vampire in a chokehold, and Seth readjusting one of the bones in his arm.

"Let's call James for this." He said calmly, while wiping the blood from his face. Jason wiped some blood from his cheek. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea." he replied, meanwhile looking around through the trees. He then heard two thumping heartbeats close by, and spots Claire with Payton, the latter trying to get up on her feet, not willing to show weakness to them. Payton didn't seem happy.

But before she could yell, she grabbed a big piece of wood, and pointed her hand at the vampire in between Seth and Jason, aiming the lumber straight in his heart. Then her legs give in, and Claire wa able to support her sister again just in time. Payton manages to pull together enough strength to yell at the two guys in front of her. “Come near me again and I will kill you."

Claire frowned and then watched her sister angrily take off back towards school. "Payton, careful." She said as she increased her pace to catch up. It didn’t take more than a few quick passes. "What was that about? They saved you." Claire said, supporting her sister's arm again. Payton looked aside. "Saving? They’re the reason that vampire was here to begin with. Because of them. And their family, however that even works." Payton mumbled at the end.

They make their way back into the yard and Payton tried to regain some control over her posture. Although everything in her body screamed in pain, she continued to walk on straight. "I told you. They’ve been three days and we get attacked. I mean... I get attacked.. You're fine, right? Are you hurt?" Payton asked worried. Claire looked at the scratch on her arm and she covered it up. There was no point in concerning Payton even more. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Both Seth and Jason stood in the woods, unable to utter anything, their minds racing. “What just happened? We’ve been here less than a week. How could they have tracked us down this fast?” Jason questioned, then looking down at the vampire in front of them. “I have no idea. It doesn’t make any sense at all, really. But one thing does. If this guy was here, it explains the body Lauren and Nate found. We can clear Alyssa’s name of that.” Seth answered, both of them realizing it was not much good news, not enough, to deliver to the Dawson house. It definitely didn’t weigh up to the fact that other vampires were now aware of the fact that the Dawsons lived in Waterfall Creek.

“Do you think they’re okay?” Seth then asked, dusting off his clothes to the best of his ability in the meantime. Jason didn’t bother with any of that, and instead looked towards the school building. It took a while before he finally answered. “They’re stronger than they look.”

Later that night, Jason had heard Mila stopping by in Payton and Claire's room with chamomile tea for her, and her ‘See you tomorrow’ comment as she left the room again at least gave the guys across the hall some indication of how Payton, and Claire, were doing. Three heartbeats had become two again, one of which was beating slow and steady, indicating Payton was asleep. But Claire just couldn’t bring herself to it for some reason, her mind was repeating all of the events that had happened today and sleep came to her only in the early hours of the morning.

Thursday August 23rd, 2007

Logically, Claire was exhausted the next day, but she put up her best smile and tried to focus on the subject they were talking about at breakfast. “Oh. Looks like Dean’s back to school party is postponed.” Mila said with the most sarcastic tone ever, holding up her phone. She was hardly disappointed. "Well, I wasn’t that thrilled to go out this weekend anyways. I want to make some more fall pictures now that the weather hasn’t entirely messed up.” She said to no one in particular. Claire just smiled. "Hey do you guys know where Justin is?" She asked after a few moments. Mila just finished packing her stuff when she looked up. "Yeah. I believe I saw him on the track field with Seth. Maybe he knows more about Jason being dragged to the Principal’s office." Mila said.

Claire watched as Mila left the cafeteria and since Mike was now doing his homework, which was due in 39 minutes, she allowed herself to wonder her thoughts a bit. Yesterday’s fight was way too much of a close call, that was a fact. But there would have been no fight if it hadn’t been for Jason, and later Seth, to help Payton. Whoever the vampire came for, if they hadn’t worked together like they did, things would have ended way worse than a few bruises for Payton. That reminded Claire, and she got up from her seat to go and check on her sister. She didn't bother putting away her tray. Sure Mike wouldn't let croissants go to waste.

Halfway through the Great Hall she stopped when someone called her name. Well, not just someone. When she turned around Seth was standing right behind her. How he thought this was the right way to approach her, she didn’t understand, and so as she turned around she took a step away from him at the same time. “Seth.” She said in a simple way, but her eyes spoke on their own.

Seth knew his time was limited so he rambled: “I’m sorry for yesterday. I didn’t have the chance to speak to you last night, so I wanted to tell you that I wish we didn’t bring this on you guys. It’s not fair.” he said. When he realized she is about to continue walking, he continued talking. "Claire, please. You have to give us another chance. This wasn't us. My family is figuring out who the guy was..." Now Claire looked at him differently.

"That thing was not a guy. He was a..." Claire looked around carefully, then deciding there’s no point in clarifying that. He knew her story. Claire then looked away again and wiped away something below her eye. She blamed the exhaustion. “What do you want me to do? You can’t honestly expect me to trust you after you got my sister beat up.” Seth sighed. He knew they would be blamed for that. It was inevitable. But it still hurt hearing Claire say it like that. “What about when we find out more about this... attack?” he asked. He knew the Silverstones’ history with vampires attacking them. He knew they never learned who killed their parents. Maybe he could give them that much this time. Put a face to the malice.

Claire raised her chin a bit. He had no right to exploit their past trauma to convince her. “He’s your problem. And if another one of you walks onto school property I will not stand for the consequences.” She replied. She was done with this conversation. He had no right, and she had better things to do. Seth nodded, ducking his head and putting his hands in his pockets. At least he tried. But he wasn’t sure if he made things better, or worse.

And he didn’t come much closer to finding out over the course of the next few days. Sure they’d seen each other in class, but Claire had always been in a hurry to leave the classroom, or she was around her friends. They had started to act like a human shield. Don’t come near me or you’ll be endangering them. It worked. The only human he had any contact with of Claire’s friend was Justin. But those efforts didn’t pay off either. Once try-outs were over, Seth got to meet Justin’s competitive side. Not that he regretted joining the team. In fact running, even at a slower speed, helped him get out the energy. Something he needed after being in a classroom six hours a day.

Classrooms where Claire Silverstone was sitting a few rows in front of him. Hallways where Payton Silverstone would walk by and shoot him that look of death. Lunchtime when he would try to act normal with Jason sitting on the other chair. In the past five days, the second week of school, things had calmed down for them though. Unlike last week, people had stopped pausing by at their table and ask them where they were from. Jason or Seth had answered Chicago, which seemed to be enough for the 16 year old girls who then walked away giggling. Seth didn’t mind. Jason did. And so when Seth was at practice, Jason spend his time researching the vampire attack. Jason spent his time doing what Seth promised to Claire Silverstone he’d do. That and avoiding Payton Silverstone, who still blamed them, somehow. It was the biggest topic of discussion at the Dawson house too.

Friday, August 31st, 2007

"The Eureka's. Has to be. Their territory..." "Vincent Taylor has a no-recruitment rule for at least 3 more years for that one time he went to Seattle. He's not risking getting the Anconi on his heels. He can't afford that." James said. Lauren looked up at this. "Afford... What if it's a mercenary? Paid by someone?" she suggested. Elisabeth crossed her arms and nodded. "Could be an option. And if he was old, then he was probably expensive too." She continued. She turned to the board and took off some of the earlier options – enemies they had made over the years, but none of them fit the description Jason and Seth had provided. She then wrote a note with ‘mercenary’ and put it on the board. Nate looked at Jason just like the rest of them did when Jason suddenly went very quiet. "And there's one player on the market who we know can afford that type of money."

It was a terrifying thought, but it was something. And maybe it was enough for Seth to get Claire to agree to talk to him again. ‘Got your number from Justin. We have more info on the attack. Meet me tomorrow at 9AM in the Great Hall? Seth’ Seth texted Claire. There was no reply. Then Seth heard three knocks on his door in the Dawson house, and he looked up to see Jason there. “So there’s this party. Apparently. I just got an invite thing on my phone. I just wanted to remind you that we leave in 2 hours for the hunting trip. Just so you won’t get any ideas about attending a party this weekend where there’s not only half of the school’s students, but also them all being illegally drunk.”

Seth sighed and grabbed the book from his nightstand. “Don’t worry, I’m not that stupid. Just stupid enough to join the track and field team, and text Claire Silverstone with updates as if we’re actually friends.” He said, causing Jason to frown. He then walked in and closed the door. “What? Seth, I thought we were going to lay low. Keep notes in our notebooks about them. Observe.” Jason then saw Seth glance over at the notebook in question, and crossed the room towards it, flipping through it briefly. “What? You didn’t make any notes?” Jason asked, and Seth shrugged. “I’d write the same thing every day.

Payton wants me dead. Claire acts like I’m not even there and Justin realized I’m actually serious competition.” Jason frowned and then shook his head. “I told you the track team was overkill. But at least you don’t have to be in a classroom with Payton. Every time she looked at me I see that guy and I just wonder how he got so close, so fast.” Jason said, then grabbing his phone again when it beeped. “Anyways. See you in two hours in the foyer.” He said, before disappearing into his own room across the hall.

Saturday September 1st, 2007

The next couple of hours went by like they usually did. They’d hunt. They’d feed. And they’d usually do some fight-training to keep their reflexes sharp. Then, several hours after they had been punching each other in the rocky mountains, they returned to the town of Waterfall Creek, barely breaking a sweat. By now, the sun was back on the rise and the birds were singing their song as Seth headed towards the bathroom to shower and change his clothes. He did everything to look presentable for Claire Silverstone. Then, by 8.45 he started descending the stairs to the ground floor. Much like last week, the great hall was quiet, something that only happened on Saturday morning. But it was not too private, as people passed by all the time. It seemed like the perfect place to meet a witch. If she showed up.

Seth had given up hope when the clock in the hallway landed on 9.05, but then a familiar heartbeat appeared on the stairs. A few seconds later, Claire walked into the Great Hall. She stopped a few feet away from Seth, and for a second he thought about bridging the gap. He decided not to when she tilted her head, raising an eyebrow. She was actually looking at him thoroughly, but Seth knew better than to think she was trying to find something about his appearance. She was digging into his brain instead.

He had learned his brain was never safe around her. A flash to when he hunted the night before would cause Claire to tense up in her seat. She may have pretended he didn’t exist, but he knew she was paying more attention to him than before. Which was hard. Being in a classroom still wasn’t something he was used to, and it’d only take one of the adolescent teenagers to cut themselves shaving to make the entire day a living hell for Seth.

“I just want to talk. Thank you, for agreeing to this.” He said. Claire nodded. “My Saturday mornings aren’t that eventful anyways.” She said, a nod to Justin training at this time of the day, and Payton sleeping in. Claire couldn’t sleep much past 9AM, but she wasn’t one of those ‘go for a jog and do yoga’ morning people either. She just enjoyed lying in bed, watching the clouds pass by through her window. But now she was standing in the middle of great hall with a vampire. Payton would crucify her if she knew. All the more reason to get it over quickly.

“We should probably go for a walk. People will be passing by here….” Seth then said, pointing to a group of freshman that had taken a seat on the bench a little bit further. He figured he would try his luck. Claire sighed deeply, then to Seth’s surprise she just started walking. Seth followed, until they were out of Great Hall. “Maybe you can give me a tour while we’re at it? I still don’t know much besides some classrooms and the outside gym field.” He replied. Claire turned around when he said this, the question on her mind just written on her face. “Because it’s in both of our interest if I know where to hide if I need to. Where to be when things get crowded.” He said. Claire then sighed again, much like she did before. Why couldn’t this be an easy exchange of information? But he did have a point. “I guess I can show you a few places.” She mumbled. Seth smiled, already taking this as a victory as it was.

Claire then started describing the main floor, where the nurse’s office, newspaper, principal’s office and cafeteria were the main sights to see. But then they got to a room in the back of the hallway, and Seth felt the mood shift. Claire wasn’t dragging her feet as much as before. Her heartbeat was a tiny bit faster too.

“This is ehm… the atelier.” She said hesitantly. Seth looked at her and noticed her raced heartbeat. Something was wrong. She seemed… nervous. Then he noticed her picture on the wall, and it clicked. She was an artist. Of course she was. “You’re artistic.” He commented, and Claire bent her head. Seth got the message, and said nothing. However he didn’t leave the room like she wanted him to. Instead he stood there.

And then she spoke. “People say that I’m quite good at it.” She said trying to sound casual, but her heartbeat betrayed her. Seth smiled, his back facing towards her so she couldn’t see how this made him happy for succeeding in his plan. She was talking to him. “You have to be. You’re ranked on this fancy board here.” He said, lighting the mood a bit. The effort didn’t go unnoticed. Claire appreciated the compliment, but decided she had been vulnerable long enough, and so she stepped back onto the main hallway. Seth listened to the outspoken ‘now get out of my sanctuary’ and left the atelier, only to pause right outside the door. “Why did you agree to meet me?” he asked, and he awaits his reply for a while. Claire looked behind her from where she had started walking, expecting him to have followed her by now. But he just stood there next to the door, demanding an answer.

And like the previous two times when he did something like this, Claire gave in. “Because someone attacked my sister and I want to know who.” She stated. “I don’t suppose you can tell me that right now? Or do I need to finish the tour first?” she asked, trying to sound confident. Seth sighed. Here came the tricky part. The part where he would have to keep his promise and hope she would still be willing not to ignore him like the past 9 days. “You don’t have to show me around if you don’t want to… We don’t know that much yet. We think he’s a mercenary. He was probably sent here by top-level vampires.” He explained, and Claire took in the information.

That went easier than she expected. She wanted to know more about these top-level vampires, and she was about to ask about them until someone bumped into Claire. “Sorry.” Lincoln said, before he continued walking. Claire didn’t even had the chance to say something in reply, as he already went around the corner. However Lincoln had a good reason for that.

"They know. Alyssa. Yes, the witches too. No, my cover hasn't been blown. Yeah he's still on the team. Okay, I won't race against him. Understood." Lincoln said, with roughly ten seconds in between every sentence. He is on his own now. With the Silverstones and the Dawsons zooming in on his partner, he knew the stakes are now higher. The only hope was that the Silverstones and the Dawsons were be too distracted by each other to pay attention to him.

Claire then looked back at Seth, and with a deep sigh she continued walking, without announcing the continuation of the tour – but that was what happened. She continued the tour of SJBS, describing the other buildings down the road as well. Middle school, where she had been for a while. But she mainly showed him the most important locations around the high school building. Places he'd need to know of. Shortcuts to get to class quickly, etc.

Seth soon realized his idea wasn’t all so bad, and he forced himself to pay attention. She had agreed to this tour even though she had every reason to leave him in the cold. The least he could do was take in the free information. And that was when Seth realized something. Claire didn’t want them dead. Not like Payton. She just thought she did. Because that was what she had been told. But she was her own person. She could make her own conclusions. She could be the one shot they had at fixing the mess they made by arriving here the way they did.

He then pushed open the door to the gym and smiled when he saw how big it was. Even with the lights off it was impressive: the school symbol took up a large portion of one of the walls, and the whole gym was colored in the school colors. And it was exactly as he imagined. He’d only heard about the gym from some girls deciding what theme homecoming would be. They hadn't had PE inside either. Instead they had done some group exercises outside after the introduction about school sports outfits and rules, something Seth had managed to fail at when he showed up without a school PE shirt. Not that anyone laughed at that. In fact people never really acted on him being new past the first week. The only people who had kept that going were Payton and Claire.

Claire tried to find the light switch, but she couldn’t find it. It wasn’t that odd since she tried to avoid this place as much as possible. She walked onto to the big basketball field and she looked around. “So this probably doesn’t need an explanation. This is the gym.” She said with as little enthusiasm as possible.

She was about to walk back to the door but she sees Seth is still looking around so she waited, wondering when the last time was that someone like him stood in a place like this. Probably not that long ago, since he clearly loved his sports. Something she had never understood, despite Justin being one of her closest friends. Contrary to mister start-of-the-track-and-field-team Justin Saphire, Claire was really bad at practically everything sport-related.

Seth then looked at her when he realized he was wasting time. So maybe some small-talk would help. “It’s so big. Lots of parties here too. I mean, I heard some people mentioning homecoming…” he said as he walked over to the side of the field and then picked up a basketball. Claire sat down on the bleachers when she knew she had brought a kid to a toy store, and they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

“Yes. And I know who you’re talking about.” She said, a certain something in her voice betraying her as she said it. He had hit another string. “The cheerleader type?” Seth said to clarify, and Claire nodded. "Katie is a former cheerleader. She only did it because her big sister used to be head cheerleader and it was a family tradition. Now we laugh about it together.” Claire said. It was one of the many things that had changed between last year and this year. Last year her sister was dating Pierre Dumoulin, Katie was a cheerleader, Mike and Dean were friends, Justin was on his way to a scholarship. “So, Justin is really protective. If I had known that, I might have reconsidered joining the team." He said, pausing in bouncing the ball around, his tone getting serious at once. "I didn’t do that because of Justin, by the way. I had no idea he was your friend. I only found out a while before that you guys were even here.” He said.

Claire then looked up at this. So Payton was right. Seth and Jason’s family were not prepared for this at all. Maybe that explained why only four of them had shown themselves so far. “But just to make things easier… You think you can ask him kindly not to kill me in my sleep?” he asked. The comment was made jokingly, as Seth laughed. But Claire was just confused. “Wait… I thought you guys didn’t sleep?” She asked. Seth tilted his head, surprised by the fact that a witch as powerful as Claire Silverstone hadn’t done extensive research.

"Well, depends on how you define it. Do we need it, physically? No. Does it feel good sometimes to just drift off into unconsciousness? Yes. We can sleep, if we want to. But we can also stay awake for days, weeks even." He smiled at her and then threw the basketball into the basket without even looking at it. Claire didn’t even pay attention to it, as she was deep in her thoughts. “You guys have a room right across from us." She then said. Seth nodded. "But we're barely there." He then quickly said, but the damage already seems to be done. He can tell by the way she's looking at him. As if she remembered who he was again, and he could see her closing off again.

Claire then gets up from the bleachers. "Well, I think we’ve had enough of the tour right now.” she said, walking towards the exit again. Seth just nodded, his brain quickly jumping to plan…. He had lost track how many things had failed. “Maybe you should meet my family. See how the rest of us are, before you make up your mind definitely." He said. It was a bold move. But he had to try something. He couldn’t arrive back at the Dawson house with only the fact that he got a tour of the school. Maybe he shouldn’t arrive with the announcements that the Silverstones would have tea with them, but Seth figured asking for forgiveness instead of permission was the better option.

Claire then looked at him, her mouth falling slightly open by this blind sighted question. "Meet... your family?” she repeated, before a brief pause. “No." she replied, then turning back towards the door. “You’re right. I’m not like my sister. But I’m not stupid either.” She said. Seth shrugged putting away the basketball as he goes through all the information the Silverstones wouldn’t have on them. Their family… hell even their entire species. And that’s when Claire sighed.

“Okay. I’ll think about it. But just because I agree to meet you because of gathering information, doesn’t mean it will happen again. Especially not if Payton is involved.” She said. “But for what it’s worth… I know you don't mean anyone harm." She said with a nod. And that’s where Claire’s quota of daily empathy towards vampires was reached. "And about the team… If you dare to beat Justin’s record before he’s at the best of his season, I will tell Payton about this conversation." She said.

Seth smiled. So she wasn’t going to tell her sister about this just like that. “I’ll try.” He then replied. He walked to the black door they entered through but stopped when Claire called his name. "You might need this. It’s a copy of the school's rules for PE." she said as she quickly grabbed one from the pile. Seth was going to make a comment on how he just might run faster than Justin in school-spirited attire, until his face shifted at the same moment that Claire cursed out. "Damn it." She said, as she looked at her finger which has a papercut in it. It was ridiculous, and it was also very typically Claire. But most of all, it was the worst possible timing with a vampire at mere feet away.

"Cl.. Claire." He said with heavy breathing as he watches the top of her finger color dark red. He clenched the handle of the door so much it almost broke off and it definitely left a dent in it. The scent of witches blood was very different from any other type of blood, but not in a way that Seth could describe. Now, that scent was rushing through his entire system and everything in him told her to go for it. Kill her. "Get out of here." He said with clenched teeth as his entire body is trying to hold on to the door handle. But the warning was pointless as he himself was blocking her way out.

Claire then walked, more stumbled, backwards with her back hitting the announcement board so hard her shoulders hurt. Seth's mind started searching for excuses as the little blonde girl was trembling in front of him, enclosed by his body and the wall. When he was able to look away from her doe eyes he saw the dent he was creating on the wall. Then he felt the soaring pain of breaking bones in his hand, with his fingers getting curled back and he screamed briefly.

"Stay away from my sister." Payton said as she stood in the door on the other side of the corridor. Seth then grabbed his hand and let his vampire body heal his fingers as he made eye contact with the cause of his pain. This was it. She was going to kill him right there, and he knew it. “I’m sorry.” He said in a low voice, still struggling to keep himself in check. Feeling himself regaining control of his body he slowly stepped away from Claire and the door. He then made eye contact with Payton again, and for the few seconds that he spotted hesitation, he ran.

Payton hurried towards Claire and carefully observed and examined her much like Claire did a little over a week ago, looking for any wounds or anything what so ever. "Payton." Claire said as her sister was almost smothering her. "Payton... Payton! It's okay. I'm okay. It was just a papercut." she said as she holds up her hand. "See."

Payton frowned, and then sighed. Of course. Claire had a papercut. That didn't surprise her even the slightest bit. "He didn't hurt you?" She then asked, just to confirm. Payton found part of herself wanting her to say yes, so she would have a valid reason to end them. Claire shook her head in response. "No. No, he actually… Never mind. He couldn't help it. It's blood, he's a vampire. And I’m a clumsy witch. It wasn't his fault." Claire said. Payton was enraged. How could Claire not blame him? Did they not both witness the same thing? Did she not see that killer look in his eyes that made Payton flash back to the night her parents got killed? Claire looked at Payton's face and sighed. "I'm fine." She smiled, and then she wrapped her arm around her sister's waist. "We both are."

But Payton wasn’t fine. She wasn’t fine with any of this. "Are you okay if I leave for a second?" Payton asked her sister, once they arrive at their room. She was still carefully searching for any signs of trauma in her sister's eyes. But Claire managed to pull a smile on her face. "I'm fine Payton. Go. I'll be fine.” Payton smiled and got up. "I'll just be at Mila's room. Get some of that tea she gave me." She said, although Claire didn’t know why. She knew well enough what Payton was about to do, and she already braced herself.

"Open the door!" she said, banging her fist on the door across from her room. When she saw shadows shifting but no reply 30 seconds later she turned her hand, unlocking the lock on the door. When she walked in, Seth pulls a bottle with red substance from his lips and Jason looked up as he was on the phone. "Get us out of here." She just heard him say, before he abruptly put away his phone. Seth was also quick to hide away the bottle, but there is no use there. Payton had already seen how he was clenching the bottle of red liquid.

"You two are going to get me some answers. And once you've done that, I’m going to make every single bone in your body break, and then I’m going to make your blood boil and then I’ll find 100 little toothpicks to penetrate your hearts with." "Payton..." Claire said, interrupting her sister. Her voice was hoarse and soft and Payton could see she had just been crying. "Don't. Please don't." She said as she spoke again. "It's not their fault. I agreed. I wanted to hear them out. What happened wasn’t on them. Not the mercenary, and not the papercut. They're not like the others." She stated.

"Claire, get back to our room." Payton said, dropping the anger movements to rush to Claire’s side where she was standing in the doorframe. But before Payton could get Claire out of the room, Claire put up his hand. "Wait. We'll tell you everything you want to know." he said, rapidly at first but when Payton looked at him he slowed down the sentence. "We don't mean any harm. Whatever you need to know. We'll explain anything." He added, but then Payton looked right at him and he looked back at her. It was like she was literally on fire, she was fuming. "We can just talk about this all, like civil people." Jason then adds to stop the staring contest.

"Civil?" Payton said, her voice going up. "You feel like your kind was being civil when they came in and butchered my family? Do you think théy tried to talk it out?" She spat out. Seth closed his eyes for a second. He does it because he knows damn well that it was going to be hard. But he had convinced Claire before everything had gone to hell. And from the way she was fighting herself, still standing upright in their room, he knew that there was a chance she even understood. Sadly the kills that other vampires had made was always the biggest point of reason as to why the Dawsons shouldn't be allowed to live in Waterfall Creek. And for this generation, it's personal. But that didn't stop him from trying.

"Those vampires were nothing like us." he said. "They were type B vampires. Nobody knows exactly who they are, but our whole family completely despises what they did." Seth stated. Claire watched the bickering go back and forth and she clenched her fists. "Stop it! Just.. Stop it!" Claire said, her hands covering her ears. "I'm not going to let this ruin things. Payton, please, hear them out. Let's just talk about this…" Claire said, her voice breaking at the end. Payton looked at Claire and embraced her sister. She really considered it for a while. Because Claire asked her to. Then she whispered an 'are you sure' to which Claire replied 'Yes'. And so Payton sighed deeply.

"Fine." She said as she turned her head back to Seth and Jason. "You heard her. Let's talk." Seth nodded and grabbed a piece of paper. "This is where we live. You can talk to Elisabeth and James. Let's meet up there tomorrow at 2PM okay?" He moved forward a bit, slowly and hesitantly. Seth didn’t even look at Jason once, as he handed over the paper. The second Payton had it, Jason sighed deeply and he turned around to look outside of the window. He didn’t pay attention to the Silverstones leaving their room again. Or to the things Seth brought up to explain why a truce talk was a good idea. In Jason’s book, Seth just made the biggest mistake of this century.

CONT - Saturday September 1st, 2007

"You done?" Mike asked as he approached Justin on the track field. Justin answered with a nod while untying his shoes. "Hey I haven't seen Claire out all day. She'd usually jump on the chance to draw something outside." Justin said, looking at the sun that was starting to go down. Mike shrugged. "I don't know, I just saw her in the recroom, getting some books I think?" He wondered why Justin was like that, sometimes. Why he put other people in front of himself. “Man, she’s 16. You’re 16. Live a little.” Mike said while poking him. It was obvious what Mike meant. “Yeah yeah, I’ll go to that party with you.”

Mike laughed, and Justin walked towards the locker room. “But I’m not walking anymore, so since you’re the only one who owns a car and a license…” Mike’s smile faded a little. “Fine. It’s going to be a six minute drive though, which is ridiculous.” Mike stated. Justin looked behind him. “Sure Mila and Katie will appreciate it too. Alright, give me half an hour and I’ll meet you guys in the parking lot.”

Mike nodded and on his way to school he frowned. How did he just agree to not only driving, but driving Justin, Mila and Katie to the party? The four of them would mean he would have to remain sober, and if that was the case he would have to listen to Dean’s annoying stories of the past summer.

He’d heard some of them before. There was a fancy fundraiser which got his dad in the local paper. And then there was this story about how he saved a girl from drowning and she totally thanked him for that. Putting on a new shirt in front of the mirror, Mike sighed. Dean had a way with stories. He could pull the most elaborate tales out of his pinky and people would buy it. Mike was certain he was going to play one of his stories to explain why the party got postponed. Who even postpones a back to school party to September 1st? Who even goes to a back to school party in September?

Apparently, a lot of people. Dean had invited most of the junior and sophomore class, although some seniors and even some freshmen were there. Dean had made up for the fact that the party got postponed by pulling out all the stops on the food and drinks, the latter of which Justin had taken plenty of advantage of.

“Here you are. See I remember finding you and Pierre on this rooftop last spring.” Mila said, a certain melancholy in her voice. Justin noticed it, despite the fact that he was several beers in. Something about the way she said his name. It was still there, with all of them. Everyone who had been friends with him and who had to adjust their image of him as someone who cheated because… Well because Payton basically demanded it.

“Hi. Yeah, but don’t tell anyone though. This spot is only for the cool kids.” Justin joked. As if he was one of them… Well, maybe he was. But not as cool as Seth SocialStatusClimber Dawson or Jason MysteriousBoyfriendMaterial Dawson. Justin took another sip. Then he came back to his previous thoughts. Pierre would have finished those two new kids by now. He would have done something crazy like a magic trick with a lightbulb or something. Anything to get the attention away from people who were endangering his friends’ chances of a scholarship.

"Am I a horrible friend if I still wonder what he's doing?" Mila then said, reminding Justin that she was there too. And it was as if she had read his mind, asking that question. He sometimes wondered the same thing, so he didn’t have to think long for a reply. Especially not considering this was Mila and Pierre they were talking about. “No. You and Pierre were friends before he dated Payton. You never erased your friendship for her, there's no reason she can expect you to do that now.” He said with a smile. Then he paused, frowned, and sat up a bit more. “Not from any of us, for that matter." He then said with a strong voice.

He would forget about feeling this way by the next morning. He was brave now, but his heart was soft, and he was protective over Claire and Payton. He knew Payton was still hurting, he knew cheating was not excusable, and he knew Pierre hadn’t been world’s greatest friend with all the times he ditched them randomly.

"Plus you had a crush on him and everyone knew that, so..." he then said with a grin on his face. Mila frowned and turned towards him. "I did not." She said, playfully poking him. "I think you're starting to become delusional. How many drinks did you have?" Justin puts on a thinking face. "Maybe four." He then said, to which Mila puts down her second one. "Okay stay here. I'm going to find Katie and Mike and I'm dropping you off." She then said, before she walked back inside.

As she passed the second floor she spotted Samantha with a grin on her face, but she quickly ducked away before she has to listen to Samantha talking about Dean. She had been telling everyone about her and Dean sleeping together, and Mila was sick of hearing the story. Sick of seeing girls seeking validation by hooking up with guys. She didn’t need a guy to make her feel special. “Mila.” Someone then called out, and she turned around to see Katie make her way through some people dancing in the hallway. "Have you seen Dean?" She asked. She really couldn’t escape it, could she. “Nope, I haven’t.” Mila said, speaking a bit louder now that ‘Don’t Matter’ by Akon comes onto the playlist. “Although apparently he spends most of his free time with his lips attached to Samantha’s these days” she then said with a cringe smile, and Katie’s eyes grew big. “Oh god, someone else who is totally over that story.” She said. Mila nodded, then reaching over to grab a cup only to discover they were empty. “Oh.” She said, and that prompted Katie. “Yes. I was going to look for Dean to get some more. I swear, if I find those two making out somewhere…” She trailed off. The image was too vivid after what she had heard Samantha describe. “Be right back.” Katie then said, before she disappeared through the small crowd of people in the living room again. She decided on looking for the host of the party in the backyard of the Lewis family.

"Dean?" She called out as she heard a guy's voice talking. However when she walked around the corner of the hedge she apparently was mistaken. "Oh, hi Max. Have you seen the host by any chance?" She asked. Max looked at her, and took a few seconds before he replied. "Ehm, no. Not recently." He said as he grabbed his drink from the ground and took a couple of sips. "Sorry can't help you." He added, and Katie nodded. Who hosted a party and disappeared in the middle of it?

Mila on the other hand had no problem finding Mike, and she informed him about Justin on the roof. Mike laughed, then climbed up the stairs to make sure Justin got off the roof without breaking his legs. Justin’s coach would kill him if something like that happened. Mike then dragged Justin out of the house, to the younger guys’ protest, and put him in the car. “If you puke in my car I’m going to have you clean it.” He warned, but Justin just pulled out his phone and started texting. A few minutes later, Mila and Katie both walked onto the driveway, laughing between the two of them. Katie took a look at Justin in the car, and lifts her eyebrow. “Well good thing they ran out of drinks then.” She said jokingly, before getting into the backseat next to Justin.

“Good, then we can all agree this party was kind of crap.” Mila said, and Mike silently agreed. The party definitely wasn’t like what he was used from Dean Lewis, and something seemed off about the entire vibe of the party. Back to school in September. It just didn’t work. “Alright then, let’s go.” Mike said, grabbing his car keys. Mila grabbed his arm when he did that, and they exchanged a look. "I had one beer." Mike said. “Two.” Mila replied. Mike then tilted his head and got behind the wheel. “I had five.” Justin added. “So I’m good with Mike driving.” He said, while Katie made a pillow with her scarf on her lap where Justin placed his head. "Okay. Good to know you're on board with the plan Justin." She said with a smile. Justin was smiling to, more like grinning, as Mike started the engine of his truck.

It was practically a miracle that the four of them made it back to the school in one piece, although the jury was still out on Justin in that matter. Mike took over the babysit duties from Katie, and got Justin back to his dorm where he helped Justin into bed. "Dude why did you drink so much that you can't even untie your shoes." Mike then said, but Justin is already too far gone to give an answer. Mike heard him mumble something about losing his track scholarship, but he couldn’t understand more of it. "You're going to be wrecked dude." Mike then said, before he walked to the door and closes it behind him.

Sunday September 2nd, 2007

When Payton sat down at the breakfast table, Mike appeared to be the only one sober enough to notice something was wrong right away. Payton looked tired, and Mike wanted to ask her why but Katie cut in with a conversation about last night's party. "So then she just tells me they've been dating for the past 5 weeks. Can you believe that?" She said.

"Honestly, yeah. Those two were made for each other." Payton said, poking in her yoghurt a little. She spoke, thank god. Mike smiled. “Maybe it’ll make her a bit more relaxed at the newspaper.” Payton added. If anything had to come from all of this, maybe that would be it. Truly she didn’t think there could have been a single topic less interesting to discuss. Samantha Washington may have been the perfect principals daughter, but Payton had been there to cover up all of her messes.
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You could say she was the most popular girl, if you cared about that kind of stuff. Since joining the newspaper 4 years ago as an assistant, Payton had been very cautious about Samantha. She never complained when Samantha got picked to help the head editors. She didn't complain when Samantha's article appeared in the newspaper in freshman year. She didn't complain this year when Samantha got named head of the newspaper even though Payton was just as qualified. Payton actually knew Samantha would be better than Archie Stevenson from last year. So Payton doesn't complain because she knows she'd need Samantha one day.

Payton hasn't realized that in the minutes after she had spoken her piece of mind, Katie and Mila had both gotten up and Mike was already collecting her tray in front of her to clear off the table. "So, what's going on with you?" he asked and Payton looked up frowning. "What do you mean?" she asked, doing her best to sound normal despite the fact that her voice cracked because she was so tired. She had also yawned twice since the others left the table, something Mike had noticed.

“What did you do all night? Sorry but you look like crap." he said bluntly. Payton can't exactly reply with 'googling how to kill a vampire in self-defense' and so she goes with the next best thing. "Looking at pictures." It’s an easy answer. Payton knows she won't have to explain.

"Payton... Really? You know he doesn’t deserve your time. He’s an idiot. Be glad you’re rid of him." Mike said. He felt like he had said those things a hundred times already in the past few months. It was getting tiring to keep reminding Payton why he was horrible. He was almost out of genuine things to talk bad about.
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Payton sighed. Mike was too good of a friend sometimes. Contrary to Pierre who broke her heart, Mike had spent all of finals week helping Payton erase Pierre out of her life. Payton learned that the breakup was useful to mask weird behavior, but she could only go so far. She knew well enough that it wasn't healthy. After all, there was still some real work to be done in the process of restoring her heart. But she didn’t have time for that now. Not when there were vampires around.

"I don't want to talk about it." She then said, as she left the cafeteria to head to her room. She still had 4 hours to prepare for the visit to the Dawsons, but she knew she’d have to be prepared. She carefully chose an athame for the visit. She had been staring at her collection for 8 minutes now, not like Claire had been keeping an eye on her or anything. Asides from an athame in the inner pocket of her jacket she had already packed a smaller knife in her belt. She had used the same knife earlier to make a pointy end to a few small branches she had gathered in the school yard.

Across the room Claire was taking her own precautions. She had taken a new bandage for her finger and she had picked out a scarf. She decided to follow Payton's advice from earlier and she had sprayed some perfume on her clothes, as well as wearing a scented body lotion. Those were the things that could pass off as preparation for a meeting with vampires. But then she went on and re-did her makeup. Admittedly, she did have some mascara running but nothing that a wipe wouldn't fix, in Payton's opinion. Claire also put on a new shirt, and she was longer in front of the mirror than usual. "Should I wear a dress? Maybe that's a bit more formal? I don't know, what's the dress code in this situation."

"Ready to fight for your life if you have to." Payton replied, as she put on her jacket and pulled her hair over it. "You don't even have time for a dress. We need to go. I asked for a ride from Mike. He'll drop us off at the other side of town." Payton had googled the address, but all google showed her were woods. "We'll have to walk from there on. So don't even think about wearing heels." She added.

Payton looked aside at her sister and she rang the doorbell of the mansion in front of her, 10 minutes later. She didn't even knew this house existed. But then again she also didn't know there was a vampire family who had lived here many times before. She waited for noise on the other side of the door, and when she heard a pair of heels clicking on the floor she braced herself. But as soon as the door opened, her shoulders relaxed. Elisabeth's smile was warm, but also heavy because of the situation they were in. It was honest. Payton searched in her own mind for a name, but she couldn't remember.

"Hi." Claire said when her sister was standing there like a statue. "I'm Claire Silverstone." She said, as she puts out her hand. Claire's palm was met with the cold skin of Elisabeth. The female vampire noticed Claire's reaction to the touch and she let go of the hand after a short shake. Elisabeth then moved her hand to greet Payton's. "I'm Elisabeth Dawson." She said. Payton shook her hand. "Payton."

Claire estimated Elisabeth was around the age of 30. Or at least she appeared to be. Truthfully Claire had no idea how old these people really were, and she made a mental note to ask about that. Unlike Claire, Payton kept her jacket on as they walked to the library. Claire walked into the room first, and she took in the wood paneled walls and the many many books that are there.

Then they are greeted by James. "Welcome. My name is James Dawson. I'm happy to have the two of you here.” He said with a genuine smile. Payton walked in hesitantly. "Have a seat." Elisabeth said as she gestured towards the couches in the middle of the room, with a coffee table in front of them. Payton took a seat and she looked up when she saw something in the corner of her eye. Jason stepped forward from the edge of the room and walked over to the fireplace, where he leans against. To Payton's comfort he was a tiny bit too close, but she managed.

When she realizes Jason was there, she searched the room for Seth, but she didn't find him. "Where is Seth? This whole thing was his idea. And after what he did to my sister…" She said. Not that she wanted another vampire in here. "Baking cookies." Jason said, and a smile appeared on his face. Payton hadn't seen him smile, so that was a first.

Claire then almost jumped up when Elisabeth spoke. "Would you like something to drink? Water? Tea? Soda? O Negative?" Claire's face turned pale at the end of the sentence, and Elisabeth smiled. "Just kidding dear." She said. Claire smiled. She liked Elisabeth. She was very kind, and she even made jokes about all of this to try and lift the mood. And well, the mood certainly needed to be lifted. "Water is fine." Claire replied. Payton looked up and repeated what her sister said before looking up at Seth entering the room.

He was holding a platter on his one hand while he was distributing the cookies on the platter with the other one. "Obviously we don't make food often. This is batch number 4 after the other attempts failed." He said. Payton frowned and exchanged a look with Claire. Elisabeth took the platter from Seth, and took a closer look. She then took one and sighed with annoyance. "It's okay." Claire said. "I'd love to try them."

James took in the sight of the cookies and he looked at his wife and Seth. "I don't think the Silverstone sisters came here to be judges for a baking competition. Ladies, I'm sure you have lots of questions for us." He said. "And we'll try to answer those as well as we can." Elisabeth adds. They try their best not to sound too formal, but they know a certain caution is required in this situation. James had a feeling this was going to be tricky. Still, Payton appreciated James’ directness. Payton’s only mission was to find out what they knew about her, without answering any of their questions. And to fire as many shots at Seth as she could. “Well, maybe I’d like to know first why you guys claim to be the good guys, and moments later I find him attacking my sister.”

The way she made it come across was a bit exaggerated, but Payton was angry. Seth then stepped forward and sighed. “I’m sorry. It was a papercut. It won’t happen again. I’m sorry. But you ought to remember I was fine when you were being attacked by far more vicious vampires than me.” Seth replied. Jason wanted to roll his eyes. Seth’s time as a lawyer in the late 90’s paid off in Payton Silverstone’s inquisition. Payton clenched her teeth, and then Seth noticed a slight nod, suggesting she was done with the subject. Seth then turned to Claire, and repeated part of his statement. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” Before leaving the room to return the tray to the kitchen. He entered again a minute later, when the conversation had already taken another direction.

"So you spoke to our ancestors before you moved in here the previous time?" Payton asked, her voice was all business but her face showed some signs of intimidation because these vampires might actually know more about her ancestors than she did "When was that?" She added, and she looked aside at her sister. James sighed and he admired Payton's courage to ask a question like that.

"Last time we've lived here was around the first world war. We looked for the current generation and we found a young family. When we spoke to them, we explained we were no harm to them. We explained we wouldn't hunt anywhere near the house, and we'd keep far away from the public eye. The mother seemed to understand. The father was a bit less involved. He took their little daughter to the other room.” James recalled. Elisabeth nodded. “The father was… human. As was evident by the fact that he had no control over his daughter floating a vase in the middle of the air.” Elisabeth said, and the tone at which she did implied the story wasn’t as playful as it sounded. “That's when I smelled the blood. The vase had fallen, and in trying to hide it the little girl had cut herself. I didn't hesitate." She said, and Claire's eyes turn big. For a second she makes eye contact with Seth, who immediately turns his head.

They both saw the resemblance with what happened at the gym. With the difference that Claire was no little girl. Then Claire looked at Elisabeth again and she knew this woman didn't hurt a child. "I took her in my arms and carried her to the couch. By the time the mother emerged from the room where she was talking with James I was busy stitching up the little girl's hand. She was fine after that." Elisabeth said, her eyes looking outside as she recalled the story. It’s not the type of information Payton needed. She needed clear facts. Not old tales. However this story did strike a chord. Payton was a healer. She would have done the same thing to a little girl. The little girl who was also her ancestor. “After that, they agreed we could stay. We didn't have any more exchanges. We didn’t really keep tabs on your bloodline, but we knew it was close to being extinct last time we were here.” James said softly.

“Well we’re not. And we’re not going anywhere.” Payton replied. “My sister and I have been managing on our own just fine. You don’t have to worry about any other witches either, our guardian basically left us to raise ourselves.” Payton then stated. Suddenly, she realized what she said, and she breathed in. Her own anger at her family, aunt Lucy who left them behind, had caused her to break her own promise not to reveal too much information. Claire noticed how Payton’s lips formed a line, and then Claire slowly turned her head back, still a bit shocked that Payton had said that – Payton had never admitted Lucy’s abandonment out loud, only in her mind, where Claire picked up on it a few times. Then she looked back at Elisabeth. "So you have medical knowledge?" Claire asked, going back to the previous part of the conversation. Elisabeth nodded. “Yes. Me, Jason and a few of the others have all served in the war, which is where I’ve put them to good use mostly.” Elisabeth said.

“A few of the others? How many of you are there anyways?” Payton asked, and Jason noticed how she had found her footing again by the way she asked the question. Payton was just grateful the question popped into her mind when it did. "Eight. The four of us, and four more. Alyson, Dylan, Lauren and Nate." Seth said as he stood up. He personally wanted to be the one explaining this. "We didn't want to overwhelm you guys with all of us at once." He adds.

That might have been a good move. "So.. how old are you all?" Claire asked. This caused James to exchange a look with Jason. "You certainly have a curious mind..." James smiled before he straightened his back. "I was born in 1575. Then there's Elisabeth in 1682." "1789" Jason pitched in. "And Seth had his 200th birthday 5 years ago." James finished.

Payton looked at the four vampires in front of her and tried to calculate how old they were, but her mind wasn’t in for math. "They're cooled down now. Have one." Seth then suggested, gesturing towards the cookies. He then takes one himself and chews. "They're not poisoned." He said. Claire stretched out her arm and took one, but Payton didn't move. "Do you guys eat?" she asked instead, and Seth and Jason exchanged a look. "We do." Jason explained. "Right now we do. It helps with the school environment. The more we're around human, the more our body tolerates human behavior. Eating helps to ease our bodies into it. But most of our diet is still blood." Jason said, the last sentence adding as a 'In Case You Missed It.'

"What kind of blood?" is the next question on Payton's list. "Animal blood. We don't feed on humans, and we only feed when we have to feed." Seth said. Payton now makes eye contact with him, noticing what he's doing. They only feed when they have to feed. What was that supposed to mean? Oh right, some vampires just liked to attack their food for fun. Like all those vampires Payton had killed since they lived in SJBS. "Have you met the ones who do feed on humans?" Payton then asked, her eyes narrowing as she directs her question directly at Seth.

Even though the question was aimed at him, the biggest reaction came from James. He sighs deeply before nodding. "Sadly we do. All too often." he said in a sad tone. “It’s why we believe a mercenary was sent after us. It probably didn’t have anything to do with you. We didn’t know you were here and we did our research. As far as other groups are concerned, you’re still in Texas. The attacks are about us. Chances are it’s a territorial matter. We just moved here from Chicago. Our presence in the pacific northwest was needed to establish our dominance around the Canadian border.” James explained all in one breath. The sentence carried a lot of information, which in turn made for a lot of questions from Payton’s end. Territories? Other groups?

Payton asked those questions over the course of the next few hours. James was very open with replying to them. When Payton asked how exactly they feed, James revealed they have a connection who worked at the slaughterhouse in Salem. When she asked about the territories, Payton learned that the Dawsons had claimed most of the north west and parts of Canada, but they weren't territorial about it at all. Only when others tried to invade. This was the reason that some vampires had tried their luck and slipped into the town.

When Claire asked about the Dawson's enemies next, Seth explained that nobody was really friends with anyone. As far as Claire could tell, most vampires were situated in densely populated countries with a mild climate. America was one of them, although vampires went as far as Europe and Asia. Most of the groups that were mentioned were located on the northern hemisphere. Seth mentioned a group that controlled most of the Eastern USA, but Claire couldn't recall the name. Seth and Jason had exchanged a look though when Seth talked about them. Payton mainly recalled the part where James sunk a bit into his seat. Truthfully the Dawsons weren't even that big. Jason had explained how they were one of the very few groups who fed on animals. It wasn't the preferred vampire diet. And there Payton recalled the first truth she could verify.

James commented that the only reason the human population wasn't extinct yet was because of the rules. That sparked Payton's interest a lot, seeing as she had to deal with their her and Claire's given rules all the time. Can't leave the state without notice. Can't practice magic anywhere outside of the dorm room. But the vampires had a different set of rules. "Well, firstly there is the fact that you can not kill another vampire. Unless it's a duel which is usually like, official business. When you do and they find out.." "They?" Payton asked. James expression got a little bit more tense, indicating to Payton she was asking just the right questions.

"They call themselves The Anconi. They live in Europe. On the island of Andros..." And that was when Payton knew. She knew the name was familiar. She had read about it in the books. The battle of Andros. When vampires took over the island and many witches and wizards died protecting it. Claire's interest was sparked by this too, as the battle of Andros was practically mandatory literature for any child in the magical dimension. It was read to Claire as a bedtime story for a long time. And now the bad guys had a name, one that caused the four vampires in the room with them to shiver slightly.

As Claire made her way to the door again, her sister already outside on the driveway, Seth caught up with her and called her name. "I'm truly sorry about what happened the other day. And if you want to know more about us.... We... Well we have this room. It's our history room, where we keep all our information on our former lives and about vampires and stuff. You're owed answers to whatever questions you might have." he said.

"Hurry up Claire." Payton yelled before Claire could reply. Claire looked at Seth and sighed. "I think we know enough. I have to go." She then said, before she put in a little jog to catch up with her sister. They walked down the driveway without looking back once more. It was late by the time Claire and Payton arrived back in their room at SJBS, and both of them were exhausted. Claire tried to bring up the invite from Seth, but Payton just closed the door to the bathroom behind her as she brushed her teeth. "It's over, Claire. I'm tired. We both need sleep... Goodnight." Payton said as she returned a minute later. And that was that. Claire knew better than to argue with her sister. And she wanted to sleep too. Tomorrow was Labor Day which meant she wouldn’t have to suffer through her Monday class schedule. It also meant one day less around Seth Dawson, and the prospect of that made her nerves settle, as she fell asleep.

Monday September 3rd, 2007 – LABOR DAY

Almost 12 hours passed in between the Silverstones leaving their house and Jason catching a glimpse of Payton in the music room. Considering today was Labor Day, Jason didn’t expect to encounter many people on his way out for a hunt. But he particularly didn’t expect anyone in the music room, a place he had discovered earlier last week. And especially not Payton. It only went to show how much, how little, he knew about her, contrary to all of the information Payton received yesterday about them.

The top of the piano was reflecting the sun and the keys were all shiny. Payton dropped her bag on the little bench before she carefully pressed a key. B-flat. Payton hadn't played the piano since this spring. When Pierre was working with Mila on one of his midterm papers and Payton had found herself drawn to the piano. Just like she had now. Only these were very different circumstances. It was all so confusing and her mind needed a break. She hit another key, 3 down from the other one. Then she sat down, straightened her back and placed her fingers on the black and whites. Three seconds of silence followed until a melody softly came into existence.

Jason smiled when he heard it, and he tried not to disturb her as he gently leaned against the door of the music classroom. And to think Nate invited him to a concert in Seattle later that week. Jason passed. He preferred… well, this. Music being brought to life by the touch of an instrument, not a computer. Melodies that resembled colors. Tempo that created the visualization of a predator trying to capture its prey. Hunt. A heartbeat. Music was like a heartbeat.

For Jason there was nothing more personal than music. He loved playing it more than anything. And maybe that’s exactly the point where he should’ve realized he was overstepping. He knew he shouldn’t be there, watching. He knew he should take 10 steps backwards and even that wouldn’t be far enough. But she was playing genuine music, how could he turn away? In the back of his mind, the hope existed that just maybe he wouldn't have to play music alone anymore. "That was beautiful." He said, stepping forward when Payton finished the melody. "I didn't know you played." Jason said. Payton turned around and raised her chin.

Truthfully the big piano in the Dawsons library had caught her attention several times yesterday, and it had made her nostalgic to the times when she used to play. But she wouldn’t let that show to him. Not here. "You're talented. Anyways. I was going to drop this on your desk at the newspaper but…” he said, then putting a file on the top of the piano. “I know you have a lot of things to sort out. Use that. It’s what music is for. Emotions.” He then said, before he walked out of the music room again. She looked at the file with a confused look, and then walks into the hallway. Jason is practically near the great hall, but she can see him stop and turn around. He doesn't say anything. Or at least she doesn't think so. She can only see his face from afar. And then he is gone.

Payton frowned. For a second she stood still, trying to grasp the fact that for the second time he got he alone, and he hadn’t killed her. Then she walked back, looking at the file. There is only one page, and a lot of it was redacted. On the inside there's a post-it. 'You're welcome. -A' it said. Who is A? Alyson, one of the Dawson members she recalled James mentioning last night? She decided to ignore it for now and grabbed the file as she headed up to her room. To Payton's surprise she found Katie and Mila there, and Payton abruptly stopped as she stood in the middle of her room.

"Oh, hi. What.. What are you guys discussing?" Katie sighed deeply. “Samantha and Dean. New power couple. Samantha slept over after the party. They didn’t sleep together this time though.” Katie explained, and Mila exchanged a look with Payton. Katie knew too many details for her own good.

Mila then flipped open her phone with a soft ‘finally’, and Payton frowned. "What's going on?" she asked, taking a seat on her own bed. Mila sighed. "Well I texted Jason about the party this weekend. Yeah I know he was involved in that fight but if he's being picked on for being new then that's wrong. So I thought it might be cool if he came with us. I only now got a text back saying he was busy this weekend.”

Busy explaining all about vampires to Payton and her sister. Something she had no idea about. And neither should she. In fact Payton would prefer Mila stayed as far away from Jason as possible. "Then again, the party sucked so maybe it was for the best." She said, before she got up. Katie seemed to agree on that, which made Payton glad she hadn’t wasted her time on it. "I was going to use the day off for that science assignment so I better go." Katie then said, and then she walked to her own room a couple of doors down. Mila stuck around a bit longer, mainly to tell the story about Samantha and Dean from another perspective. She threw in a ‘which you would have known had you been around at all this weekend’ to make Payton feel guilty. It almost worked, as Payton would have wanted to see Justin’s slurring his words while his head rested on Katie’s lap. But then she remembered the file that was burning a hole in her desk, and she remembered why she couldn’t be around her friends this weekend.

"Andrei Dobremov." Payton said out loud a couple of hours later. As if it would give her any more info if she read the words out loud instead of reading them on a page. "He's the guy who attacked us, Friday. Jason gave me a file, or I think he did. It's signed by -A." Payton explained, causing Claire to get up from her bed and walk over. Payton handed her the the sticky note. "I only heard one name with an A yesterday. Alyson."

Claire just stared at the note in her hand. "I.. I don't know, yeah I guess." Claire said, frowning at her sister who had forgot to mention she was reading a file on a mercenary that tried to attack her on the first week of school.

“I didn’t know they would actually come through with solid info.” Claire then said softly. They had mentioned suspecting a mercenary, yesterday, but nothing pointed to them having a name. “Well, it’s vague. But yes, I guess they did pull through. I mean there’s all these names. 'Rocky' , 'Crescent' , 'Castle'. No idea what those are. Everything else is redacted." Payton said, as she threw the file to the end of her bed. Claire took the file and thought back to Seth’s words when they left the house. He had really meant it when he said he wanted them to have full disclosure.

Claire snapped out of her thoughts and looked at her sister when she asked for the file back. Claire then looked back down at the file, before slowly looking up. Payton was obsessed. “Why? So you can stare at it some more and think of ways to make the Dawsons look bad with this? I don’t think so.” Claire said, putting the file on her bed.

“It’s time you figure it out, Payton. Use your powers. You can sense they’re not lying. They don’t mean any harm. Yes they are weird and they are attracting lots of dangerous people and they’re putting our lives at risk with that. But they don’t mean to do that. And for what it’s worth, vampires have been coming to this town to attack us for years now.” Claire said, then crossing her arms.

“Yes, I know about that. And you barely know what you’re doing with those.” Claire said, her head tilting. “So maybe we should take this. Take their help, wherever they get it from. Alyson or another source, it seems pretty legit." Payton sighed and stared ahead for a little bit. Maybe Claire was actually right and Payton was just making a fool of herself. “Fine. Just, put it on my desk so we don’t lose it.” And so I can take it with me to class tomorrow, she added in her mind.

Across the hallway, Seth was holding the copy of the file In his hands too, as he cross-referenced any of the known attacks in the area before. He then looked at the door when he hears footsteps nearby, and when they stopped there was just silence. Seth squinted his eyes for a second, anticipating someone to walk into their room. But twenty seconds later, the footsteps started walking away from the door again, and the sound faded away. Seth then returned to the research he was doing on attacks around Waterfall Creek, which mainly included the deaths of many other Silverstone members.

Seth realized it was a miracle the bloodline was even still alive. Aside from Lillian and Christopher’s death, the local sources mainly reported on the death of Caroline and Earl, Lillian’s parents, who died in a plane crash. In the bottom of the article, Seth reads Lillian was supposed to be on the plane too, but she missed her flight.

Tuesday September 4th, 2007

And several years later, the Silverstones’ tendency to be late would pop up with Payton, who rushed herself to history class. She walked in, just as the teacher started writing today's subject on the board and had her back turned to the class and the door.

Payton took her seat next to Mike, but when she didn’t get a comment on how she's late she frowned. Then she realized Mike, and the majority of their class, was looking at Samantha Washington, who was wiping her tears with a tissue. Katie sat next to her, telling her how she should stop crying because it would make her mascara run.

Suddenly Payton's shoulders moved forward and she pulled in her stomach. The wave of emotions her empath powers made her feel were almost hurting physically, but in reality it was all just raw feelings and tears, lots of tears. Payton had to wipe her eyes not to cry herself. But she felt every tear Samantha drops in her eyes. She felt the tightness in her chest like she wasn’t able to breathe. She felt the embarrassment because everyone is staring at her. And then Payton dropped a tear, because she recalled the last time she felt this way. Last spring.

Payton grabbed her phone and texted Mila, who was sitting two rows in front of them. She typed in a short message, and watched Mila reach her phone. Mila typed a message back, which was lengthy and full of emoji's. ‘Her dad found drugs in Dean's locker. He claims its Samantha, and a few of his buddies backed that story up. Since there were those rumors last year of Sam doing drugs, Mr. Washington had no choice but to suspend Dean for 3 weeks. Samantha got demoted in the newspaper. Sorry.' the message read.

Samantha got demoted? Samantha was doing drugs? Samantha was dating Dean? Oh right she knew that final part already, she had just tried to suppress it from her memory. "What's with the rumors of Samantha from last year?" Payton asked Mike. Mike frowned, then leaned over to Payton a bit. "Some stuff happened while you had locked yourself in your room."

Mike said it in a way that would be very offensive if anyone but him had said it. But Mike hadn’t said it to judge her. Payton sighed. “I know I was absent. But someone should have told me. If Sam's demoted then I'm supposed to take over, right? But.. But I can't take over. So.." "Maybe you can answer the question instead." the teacher said, as she pointed at the board. Payton looked up and cursed in all five languages she knew when the teacher approached her. "The answer is…. The… the answer is obviously…" Payton's mind was blank. Mike hated the fact that he can't do anything because the teacher was now standing right in front of them, so he just looked in between Payton and the teacher. Payton couldn’t take this. If someone could just... Payton sighed deeply and braced herself when one second later the fire alarm hit.

It's the loud noise that alerted Jason's attention, and as everyone got up from their chairs, Jason followed the crowd, only to stop when he saw Payton walk in the opposite direction. He soon realized what was happening. "You pulled the fire alarm?" He said as he chased after her. Payton looked behind her, but continued walking up to the third floor, instead of walking to the school gym like she was supposed to. But Jason was persistent. He needed to know what happened that convinced Payton Silverstone to pull the fire alarm.

"What happened?" He asked again, and Payton turned around this time. They were on the second floor now, and her eyes were shining from the tears that are forming in them. "You mean other than trained mercenaries, a vampire ruining my friends’ chances of a scholarship, you messing around with Mila… You guys think this is all easy? Sit in class, write down some notes? Going home to a lovely house?” she spat out.

“It's your hundredth time doing this. It means nothing for you guys. But not for us. We don't get do-overs. We don't do this for sport. This is our lives. We're trying to make something out of it. And that's the difference." she said. She then wiped her tears once. "You guys only have to focus on the people attacking us, and you get your information from some anonymous source ‘-A’? Well, I work at a newspaper and I have to collect all of the information myself. And now I will have to oversee all of that by myself. So I panic. I panic when there’s drugs in the school. So yes, I pulled the fire alarm. Who are you going to tell? James? Go ahead. But if you don't back off I will make sure there's a real fire on the exact spot where you're standing right now."

Jason didn’t move as Payton continued her walk up to the third floor. After a minute or so, he got a text from Seth and he turned around to walk back downstairs, meeting Seth in the yard. "There you are. Where were you?" he asked. Jason looked at Seth and rubbed his hand over his face. "Getting a speech from Payton." He said with a sigh. He then took in the amount of people around them, and they both shared a common thought. This wasn't good.

Teachers started to actively gather up the students and guide them inside the gym and then one of the teachers locked eyes on Jason and Seth. They had no choice but to comply, and entered a few feet behind Mike, who asked Mila where Payton was. Mila shrugged, and then continued her stare towards Katie and Samantha.

In her opinion Katie was too good for Samantha. And now Samantha was dating Dean, her latest new obsession. Only it caused her to dump her friends, good people like Katie. And Katie deserved better. She deserved real friends. Not people who would jump back and forth like Samantha. It’s why she made a point of hanging out yesterday. And it already worked. Mila had actually noticed Katie was much less closed off, like she was no longer trying to keep it a secret that she was friends with Mike, the Silverstones, Justin and Mila Romano. Katie had found herself surrounded by a whole new group of friends. A group who, as she realized one night at the beach during the bonfire, would actually accept her for who she was. A group where she didn't have to hide. But then again she didn't exactly know yet what she was hiding.

Meanwhile Claire too was hiding, but it had nothing to do with who she was. Claire was desperately trying to hide her fear, but every time she saw a blonde guy walk by she froze. Then suddenly, someone grabbed her arm and she almost screamed, but when Claire saw Justin's black hair and his familiar smile she sighed deeply. "Thank god you're here." She said, as she walked up to him and let herself be wrapped up in his arms. She had always felt normal with Justin. Safe, like she was camouflaged by his humanity and nobody would hurt her if she was with them. And Justin certainly wouldn't let Seth hurt her.

He softly embraced her until he knew it was safe to let go, and then looked her in the eyes. "What's going on?" Justin asked her. Claire opened her mouth, but then closed it again and shook her head. "I don't know." She said, and in that moment she got distracted. Where was her sister. "Have you seen Payton?" Justin shook his head. "No. She must have been in class with Mike and Mila. We'll ask them." He said, as he gently wrapped his arm around her waist and kept her close, going through the mass of students at the assembly.

Justin then spotted them on the far side of the gym, and just as they reached them the principal tapped the microphone and addressed the students. "Dear students. The alarm you just heard was a fire alarm. As you know we like to do fire drills to ensure the safety of everyone at the school." Claire looked up when through the masses she heard the thoughts of the principal, wondering how the alarm could have malfunctioned and went off on an unscheduled time. "The drill has been completed, and you are now able to return to your classes. The rest of this period is cancelled, but you are all expected back next period." principal Washington said, before he nodded and walked off again. Probably to investigate the alarm.

"Where is Payton?" Claire then asked, her voice in more of a panic than before. No sight of Payton. No sight of Seth and Jason…. Then she realized there was one option the alarm could have gone off like that. Mike frowned. "I thought she'd have found you by now. I actually don't know." he said. Claire looked at Mila, but she wasn’t paying attention to Claire's question. Mila herself was looking for someone. "Mila, have you seen Payton?" Claire asked again, and Mila listened this time. "Payton? Ehm, no I have not. Sorry." She said, as she continued looking around. Mike and Claire exchanged a look. "Okay well, I'm going to look for her." Claire than said, but when she turned around she was stopped in her tracks. Seth and Jason were standing right in front of her. Mike frowned, and passed in between Jason and Seth, who tried to act casual as the gym emptied out again.

As Mike walked off, Justin joined Claire in front of the Dawsons and he crossed his arms. "Are you going to brag about how fast you got here?” Justin said, but Seth shook his head. “No. We were just going to ask something in regards to the fire escape from the third floor.” Seth replied, an answer that satisfied Justin’s curiosity. Claire then looked at Justin and then looked back at Mila who was standing by herself as one of the remaining 20 people in the gym hall. "Can you talk to her? Something is off with her...". Justin looked between her and the Dawsons, before he nodded and walked over to Mila. Not that he appreciated being involved with girl drama. But Mila and Katie both did look after him at the party.

Claire then turned back to the Dawsons and her eyes stayed glued to Jason. She hadn’t even looked at Seth once. But Seth recognized that look. She had used it on him frequently. "Oh god." She then mumbled softly. "I was right. She did pull the alarm." Claire said, sighing deeply and shaking her head. "What did you say to her? Couldn’t you have left her alone for five seconds? I just did some serious damage control after you dropped that file with no explanation." She said, as she started to visibly panic a bit. Jason wanted to interfere, explain that the cause of Payton’s actions was something newspaper related, but he didn’t get the chance.

Seth felt guilty for his share in things, pushing too hard for them to work together instead of giving it some time. He then reached his hand out to comfort Claire, but as soon as he did that she looked at him and Seth could read the fear in her eyes. He then caught the school's logo over Claire's shoulder, and then looked back at her. "I'm sorry, I..." he tried to say, but Claire silenced him. "I know." She said after which she swallowed and paused for a bit. She took a deep breath and then looked at the two vampires in front of her. "Just, keep your distance”. She then walked away from them, following Justin who was walking out of the gym hall with Mila.

And just like that, Jason and Seth were standing in the middle of the gym hall with perhaps four or five other people, glued to the ground in shame and guilt. “It was the newspaper. I didn’t do anything.” Jason explained, but Seth already realized that. "I understand it’s hard for them to deal with all of this. But it’s week three of school… I had no idea it was this hard on them." Seth said. Jason nodded. "Yeah, me neither." he said. By now the gym hall was empty, and as he noticed it Jason started to walk back outside.

Meanwhile on the third floor Mike approached the door to Payton's bedroom, after previously meeting people from the safety company on his way up. He knocked but the door was already open and Mike spotted Payton on her bed, crying her heart out. Immediately he walked in and closed the door behind him. "What's going on?" he asked as he grabbed the tissue box from the dresser and handed it to her. He really wasn't the best with emotional stuff like this and he also hadn't seen Payton this emotional since... Well since this spring.

Payton blew her nose once, and then wiped away her tears a bit. "Nothing, I'm fine." She said, fully aware that neither one of them believed it when she said that. Mike then put his hand on her arm. "You know you can talk to me right? I'm not Mila or Claire but I know you. If there's something going on you can tell me." he said. He was now talking to her way softer than Sunday morning, although he guessed the reason was the same. Her history with Pierre and now this story about Dean and Samantha… Payton just blinked mindlessly. After a while she bit her lip and turned to him. "I don't think I can stay at the newspaper. It's our junior year, we're supposed to be looking at our future, find out what we like. Maybe I need to look beyond the newspaper."

Mike didn’t believe what he was hearing. Not having Payton Silverstone at the newspaper would be a devastation for the school. And his personal welfare. Who else was going to keep him updated. He then sighed and was seen thinking for a while, before he replied. "Do you think Samantha Washington would have left the newspaper if she wasn't forced out?" Mike asked.

Payton looked at him, and shook her head. "No. She never quits anything." She said. Mike nodded. "Exactly. And neither do you. You're even better than her, if you only dared to show the world. And now you can. She can no longer drag you down and make you do all the fieldwork while she gets to take the credit. Payton this is your future. You've told me that since we were 10 years old." He said, before he got up from the bed. "Now let's go, time to get on your feet." He said, reaching out his hand.

Payton shook her head childishly, but after a dozen more seconds she got up anyways. “How am I going to do this?” She asked, as if Mike knew the answer. “Maybe try and trust other people to help you out. Accept that some people are good people.” Claire said as she stood in the doorway. Payton sighed, not missing the double meaning.

“And who’s going to help? The school newspaper is only an extra credit if you do it a whole year. And by then Samantha will be back and nobody wants to be around when she returns.” Payton stated. Oddly enough Payton had thought of that scenario already, last year. She and Pierre were thinking how they could spend more time together, and Pierre offered to join the newspaper. Payton said the same thing back then as she was saying right now. “Plus, to change electives now would be a total mess...” she continued.

Mike puts his hands in his pockets – officially a bit uncomfortable now- and looked at Claire, who had taken a seat on her bed. “I got this, Mike.” Claire then stated, and Mike nodded before he left the room. Claire then looked at her sister and sighed. She appreciated Mike trying. He even got here before she did. He cared for Payton, and he was doing what he always did which was looking out for her.

Before dating Pierre people would often speculate about Payton and Mike. After all they had been friends since their first day in SJBS. They were lab partners all through middle school and they were thick as thieves. Then came Pierre and Mila, and the two new European students joined their little group. It was around that time that Payton and Mike started spending less and less time with each other.

For a while, last year, Payton had lost her best friend to Dean’s group, and Payton believed she had been holding Mike back. And if it hadn’t been for Payton’s good influence throughout all those years, Mike might have chosen to stay friends with Dean. They did things normal 16 year old boys did, talking about new music they had discovered, and where the next cool party was. Mike still did that now, with Justin. What both of them didn’t do was make lists of the hottest girls in the school and check them off once they had hooked up with them.

Mike could have went along with that, but thanks to Payton he knew better. Of course there was no stopping Dean’s friends. The list still existed in the boy’s locker room. It was their way of thinking about society that caused Mike to be sick of them. He apologized to Payton. He told her he'd always be her friend and he proved that shortly after when Payton and Pierre broke up. Payton knew that rumors of her and Mike would start again soon enough. Mike's new haircut had already gotten some attention around the school, and he was proper boyfriend material now. Dean and his friends could have their enjoyment.

"I'm going to freshen up and then I’m going to class. You should go too.” Payton said, clearly indicating she needed to be alone right now. Claire smiled a bit, but she hated the fact that her sister felt this way. So she tried to cheer her up. “Better not forget my calculator then.” She commented, and she could hear Payton laugh from the other side of the bathroom door. At least she had made her laugh…

But across the hall, nobody was laughing. Seth in fact was getting frustrated as he waited for the call going to voicemail. Again. "Hi, Alyssa. So I wanted to tell you about this fire alarm drill we just had, but I guess I will tell you some other time. Call me when you get this. Oh, and thanks again for the file. Bye." he said. He then ended the call and grabbed his bag off the floor.

On the main floor on his way to class too, Jason bumped into Mila and he sighed. "Mila, I'm... I'm sorry about the party. We had a family meeting." he said. Mila originally walked by him, but then stopped after a few steps. "It's okay." She said with a faint smile. ”Wasn’t a good party anyways. Maybe because someone was missing though.” she said with a smile. Lincoln then rushed by them, making wild gestures for people to move out of his way. When Mila then looked up to invite Jason for lunch the next day, Jason was already taking his seat in the classroom.

Payton got there too, the file on the mercenary sticking underneath a pile of papers she pulled out of her bag. Jason spotted the file, and reminded himself about what Payton told him on the stairs earlier. Her whole speech repeated inside of his head a few times, and he couldn’t deny there was truth to it. Then, he let the thoughts drift to the back of his mind, instead focusing on the teacher’s introduction to mitochondria.

Later that day at 3PM, Katie walked up to the bleachers after PE when she spotted Justin there. "Didn’t you just have track?" She asked as she sipped from her smoothie. Justin shrugged, then pointed at the track. "Need to run off those 4 beers from last weekend." he joked, and Katie smiled while raising an eyebrow. “Five.” She corrected, and Justin laughed. “Whatever you say. What about you? Doesn’t Samantha need you for something?” he asked. The gossip had only taken half a day to spread through the entire school. To add to the confusion, the entire school got word of Winter Formal, which Samantha was organizing as part of her “Projects and Presentation” class. “And what is the deal with the whole winter formal stuff?”

Katie sighed and shrugged. “I’m not involved in that. I’m doing mine on the Olympics.” She joked. “So I thought I'd observe a future Olympian. Claire actually told me you like to train after school. So here I am." Katie's smile was contagious, and Justin appreciated the gesture. "I also came to check how you've recovered from Saturday." she then added, and Justin laughed out loud as he walked to the starting line. "I've recovered fine. But I'll probably skip the next party. " He said, before placing his feet. “Chrono me?" He asked, and Katie nodded. "Sure." Seth observed the scene on the track field, grabbing his bottle and taking a few more sips, before he put on his jacket. “I’m heading to the house. You coming?” Seth asked, but Jason shook his head. “I’m showering first, and then I’m going hunting. I’ll be there around 9.” He said, and Seth nodded before he started walking towards the Dawson house, a path that he took in a few minutes.

Wednesday September 4th, 2007

As the bell rang for lunch the next day Payton walked to her locker. She got surprised when Mr. Washington called her into his office, but quickly enough Payton guessed what this was about. What made it worse was that she could feel the shame and his disappointment in his own daughter - who remained a student but was expelled from the newspaper. He informed her that she would be taking over Samantha's job, and Payton had simply nodded. She couldn't really say anything. Sorry your daughter got busted for drugs and expelled? Sorry I'm truthfully a better journalist than her and I should have gotten that job a long time ago? What does one say in that situation. Payton had no clue. So she decided to say nothing.

"So you're assigned now?" Mike asked twelve minutes later, walking up to her as she left the principal's office. Payton nodded and Mike smiled proudly. "Great. And look I know it's a lot of work but it's what you've always wanted. And I'll help you out." He said.

Payton slowly looked up at him. "Yeah... You're right." she said. Plus it would help with her GPA. Not that she was doing terrible, but the whole vampire mess had been a distraction. Nothing she couldn’t fix though. Payton usually was organized, and very passionate. Claire was a bit more reckless. Luckily Claire had better things going for her. Her artistic skills had gotten her on her class' top 3 performing students list more than once. They had collectively joked that all Claire needed was a pair of pompons to become number one.

“Hey” Mila then said, pointing at a poster in the great hall, then poking Payton. “There's this course for juniors and seniors for driving lessons. You're 18, why haven't you gotten your license yet?" She wondered. Payton looked aside and she sighed. “As if my aunt Lucy is going to pay for driving lessons. Let alone a car.” She said. Not that she had anything against learning. 18 was far beyond the regular age for driving lessons. Keith, Justin's father, had frequently offered to teach her. Even Diana, Mike's mom, had given her the card of a great instructor. But she just didn’t have the luxury that most people her age had. “And right now I don’t have time for that anyways…” she added.

Mila looked at Mike once, and then looked back at Payton. "Okay." She would never understand. Mila loved the freedom it offered. But then Mila didn't have a car, so it wasn't really of that much use to her. She then let Payton walk into the cafeteria first, after which she poked Mike. "Everything okay with her?" She asked, and Mike nodded. "She will be." he replied confidently. Mila then slowed down her pace when she saw Katie sitting with Samantha. She knew because pretty much all of Samantha's friends were looking at Mike, Payton and Mila walking into the room. Payton noticed too, it's impossible not to, but she swallowed and kept walking. And just like that, she felt like she got a small victory in life, as she stood in line to get lunch.

Jason just finished his own lunch, one small bottle of their blood-supply, when he heard a knock on the door. When he opened it Dylan and Lauren were standing in the hallway. "According to Lauren you had lunch now.” Dylan said, and without saying much more he walked past Jason into the room. Lauren did the same, and sat down on the bed, leaving Jason standing by the door with a frown. “You came down here on lunch hour?”

Lauren looked at Dylan, who lifted an eyebrow. “We’re technically supposed to pick up the curtain fabric Alyson asked. But the store isn’t open until 1PM.” He explained. Jason tried not to seem too annoyed, but the last thing he needed right now was Lauren struggling with this many student around. Or Dylan. The sudden realization hit him that he wouldn’t be able to stop both of them if they lost control right now. He got pulled out of his thoughts by Lauren, who had walked to his notebook. “How are things, now?”

Jason glanced over to the door. Claire was in her room now, but Payton wasn’t. He had learned to distinguish the two of them by now by spending several hours a day in a classroom with Payton. “Well, there’s drama at the newspaper.” Jason explained, and Dylan frowned. “What, the cartridge ran out?” he asked, but Jason shook his head, indicating he was serious. “Payton got promoted to editor-in-chief because the other girl was accused by her own boyfriend of doing drugs at the school. That girl is also the principals daughter. Did Seth not explain this last night?” he asked. Dylan looked up. “Right. Aly and I may have been distracted.”

Jason groaned. “Alright. Well, then there was the fire alarm and…” “Fire alarm?” Dylan asked, and Jason nodded. He wouldn’t tell the part of how Payton actually pulled it. He knew Payton didn’t deserve that kind of reputation. She was an 18 year old girl. Yes, she used her powers for something she probably shouldn’t have. But there was no need to inform any more people about that. James didn’t need to know everything. “Yeah, there was a fire drill. Anyways, Payton is in a bit of a weird place. Apparently last time things were like this was when she broke up with her boyfriend.”

“Payton Silverstone had a boyfriend?” Dylan repeated, and Lauren almost choked on her lunch, or the remainder of the lunch Jason had set out to drink. But she could have it. "What do you mean had? Did he die?" Lauren asked. She didn’t say it out loud, but all three of them knew what he meant by that question. Did he die at the hands of Payton or Claire? Jason shook his head. "Apparently they broke up last spring. He was some European exchange student. Thank god he was not another wizard." Jason said, knowing about Payton’s family history. Lauren then nodded slowly, taking in the info. "But they're broken up now? You're certain?" she asked just to confirm things. “As certain as the fact that she hates us.” He replied.

Jason then straightened his shoulders and looked back at Dylan. "And then there's Mila. They were both in the same program, the ex-boyfriend and her. But he left and she plans to finish her school in the US." he added. Dylan looked up at this. "You discussed future plans with this girl?" He asked, and Jason rolled his eyes. "Shut up Dylan. She mentioned it, I simply nodded." He explained. But Dylan had a point. Mila had a way of making you want to tell her everything. And if she was like that with a stranger like him, he couldn’t imagine the lengths Claire and Payton had to go through to keep their secret hidden. “Other than that there’s regular gossip. Apparently there’s a drug problem.” Jason mentioned. Lauren lifted an eyebrow. “What is this? The 80’s?” She joked. Jason smiled, vividly recalling Lauren during that era of history, where you could barely find a sober person on the planet.

Lauren then got up and took a look around the room properly. “You guys did go all out with this décor. You haven’t forgotten that you’re only supposed to be here for a month, right?” she asked. Jason shrugged to that. “If that is still the plan. I don’t know if that’d be a good idea, to drop everything here. It wouldn’t be the best for our relationship with the Silverstones. And I wouldn’t mind staying a bit longer.” Jason stated.

“You really think you can? I mean, what about your diet? In the long run you can never last on one hunt every two days?” she asked. And Jason knew why she did. Because staying longer than one month has never been an option for her. “Seth and I can. It’s going to be hard, but we can. It’s not just about us anymore now. It’s about them too. They’ve become a crucial part of this entire mission the minute Andrei Dobremov entered this school property.”

Lauren looked at him for a bit, and then shrugged. “At least you should tell James about the track team then.” Dylan stated, and Jason frowned. “I’m no fool. Seth’s name was on the list downstairs.” But Jason put up his hands. “Not my doing. I’m sure Seth will explain all of that to James. Maybe he’s explaining it right at this very moment. Now, shall we head out to hunt or are we going to chat about my science project next.” Jason joked, and Dylan got up from the bed. “I absolutely hated science, even back in the 1980’s. Can’t imagine what they study on it now.” “Trees.” Jason commented, and Lauren couldn’t help but laugh as they descended the stairs together.

Thursday September 6th, 2007

It was the early hours of Thursday when Jason got back from hunting, after Lauren convinced him to go to Canada with her, which meant he hadn’t had the time to go back to the Dawson house at all. He did need to talk to Seth, but hadn’t expected to find Seth on the bed in their dorm room, staring at the ceiling. “I figured you would stay at the house.” Jason wondered out loud, and Seth looked at him. “I was going to say the same thing.” He said, the two of them then looking around the room. “I guess we both realize that this place isn’t so bad to be in.” “Well we do have too much décor according to Lauren.” Jason then joked, and Seth nodded.

“Right. Alyson said they visited. What did they say?” Seth asked. “Nothing much. I told them about Pierre and Mila. And the alarm. They know about the track team too. So you should probably talk to James about that." Jason said running his hands through his hair. “Already did.” Seth replied, as he returned to the position he was in before Jason entered, staring at the ceiling. Jason concluded it was either not important to James, or that Seth must have pushed back. Either way, judging by Seth’s reaction, it wasn’t a big deal anymore.

“I also mentioned we might stay longer than planned. I said we might have to, to keep the truce. They seemed to understand, so we’ll see how James and Elisabeth react.” Jason said, and Seth turned his head slightly. “Yeah. But when we do tell them I will add that we won’t keep track of things in those notebooks though.” Seth commented, and Jason grabbed Seth’s notebook from the desk. “Right, because you have done… Wait, you have?” Jason said, surprised to see Seth had now been keeping notes unlike at first. Seth shrugged. “I figured the little things could help us in the long run. For example I know Payton often goes into the woods on Sunday.” Seth stated. “We should pass that information to James, so we can avoid that sector if we hunt on Sunday.”

It made sense to Jason, and it was a good strategy. However when Claire stood at the door, hearing about Seth writing down Payton’s habits, things looked totally different. Of course Claire hadn’t gotten all the information, and maybe she should have listened better. Or maybe she shouldn’t have been listening at all. But now she knew. She knew that Seth and Jason tracked Payton’s movements like that. What else could they be keeping an eye on? What else was in that notebook of theirs? And why would Seth not tell her about it? She thought they had agreed on full-disclosure.

Seth had been the first one to come this close to her, but she had concluded that it was a good thing. She knew Seth enough to know that he was not just a vampire. He loved sports, he was very passionate about what he did, and he was remarkably social. He was nothing like the vampires Payton had once described, the ones who attacked their house when Claire was 2, or the ones who Payton had killed. Seth was nothing like that, and he had treated her with respect since the first day. And that was the only reason why she had defended him. She didn't trust him, and she didn't even like him that much - but she understood him.

As Jason took his seat in science class, Payton walked into the classroom with her friends by her side. She expressed a confidence that Jason hadn't seen before. She didn't seem stressed out, or anxious at all like he had gotten used to. It confused Jason for a second, because for the past three weeks Payton had appeared to be keeping an eye on him constantly, making sure he wouldn’t hurt anyone. But for the past ten minutes, in the seven times he had looked her way, she had not once turned towards him like she usually did. During the entire class, she didn’t give him the tiniest bit of her attention, up until the point where she her friends collected their stuff.

However one friend remained behind, and when Jason walked up to her he surprised her a bit. “Jason… Hi. Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” Mila said, and Jason nodded with a smile. “So… ehm, you’re friends with Payton right? And that girl Samantha, the one she replaced at the school newspaper?” Jason asked, and Mila looked at the hallway, where Payton and Mike just walked through the door on their way to history class. “Oh. Yeah, she is the new editor-in-chief, yes.” Mila said, putting her pencil case in her bag.

“So it’s true that the other girl was involved in some kind of drug situation?” He asked, and Mila looked up when he said that. “Yeah. Some stuff happened.” She said quietly as one of the teachers passed by. Jason nodded. “Isn’t it like, a lot of responsibility? I mean it’s junior year, aren’t there other things she’s doing too?” He asked again, and Mila shrugged. “She’s not taking the driving course. She has always been involved in the newspaper. She’s good at it. I might actually pitch in a little bit. I do photography.” She commented, and Jason smiled. He owed her some interest after the way he was getting information. “Photography. Cool… a friend of mine used to be into it. Like, back in the 90’s.” he said, then suddenly realizing his mistake. “Oh they’re into 90’s photography? That is so cool. I only have like a modern camera, but I might get like a vintage one with the holidays.” Mila replied, and Jason realized his slip up went unnoticed. “Cool. Anyways, ehm… I need to pass by my locker so.. great talking to you.” He then said, before he walked around the corner to his locker and grabbing his books.

English literature had become something he enjoyed over the last few weeks, but this time he couldn’t be bothered. Instead of actually paying attention he tried to think of what Mila told him earlier. He knew for a fact that Payton did have other stuff going on besides the newspaper. But maybe he was a bit too quick to judge her, thinking her humanity would be her weakness. He now knew it wasn’t. She had emotional strength, because she surrounded herself with the right people, who made her the best possible version of herself. She also had a way with words, and there was even something poetic in the many ways she had threatened to end them so far. She would still kick his ass the first chance she got. She made that clear. But something about her had changed.

Maybe it was seeing her at the piano two days ago. There was something vulnerable about here there. She wasn’t Payton Silverstone was magical royalty who would not think twice to eliminate them if they were a threat. She was a 18 year old high-school student, the newly appointed editor-in-chief of the newspaper who went through a hard breakup months ago. She was just a young girl who had all of her beliefs pulled in doubt, trying to find comfort in music. And he respected both those sides of her.

How could he not respect that? How could he not speculate what type of person she could have been, had they not arrived in town three weeks ago. How could he not see how their arrival had caused an old trauma of hers to rise. A wound so deep it barely healed. A wound that tore open every time she saw them in the hallway. Vampires. A word she couldn’t detach from its negative meaning because she didn’t know any better. Vampires, the monsters who drained humans and killed her parents.

But the Dawsons weren't like that. They weren't assassins, murderers or monsters. They were a minority of vampires who didn't even feed on humans. Why was that so hard for her to realize? Jason sighed, flipped a page in his book when most of the other students did so, and stared at the words on the page, without taking them in much, and shortly after he left the class without even writing down the assignment for the next week. He was in a daze, not really paying attention much as he made his way to his locker.

"So you're the drug dealer..." Mike then said as he walks up behind Jason, causing Jason to snap out of his dreamlike state. He immediately frowned and closed his locker quickly. He didn’t even have the time to reply on how bad the timing is, as Mike was ready to finally say what has been his suspicion for a while. "You guys show up and bam, our class president is caught with drugs in her locker. And you've been all over Payton at the newspaper. I saw you, talking to Mila earlier. What the hell is your deal?” Mike rambled, his voice gaining volume with every sentence.

It's was sight for sore eyes, and Jason knew the teenager in front of him was making these wild accusations, like he figured it all out, while in reality he had no clue what was really going on right in front of him: A fragile agreement between two rivalry species that could very well lead to the end of the school of they didn't manage to keep things under wraps. Knowing he won’t be able to stop the unravelling of Mike's mind he sighed and pulled him into the men's room. Once there, he checked to see if there was anyone else, before focusing all his attention on Mike. "Shut up!" He said firstly, jaws clenched, causing Mike to finally shut up. "I have nothing to do with those drugs. I have nothing to do with this and you can't go around accusing me of this." Jason said. Mike crossed his arms. "As if that’s not the first thing that people say when accused of something. So just admit it. Mila told me you were asking questions about Samantha so…" Mike said furiously. He was also looking at Jason from head to toe, bringing out his best intimidation technique.

Jason shook his head slowly. He does not have time for this right now. Jason was about to put Mike in his place when he heard the door open. Mike launched his fist at Jason as he was distracted. When Mila walked through the door, Mike’s fist was in Jason’s hand. “I thought I saw you two walk in here. Mike, what the hell?” Mila asked. She did not seem fazed by the men’s restrooms at all. “Mike, is this about the drug dealer thing?” Mila then asked, and Jason noted how Mila knew about that. People really did tell her everything, didn’t they?

“Yes, this is what that’s about.” Jason then said to her, before turning back to Mike, letting go of his fist. “You know the principal expelled that guy, right? So why accuse me. Just do everyone here a favor and drop it." Jason said, then moving towards the door. Mila and Mike exchanged a look as he did so, and Mila sighed deeply at the unspoken question Mike asked her. “But you did ask about Samantha. Why?” Mila then asked, and Jason wrapped his hand around the handle of the door firmly. Luckily his back was still turned towards them, so they didn’t see his face as he made up a lie on the spot. “Because I saw Payton on our floor and she seemed upset about something. Then I found out about the newspaper stuff.” He said, allowing Mila and Mike to connect the dots themselves. Jason then opened the door, until Mike spoke again.

“Mila, did you know Seth and Jason have like, zero online presence. Nothing. No Myspace no... nothing." Mike said. Jason had never rolled his eyes more in one minute than just now. Social media. Of course that was what determined if someone was guilty or not. This was the 21st century after all. “Our foster parents won’t allow us to have them.” He said while slowly turning around.

Mike and Mila then both looked at each other, and Mila uncrossed her arms. "Yeah, it did take Mike a while before he had his parents convinced he could keep his account." Mila said, grinning at Mike. Jason was glad to see Mila’s smile. It meant the serious layer of this accusation was now gone. Or at least subdued. Maybe he should thank her for that later.

“Look… Seth and I don't want anything to do with those drugs, so no we're not the drug dealers." Jason then stated. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go to class." He said, walking out of the restroom. It wasn’t until he walked into the social studies classroom that he realized he would still have to endure half a day with Mike glancing at him. And somehow that annoyed him more than Payton doing it. So he kept his head low and pretended to be thoroughly interested in whatever the teacher had to say, an act he kept up during the remaining four classes of the day, after which he met up with Seth in their room.

“There you are. Okay so I’ve been thinking. That mercenary. How he got over here so quickly. So I have a theory. What if Andrei Dobremov had an accomplice? What if someone has been watching this town the entire time, before we came here?” he said, every sentence causing Jason to turn around in his desk chair a bit more, until Jason was finally turned towards Seth. “That would mean this was about the Silverstones after all.” Jason replied, and Seth shrugged. “They’ve been living here again for a decade. Plenty of time to establish a cover. That spy could be right in front of us. Then all they had to do was ring in the mercenary, and make it look like a random attack. Of course the Silverstones would then blame us.” Seth explained.

Jason sighed deeply. “I’d say it’s a long shot, but after today I know this school has some secrets too. Mike accused me of being the drug dealer, today.” Jason scoffed, and Seth frowned. “Why?” he asked, and Jason gets up from the chair. “I asked some questions about that girl, Samantha. Only to learn more about Payton and her work at the newspaper. But since Samantha is linked to the drug dealer, Mike drew his conclusions.” He said, then rubbing his temples a little. Seth was slightly amused by this revelation, but seeing how it annoyed Jason he didn’t comment on it any further. Instead he moved back to his theory.

It was certainly a theory that James had to know about, and so Seth shared it with the rest of the family that night. To Seth’s surprise, Alyson was on board with the idea, stating she had found it strange nobody had tried to assassinate the Silverstones aside from some lone wolves. This statement surprised Jason, because up until now she hadn’t been too vocal about her opinion on the Silverstones. Jason then explained to her that Payton was actually really good at fighting vampires for an 18-year old. He let slip a few more other abilities of Payton, such as the fact that she also knew Latin. This gained her even more points in Alyson’s book, who studied both Latin and Greek at one point in history.

Then came the hard part. With most of the Dawsons agreeing on the accomplice theory, Seth gathered the courage to knock on Payton and Claire’s door, to his relief seeing Claire open the door. She could tell by the look on his face that it was serious, and Seth walked to his room, inviting Claire inside. “There’s news. About the mercenary. There was a body found. Not recent enough to have been from Andrei Dobremov. Not primal enough, either. So we think he has an accomplice. An accomplice who was already here. A spy, amongst the students at the school.” He explained. “I talked it over with the others, and they think the chances are high. So then I came straight to you. You should be cautious. This person can be anyone.” He said.

Claire blinked a few times slowly, opening and closing her mouth a few times because she tried to wrap her head around a spy being at the school. “Why haven’t they killed us yet?” Claire then asked, furrowing her brows, and Seth sighed. “Because they needed someone to pin it on. Us.” Seth replied.

Claire looked up at him at that. “Well that’s not going to happen.” She said, then taking out her phone to text her sister to come to their room. “Nobody is dying or blamed for causing it. Don’t worry, I will take care of my sister.” She said, then putting her phone away again. Then she looked up. “Just don’t expect me to thank you for telling us. You don’t get a reward for being a decent person.” She then said, before walking out of the room again, into her own bedroom.

Then it hit her. If he did come right to her as soon as the theory got accepted by his people, he had no excuse to watch Payton in the woods and write it down in their notebooks. They had been doing that long before they suspected a spy.

Seth then closed his bedroom door again, and listened in on the conversation between Claire and Payton that followed. To his surprise, Payton didn’t barge into his room, instead she just started pacing around in her own, worrying about her friends, but not taking it out on the vampires. It seemed to be in line with Payton’s most recent behavior, where she tried to not focus on the vampires as much, as Jason had mentioned after his observations.

Saturday September 8th, 2007

Over the next couple of days Jason continued to look at Payton more, and wrote down in his notebook less. However it’s not until Saturday morning that he noticed his last entry was from Friday third period. Then, he wondered if Seth had any more recent entries. However when he got up to look at Seth’s notebook, there were mainly theories about the spy in there, instead of actual notes on the Silverstones and their friends.

Jason then concluded that somehow, in the span of the past week, their third week at the school which included a bank holiday, a fire alarm and accusations of being a drug dealer, both of them had completely ignored James’ orders. Somehow they got wrapped up in the drama that went on at this school beyond them. People’s lives who went on despite the fact that they were in the same classroom as vampires and witches. Human lives. Or at least… all but one.

Still, the humanity at the school had fascinated them both to the point where, three weeks in, it was impossible to not be involved. Something they would certainly get critiqued on, but it was all worth it to watch the little things of humanity in the most powerful witches on the planet and their friends.

He could see it when Claire would do something clumsy like drop her books. Or Payton would hand mike a can of soda she had been shaking with. Who would have guessed Payton was a prankster? He watched Justin run pretty damn fast for a human, and Mike answer questions about physics Jason didn't even understand. He saw Mila being nice to almost every person in school, something Jason admired because he resists the urge daily to throw them against the lockers. Not in a vampire-related way, but in a way where he'd like to knock some sense into today's youth, and teach them a thing or two about respect.

One person in particular maybe, whose name had echoed through the hallway in union with Samantha’s. Jason could see why Dean was expelled. And Samantha took the blame for it all, working out her frustrations on Payton. But Payton just ignored her, kept on with her life and didn’t let it phase her. In fact as far as he heard, the newspaper was doing okay. And those were the little things that made them Payton and Claire. Not The Silverstones, super witches. Just... teenagers. It were those things that made it easy on him not to hurt them. Those things washed away any temptation immediately, until he barely even heard their heartbeat as they walked by anymore.

However the opposite went for the woods. There they had to be cautious. While Alyson and Dylan tried to uncover more of the spy theory Seth had, and James and Elisabeth considering having Jason and Seth stay longer, while Lauren and Nate made trips to get more blood from their contacts. The Dawsons had retrieved themselves into their house. Only Seth and Jason were allowed to hunt in the woods, and on Sunday morning Seth was walking across the school yard to do exactly that.

Sunday September 9th, 2007

The open green fields of the school yard faded, and made room for darker, shaded forest with dark earth on the ground and emerald green leaves all around. It was all a bit of a blur, but somehow Seth managed to still navigate through the forest, avoiding low hanging branches and roots on the ground. Then he stopped when the ground beneath him slowly fell to a steep hill downwards. He watched the trails of dirt as he slid into a standing still position. He then looked up and took in the sight in front of him. For some people, this would have been be the type of view to get out of bed for at 5 o'clock. For Seth this is what he saw every day. And so he launched himself off of the hill, in a freefall that would kill any regular mortal. He launched himself so far, that he jumped over the small waterfall - one of the several little ones in this forest - before making a summersault and landing on his feet on the riverbank, at the bottom of the falls.

Claire had seen an acrobatics video once, of people doing summersaults and round overs. But this... this she hadn't seen before. Seth had just done… that, and he didn't even seem to be trying. And now he was standing at the bottom of the waterfall, in the little shallow riverbank, sighing deeply. Claire had taken a short cut, the only way she'd have been able to keep up with him wushing and running through the woods like nothing she had seen before. She wore her running shoes and she had taken a backpack, including a first aid kit. This whole thing had such a Tarzan vibe, she could almost hear Justin's voice over her shoulder making a comment on it. She then reached a standstill on part of the hill across from where Seth had landed. That’s when Seth’s head snapped towards her.

“Claire?” he asked, not by lack of recognizing her, but by astonishment that he hadn’t noticed her sooner. He had been so pre-occupied with looking for track marks, looking for signs of other vampires in the woods that he forgot to listen for another heartbeat. Something he hadn’t been doing much in the case of Claire Silverstone regardless. But why was she here? Why did she follow him?

"Is everything okay?" Claire asked, her voice barely louder than the sound of the rushing water. She didn’t want to ask the question, but the words slipped out before she knew it. She asked because Seth’s face started turning into several directions, scanning the area for possible threats. Making sure that this whole thing wasn’t a set-up. If Seth was worried, she should be worried. But then he didn’t really gave her a reply, so she crossed her arms concluding things were safe.

By now her scent was everywhere around him, her heartbeat was almost deafening because it was so fast, and her footsteps were loud on the moss-covered soil. “How…?” he asked, while Claire descended the part of the hill, until she was standing at ten feet away from him. “I followed you. From the school. I know you’ve been in these woods on Sunday mornings, because I know you’ve seen Payton out here on Sunday mornings. And I know you write that down in some notebook.” She stated, then crossing her arms with a certain pride. There. She made a move on the chessboard and there he stood, baffled.

It was a whole different Claire Silverstone than the one Seth convinced to give him a tour. But then again he had been seeing a whole different side of Claire lately. “Claire it’s not like that. It’s not what it looked like.” He said, not even pausing at the fact that he failed to keep his brain locked away enough in her presence.. Claire then looked up again. “It looked like you’ve been taking notes on everything and then you give them to James so he can put them in a file about us.” She said.

Seth shook his head, his voice remarkably calm for the situation. “No. Not everything.” He said. It was simple, but it took Claire off guard. “Not everything.” He repeated, softer this time. “There’s things that James has… no business of.” He said. “Things I write down for me. Because I’m still trying to understand things.” Things he was trying really hard to understand. The info he usually reported back to James was but a small percentage of the thoughts that wondered through his head as he walked down the hallways during lunchbreak. And he needed Claire to understand that. Whatever she heard.

Claire now softened her shoulders, closing her eyes as she received a flow of thoughts explaining the stuff they had been reporting back to James, and the stuff that they hadn't. And maybe Seth was doing this consciously, or maybe he didn't, but when Claire opened her eyes she knew she was wrong. However she couldn’t let go of the feeling just yet. Then she breathed in deeply, and exhaled in relief when he started talking instead: “Claire, you've talked to James and Elisabeth. You knew we were gathering information. You knew that from the start. Why can't you trust us?" he asked, and Claire looked up when he came to stand right in front of her now. She hadn’t noticed how he had moved closer. And neither did he, really.

But his question lingered. Why couldn’t she trust him? How could he ask her something like that? He had no right to it. "Are you seriously asking me that?" she asked, and Seth nodded. “I just need to know. How can I gain your trust?" Claire turned her head because of the question, taking in the surroundings and looking anywhere but at him. Seth then realized there would be no answer to that question. "Look Claire, I don't want this to be ruined. I don't want to leave town. And neither do the others. But they don't know you. I know you, and I know that you're just trying to protect the people…” “And that scares me." She replied, looking up at him. Seth looked around taking in what she just said. She was scared. Then there was a deafening silence. "Scares you? Are you scared of…me? Or vampires in general?" he then asked.

Claire shook her head. “I’m scared of what you know. Nobody has ever known our secret.” Claire explained, and Seth pushed back the thought of the spy being among them in school. Claire didn’t pick up on it, her own brain too confused at this point. Seth then looked at her, and subtly took a step back. “Is this about the gym incident?” he asked, and Claire slowly looked up at him. “No. If anything, it was the first time I saw something real. Something you didn’t prepare, something that wasn’t part of that façade.” She replied, and Seth then frowned. “You want to see more of us as vampires?” he asked. “I don’t know. But there’s just so much we still don’t know. You guys live right across the hall. I can’t trust if I don’t have all the information” She stated. Seth stared at her, a bit too intense perhaps, but this was the first time they talked like this and it was important.

"Don't you trust me, or don't you trust other vampires?" Seth then asked, annoying Claire because she knew she couldn’t answer that question. Not yet. “If it’s the first, then I’ll try to change it. If it’s the second… I agree. Don’t trust them. I know we're the same thing to you, for now." Seth said, looking at her as he slowly walked away backwards. "But we're not like the others. We're nothing like them. We made mistakes, yes.” He said, admitting their failures in the past few weeks. "But we're not monsters."

Claire pulled her hair behind her ears and then looked back at him. "Yeah well you royally suck at being humans." Claire then said, her voice not sounding as strong as before. It broke a little as she tried to smile at the end of the sentence. Seth shook his head slightly and Claire turned towards him a bit more. "I know what you mean. But I can't ignore it. As long as you guys are keeping secrets we can't trust you. I can't trust you. I want to. But I can't."

Seth then looked at her with a look that Claire hadn't really seen before. A vulnerability, a softness. Then he nodded. "Then there is something you need to know." was all he said, before he walked a final few steps backwards, then turning around. Seth sighed again, and blinked a few times before he dared facing her, this time his hands glowing and little electric sparks coming from them. “Some of us have an additional vampire ability." He said, looking down at his hands before turning them back to normal.

"You have powers?!" Claire said loudly, not that it was any danger since they were in the middle of the woods. Claire was leaning on the heels of her feet. Seth just bowed his head. "Not all of us. Trust me, there…" "Trust you...Do you even know what the word trust means?” Claire said, with a snick in her voice that said enough. "You told me…. They said you could only…. And now you have electricity running through your hands. How am I supposed to..." "I know." Seth said. Claire turned silent.

He didn't want to interrupt her, but he just wanted to fix the way she was looking at him right now. Claire ran her hand through her hair. She knew he was a vampire. She knew he was fast. Strong. Old, but not extremely old. Young, but not extremely young either. And now Claire found out she knew nothing all along. Because he kept this from her. This and the notebooks. While she had defended him.

“We should get back to the school now. The woods aren’t the best place right now.” Seth then said. But Claire was still angry. And she still has a billion more questions. She wasn’t going to let this go easily. "Does Jason?" she asked. Seth nodded. “Just he and I actually. It's related to the way we died. If you want the technical explena.." He looked at her and sighed. She wanted the technical explanation. Any explanation would do for that matter. “When we die, we are kept alive by the vampire toxic. That or it can actually re-start our heartbeat, if the toxic reaches the heart fast enough. Sometimes, the toxic picks up abnormalities in the body on its way to the hart. The element supposedly mixes with the toxic, creating an additional power." he said.

Claire frowned for a bit, then she nodded. To her surprise he continued: "I got struck by lightning. James found me while hunting, I was jammed under a tree." He said. "I was going to bleed out if James hadn't turned me. He made a quick decision, and that's the reason I’m still alive. That's the reason why most of us are alive: Because we make decisions we need to make to survive." he said.

Then he looked at her, that piercing look returning in his eyes. "We have to make decisions in order to survive. We have to maybe do things that could turn out badly. I know if James hadn’t risked his own life to save me, I wouldn’t have saved many other lives in the past 20 decades. It’s what we do. We help people. We don’t kill them. James helped me. He didn’t let me die.” He said. The silence that followed was deafening once again.

"I'm glad he did." Claire then said as she took in the scenery around them. Then she looked at him again. "But this doesn't change anything about my trust." A trust he had broken. And she was done forgiving people for that easily. “You said we shouldn’t be in the woods.” Claire then said, before taking out her phone, and then she started walking.

"You're telling your sister, aren't you?" He said, his hands in his pockets because he knew that would mean it was all over, probably sooner than they had been allowed to stay to begin with. Claire looked up to watch where she was going more than she looked down to text, so it took forever for her to actually finish typing. In the 30 second silence, she almost forgot he asked her something. Then she pressed send, and she looked at him. "I'm texting Justin." she said. "I'm not going to tell my sister over text that you guys have powers." she said.

Seth then eyed the school through the dense forest, and Claire picked up speed. As she was walking ahead of him she looked back one more time. “Stay there. You don’t want to be around the third floor when I tell her this.” She said, and Seth stopped in his tracks. What did that mean? Did Claire just offer to take that job from them, so she could prepare Payton for Monday morning in class? It looked a lot like it. Just like she had done with the news about the body they found in the woods.

As Claire walked off, Seth remained in the tree line and he waited there until he couldn’t differentiate Claire from the other students in the school yard, hanging around the entrance talking about their weekend. He then grabbed his phone himself, quickly pressing a few buttons on it in order to get Jason to the Dawson house ASAP, before Seth himself started his journey to their house.

Once Seth walked onto the deck at the back of the house he found everyone in the living room, leaning over a map of the town, which had the separate sectors of the woods marked. “What are we discussing?” he asked as he walked in, and James looked up. “Good, you’re here. We were just discussing hunting, for you guys staying at the school longer.” He said, and Seth smiled, despite the conversation he just had.

“So we’re staying enrolled? Alright. What did you have in mind?” he asked, as he took a seat next to Dylan. A few moments later Jason walked in, and Lauren got up from the couch. “James just told Seth you can stay at the school.” She told him as they crossed paths while Lauren was on her way to the kitchen. Jason arrived in the living room with the news, and Elisabeth smiled at him.

Both Lauren and Nate had supported the idea. Dylan was skeptical but he trusted Jason and Seth enough that they wouldn't screw it up, and Alyson agreed to it as long as Alyssa wouldn't get involved. Which wouldn't be a problem since Jason and Seth hadn't heard from her in a while.

Then, Jason looked at Seth and in a conversation without words he convinced his best friend to interrupt James’ talk in numbers. Seth told James and Elisabeth about his most recent conversation with Claire. Elisabeth sighed deeply, then she nodded, stating it was better the Silverstones knew everything. Jason waited outside of the library, his questions ready to be posed once Seth walked up the stairs again.

“She followed you through the woods? Claire Silverstone? How the hell did you let that happen?” he asked, and Seth shrugged. “I was looking for tracks of spies, I was not exactly expecting Claire to be there. If anything I was expecting Payton, but she wasn’t in the woods. And right now she is probably talking to Claire, so…” Seth said, and Jason stopped him from entering his room. “We better hope Claire can convince Payton that we didn’t mean any harm with the notebooks. And our powers….”

Jason sighed as he realized how Seth had no choice but to tell her earlier. “Well alright maybe we should have told them about it. But it’s not like we use them all too often. I don’t want to relive the feeling of getting shot all the time.” Jason said and Seth turned a bit more towards him. “Try being electrocuted.” He replied, and Jason shrugged. “Let me know if you hear anything.” Jason then said, before he walked to his own room and closed the door, his phone in hand as he texted whoever he had to.

An hour and a half later, Jason appeared in the doorframe of Seth’s bedroom door again. “So, about that spy… How are we going to find them? If they’ve been under cover for so long…” he said, watching Seth staring out the window, pining without a doubt. Jason had to walk in and sit down opposite of him. They say in silence for a bit, until Seth felt like Jason didn’t judge him for what he had revealed. And how.

Seth then ran his hands through his hair. He accepted Jason’s transparent attempt to distract him.. “I don’t know. But they should be our priority. One wrong move on their watch and our entire cover could be blown. Or things with the Silverstones could get ten times worse. We have to be careful.” He explained, and Jason agreed.

“Do you think we should test people?” Jason asked, and Seth slowly nodded. “Maybe at a party. They wouldn’t be truly drunk, so they’d have to pretend in order to blend in. Sure we could spot someone like that?” Seth suggested, and Jason nodded with confidence. “Good plan. I’ll see if I can find out when the next party is.” He said, as he got up and called Mila.

Of course she apologized for the drug dealer accusations first – for the sixth time that week – before she went on to talk about a party upcoming Friday. Jason then took the news back to Seth, and they talked it over with James and Elisabeth. James and Elisabeth agreed, glad that attending the party was an actual plan rather than what Seth did earlier this morning. It was a judgement that Seth felt in the room, but he dealt with it. But they could go, given they prepared thoroughly. The rest of the day went by relatively calm at the Dawson house.

Claire then finally gathered the courage to interrupt Payton in her book, and as she sat upright on her bed, Payton knew Claire was serious. “What is it? Claire, tell me.” Payton said, and Claire bent her head. “It’s Seth. I may have followed him this morning. It’s why I suggested for you to not go out to the woods.” She said, and Payton lifted herself up with her arms from where she was laying down on her bed. “You followed him? Where?” she asked, and Claire looked outside of the window. “The woods. No further than a mile away from school. He was on his way back from… well, you know.” Claire’s face was a bit uncomfortable as she envisioned Seth sinking his teeth into a deer.

“Earlier this week I found that they keep all of the information in this notebook. They write quite a lot. Stuff about what we do, our friends…” She said. “So I wanted to confront him.” She said calmly. At the mention of friends, Payton’s was on full alert, so Claire knew she has to be quick. “Don’t worry, nothing that endangers any of our friends. In fact, I found out they don’t report all of it back to James. Only the parts he needs to know. And I found out. He didn’t tell me that, I read it in his mind. So it’s true. But he still apologized.” Claire explained.

Payton got up from the bed and sighed deeply. Apparently the reveal of a body found in the woods and a spy amongst them wasn’t enough to test her patience this week. “Well we knew they were passing information. But I had no idea they wrote it all down and stuff.” Payton said, proud at herself for staying calm about it. Claire gave her an encouraging smile because of it, because she saw Payton’s struggle on her face. It helped that this reveal did make sense. It explained things, rather than introduce more questions. Why Jason carried that green thing around him in each class. Details clicked into place now.

“But you’re sure they don’t say anything about our friends?” Payton asked, and Claire shrugged. “Just stuff in order to learn things better. They do need to integrate into the school’s social system. It’s why Jason’s been talking to Mila. You know her, she’s always very social and open. But he’s using that to learn, not to take advantage of her.” Claire explained. She then waited, allowing her sister to process the info until she continued. The notebooks had been the easy part.

“And then he also told me another thing. And I know you won’t like this. Me neither. But apparently they have powers. Well, only Seth and Jason. Other than running fast and hearing things… Seth has this electricity thing.” Claire said, using her own hands and moving her fingers to illustrate it. “Looked a lot like electro-kinesis only it’s more glowing and less sparks.” She described, with a frown. She had only seen it briefly, as Seth seemed anything but comfortable actually doing it.

Claire then noticed how Payton was sitting on the bed with her mouth wide open, looking like a dear in headlights. “Electrokinesis? They can electrocute us now?!” she said, and Claire shook her head. “Not they. Just Seth. And he won’t. Payton, you know that by now. If they wanted to they would have, and they tried everything to prove that they wouldn’t.” She said, moving closer because Payton was going into some sort of catatonic state. Payton barely listened. Claire took a few moments to try and peak into Payton’s mind, but she couldn’t. “Payton…”

“They kept it a secret, Claire. You don’t keep that stuff a secret. You told them I have healing abilities. They had their shot to tell us then, and they didn’t.” She said, snapping out of staring at the wall on the other side of the room. She then grabbed her coat, and Claire could barely follow her as she stormed out of the room.

About one mile into the woods Payton started running, storming, through the woods. Once she jumped over a fallen tree, and from that point on she has been running. It took a good ten minutes until she saw the area open up and then she was standing in front of the Dawson house. She realized they probably knew she was there by now, so she didn’t bother knocking. She walked into the house, well actually she stamped in, and closed the door behind her loudly. She didn’t care about common curtesy anymore because she knew she was going to kill one of these vampires. Even if they all came at her, she would have been be able to take one down. So the last thing she had on her mind, was being quiet and not damaging the floor.

In front of her are 5 vampires, three of them standing, one of them pacing back and forth and one of them on the couch. Dylan was the one closest to her, behind him Lauren hadn’t stopped pacing and Alyson was standing next to Seth in the middle of the living room, a few feet away from James. And now they were all looking at Payton. "You guys are such liars." She said, as she walked further into the living room. They all backed away slightly, as if they were making room for her in the spacious living room. So she took that room, and walked half a circle until she stood next to the fireplace. She'd use one of the fire pokes to kill them if she had to. "Payton, it's okay. We’re sorry..." Seth said, walking until he is on the other side of the fireplace.

"Seth." James said, sighing deeply, effectively interrupting him. Seth didn’t like that. "Miss Silverstone. I don't know..." James starts. But Payton cut him, well both of them, off by putting up her hand. James doesn't like thàt. "How am I supposed to trust those two if you keep secrets like that." She said, looking in the direction of Seth and Jason, who had just descended the stairs, with the words 'those two'. Jason immediately covered his face with his hands. He knew Payton’s new attitude towards them was far too optimistic. She hated them. And it only took one more thing to put her right back in that position. This was what he was warned for. This was why Seth told him to leave the dorms.

For a couple of seconds it was quiet, Dylan and Alyson grabbing each other’s hand, and Lauren covering her mouth. James made eye contact with Seth, who just looked defeated. He tried to make eye contact with Jason, but he was looking in the opposite direction than James now. "We have accepted that we made a mistake." James then said turning back to Payton. Payton barely even listened, instead taking in the faces of the people in front of her. Then she processed the words. They made a mistake. Yes, they did. But this was so much bigger than just one mistake. Payton then realized James was speaking in plural but Elisabeth was nowhere to be found, and Nate isn't there either. But Jason and Seth were here, and not in the school which meant they anticipated this. "Well at least one of you did. If he hadn’t told my sister, when would we have known?" she then said. It wasn’t really a question, more so an accusation in disguise.

It caused a reaction from Lauren, and Payton squinted her eyes, causing Lauren to stop in the middle of her gasp. Payton continued to take in all of their faces. The same faces she had been trying to push out of her mind for the majority of last week. The same faces she hadn’t seen in her dreams for the first time yesterday. Yet now she was standing right in front of them. The faces she already knew, and the faces she just met.

And then there was the face she knew best. Only the look Jason was giving her, wasn’t one she had seen before. He was almost begging with his eyes, which is when it hit her. The crippling guilt they were feeling. The collective wave that flowed from all of them was enough to push Payton on her heels. But she didn’t let it phase her long, or let it diminish her anger. Then, a scene unfolded Payton didn’t anticipate.

"Look, we would have explained more about our species eventually. But you already kind of hate us so we wanted to… " Seth started, before being interrupted once again. "You should have told them, Seth. They’re your powers. Don’t try to justify it.” Dylan said. Dylan came across Payton as the type of guy who didn’t say much, but when he did, it mattered. "I don't know what happened to you guys by being at the school, but your judgement got clouded. This one is on you guys." He continued.

Something in the way he talked, like she wasn’t right there, annoyed Payton. However she couldn’t think too much about that because the discussion continued as Jason stepped closer towards Dylan. "Yeah well some of us have spent weeks trying to blend in. Not use our powers. Be careful around the humans. Watch out for any more attacks. We were in the line of fire. Meanwhile you guys were doing what? Buying curtains? We did our job at the school." Jason said.

Payton then shook her head. "I don't care whose fault it was, because it was all of you. Nobody said anything. Not while we sat right in this house. Not while you had every chance to mention ‘oh by the way, I can electrocute you.’” She said, making eye contact with Seth. Her anger now returned instead of her shock about Dylan’s comments a few seconds ago. Jason could tell by the way she tensed her shoulders.

“What would have happened if you used your powers at the school? How would you have explained?” she asked, not really waiting for an answer in the next twenty seconds. Twenty agonizing seconds as she drilled into Seth’s conscience with that look. Then she turned the same look to the vampires in the room. “But you’re right about one thing. I hate you guys. So I don't want any of you guys at the school anymore."

CONT - Sunday September 9th, 2007

Jason’s facial features softened, and he looked at Seth. Maybe she was right. Maybe they messed up big time by not telling the witches about their powers. After all, Payton made a lot of good points about how them being at the school was a complete disaster. But she was still wrong about them, as people. He knew that because of that he should say something now. He knew that his family was counting on him to say something. But he couldn’t. Not when he saw Payton looking at him.

Seeing her stand across the room, all he did was feel sorry. Then Seth threw his arms up. "So that’s it? You’re just throwing away the truce we had over the past two…” “There was never a truce.” Payton cut in, her teeth clenched a little and her voice sharp. “There was just me waiting for you guys to mess up with something that could endanger my friends. The people I love. My home. And you did." She stated. Seth sighed, looked at Jason and almost asked out loud why he didn’t back him up. Then he looked back at her, her determination acting like a wall he couldn’t penetrate with any reason.

“Payton.” Seth said, looking directly at the oldest Silverstone witch. The first name basis he thought he owned to her annoyed Payton even more now. "You know deep down that we wouldn't hurt anyone. All we're trying to do is understand the people in this town. And make them understand us." He said, the mood now shifted from an accusation to a plea for mercy. Everyone noticed it, but mainly James who was no stranger to seeing Seth plea for things, as he used to back when he was a lawyer.

Jason put his hands in his pockets, and eyed the room. Lauren was fiddling with her hands, anticipating Nate's return from the supply run with Elisabeth. Dylan was looking at Jason, and Alyson was looking outside the window. They didn’t say anything. So Jason sighed deeply and braced himself. "We also tried to keep our distance." Then James stepped forward, cutting both the guys off. "Okay that's enough." He said, walking towards the fireplace. Seth recognized James’ typical tone of voice that said ‘Let’s discuss this elsewhere’.

But then, when James moved closer, Payton looked at him and drew her athame, pointing it at him. "Stay were you are." She said as she eyed Seth who was even closer to her than James was. So Seth took a step back. Jason just nodded, stretched both his arms along his sides and eyed the weapon she was holding out. “Okay, there is no need for that.” He said calmly

It is at that point that Claire walked into the foyer, and arrived in the middle of the living room, still out of breath. But she ignored the burn in her lungs, and focused all her attention towards her sister. "Payton, please don't destroy all of this. You don't have to kill them.” She said, to which Payton closed her eyes. It sounded too much like on the first day of school, when Claire had convinced her that Payton wouldn’t have to go this far. And now, here she stood. But when James and Seth both took another step backwards, Payton lowered the athame anyways.

Next, the door on the east side of the living room opened and Elisabeth walked in with two cooling boxes. As she took in the sight in front of her, she inhaled sharply. She didn’t know what was going on, but the desperate look on Claire’s face wasn’t encouraging. "Can we have the room please?" Elisabeth asked, eyeing her husband. Payton inhaled one deep shaky breath, and then she made eye contact with Elisabeth. “Sure. James will bring you up to speed about the latest standings. I’ve said what I had to say.” Payton said to the woman. Then she left in the direction of the foyer, passing right through Alyson and Dylan on her way out.

Claire was right behind her, not missing a beat this time as she followed her sister to the tree line, where Payton was leaning against one of the trees, trembling. She took a few moments before she actually said anything, and she prayed that the vampires inside had the common sense not to follow them outside right now. "Payton..." Claire started, but she got cut off right away.

"Do you know what I remember most about that night, when they came into our house?” Claire shook her head slightly. Payton rarely talked about that night. “Thunder. But mostly the lightning. And for almost 13 years I have been telling myself that all those flashes I saw were the lightning but what if one of them was just like….” She couldn’t even say his name right now. It would make him somehow more human than she wanted him to be right now. More human than what she wanted to see him like. Them. She needed to see them all as the monsters they really were.

“What if they had powers too. And our parents got killed with some sort of magic.” Payton said. Claire only now saw the tears that rested on Payton's lashes. Seeing Payton cry terrified her. But she couldn’t be scared now. She had to be strong. Especially since this changed everything. Claire understood now. Payton had different memories about vampires than she did.

Claire pulled Payton close and locked her older sister in her arms. “We don’t know, Payton. We don’t know who killed mom and dad, we don’t know if they had powers. But I do know they.” Claire was pointing out the Dawsons. “…aren't the same vampires. They didn’t kill mom and dad and you know that too.” Claire said, before breaking the hug, and fixing her sister’s hair and her run down mascara and god, Payton looked like a mess.

Claire then knew Payton didn’t need a pro-vampire speech right now. Anything Claire would say at this point would only temporarily patch up the wounds Payton had been healing for all those years. The wounds that had ruptured open the minute vampires moved into town. Then, Claire looked up when he heard an unfamiliar voice, and two seconds later that same voice spoke:

"I’m Alyson and that’s Dylan. We weren’t there when you guys talked to James and Elisabeth. And we feel guilty." she said, her hands cautiously on her upper legs, fingertips gracing the edge of the shorts she was wearing. Claire only now looked at the people standing in the driveway. "Someone should have told you." Alyson continued. Nate then walked to the front a bit. "It should have been us, going to that school. I’m sorry. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if we went to the school instead.” He explained, as he turned around to look at Lauren, and held out his hand for her.

“But we’re not. Seth and Jason are, and they are doing better than ever expected. Which is why they should stay. They can do it.” Lauren said, and Claire could feel Payton shift behind her. Seth emerged from the house in the doorway and Jason followed closely behind him. “Payton, Claire… My family has…”

“You call that a family?” Payton scoffed, then settling her glance on Dylan. “You threw Seth under the bus. You, you think this wouldn’t have happened if you had been at the school instead. You, you praise their work at the school but you neglect to point out there was a body and a spy that they completely ignored.” Payton said, pointing at Dylan, Nate and Lauren respectively.

Payton blinked as she looked down, dropping a final tear from her eye, before wiping it away. She then straightened her shoulders, and ran her hands over her cheeks before looking at her sister. “I’m sorry Claire. I can’t risk our lives based on promises coming from these people.” She said, before turning around and walking down the driveway again.

Seth felt like he was experiencing the night before school started all over again, based on the way Payton was trying to shoot him to hell with the look in her eyes as she continued walking down the driveway. His glance then switched to Claire, who didn’t even have to read his mind anymore to know he wondered if she would follow her. "She's my sister." She said with a defeated look in her eyes. “I’m not fighting her on this. But I will give you guys until the end of the month. And then you need to leave." She said.

By then James and Elisabeth had joined in on the driveway, and James wanted to walk up to Claire, shake her hand or something. Jason stopped him by putting his arm out, and watched as Claire put her hands in her jacket and left their driveway. Then, Jason glanced to the side and he exchanged a look with Seth, before grabbing his phone. This situation required a whole new set of diplomacy that was entirely foreign to the 8 of them. But not to his best friend.

Seth pulled a little sprint and a few miles in he found himself surrounded by forest. The woods. His home. Right away his mind started to calm down, his nerves started to settle and he allowed the sounds of his surroundings to take over. Then, he heard the snapping of branches, and he saw Jason sitting on the fallen tree. Of course Jason came. But he didn’t even mind. Jason understood, as shown by the way he didn’t try to talk to him. Jason knew Seth. Seth knew Jason. This was why they were best friends.

"At least we got until the end of the month.” Jason said after a dozen or so minutes. “And whatever happens next…” He sighed, pausing by pressing his lips together because he didn’t want to think about this yet. It was too soon. “Anyways… I’m on your side, on all of this. I don’t want to go to Chicago, or Seattle, or whatever the plan is. The climate is good here, the people are nice.” He said, looking up when Seth made a scoffing sound. Okay, they hadn’t exactly made a friend in Payton Silverstone. But other things outweighed that. “Our paperwork is actually pretty decent, hunting is great and this town has so much history... Yes, some of that history includes the Silverstones.” Jason said, almost more to himself than to Seth. “But I love it here. So I get it. I get you. And I’m with you.”

Just like earlier in the living room, or on the first day of school, Jason hadn’t been able to share Seth’s enthusiasm and bravery. It always took him a while to come around on things. But he had come around on this mission. And he hated to see it fall apart the way it did.

“Yeah, well she still has every right to hate us now.” Seth sighed. Jason looked at him and said nothing in return for a good few minutes. "So what, we're just giving up?" he then asked. "Pack our bags in two weeks and just walk out of there?" Seth looked at him and shrugged. "I don't know, Jason. I don't know." Seth said as he walked off to the house again. Jason sighed deeply, got up on his feet to follow after Seth, but then he looked behind his shoulder and he regretted doing what he was doing when he made the first step.

Jason walked to the school almost blindly, just following the path from and to the Dawson house that they had formed the past two weeks, but this time he felt a heaviness on his chest. Now, with the prospect of their eviction in two weeks, Jason found it hard to have the same feeling walking up to the school. Where there were once so many opportunities, now were just a bunch of bricks and windows. What made it worse was that the entire delay depended on Claire talking to her sister, convincing Payton. And even though he admired Claire a lot, Jason knew even Payton's little sister would probably not be able to convince her anymore.

"Payton, don't shut me out." Claire said, then grabbing her sister's hand pulling her to a stop. They had been walking in silence for 23 minutes. Walking, not running. Probably because both of them felt drained. Payton looked at her, her face showing the marks of the decision she just had to take. "I did what I had to do to keep the school safe." Payton said. Claire sighed, and then stepped a bit closer. "And I did what I had to do to keep us safe." Claire said. Hesitant to break the worst part of the news like earlier today, she decided not to pause too long this time. "I gave them until the end of the month. People will ask questions if they leave suddenly. And they should have the chance to finish things off properly."

Payton looked at her sister and bit her lip. She wasn’t going to argue. Not now. "I guess I'm officially done being the parent in this family." She said with a sad smile. Claire wanted to hold her sister in her arms once again. So she did. “It's what mom would have done." Claire then whispered, her voice breaking as she spoke. Payton just silently allowed the tears to fall.

Deep down, Payton knew her sister was right about this, giving the Dawsons the time to complete their mission. Once the end of the month came, their friends would be safe from any harm. At this point Payton was too exhausted to argue that. At least it was a certainty, which was better than what they had now. “Fine. They can stay until the end of the month. And you're right, it's what mom would have done." She said, then letting go of her sister's again. "And dad would have killed them the minute he laid eyes on them. And that's what I'm going to do if they're not gone by October 1st." She said, before she started walking again.

Claire found herself unable to form a reply to that, and as her sister disappeared out of sight, Claire was just standing there. Claire just stood there, trying to grasp the fact that Payton just mentioned their father. Payton hated their father, and if she was willing to do what he would have done, and to say it out loud, Claire knew Payton is serious. October 1st. That was it.

When Payton arrived back at the school, Mike was waiting for her at the bleachers. Max was playing some music and Justin was stretching on the track field with the rest of his team, preparing for another training session so he could hopefully beat Seth at the upcoming practice. Payton made her way through the hole in the gate behind the oak tree, and Mike smiled at her. However that smile faded when Payton headed directly to the school building, despite just making eye contact with him.

In the middle of Max’ conversation about the song that was on, Mike grabbed his phone and texts Payton to ask if everything was okay. Payton replied a few minutes later, stating things were fine, but Mike wasn’t convinced. “Hey, anyone know why Seth didn’t show up for practice?” Max then asked, and Mike shrugged. “Who cares. He’s already got Justin’s scholarship.”

As Seth entered the house again, there is a certain numb-ness that can be felt throughout the entire mansion. Alyson and Dylan are up in their room, Lauren and Nate are in the garage. James and Elisabeth were in an argument that paused the minute Seth entered the living room, as if he didn’t catch what they said before.

James then got up and walked over to the liquor table, where he grabbed a bottle of bourbon. He poured some, rubbing in his eyes, before twirling the liquid around a bit and shugging it all down. Then he poured a second glass, and placed it down in front of Seth. Seth looked at it, took it in his hand, and drank it all in one go. As soon as the glass landed on the table, next to the one Elisabeth pulled up, James refilled three glasses.

Five hours went by and the sun started to slowly set when Seth received a text from Claire. “3 weeks. Make them count. I’m not stopping her if you stay one second longer than midnight October 1st.” he read out loud. He then sighed as James and Elisabeth turned silent, and he pressed a few more buttons on his phone, forwarding the message to Jason, before he put the glass on the table, demanding a refill once more. But there was none. “We should have a family meeting.” Elisabeth said, and Seth looked at her rolling his eyes. Family meeting. As if that was going to fix anything. “Fine. I’lll go and get Jason.”

And yes, Jason had expected Seth to come and get him at some point during the night. But the knock on the door didn't happen, as he sat on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. Staring outside the window. Pacing around for about 2 hours and 17 minutes. He stood at the door with his hand on the handle tempted to make their case one more time to the Silverstones across the hall. But then he backed away again and returned to sit on the bed, counting the books on their bookshelf. As if he didn't already know there were 36. Then the sunlight pierced through the window, and he sighed deeply closing his eyes for a little bit. The night was over. Finally.

Monday September 10th, 2007

As he made his way to the bathroom, he tried not to think about how there were only 15 schooldays left. As he walked into the cafeteria at 8.07 he tried not to think about all the days he had tried to appreciate the food, and how he had finally started to do so and now it'd be in vain. He tried his best not to let it get to him. But then he would look up from his plate and he couldn’t deny that he was going to miss this place.

Payton felt the opposite. She wanted October 1st to be there now, instead of 21 days from now. But she had agreed to Claire’s deal, and she wouldn’t back out now. She would just have to persevere through a couple more days sharing a classroom with Jason, and then things would be fine.

With that positivity in mind, Payton managed to struggle through science, and she only reminded herself about Jason's presence in the classroom twice. Throughout break, math class and lunch Payton was vaguely aware that he was even there to begin with. Then, during Geography she got a reminder when the teacher asked Jason to read a question from the book. In PE, she watched him hand in a doctor’s note.

Jason used the free time he bargained to track down Seth, who was meant to get Jason for the family meeting as he discovered, but he had never shown up. After two texts there was still no reply. Then, an alarming thought entered his mind. What if the spy figured out that they were on to them?

Quickly, Jason dialed some buttons on his phone and he called Seth. Expecting the call to go straight to voicemail, Jason was surprised to hear it dail, and when the sound became louder as he approached the third floor, Jason sighed. Seth’s phone was face-down on the nightstand next to his bed, his backpack thrown onto the bed and a bunch of papers were on the floor, located next to the desk which was wiped clean.

Jason rubbed his hands in his eyes and he started cleaning up the mess Seth had made when he heard a noise coming from above him. A few seconds later, Jason leaned out of their bedroom window, and he frowned when he saw Seth sitting there. “What if someone sees you?” he asked, and Seth just shrugged.

“You know, I thought the spy might have gotten to you.” Jason said, climbing out of the window to join his best friend on the roof. Seth looks aside for a second, then sighed. “Right. The spy.” He just said calmly. Jason then noticed he had a bottle of blood with him, and he gestured for Seth to pass it, taking a few sips of himself.

“Earlier at lunch some guys from the track team asked me to discuss some stuff with them. Justin was there too.” Seth said, and Jason frowned a bit. But before he could ask why that was so out of the ordinary, Seth continued. “I took his scholarship, you know. Or… I would take it. If we were allowed to stay. Not that I would want it, but the coach has to select the best runner. And no matter how much restraint I show, I’m still faster than Justin.”

Jason crossed his arms. “Can’t you just… not run?” Jason asked, and Seth sighed deeply. “You calm yourself with music. I calm myself by running.” That helped Jason understand. He had needed something to distract him sometimes, and music had done that. Even if that came with the risk that Payton would think he did it to spite her. Which he didn’t.

“So he’s giving you a hard time, then?” Jason asked, and Seth nodded. “I just really want to tell him, you know. Don’t worry about your scholarship, I will be gone in two weeks because your friend Payton Silverstone is using her witch-privilege to kick us out of town because we messed up.”

Jason didn’t really say anything about that. He hadn’t thought about how they would explain their absence. But Seth was right, they couldn’t just say that. “I think that’s why James wanted to have the family meeting.” He said, and Seth cursed. “I knew I forgot something. I was supposed to get you. Yeah… Sorry. I took off and I didn’t really stop running until I was far away from this town. I went hunting all the way east.” Seth explained, then moving to get down and back to their room. “I’ll go and talk to James now.” Seth said, and Jason followed. “I’ll come with you.”

Once the guys got to the house, James wasn’t particularly happy about Seth ditching on the family meeting, but he didn’t say much more about it. Instead they focused on explaining their absence at the school, and they continued to brainstorm about how to uncover the spy.

Tuesday September 11th, 2007

Of course nobody was particularly happy the next morning either, when Seth walked up to the school building. Seeing the American flag in front of the school only reminded Seth of the red, white and blue he saw 6 years ago. When he was watching the beautiful sunrise on moment, and watched the world cloud up in darkness the next.

Now, years later, he was standing in the great hall trying to find some shimmer of hope. James and Elisabeth had told him to focus on finding out who might be passing information to the people who would wish to see them, or the Silverstones harm. And Seth agreed. It was the first priority. That’s what he told himself when he texted Claire. ‘We’re still searching for that spy at the school. Doing our best. Let us know if you see anything suspicious.’ He texted her.

Then, he walked over to history class and sat down, waiting for the rest of the students to get there. When he got a text back he looked up, but it wasn’t from Claire like he had expected. Instead, it was a text from Alyssa. ‘Why haven’t you told me there was a spy at the school?’ it read, and Seth rolled his eyes, replying back that it was none of her business. Alyssa reminded him that it was, in fact her business, by pointing out she gave them the file on Andrei Dobremov. ‘Damn it Seth, I already have enough on my plate.’ The final reply read.

Seth quickly put his phone away when Justin and Claire walked by, before he flipped open his history textbook to page 85. Not that there was any point in him pretending to pay attention. Seth only thought of one thing: What else did Alyssa have on her plate? And why did it sound like she got in trouble for giving them the file.

By the end of the day, Seth was convinced of it as he met up with Jason in the woods. “Jason think about it. When was the last time you called her? Your birthday is coming up in 11 days, and she hasn’t even said anything to me about what we should buy you. It’s not like her.” He argued.

Jason couldn’t disagree. "Yeah, I tried calling her two days ago when everything went down with the Silverstones, and she hasn’t replied. I thought maybe she could have negotiated with the Silverstones and…” Seth frowned at this. "You want to have Alyssa negotiate with the Silverstones?" he repeated, before shaking his head. "Jason, I don't think that's a good idea. Neither one of us can guarantee that she could do that, and with the risk of Payton finding stuff out and killing her... It'd rather not pull her into this." he said.

Jason shrugged. "Okay fine, we don't involve her." he said. "But we still need to find a way to get a hold of her. So what did you have in mind?" he continued. Seth shrugged. “We’ll go look for her.”

The two of them then headed further into the woods to discuss places Alyssa could be staying and to train but mainly to hunt. After all, nothing had changed in the argument that Seth and Jason should be the ones to get their dinner right from the source, instead of bottling it up through the butchers. And aside from the convenience, it was also something both Seth and Jason needed.

And it helped. No more feeding through bottles that would constantly run out, no more stupid straws. There were no side effects. The only inconvenience was having to hide the bodies if the kill looked too suspicious, which Jason had offered to do this time around.

Thursday September 13th, 2007

By Thursday the search for a spy at the school and pinpointing Alyssa’s whereabouts had caused both Seth and Jason to skip several classes. It didn’t hurt that they could avoid the Silverstones that way who, aside from Claire’s “Okay” text, hadn’t communicated with them much. Luckily, the gossip about them had mostly died down, as people had started talking about Samantha’s drama instead.

Seth even took a little bit of pity on her, the way she was hanging up the posters for Winter formal, her subject for P&P class. As he walked down the hallway, expected to be in math, science or whatever elective he was supposed to be in, he saw her. Then he realized he maybe stared a bit too long, when she snapped something in his general direction. But Seth didn’t care about whatever insults she threw at him next. Then someone called out his name, and Seth turned around on his heels. And this he did care about.

"Hi Justin." Seth said, trying to smile. He could see Justin was trying to do the same thing. "So eh… I was just talking to the teammates about the..." Justin said, but Seth cut him off. He knew it was the right thing to do. “I’m not sure I can participate, actually. I might have pulled a muscle this morning.” Seth said, trying his best to act like he was in pain due to his foot. “Oh.” Justin said softly, and Seth sighed. “I’m sorry, I’ll tell coach. You’ll have to take my place.” He explained. Justin could barely hide his smile. “Yeah. Sorry man, that really sucks. I’ll talk to you later then.” He said, before all but dancing his way to the entrance of the cafeteria. .

Once he was done standing in line, he joined the table with the biggest smile. “I think I might get my scholarship back.” Justin said, and Mike let out a little laugh, congratulating Justin. “How so?” “Seth is getting pulled out of the race.” He replied. Justin hadn’t even noticed Mila at the table, the boys table, until she spoke. “What happened?” she asked, and Justin frowned. “Oh, Hi Mila.” He said. Mila smiled back at him. “Pulled a muscle. Which is what you get when you run without stretching like he does all.. the… time. But yeah.”

Then some of the other guys mentioned the party they would be going to tomorrow, and Mike subtly pointed out Mila when they started talking about the hot girls they wanted to hook up with. “Oh, my opinion? Yeah, Chelsey is hot. But her friend Christine is way nicer. She’s very funny, actually.” Mila said in between two bites. She exchanged a look with Mike, followed by a little smile, and then she finished her plate. “I’ll talk to you later boys.” She said as she walked away.

“Why was she sitting with you guys?” Justin asked as soon as she was outside of hearing distance, eyeing Mike in particular. Mike quickly shook his head in defense. "No I'm not hooking up with Mila. She's my friend." Mike said. Justin frowned. "So? Lots of people were friends first before they started dating." Justin said. "I think you guys would look nice together." he then said.

Max lifted his eyebrow, indicating this wasn’t the first time Mike heard that statement, but Mike just rolled his eyes. “She’s just a friend, guys.” “A friend who gave us some cool advice on the girls at the party.” One of the other guys commented. Mike shrugged. “Take that as you want. Maybe she just wants you to make a fool of yourself with Christine. Girls are sneaky like that, you know.”

“But if we’re going then I’ll go and tell Lincoln. He asked about the plans this weekend.” Justin stated, and the other guys nodded in agreement. Justin took off then, going to his room to charge his phone, while Mike finished the last of his second serving. That’s when Jason walked into the cafeteria, and he sighed deeply.

"Do you guys trust them? The new guys?" he asked. Max and two other friends were now the only ones sitting at the table. One of the guys nodded. "Seth is probably the best thing that happened to our track team in years. He doesn’t deserve the scholarship like Justin does, but he is the better runner." he said. Max nodded. "That Seth guy seems like a straight up guy. And... well, straight." Max said, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice "They're just a bit strange. But then again they're from Chicago so I'm hardly surprised." Max continued. Mike sighed, then shook the thoughts out of his head and focusses on his food again. "Okay, just forget it. What were we talking about?"

He realized he didn’t even know when exactly he grew that feeling, but he concluded it happened somewhere within the first week of school. Maybe it was Payton, who seemed to be annoyed with them for reasons she didn’t specify other than ‘they’re horrible neighbors.’ Or maybe it was the fact that they seemed to have missed the memo that guys their age should hook up with girls at parties. Which the two of them didn’t attend. Mike had no idea, but he had been suspicious for a while now.

Friday September 14th, 2007

However Mike’s suspicions would soon be off the table entirely, as Jason and Seth walked into the house of Julia, the Sophomore girl. As soon as Mike caught them, he sighed deeply and in his mental list he checked off the final argument he had found against them.

Soon enough three sophomore girls came their way after five minutes, and most people walking by them gave them a nod, a pat on the shoulder or a ‘cool that you came’. But socializing wasn’t the reason why Seth and Jason were here. “Okay so we should probably spread out. Cover more ground.” Jason said, and Seth nodded, splitting up from Jason to head into the living room.

“No way. Look who finally showed their faces at a party.” Justin then said as he walked over to Mila. He pointed towards where Jason just entered the dining room, and Mila waved at him. Jason noticed it, and observed the game of beerpong that was going on while he made his way to the other side of the room. “You came.” Mila said, briefly embracing Jason in a way he didn’t expect. Justin just gave him a brief handshake, and Jason tried to relax his posture a bit. “Yeah. We… we were finally allowed to now that the house is settled.” Jason replied, and Mila smiled. “Right, you guys moved here.” She said, before taking another sip from her beer. Jason observed her as she did. Not that he believed she was a spy. But because he needed to know what regular drinking behavior looked like. “So who’s playing?” he then asked, pointing to the game that was set up at the table. Mila shook her head, and Justin then looked at Jason. “I will.” He said.

Claire sighed and looked at her book. Once she got submerged into it, she flipped over the first page. It was a tragic story about two lovers in Berlin during the second world war, who were forced to hate each other but their love extended over the boundaries of race and religion and when they were together they were just a boy and a girl. The story was captivating, but after a while Claire found her thoughts wondering. “Hey, do you know Julia? The girl that’s in my class?” Claire then asked, and Payton tried to recall the name. “The one who plays volley?” she asked, and Claire nodded. “I think I might head out to that party she is throwing. It’s only like, around the corner.” Claire said. Payton nodded.

“Sure, have fun. I’d come with you but I’m actually in the middle of balancing the magical stones, so I should finish that.” Payton said. Claire agreed, knowing how the stones could hold energy and how leaving them unbalanced could affect future use of it. “Alright then. I’m putting on a different top though.” Claire said, as she switches out her school outfit for a light blue top and an indigo cardigan. “Have fun.” Payton smiled.

Claire arrived at around 9PM, an acceptable time to wonder into a strangers house through the door that was unlocked. She knew the girl hosting, but after wondering around the house for a few minutes she couldn’t seem to find her. She did pass Justin a while ago in the dining room where he was playing beerpong. She soon realized the party was already very crowded, and finding one person would probably be impossible, so she grabbed herself a soda and she headed upstairs. She took a seat outside the window of the attic bedroom she stumbled upon, and watched the clouds getting darker and darker by the minute, and the temperature dropping more and more.

Claire continued to, on top of the regret of style choices, regret coming to the party 10 minutes later when the music became more and more horrible. In an attempt to be somewhat connected to the party downstairs she took a look around the back yard, as far as she could see. A part of the roof was blocking her view, but she could spot Justin from where she was sitting. In the twenty minutes since she arrived, Justin had already lost three rounds, but Claire applauded his determination. Claire then looked over the scene in the back yard, where roughly a dozen of people were standing in the grass, talking and laughing and dancing.

She tilted her head when she saw two people going behind the shed at the back of the garden, something she was sure only she had seen because she was three stories high. In the shadow that the shed provides from the lights of the party, Claire can distinct two people, but she is unable to identify the secret couple precisely. Not that it was any of her business. But a secret couple would make this night a lot better. She had only agreed to come to try to distract herself a bit, something she had been doing all week, ever since she replied to Seth’s text with a simple “Okay.” At least here there wouldn’t be any vampires for her to run into, which should make things a lot easier. Or so she thought.

"Look who showed up." Lincoln said loudly as Seth walked on to the deck in the backyard. Seth smiled and high fived his fellow teammates as they welcomed him. "Well I had to be here. Someone needs to make sure you guys don't mess yourselves up too much." he said, and most of them laughed, except for Lincoln.

Claire then almost choked on her drink as she heard Seth’s voice. Seth was here? Around a bunch of intoxicated teenagers who had already broken two vases? What if someone cut themselves? Suddenly she was glad she went for a simple drink, realizing if anything went south she was probably the only person who would be able to stop anything. She sat in the window for a few more seconds, observing Seth as he casually exchanged some small-talk, before proceeding to walk down the back yard. Then, Claire turned around to kick her legs back in the window to walk downstairs.

And the maneuver wouldn’t have been easy had she drank anything alcoholic, but then again Claire didn’t need alcohol to be clumsy. She found out about that when she lost her grip on the attic window due to the rainfall from earlier. Before she knew it her feet were slipping, sliding, not finding anything to get a grip on. And just like that, she fell off of a significant height, heading for the ground.

She closed her eyes, bracing herself for impact. However instead of the pain from crashing to the ground, she only felt the two arms holding her up. Quickly she opened her eyes, and she looked at Seth’s jaw. He then looked back at her with an expression that read both as shock and as relief. Neither of them said anything for a few moments, and then Seth spoke. "Apparently I should attend more parties, if everyone jumps from attic windows."

It sounded like a joke, but both of their faces are very serious. Claire was simply too shocked to register that he must have already noticed her before she fell. "Thank you" she then said softly and seriously, noticing the severity of the situation. Luckily Claire fell towards the part of the garden behind the corner of the main back yard, so only the people all the way at the back of the garden would see it, and nobody was standing there.

"If you hadn't been here..." she then started, but she stopped because she didn't want to imagine what would have happened. Seth then put Claire's two feet on the ground, and Claire nodded at him, glad to feel the earth under her feet again. "You saved my life." She whispered over the bass notes coming from the music installation. It's something they both realize, but actually saying it out loud puts a weight to it. It made them think, Seth in particular. He blinked, slowly, because the last time he was this close to her he was pinning her to the wall of the gym and he was not saving her then.

The memory was enough to make him let go of her right away, and Claire frowned slightly until she heard his thoughts and she shook her head. "Don’t. That wasn’t you." She said then, putting one step towards him, the one he had just taken back away from her. She then looked at him and waited until he looked back at her. "Thank you for saving my life."

The words echoed in Seth's brain as he registered her heartbeat, which was slowly going back to its normal rhythm. He saved her life, which made him wonder how she even fell in the first place. He then wondered why she was still talking to him, instead of getting as far away from him as possible, like she should. Right about then he would have loved to read her mind for once.

“You’re welcome. And don’t worry, I won’t expect you to change your mind on anything.” he then said, and he had an expression on his face that Claire knew she deserved. She had been clear about where she stood – on Payton’s side. And if he was like that he would bargain him saving her life to change that. But he didn’t. He wouldn’t, because he respected her too much. And maybe he was trying to save himself the pain of it too.

"What if I did." she then said softly. There was a frown on her forehead, one that suggested she felt conflicted about what she had just said. But she had said it anyways. And there was no backing down now. Seth frowned, and Claire glanced over at the party briefly, before looking back at him. He saved her life by showing up at a party.

“Payton…. She is convinced your powers will cause harm. And your tendency to keep secrets will only bring trouble.” Claire said, then looking up at him. She took a deep breath. “But you just saved my life. So I think that is enough to convince me you would never use your powers or your other abilities to hurt me." She said.

The way she said it implied a certain answer. She was asking him if she would be doing the right thing. All Seth had to do was tell her yes. Save her life, and tell her that yes, they could be trusted. “I won’t. I swear.” He said. Claire then nodded. “Good. Cause if I’m going to fix things, I need to be able to trust you with my life.” She said, before she put a hand on his arm and walked past him, back to the crowd of people. Seth was left standing behind the corner near the garage, blinking his eyes a few times processing what just happened. Then, loud bang of thunder sounded right above him.

Justin lost yet another round of beerpong and he used the break to walk up to Claire making her way through the house. "They say there's a storm coming tonight." He said before taking a sip from his red solo cup. Claire sighed deeply. "Yeah, I'm heading back to school soon. Please don’t drink too much." She said, then pleaded. Justin nodded, appearing more sober than he probably was.

“I’m gonna go now. Goodnight.” She said. He nodded, before launching the next round of beerpong. Claire smiled a bit as he got one good, and then turns around, heading towards the door and making her way through the crowd of people jumping around to 2007's top hits. She then found Mike and Max on the deck, and mentioned she was going home, to which Mike said he wanted to stay. Claire then sighed, and that’s when Max offered to walk with her to the school. Claire smiled slightly, and a few minutes later she left the party.

“You didn’t enjoy yourself?” Max asked as they walked on the driveway, and Claire closed her cardigan in front of her. “The music was horrible.” She replied, and Max laughed. “Yeah, I’m not going to argue on that.” He said, reminding Claire that he was actually good with music. But Claire had too much on her mind to get into that, and so she opted for a silent walk home, instead of chit-chat. “Thanks, for walking me back here.” She said, and Max shrugged. “No problem. And I know Mike thinks of you as a sister so I will tell him you got home safely.” Max replied. This caused Claire to smile faintly, because up until this point she had only heard Dianna, Mike’s mom, say something along those lines. “Thanks again.” She said as she made her way through the front door, and Max stayed on the parking lot until Claire was out of sight.

He then grabbed his phone, and dialed a number he had dialed all too often in the last 24 hours, but he still got no reply. Over the 7 minutes it took to walk back to the party, he then drafted several versions of a text, before he put away his phone without sending any.

Payton looked up from the book when the door opened, and she saw Claire. "You're back early." Claire could see she has been working non-stop, and the guilt for leaving Payton to this all alone was starting to set in. She then put on her comfortable pyjama bottoms before she walks back up to her sister. "I'm sorry." Claire said, as she takes Payton's hand. Payton looked at her sister and nodded, but Claire isn't finished yet. After what happened this night, she had some things to say to her sister. Things she almost didn't have a chance of saying anymore. "You're my sister. I will always love you." She then said. Payton nodded, and smiled, not taking this too serious because she knows Claire may have drunk something at the party. Claire then wrapped her arms around Payton's neck, and Payton continued to smile. Not sure if it was alcohol or guilt, Payton hugged back at Claire’s clingy embrace.

"I got you..." Payton said, as Claire rested her head on her shoulder. "Just you and me. Like always." She added. Claire closed her eyes as she said those words, because she is terrified that it was no longer entirely true. If it had been just her, she would now be dead. Although she really tried to ignore that thought. So they sat like that for a few minutes. “You okay?” Payton asked after a while, and Claire wiped her tears and runs her hand over her face. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” She said, and Payton smiled.

Claire sighed deeply as she got up and made her way to the bookshelf to find the book she would need to help Payton. As she was standing there, she once again glanced over at her sister, who was now yawning and trying to focus, indicating to Claire that Payton was starting to reach the point of exhaustion. "You should go to sleep." Claire then said, and Payton looked up. "No I'm good." Payton replied, but Claire puts her hands on her hips. "Payton, go to sleep." She repeated, and this time Payton looked up for a while, and sighed. “Fine.” She said, as she started moving the books from her bed to her desk, where Claire placed another one beside it. She put on her lamp, and sat down on her desk chair as Payton got changed into her pj’s, allowing Claire to flip to another page of the book she just grabbed. A few minutes later Payton got into bed, and she made Claire promise she too would go to sleep soon. Claire agreed, and then returned to the page in front of her, before she looked outside of the window. If she pulled this off, it would be the greatest thing. If she didn’t, people would die.

Saturday September 15th, 2007

Claire did eventually go to sleep on time, but she hadn’t gotten much rest as she repeatedly had the feeling like she was falling twenty feet from the roof again. Unlike she usually did on mornings like these, she didn’t feel like spending her time sketching in her sketchbook. Not while at a few feet away from here was a crystal charged with magical energy for her to use.

She then got out of bed and grabbed it, putting it away in her jewelry box before Payton saw it. She hated sneaking behind Payton’s back like this, but she also knew it had been less than a week since they essentially evicted the Dawsons, and she knew it would be too soon for her to try talk to her. So far Payton was asleep anyways, and Claire took the opportunity to shower and get dressed without the two of them being in each other’s way.

Claire then grabbed her phone and she saw a few pictures from the night before appear, one of them featuring Jason at beerpong. She frowned at the picture, because she hadn’t even noticed Jason was there too, and it made her think that maybe the social act wasn’t all that random after all. ‘Why were you guys at the party last night?’ Claire asked, sending the text to Seth because she only had his number.

A minute went by until she got a reply, one that was three paragraphs long. ‘Investigating. We were observing social behavior to identify the spy.’ She read in the first part. ‘Which we now know is a student, since Dylan checked the school staff. They’re clean. But we didn’t notice anyone particular at the party either. Either they weren’t there, or they were very good at pretending.’ Read the second part. ‘Then again I was a little distracted with people falling from the sky.’ Read the third part. Claire rolled her eyes, but then read through the texts again, and she glanced over at Payton. If this was the case then all of them were at risk of being close to a dangerous spy in their midst.

Claire descended the stairs in the great hall half an hour later. Mike greeted her, but got not much more than a faint reply back, to which he frowned. He then texted Max to ask if Claire seemed off yesterday. Right after Mike sat down, getting a reply from Max saying he got wasted after dropping her off, and that he doesn’t remember. Mike rolled his eyes and then dug into his breakfast.

At a little past 11, three of the girls in Samantha's group walked in along with Katie, and Mike nodded at her, even though she seemed entirely different when she was around those girls. Her smile was a little less genuine, and her eyes didn’t shine as brightly as when Mila had told a joke earlier this week. He would never get how she can stand the mean girls vibe in that clique, but Katie had said that there were a lot of nice people friends with Samantha. And this was Katie they were talking about. She would never put her time and trust in a truly evil person.

She brought out the good in people, Mike realized. And she always found a way to turn a bad situation into a good thing. Katie was that kind of person who would find something optimistic in the event that pizza-day in school got cancelled. For the majority of the SJBS student that would be a national disaster, him included. Maybe Mike should try to apply some of Katie's optimism. He had already seen Mila, or Mila 2.0, try her hand at it and she did seem happy.

Except not on a Sunday morning like this. By the time Mila opened her eyes again, she knew her own chance of breakfast was gone, and she’d have to wait an hour before lunch, and so she considered going back to sleep for a bit. That was, until she suddenly heard someone in her room. “Good morning.” Mike then said, and Mila practically jumped out of her bed. Mike then ate a handful of ramen, struggling whilst eating it as Mila got a grip on herself. “You left your door open, so…” Mike said.

Mila yawned and shook her head. “Mike, seriously don't be so loud. Oh god, that party was such a mistake.” Mila said and then she closed her eyes again. Mike let out a sound of amusement. “Like that time you dressed up like pretty woman and danced around the whole school?” He then said. When she looked at him he shrugged, but Mila was quick to reflect it back at him. “You’re one to talk. Mister 'I’m such a jock look at me I’m so cool.' You were a mess last year too." She said, and Mike admitted defeat with a sigh. "At least Claire and Justin are doing better than both of us." He said, before taking another bite.

"What do you mean?" Mila then asked, and Mike looked up. "Claire was at the party. Asked me to walk back to the school with her but I couldn’t so Max offered.” he said. Mila frowned a little. "I didn't even see her there. But why couldn’t you walk with her?” she asked, and Mike looked up. “Because I was about to hook up with a sophomore.” He said, then realizing how horrible it sounded.

“Did you?” Mila then asked after a few minutes, and Mike shrugged. “Kind of.” He said, following Mila throwing a pillow at his face. “What the hell?” he yelled out, and Mila tilted her head. “We made out." He explained, and Mila laughed. “At least one of us was lucky then.” She said, and Mike noticed Mila wasn’t talking about a random hookup. “Wait… You’re into someone?” he asked, and Mila shrugged. “Maybe.” She said, then getting up from the bed. “But I’m not talking to you about that. Now get out.” She said as she dragged him to the door, before pushing him onto the hallway and closing the door behind him. She then went to take his food and sat down on her bed to finish it, ignoring the knocks from the door.

Across town, Justin descended down the stairs very slowly, but no matter how slow he tried to go, he eventually reached the bottom, where his mom was staring right at him. "Can I get breakfast first before being yelled at?" He then said, and Jodie rolled her eyes before she nodded. Justin then headed out to the kitchen, and grabbed himself some breakfast. He then returned to the living room, and switched on the TV until Jodie switched it off again.

"Listen to me young man." She said in a serious tone. "You know your dad and I want you to have a good time on the weekends. You can always decide to stay here over the weekends, you can do whatever you'd like. But you can't sneak out and go to parties. You're too young for that, Justin." She said in the same serious tone. She then straightened her back a bit. "Look, I know it's the cool thing to do. And you know I don't have anything against your friends. But with what has been going on in your school lately you should have been smarter than that." Mrs. Saphire said. "But mom... It was a sophomore party. None of the people involved with that stuff were even there." He lied.

Jodie sighed in disappointment. "I don’t care. Some teenagers celebrate too much and they get themselves into trouble." She then got up from the couch and looked at him. "You're grounded for the rest of the weekend because of what you did. Do you understand?" she asked, but it's not really a question. Justin sighed, running a hand through his hair before nodding shortly. "Well, in full disclosure there was this assignment for science that I didn't hand in." He then said, causing Jodie to just stare at him. She then sighed and pointed at the kitchen. "I need you to take the trash out." Jodie instructed, thinking of a punishment on the top of her head. Then she thought of one better. "And take your brother to the library too."

"Mom, seriously? He isn’t a baby anymore. He can handle himself in the library. It’s Saturday, and I was just gonna play some videogames.” Justin whined, much like the little baby he claimed his little brother no longer was. Jodie looked up at the sight of the word videogames, and before she could say anything Justin walked into the kitchen quickly, putting away his plate. “You said I was grounded. According to dad’s definition that means no leaving the house to go somewhere, no having friends over. But dad never said anything about games.” Justin said, before walking outside and putting the trash out. He then walked back inside and headed up to the stairs immediately. “Call me when dinner’s ready.”

Justin then closed the door to his room behind him and sighs dramatically as he let himself fall onto the bed. He knew he was pushing the boundaries, but if he was going to stay at his parents' house then he should at least have the same amount of freedom as he has in the dorms.

Three hours later he heard his mom heading out, and three minutes later he opened his bedroom window. However that’s when he sees his little brother in the reflection, and he closes it again. “Mom said you were grounded.” Chris said with a smug smile on his face. Justin rolled his eyes. “What does it take for you not to tell her?” He then said, walking back to the door. Chris shrugged. “Nothing. You’re not going to bribe me this time. The only way she won’t figure it out is if you actually don’t go.” He then said. “You could always.. you know, play some videogames.” Chris then walks back to his room, where he explains what he just did and he and his two friends start laughing. Of course his little brother got to have friends over. In fact he was pretty sure his mom had told Chris to invite friends over simply to spite Justin.

He eventually settled for playing some games, and he texted Claire a few times, but her short replies were a clear sign that she was busy, and considering the party, he didn’t feel like bothering her even more. And he was right. Claire was busy, and even if she had the time to tell Justin about it, she couldn’t. She couldn’t possibly try to begin the idea she was forming inside her head, and the great amount of stress it brought along.

CONT - Saturday September 15th, 2007

As she walked through the hole in the fence behind the Oak tree, Claire recalled her adventure in the woods last Sunday, almost a week ago now. She also recalled how that ended with Payton in tears. Confident to avoid that situation, Claire had chosen not to tell Payton about the visit she was about to make. A visit that required her to hike through the woods, following a path that pointed remarkably directly to where she knew the Dawson house was located on the other side of town. At the end of it, the Dawson house towered out before her. The door opened even before she had set foot on the little courtyard in front of the house, and Dylan appeared in the doorway.

"Seth said you might want to talk to us. But I think he had expected a phone call." Dylan said as he walked to her. Claire then stood there, and as Dylan stared her down she tilted her head. “Thanks.” Claire then said, before walking around Dylan and heading towards the door. “I didn’t say he was home.” Dylan then commented, and Claire stopped to look over her shoulder. “You don’t have to.” She said with a smile, before she found herself walking into the foyer. Seth was already standing at the top of the staircase when Dylan closed the door behind them. "I didn't expect you to be here." he then said and Claire frowned. “Like I told you last night.” she said, and she slowly walked further into the room. “I’m going to fix this.”

Dylan and Seth exchanged a look, and Seth then nodded his head, gesturing Claire to come upstairs. She did, walking up the staircase until she reached the second floor, and she paused briefly when she saw Seth walk into a room – his room. She tried to control her breath when she walked in, strides as confident as she could make them, and then she pressed her lips together. Had she really gone crazy and willingly walked into the Dawson house, only to proceed to walk into Seth Dawson’s bedroom? Maybe. But then again this wasn’t a casual visit. She had a mission.

Yet here she stood, in the room soaked with dark blue shades and metallic. She then spotted the SJBS sticker, and next her eyes drift off to a box besides the bed – there was a bed. Since when did vampires need a bed? Oh wait… Claire closed her eyes for a few seconds, then looking up at Seth. “You’ve started packing?” she asked, and Seth nodded. “Yeah. Although I never fully unpacked, so there’s a plus.” He said. He took a seat by the chairs at the window, one of them at perfectly acceptable distance from his which Claire could sit. But she didn’t. “I see you have the school spirit all the way across town.” Claire said to break the lingering silence. Seth let out a sound that almost resembles a laugh. “Yeah." He said, and Claire smiled.

"Look. Why I came here is… If I’m going to convince my sister I need to know stuff. About you guys. I need to know stories and details I can use.” She lied. She didn’t really need stories. Because she wasn’t going to convince her sister. That was a gone cause. “So, how about you give me that tour you promised me?" Claire then said. Seth just stared at her, and Claire didn’t need to speak to clarify that she understood the irony in that sentence.

Seth frowned and looked out of his window to Alyson and Dylan outside before he turned back to Claire. He took a few moments to look at her, try to figure out if this was a trap, and then got up and moved towards the hallway again. “Okay. A tour. This way." he said, and Claire followed him to a little hidden door in the wall. Then, she walked up a staircase, and then into another room, roughly the size of a SJBS classroom.

First she was taken aback by the huge fireplace. It looked a lot like the library downstairs, but instead of just one shelved unit, there were several units, placed in a U-shape next to one another. They formed eight little corridors, four on each side of the room. In the middle, a little desk with one of those green lights you'd see in old libraries.

Claire's feet moved forwards, and her fingers trailed over the many books. She guessed there were about 50 of them here. She looked up and saw a portrait of James at the central wall. She knew James was old, but this painting seemed at least a few hundred years old. When Claire turned around, she saw Seth standing at the edge of the room. "We never clear this one out. All our solid real estate has a room like this. Although this one is the biggest. The one in Canada is just two regular dressing closets." Seth said.

Claire smiled, and then turned back around. To her left, she saw an old globe in the middle of the shelf, some artifacts that Claire couldn't imagine the purpose of, and some old gloves. She then left the cubicle and made her way to the one across. A smile appeared on her face when she saw a rack of dresses in the back of the unit. Carefully she moved some of them to the side, and she observed the fabrics. She paid attention to the detail in one of them, and she imagined they were of extremely good quality in the time they were made. She then went to the cubicle next to it, and the first thing she spotted was a leather jacket. She didn’t have to think twice about who it belonged to, and she couldn’t help but smile a bit.

She could imagine Nate on a motorcycle, causing trouble and making girls drool all over the UK. James Dean had nothing on Nate Dawson. Maybe Nate was even a relative of him or something. Had to be. Claire then headed back to the center of the room, which was the moment that Seth's phone rang. Seth looked up at Claire, his thumb hoovering the screen before he decided he could leave Claire briefly, and he walked out to answer the call outside on the staircase.

Before her mind could think of reasons not to do it, Claire opened up her bag and collected an element from each of the cubicles. The least expensive looking ring from Elisabeth's cube, a pair of earrings from Lauren's jewelry case. She had already taken something from Seth earlier in his room, and as she gathered something from each part she heard Seth voice come up the stairs again.

"Okay got it." Seth said, before he put away his phone and he looked at Claire. "There's another vampire. I need to go." He said, and Claire looked up. She then walked out of the room, and followed behind Seth as they descended the stairs. "I'm coming with you." Seth started shaking his head right away, pausing once they had reached the second floor hallway again. "I need to. It's my town too." she added. Seth rolled his eyes, taking note of how the Silverstones used that excuse both to evict them, and to help them.

"Alright. Alyson, Dylan, section three. Now. We have a hostile!" He yells all over the house, and Claire followed behind him as he rushed through the house. In the living room she paused to put her hair in a quickly drawn braid and settle her bag, thanking herself that she wore jeans and sneakers today. The entire time Seth looked at her, waiting for her, but now his patience was running out and he was already walking backwards towards the yard.

Claire caught a small glimpse of Alyson and Dylan disappearing into the tree line before she looked back at where Seth was running in front of her. She left the deck, running after him, completely clueless of what she was even running into. “Follow me. Be careful.” Seth said looking backwards. Claire noticed how he said that while at the same time he wasn't even looking at all the branches and the roots of the trees, he was just speeding through them fast. And when he did, Claire found herself unable to catch up. In a matter of seconds he was far ahead of her, yet not speeding away like he could. He stayed within visual reach of her, but only a very small part of his attention went to her now.

Claire then remembered he mentioned section three, and she tried to recall the talk they had with the Dawsons over tea where they explained how they divide their hunting territory into sections so that they could communicate better. Especially in situations like these. As far as she recalled, downtown was section one. The woods behind the school were section three. The woods behind the prestigious Garden Street were section five. And just like that the sections created a half-circle around the town, all the way up to section 9 at the highway. Section six was the part around the Dawson house, the hunting territory most frequently used by the Dawsons. Then, a disturbing thought crosses her mind, as her mind goes back to section three.

"Wait, section three that is..." she started, but then Seth put up his hand, and then his hand moved to point at a deer right in front of them. Claire could see the deer was wounded from where she was standing, which was half as close to Seth as the deer itself. That’s when Claire noticed how tense Seth’s back looked, and she knew he was struggling. He was struggling a lot.

In fact, it took all of his willpower not to feed right now. He knew he could use it, going up to face a hostile. He could use all the strength he could. But unlike before, when he was running, he was very much aware of Claire right now. Her heatbeat was almost deafening, and the shallow breaths she took – probably from running – gave her away far too easy.

Trying to stay in control just a tiny bit longer, Seth closed his eyes. He had to leave. "I'm sorry, I don't want to hurt you." He then said, and before Claire could even object or say anything, he was gone. Claire looked around her and she watched the deer stumble along. He hadn’t fed. But he also hadn’t stayed. Which meant something was wrong.

Claire’s thoughts got interrupted when the clouds started to drum. Then her head snapped to her right when she heard something move, and she tried to tell the figure apart from the shadows of the trees, cast by the lack of sunlight now that dark clouds rolled over Waterfall Creek. “Seth?” she asked, and almost as if on cue the first drops of water start to fall.

She made her way to stand underneath the more densely gathered trees, and she frowned when her eyes looked for the figure in the shadows but she found none. That’s when she realized he never answered to his name, and suddenly Claire had shivers all over her body. She breathed in deep twice, before she made a 180-degree turn from where she was walking, heading for the same direction as she came from as the realization hit her: There was another vampire right behind her. That’s when she felt a sharp pain in her foot and she crashed onto the ground, her head missing a rock by merely a few inches.

Three miles north of Claire, Seth spotted Jason and called out his name. "Jason, wait. Wait. You need to go back. Around three miles that way." He said, coming to a standstill. Jason frowned at Seth in confusion. "It's Claire. Please, Jason. I can't live with myself if she gets hurt. There's a deer, and I almost lost it... I had to go. But she's in danger." Seth all but rambled. It was nothing like the cool way Seth usually transcribed information.

Jason didn’t need to hear more, and he nodded at Seth before he started running in the direction Seth came from, three miles south-to-south-west. And sure enough, after a short while, Jason heard Claire's heartbeat to his relief. Then, as he listened closely, he heard it beating faster than normal, and his relief washed away.

Claire tried to get up again, but failed to do so when she discovered she can not put any weight on her foot. She cursed in her thoughts, before drawing a shaky breath. “Whoever is there, you can’t kill me. You have no idea who…” “Oh but I do.” The voice interrupted her, and every hair on her body stands upright as she recognized the voice. "Poor Claire, so defenseless. I've known you for so long, I knew you would injure yourself in these woods sooner or later. It's almost not fair anymore."

Lincoln then took off the hood and smiled at her, revealing his sharp fangs in all their glory. "You're..." She tried to say something, but she wasn’t not able to form the words. One of Justin's teammates, she started in her mind. Justin was in danger, her mind continued. Roughly ten more seconds passed before Jason was able to hear someone talking, as he was still running towards the spot where Seth told him to go. Then, he saw two figures a bit further away.

"Now scream for me." Lincoln then said, as he leaned down, touching her skin with his cold hands, stroking her cheek slowly, then grabbing her wrist and bringing it to his mouth to sink his teeth in. But Claire didn’t scream. Instead she looked at him, and awaited her moment. Then, as he was distracted by the pulse in her veins, she balled her trembling hand to a fist and opened it again to reveal a red glow around it. "Go to hell." She then said, as she planted her hand in the middle of his face, causing him to stumble backwards, screaming. That’s when Claire saw Jason flash through the trees, and he came to a standstill just a few feet away.

He acted quickly, grabbing Lincoln’s head in a headlock, ut the other vampire resisted, ignoring the burning on his face and kicking some effective blows to Jason’s ribs. Eventually, Jason looked up at Claire, before he winced. “Claire, do it. You have to do it. Aim for the heart.” Jason said. Claire was frozen where she was sitting, but somehow his words, his thoughts in her mind, pull her out of it. “Wha… Ho.. I mean I don… Jason I…” Claire mumbled as she looked around for something, anything, that would be appropriate to kill a vampire with, eventually settling on a long piece of wood. Then she clenched her fingers around it and she launched forward, straight into Lincoln’s heart.

Jason let go before that, causing Claire to be pulled down to the ground harshly by Lincoln grabbing her arm. Claire noticed why Jason did it though, when she spotted the branch extending from Lincoln's back a lot, to the point where it would have entered Jason's chest if he hadn't backed away. Jason then looked at Claire and in an instant he was right next to her on the ground, one hand gently on her shoulder. Both of them then look up at the sky where the rain came from that was now soaking them instantly. Claire looked down sooner than Jason, as she felt a surge of pain coming from her ankle. Jason heard her hiss, and he frowned a bit worried.

"Seth told me you were here. Claire he didn't mean to..." "I know." she said quickly and she looked at Jason seriously. "It's my own fault. I should know better.” said, and for a couple of seconds he could see she was being severe and trying not to show anything of the pain she was clearly in. "Does it hurt?" He asked, already taking off his jacket to wrap it around Claire and moving his hands from her shoulders to her feet. Claire nodded, biting her lip. She didn't want to admit it, but it did it anyway. “Stupid rocks.” Claire mumbled, and Jason arched an eyebrow before he put out his arm to help her upright. That’s when Claire could see over his shoulder, and she breathed in deeply.

“You should… I mean, I will be fine.” She said, vaguely gesturing to the body that laid there, before turning away from it. She didn’t really know what was going to happen with him, but she also didn’t want to know. So she slowly gathered herself enough to start walking back.

"No. No, where are you going?" Jason then asked, and Claire looked at him. “Back. I'll call my sister, don’t worry." She said. Another thunder strike hit, as if the clouds are arguing along with her. "You're not going back home. You need to have that checked. I'm taking you back to the house." He said, before he walked at her with a fast pace picking her up in his arms and then he started running back to the house.

The speed saved Claire from getting soaked even more, but most of the damage was already done by the time he puts her on the living room couch. In a matter of seconds the fire was ignited and he draped a blanket over her lap. He knew he should probably convey common sense to get rid of soaked clothes, but for this once he decided to forfeit on that advice. Claire then slowly started to move her arm from where she was clenching her own waist to aiming her hands at the fire. She then looked up at Jason, who was trying to figure out what else he could do for her. “Jason.” She then said, making him focus on her. “I’m okay.”

Footsteps entered the room shortly afterwards and then suddenly stopped. Seth looked from Jason to Claire and for a second he turned around, considering going back to the kitchen where he came from. It was Jason’s voice that stopped him. "Seth she's okay." He said. As if on cue, Alyson and Dylan arrived back in the house. "Well it was such a miserable job, nobody will argue that it was done by someone who has no knowledge of a vampire physique. I mean it was barely in the heart. Few inches and she would have missed it." Dylan said, and then he suddenly stopped as he saw the person sitting in their living room.

"Kitchen." Jason said, not giving Dylan more time to throw around comments like that, walking with Alyson, Dylan and Seth back to the kitchen. Lauren emerged from with a towel, frowning at Dylan. "Hi." she gently said as she approached Claire in front of the fire. "Don't mind Dylan. He's not as flawless as he thinks he is. You did good." she said, and Claire was confused as to whether it was a compliment or not. Lauren then handed her the towel and pointed at Claire's hair, before she took a seat on the couch-end next to Claire. "Elisabeth is on her way. They're dealing with the body first. She can take a look at your foot." Lauren said, and Claire looked up swiftly.

"No, that's okay." she replied, and she then moves the blanket aside, pushing herself up from the couch, only to fall through her leg again as she tried to put weight on it. She then looked at Lauren, who tilted her head. "Elisabeth will take it as a person insult if you don't let her at help you." She said, and Claire looked up sighing. "I’m fine. But if you insist on helping then…Can you go and find this plant." Claire asked, handing over a little note. Lauren glanced at it, and then looked back at the young witch in front of her. For a second, Lauren considered that whatever spell Claire was working on could be used against them in the future. But then she saw the look in Claire’s eyes, the pleading one, and she sighed. "I can do that."

Moments later, Lauren got on the phone with Nate in the library, and Claire was left alone in the livingroom. From where she sat, she could hear Lauren mention the school, and that made Claire sigh deeply, and she closed her eyes. Nate was probably going to tell Payton.

That's when Payton got a text. 'At the DH. Don't worry about me. TTYL, Claire.' the text read, and Payton was staring at it like it’s Chinese to her. And it might as well have been, because she doesn’t recognize he language, at all. It’s not like Claire to use abbreviations, and right away Payton clenched her phone hard. Then she replied, her fingers lingering over the buttons before she started typing. 'Seth, If you hurt my sister even a tiny little bit I will kill you.' She typed. Two minutes later she received a text back. 'This is Alyson. She is fine.’ Payton read. Then her head jerked up at hearing the clicking noise across the hall, and in a matter of seconds she jumped off her bed and she pushed Nate against the wall.

"What did you do to my sister." She said, the ‘you’ being a collective word to gather the group of people he represented, and not just Nate himself. Nate was quick to push her off of him, and he pulled her into Jason and Seth’s room when he heard people coming up the stairs.

“She is fine, Payton. She was in the woods, injured.” Nate said. He didn't know how much info Alyson gave her, and he didn’t know how much she knew about Claire on her own. "Why was she in the woods?" Payton asked. Nate frowned, his mouth forming a line while he contemplated on telling her. "I don't know exactly. You'll have to ask her that herself."

Claire then got up and made her way to her bag, where she checked the make sure if the content of it was still intact. She then looked around for her phone, and she spotted it on the table on the other side of the room. Claire rolled her eyes, just her luck.

“You shouldn’t stand on it.” Elisabeth said from the doorway to the kitchen. She was leaning against it but even though she was across the room she could see the pain Claire was in. Claire looked down at her feet, and Elisabeth slowly moved closer. “Seems sprained.” She stated, crossing her arms as if she had to physically stop herself from reaching out. She probably did. Claire took a deep breath. “Could you give me my phone? My sister is probably worried.” She said. Elisabeth nodded, a faint smile on her lips, and handed Claire her phone.

Then Dylan then entered the room. "James took Jason and Seth to the woods. Checking for any more of them." Dylan's said, almost making it sound a bit robotic. Elisabeth turned back from Dylan to face Claire. "Dylan will take you to the school." She then said, and she was about to walk away when Claire spoke: "Yeah no that's not going to happen." She wasn’t riding to school with Dylan. Dylan who hadn’t looked her way once since entering the room.

But it wasn’t the disrespect oozing from the vampire that stood near the archway to the foyer. It was the underestimation that came from all of them. The way they talked to her, the six other Dawsons aside from Seth and Jason. As if they were just children. "Listen. I just killed a vampire out there. I’ve never killed a vampire before in my life. And that one, that one right there, I thought was a friend. So if you don’t think me though enough, think again.” She said. “So, are you going to tell me if there are any others outside the border?”

Dylan and Elisabeth were in sync when they looked over to each other. They had to admit Claire was persistent. Elisabeth then sighed deeply, and gave in to Claire’s wish. “Fine. You’re right, you deserve to know.” “We’ve known about vampires across the mountains who came close. But they've never come this close." Dylan said. Claire took in this information. "How many of them are we talking about?" She asked, after a few seconds of silence. Dylan looked up. "Dozens." He then said bluntly.

Claire then took a moment to process that dozens of vampires were breaking the territorial laws of vampires. What was worse, was that they were getting away with it. The only reason they hadn’t straight up walked into Waterfall Creek was because the Dawsons were here. But what if they weren’t. What would stop those vampires to advance on the town and threaten everyone in Claire's life? And the Dawsons themselves would be no match against them either, as she had observed just now. Jason was not that much stronger than Lincoln, a vampire who had been hiding in plain sight all along. Who knew how much information he had gathered over the past couple of months, years.

"Okay, I'll take that ride." She then said, and she looked up at Dylan. Dylan raised his eyebrow, and he exchanged a look with Elisabeth which Claire interrupted by groaning as the pain surged through her foot. Dylan then stepped towards her, offering her his arm to lean on, but Claire just inhales and exhales deeply. “Just get the car.” She said to him, as she pulled her bag on her shoulder. Elisabeth has already walked out of the room as Claire stumbled towards the door, insisting on making her way out of the house without any help, something she regretted fifteen minutes later when her foot was pounding as she got out of Dylan’s car in front of the school. “Lauren gave me this.” He said when Claire undid her seatbelt. Wrapped in a package with the note on top, was the plant Claire had asked Lauren to search.

She then somehow made it onto the steps of the school. Behind her she can hear Dylan driving off. Then she heard a voice, and Claire turned to see Max on the concrete statue. "Seems like someone had a worse Saturday than I did." he said, and he looked at Claire from head to toe. "Let me guess. Claire plus being slightly hungover plus tree roots." he said with a smile he was trying to suppress.

Claire couldn’t help but smile back when she realized she must look like a mess. But at least that was all she looked like, and not a witch who just killed her first vampire. And so she smiled. Because she had killed her first vampire. She had killed Lincoln, and now Justin and the teammates and the rest of the school and people like Max, were safe. And for tonight, that was enough.

"Do I even want to know what you were doing in the woods at a day where they predict a storm?" Max asked, and Claire looked up at him, starting to laugh. “No, you don’t.” she replied. She then promised to help Max with his math homework for a week if he agreed to help her climb the stairs, and in the process Max told her how Mike regretted things last night.

“Let him sit with that for one more day. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.” She said, and Max laughed before agreeing to the plan. When they arrived at the door, he handed Claire her bag and the package, and Claire nodded thankfully. Then she entered the room, where she knew Payton was probably anxiously waiting for her, and Claire tried to walk in as normally as possible. However Claire was only three steps in when Payton wrapped her sister up in her arms, and Claire closed her eyes for a bit, returning the embrace as she listened to Payton talk about how worried she was.

Payton then let go of Claire and guided her to the chair, taking in Claire's appearance. Aside from messy hair, her clothes were soaked and she already suffered from a runny nose, but Payton was mainly concerned about the reason why Claire couldn't walk. "Can you heal it?" Claire then asked, and Payton took a look at the swelling. "I don't know. It looked sprained." Payton said, before looking up. "Maybe I can heal it. I can’t promise it’ll heal all the way, but I’ll do a better job than some wannabe vampire doctor." Payton said, lifting an eyebrow. Claire then looked at her sister and sighed. "Jason found me, Payton. If it wasn’t for him I would be still in the woods." she said, and then she put up her hand before Payton can interrupt. The last thing she needed now was another lecture. Plus she had important information. So Payton didn’t say anything more.

Despite of it, Claire waited until she finally spoke. "Payton, Lincoln was a vampire." She then said suddenly. It caused Payton’s hands to drop what they were doing, and she looked at her sister with big eyes. “What? No, that can’t be…” Lincoln was a quiet guy in the back of the class, mediocre track and field player. He was about as human as they get. "Are you sure?" Payton asked, and Claire nodded. "He's dead now. But they're assuming there's more vampires out there." She didn't have to clarify who ‘they’ was. Payton had used a similar generalization to identify the Dawsons when Nate was there earlier. So that’s what Nate had seemed so anxious about.

“He’s dead?” Payton then asked, and Claire nodded before she inhaled deeply, watching Payton’s hands as they continued. It’s best that Payton wasn’t looking at her when she spoke next: “I killed him.”

Sunday September 16th, 2007

Claire sighed when she woke up the next day and she glanced over to Payton’s bed. Part of her was glad Payton wasn’t there right now. She had seen the horrified look on her sister’s face yesterday, and she didn’t need a repeat. And who knew, maybe Mike could distract Payton a bit.

Mike had offered to go with Payton on her weekly Sunday morning walk, and for once Payton didn’t mind it. It was a welcome distraction, because all she could think of was vampires sinking their teeth in a bunny, or vampires coming out of the shadows to hurt her or her sister, or her sister putting herself in harm’s way to kill them. She knew Sundays would never be the same, not since last week, but at least she could attempt to distract herself. And right now that included hearing about Mike’s weekend. Justin was apparently grounded, which was why Mike wasn’t hanging out with him. Apparently Mike and Justin had planned to go to the beach, but those plans got cancelled, much to Mike’s annoyance. Mike loved the beach. Payton not so much.

Not that the trip to California with the Saphires last summer wasn’t fun. Claire had been so excited about going, and she had soaked up the sun the entire time they were there. Justin had attempted to learn how to surf, but he failed a lot in the beginning. His attempts at surfing were pretty hilarious. Justin, who was so good at running his feet moved like lightning, failing miserably at keeping his feet on the surfboard had been one of the few things that made Payton laugh since the spring.

Mike kicked a rock, reminding Payton that she was not alone, yet it didn’t take long for her mind to wonder again. To another place. Another time. The forest they were in now was orange, instead of green. The leaves were falling instead of growing. And unlike last spring, Payton hated Pierre, instead of being in love with him. Instead of doing piggy back rides with Pierre, laughing and enjoying being outside, she was wondering around with Mike, in silence, her mind occupied by vampires. Exactly one year ago, the whole school would have gasped if someone would suggest Payton and Pierre broke up. And exactly one year ago she wouldn’t have imagined she had let eight vampires live in her town for another two weeks. Exactly one year ago she was carefree, in love with Pierre Dumoulin.

Everyone in the school knew and liked them as a couple. In hindsight, Payton didn’t understood why. All they’d do was take silly pictures. They wrote messages to one another in class. They were 16 years old. They were out and about a lot of the times to. They always found something to do on a small budget. Payton and Pierre couldn’t afford tickets to the theme park twice a week. And so they’d wonder around, Pierre would be helping Payton with her French and walk around town square. Last winter they even had a snowball fight. On other times they would stay inside Pierre’s room. They wouldn’t always do much, but they would not leave the room for 24hours on the weekends sometimes.

Payton actually was a bit of a rebel, at least back when Pierre was around. Going to campfires at the beach, sneaking out of their rooms… Payton had started getting good at that, and it rubbed off on Justin who also became good at it. After spending years in boarding school his mom and brother didn’t bother with Justin that much. Something Jodie seemed to want to make up on this Sunday afternoon mid-September.

“I’m sorry I was so harsh yesterday. You’re a good kid, aren’t you.” Jodie said as she put Justin’s brunch, homemade pancakes, in front of him. Justin looked up, sighing deeply. “You know I wouldn’t do anything you wouldn’t do. I stay out of trouble. I need to get that scholarship. But then I do need to practice. And I need to be able to practice whenever I want to.” Justin stated. Jodie tilted her head, and then tapped the plate of pancakes. “Alright. Eat those, and then you’re good to go. You’re not grounded anymore.” She said with a smile. Justin smiled back and he got up to embrace his mom. “You’re the best.” He said, before sitting down again and finishing brunch. He then burned the calories when he ran back from his house to the school. His family lived at 36 Colonial Street, in a grey craftsman house like thirteen in a dozen. The one thing that distinguished his house was the American flag that was presented proudly.

"Hey do you recall that barbecue last summer, when Keith came home from deployment?" Payton asked Mike. Her best friend looked at her, going through his memories of all the fun afternoons they had at the Saphire house. The event in question came to mind. "Yeah. The one where Claire got ketchup all over her dress because Chris had messed with the bottle." Mike said. Payton laughed. "Right, I forgot about that." she said. Mike shook his head. "I can't. Claire's face was hilarious.." he said. Payton smiled at him, then she shoved him a little for the story Claire had told. “You didn’t seem all too concerned about my sister earlier this weekend either. What if Max hadn’t offered to walk with her?” she asked, and Mike apologized. “I just really wanted to hook up with this girl.” He said, and Payton lifted an eyebrow. Mike then laughed, knowing Payton wouldn’t believe him even if he explained, so he decided to drop it.

"Anyways. I was thinking of how we might not see Keith coming home for a while. Justin mentioned this deployment would be for a while, right?" Payton asked. Mike nodded. "Yeah, I think so. But he's a great man, surely he'll come home safe." He glanced over to Payton to see her expression. He knew it was a touchy subject, the death of a parent. It was something he hadn't endured, although his parents were going through a divorce. But he knew it was the reason why Payton was concerned for Keith. She always tried to spare others from heartbreak. All the while she was the most broken of them all.

She was concerned for Justin, his family and mainly the brave soldier himself. If anything were to happen to Justin's father, all of them would be devastated. Keith was like a father figure for the Silverstones. Keith helped Mila with learning how to drive, and he helped Mike sell some of his dad’s old records online. Something about Justin’s dad made it hard for you not wanting to be around.

But not even Justin got that much of his dad. Despite the barbecues and the brunches Justin hadn’t been very public about why he got send to the boarding school. Claire had figured it out based on what she had caught over the years and she had shared it with her sister, but the others didn't know. Claire valued Justin's choice not to tell anyone, so she hadn't up to this day.

Jodie, Justin’s mom, had gotten so occupied with taking care of her youngest son, Chris, who was a difficult toddler. Claire had discovered Jodie had suffered from post-partum depression and she had several miscarriages after Chris was born. That and her army husband caused for a lot of stress in the Saphire household, and so they chose to send their oldest son to boarding school. They moved from Fresno, which had been Keith Saphire’s home town, to Waterfall Creek,. That way Justin could still be there in the weekends and during the holidays. Justin’s dad tried to take as much time for his family, but duty called and Justin's dad was usually deployed.

Payton had heard the story several times of how Claire first met the Saphires. It was introduction week at the primary school. Their aunt Lucy still lived in town, but like most times she didn’t have the time to go with Claire. So Claire was left alone. She didn’t know anyone and had to take the introduction tour for primary school by herself. A young vice-principal Mr. Washington had taken Claire’s hand up to the classroom, strongly disliking having to feed her to the lions in a classroom full of other kids and their parents. In came Jodie and Keith Saphire, who pulled up a seat when they saw the little girl, and told her to stick with them.

Payton once asked Jodie why she did that, and Jodie had replied she had read about the death of her parents 5 years earlier in the newspaper, and that she knew she wanted to help the girls out. Ever since, Jodie and Keith had been their family. Justin and Claire became best friends from that first day, when he introduced himself cheerfully with "Hi I’m Justin. I’m 6 years old’" and then grabbed Claire’s hand and dragged her around the classroom until the event started. They played tic tac toe, and they had lots of fun together in that day. The tour, she didn’t pay much attention too. And Justin’s parents were glad their son had made a friend so soon. And the rest was pretty much history.

Over time, Claire and Justin’s interest separated them some hours of the day - Justin went to do track and field, while Claire chose arts - But that didn’t get in the way of their friendship. They’d always find time to hang out over lunch, dinner or afterwards in the rec room. And without any of them actually noticing, several separate friendships had melted into a collective of friends, who spend the summer nights on the beach, or in Justin's backyard. Justin and Mike had their own little thing as the two remaining guys, but they were never really excluded from anything because they happened to be guys. Except girls night, which was what was happening tonight in Payton and Claire's room. Payton had insisted, despite it being Sunday night. Those she would usually spend with Claire, but after yesterday Payton hadn’t pushed back when Claire had told her she was going to the movies with Justin. And so Payton invited the girls over for girls night.

"This is so much fun." Mila said, as she contemplated on what color nail polish to go. "Good idea of yours, Payton." Katie said, as she filled her glass up once more with wine coolers. Payton smiled, and clinged her glass against Katie's. "To stormy nights." She said. All three of them laughed.

Payton's stormy nights usually didn't look like this. Most of the time, she was in bed, looking at pictures of her family in the one picture album that they actually had. Payton had no idea where the rest of it was, although she guessed it was in a storage locker in Texas. But she had a few pictures. The one she liked the most was this one of her and Claire, both in the old rocking chair that was in Claire's nursery. Payton sat in it, holding a newborn Claire in her arms. Lillian looked behind her shoulder, with a face that Payton described in her mind as the 'Christopher what are you doing?' face. There was also a picture without Lillian in it. Just Claire and Payton, in the chair, all smiling and the picture was not angled like the one with her Lillian. But she preferred the angled one.

It showed her mom. And Payton loved looking at the few pictures she had of her mom. Aunt Lucy had said Payton looked just like Lillian, while Claire reminded her of her brother, Christopher. Payton's dark hair was a typical Silverstone treat, while Claire's slightly curly blonde locks and appealing smile were a Greene feature. The picture also showed that their family wasn't all that perfect. In the beginning, Lucy had pretended that Lillian and Christopher had both loved her very much. After a while, Lucy had admitted that her brother was 'a horrible mess, who didn't deserve such a good family'. But aunt Lucy didn't like talking about Christopher so she hadn't elaborated much. She only said he had 'disgraced their family' after her brother Marc died. He had gone away to college, where he had met a bimbo and Christopher had almost given his mother a heart attack saying he was going to marry her. Something must have gone wrong in that relationship, but aunt Lucy was glad about that. She didn't like the bimbo either in the one time she had seen her. And that was about as much as Payton knew about her father before he met her mother. Before he became her father.

Truthfully she didn't need to know about her father's past anyways. She didn't need to know her father during his teenage years. All that mattered was that at some point he met Lillian, another witch, and they fell in love. And they were happy, up to the point where Claire was born, and Christopher started to care about nothing except the infant in his arms.

Lastly the picture showed Christopher's love for Claire. Claire was looking right at the camera, because Christopher was the one taking it. She was such a daddy's girl, and this picture proved it. Payton wasn't jealous of it though. She had bedtimes stories with her mom instead, and they had been very close. All that mattered for Payton was that her sister was loved by both of her parents. Even if that meant that Payton had a bottle of alcohol thrown at her once, which she stopped mid-air with her powers. Even if that meant that Payton had to listen to her parents' fighting late at night, to the point where she couldn't sleep. And to this day, Payton didn't mind taking the burden of life upon herself, as long as it meant she could give Claire something better.

Just right now Payton didn't need to worry about that. "Yeah, Claire is at the movies.” Payton replied when Mila asked where they are. "So it's just us." She adds. Katie then got up from the floor where she had been sitting and took a seat on Payton's bed. "Did you guys hear about the prom this year? They're contemplating between a vintage theme or a hawaii theme. The principal doesn't want a theme but Samantha said she'll be able to convince her dad." Katie said excitingly.

By ‘they’ she meant the social committee that organized stuff like Prom and Homecoming. It was also the major selection pool for Waterfall Creek's culture committee, who organize stuff like Fall fest and Spring fest. Katie had stated she was only part of it to please her mom. Mrs. Sampter used to be one of the more prominent members of the culture committee, before her husband got offered a job as a top surgeon in Seattle. But Payton had noticed how Katie actually really enjoyed being a part of the social committee.

People who actually run for Junior or Senior prom queen have to be in the social committee as well. Payton has guessed that might have been part of Katie's motivation too. One time, Katie had started talking about it, dropping a few hints that Payton should join it as well. It was almost expected of her, being the daughter of Lillian Silverstone after all.

Lillian was very well loved in the community, her frequent charity work and all-round generosity being the foundation of that mostly. It had caused for a frequent subject of discussion with Payton's parents as far as she recalled, and so Payton had decided not to participate. She had plenty of other ways to honor her mom, such as being a good witch. Payton then got up to insert a dvd in the dvd player, her brain requesting distraction from her magical life. Mila then joined in on Payton’s bed, and they watched the opening titles roll on. "Oh, we should do face masks. I think I have some in our bathroom." Payton then said, and she gets up to walk over to Claire and Payton's bathroom. It took her a while to find them, but when she did she took the basket back to the room. That’s when she looked at her two friends and frowned. Mila looked up first, her lips merely a few inches away from Katie's. Then, both of them sit upright again, and Katie resumed the movie without paying much attention to the situation anymore. But Payton knew something was up.

Katie and Mila had a conjoined sense of surprise, but Payton also knew it was a surprise neither one of them had minded. She wasn’t sure who had initiated the kiss, but she knew it was more than a silly kiss. Something bigger was going on, Payton realized now, and somehow she had missed it. Something happened, and Katie pretending like it didn’t, ignoring her feelings, concerned Payton a little bit. But not enough to let it ruin the night for her. Payton didn’t judge people based on who they kissed, who they liked or who they fell in love with.

It was only a couple of years ago that her aunt Lucy told Payton about the different sexualities in the spectrum. Payton was 12 then, and aunt Lucy insisted on having the talk with her. Not that it was bad. Aunt Lucy had this way of erasing the awkward in these type of subjects. She even went as far as telling Payton how she herself was asexual. Lucy answered all of the many questions Payton had about it, and they had a nice talk even though at the back of her mind Payton wished it could have been her mom who told her all of this.

Then aunt Lucy disappeared too. They had started to see her less frequent, and she was slowly removing herself from the girl's lives. Payton had been 15 when it all got very silent. That was the year Payton killed her first vampire. This year, they only received a birthday card each. No phone call, and no visit. Payton knew it was to keep her location safe. She knew people were out there, trying to eradicate her family. She knew their aunt, if she lived in Waterfall Creek, would never have a moment of peace.

Sadly, that didn't mean the bad people didn't keep trying to hunt down Claire and Payton, who were now on their own. Payton had developed the habit of going out on Sunday mornings around three years ago. Claire usually heard her leaving the door, or walk around their room tip-toeing before. Payton could just never walk around barefoot, since her toes would always crack while walking. It always gave her away when she tried to sneak out of the room. Sometimes Payton had also tried to sneak back in, like when she slept at Pierre's room. And Claire never said anything about that either. However now that wasn’t an option anymore, not even for Claire, as Payton had taken the extra precaution to lock their door twice at nighttime.

Jason and Seth were obviously both aware of this. The lock-click would indicate Claire and Payton were both in their room and everything was okay. It had become a sense of reassurance, just to make sure that the spy didn’t get to them. That was over by now, but that didn’t mean they weren’t cautious about the whole dorm situation. But regardless of spies and having the Silverstones as neighbors, the dorms had become a better option than the Dawson house. It had been a while since they all lived in the same house. Lauren and Nate hadn't even lived here before, so they now got the chance to decorate their bedroom. Alyson and Dylan reclaimed their own room just like Jason and Seth. The attic counted two more rooms, one of them serving as their history room, the other being a guest bedroom, as they politely called it.

They mainly did this not to agitate Alyson, who was not particularly fond of the fact that Alyssa had her own room at the house. She had put up all sorts of protests, but none of them stuck and last time Alyssa visited them in Waterfall Creek the room became hers, no matter what Alyson said about it. Alyson had then admitted her defeat, and she and Dylan got their place in France shortly after, where they lived for the next few months until Alyssa was gone. Maybe Alyson couldn't win against Jason and Seth, but she wouldn't be around to watch it happen either.

Even today Alyson knew there is no point in ranting to Jason about Alyssa. Jason was perhaps the most biased about any predicament involving Alyssa. He would defend her in a heartbeat, even without knowing all the facts. Seth usually followed swiftly. They knew Alyssa before Alyson and Dylan joined the group. They spent much more time with her after all. They were basically the same person, all three of them. Yet in the entire time that Alyson had known the boys, and Alyssa, she had never seen a hint of romance in their friendship. But they shared a connection. A bond, that Alyson envied. Something she only had with Dylan, her soulmate.

’’’’’Monday September 17th, 2007’’'

- Claire woke up 7 minutes before her alarm went off. She took that as a good thing, because Payton, Mila and Katie would without doubt complain if the alarm woke them up while they had a free first period on Mondays. On top of that Claire could use the 7 additional minutes to shower and stretch her sore muscles from back to back movie theatre seats and sharing her bed with her sister.

It had been about thirty minutes since Claire woke up when Mila opened her eyes, disoriented at first but then a smile appeared upon her face. She then glanced over to the bathroom, and for a second she wasn’t worried because Katie wasn’t next to her. But then Claire appeared from the bathroom instead, and Mila frowned, looking around the room. "Katie?" She said out loud once, before she spotted Claire, who was pointing at Payton and Mila covered her mouth. Mila then continued to whisper, asking Claire if she had seen Katie. Claire replied Katie was still there when she woke up. In the silence that follows, Claire frowned when she read Mila’s mind, only to find out what exactly happened last night.

Mila noticed Claire was smiling at her, and she frowned. If Claire knew, then how did she find out? Claire’s eyes looked around the room quickly. She guessed Payton also knew, so Claire pointed to her phone. “Payton texted me.” She said. She didn’t like to lie about this kind of stuff, but secrets like these were too big for Claire to pretend she didn’t know, and on top of that Mila looked like she wanted to talk about it.

Mila then grabbed her own phone, reading two texts from Mike, and one missed call from an unknown number. For a second she wondered if they prank called anyone, but then the memories of the night returned and she was almost certain they didn't. “I should go, so you can finish getting ready.” She then said, and Claire smiled a bit, unsure if she should insist on Mila sharing the story. However the last thing she wanted was to force her friend to talk about that kind of stuff, so Claire just got up and resumed getting ready while Mila walked out of the room. She then knocked on the door to Katie’s room a few doors down, however after several knocks there was no reply. The only door that opened was the one from back where she came from, but across the hall.

There she saw Jason standing in the doorframe, and Mila looked up when he greeted her. "Hi." She smiled, and then turned back to Katie's door. “I think she is downstairs." Jason then said, and Mila looked at him again. "Oh. Thanks. I'll go and see if she's there then." She said. Jason watched her leave the third floor, before glancing at the room across from his once, and then closing the door again.

“Katie and Mila apparently had some sleepover at Payton’s. And I think something happened there, but I’m not entirely sure.” He said, and Seth looked up for a bit. “Well whatever it was, be careful around them today. As long as Claire hasn’t talked to her, there’s no room for error on our end.” He said. Jason understood.

Mila arrived in the cafeteria 30 minutes later, having changed into her outfit for the day and made herself look somewhat presentable. Then she spotted Katie at their table, and her face showed a mixture of happiness, anxiousness and confusion. “Here you are.” Mila said as she grabbed her coffee and joined Katie at the table. Mila reached her hand forward, but Katie moved hers away, and that’s when Mila sighed. "We need to talk about it. What happened yesterday. Do you remember…?” "The kiss?" Katie said, biting her lip with a nod. "Yeah. We kissed.. a few times. Last night." Mila said matter of factly. Katie nodded. Mila smiled. She wanted to say she remembered well enough and that she can't wait to kiss her again, but that she probably shouldn't right now because of morning breath. But then she saw something in Katie's eyes, something that made her stomach drop.

"Everything okay?" Mila then said, taking a sip of her coffee to hide the disappointment in her face. This was not going how she wanted. Not at all. "What do you mean? We basically made out. Things are not okay. It’s… confusing, it’s… I don’t know.” Katie said, lowering the volume halfway the sentence when she realize not everyone in the cafeteria was still semi-asleep like she was. Mila looked at Katie, and she knew her friend well enough to recognize fear in Katie's eyes. So Mila took another sip, as she internally sighed deeply because of what she was about to do.

"It was not a big deal." Mila said. Katie lifted up her chin, and smiled a little, relief all over her face. "Yeah..." She said, while the left corner of her mouth goes up a bit. "It wasn’t. I mean, girls experiment all the time. I just thought you might think something…" Katie said softly, the sentence mostly trailing off towards the end. Mila's brain was screaming now. Yes, ofcourse. I do like you. I may have feelings for you. That kiss was not an experiment.” But it's not winning.

"I don't. It's okay, I don't." She said reassuringly. Mila took another sip of her coffee, and looked around the cafeteria for a good minute before she moved to get up from her seat. After what she just did, she needed some time. Then Katie took her hand and looked at her friend. "But for the record, you are a great kisser.." This completely threw Mila off guard. The last time someone complimented her kissing skills involved spin the bottle, a bottle they had all collectively been drinking before that. Mila recalled one night in particular where she had to kiss Mike at one point. She had gone all out, but Mike moved his face cause he fell over and she kissed his eyebrow instead. Next, she had to kiss Pierre or go into the water. She chose the water, and upon her return she hugged Pierre so that he was basically soaked too. Payton had cuddled up to Pierre to warm him up, while Justin tried to prevent Mila from freezing to death as she went to sit in Mike’s car while he looked for a blanket for her.

They were gone for about 10 minutes, and the speculations about those ten minutes hadn't stopped up until this day. Yet Mila and Justin denied anything had happened that night. But something did happen last night. "I'll talk to you later." She said, before taking her cup and walking back upstairs. When she arrived in her room she sighed deeply. To add to her headache she now also had to face her inner bisexual pride, which was not happy about the fact that she just diminished her own sexuality for Katie. But she couldn’t help it. She did have feelings for Katie, that much had become clear in the last 24 hours. And that meant she would never put her in a position where she would be unhappy. If Katie hadn't accepted herself yet, then Mila was in no position to compromise their friendship over it. Right?

Mila wasn’t the only one who had internal conflict going on. Avoiding Payton and not talking about killing a vampire, killing Lincoln, had been hard. But not as hard as going behind her back in making a spell to get the Dawsons to stay in town. And all of that she did while balancing on one foot, although things had improved with Payton’s healing and an ointment she made.

It made her walk all the way to economics class a bit easier, but still not entirely without pain. Then again she could have been dead, so she wasn’t complaining. “Oi, you’re the second person who sprains their foot around here.” Justin said as Claire walked into the classroom. Claire frowned at him, and Justin went on to explain Seth had an injury that made it impossible for him to run any track competitions. “You’re coming to watch, right?” he then asked, and Claire smiled. “Eh yeah. Yeah, of course. Katie was going too, right?” she asked, and Justin chuckled a bit. “Yeah… Yeah, she said so.” Claire nodded. Then a thought popped into her head. Maybe Katie would convince Mila to come. If they were together, that was.

Claire wasn’t certain about that. Katie had been gone when she was getting ready earlier this morning, but her room was just down the hall so it wasn’t that weird. Regardless of what would happen between the two of them – and Claire was confident they would turn out great – she was happy for them. How could she not be? Surely not everyone at the school was as accepting, or open-minded. Claire had known for a while that Mila felt the same way about girls as she did about boys. And Claire also knew Max, Mike’s friend, was gay. So there really wasn’t anything weird about the situation. Not to her.

People would probably judge though. Earlier this year, Max’ locker had been vandalized but he had quickly risen above that, stating that the new locker he got assigned, because the old one was damaged beyond salvation, at least had a better lock. “Stupid voicemail.” Max said as he opened said lock, and he sighed deeply as he tried to find the books he needed for their first class. That’s when Payton walked up, her locker being 6 down from his, and she smiled.

“Hey, Max?” she asked, and Max looked up, his annoyed frown melting away. “Thanks for walking Claire home this weekend.” She said. Max smiled. “And walking her up the stairs.” He added, and Payton frowned for a bit. “Oh. Yeah, I was wondering how she did that…” Payton then said, and both of them smiled. “She okay? Seemed a pretty sore injury she had from whatever she did in the woods during a storm.” Max said, and Payton sighed deeply. “Yeah, yeah. She’s fine. You know her, she’d trip over a gush of wind.”

They both nodded, before Max closed his locker and walked off with a faster pace than normal, which reminded Payton she was almost running late. And so she hurried and grabbed her bag, making her way to class in a fast pace. She then slowed down to a standstill when she spotted Jason in the Great Hall. And while it took everything in her not to walk up to him and yell at him, she somehow managed to walk away and head to grab some breakfast. She could have yelled at him. She could have yelled at him for not being able to spot Lincoln as a spy. She could have yelled at him for breathing in her general direction at this point. But she didn’t. Because if it hadn’t been for Jason, Claire would have been injured, alone in the woods. So maybe for once she could spare him an angry speech.

Wednesday September 19th, 2007

Payton was spared from many further in the rest of the week too. On Monday Jason skipped one class, on Tuesday he skipped three and by Wednesday he had zero intention of even going. “Dylan, I’ve just spend 8 hours in the suburbs of Seattle. I’m not going to sit around another 8 hours behind a school desk.” Jason explained. He then pulled his arms out of his shirts and tilted his head at Dylan. “Are you going to let me shower?” Jason then snapped, and Dylan sighed deeply before leaving the room and walking back downstairs.

“He is in a mood.” He said, and Lauren sighed. “Well, Alyssa still hasn’t reached out to Seth so I don’t think she’s going to be here for his birthday.” She said, and Alyson didn’t even try to hide her relief. “But we’re still doing the surprise, right?” Elisabeth then asked, and Lauren nodded excitingly. “Yes. I talked to Seth, he’s going to distract him.”

“Distract him? He can barely convince Jason to be at the school for longer than two hours.” Nate scoffed, and Elisabeth glanced his way. “Nate, you don’t get to judge. I know you keep the an eye on the house security system and you have downtown Waterfall Creek covered but Jason has been out there every night since that vampire attacked Claire.”

“A vampire he and Seth didn’t spot in the first place.” Alyson cut in, then her tone of voice softened. “Then again nobody probably could.” She added. The Dawsons had discovered that Lincoln had been very well infiltrated, at least since the start of the 2006-2007 school year which convinced them that this was all about the Silverstones like they originally believed. “Well, at least there isn’t a spy any longer. And Claire is on our side.” Lauren said. Everyone looked up at her when she said it.

“Claire Silverstone is not on our side, and if you believe that you need to look again. Just because she is not actively trying to kill us, doesn’t mean she is on our side.” Dylan spoke. In that moment the front door closed, and Seth threw his backpack at the bottom of the stairs. “Claire Silverstone is the only reason you are currently alive, and that we are currently allowed to stay here, in this town, for another 10 days. Claire Silverstone killed Lincoln last weekend. She chose to give us another chance because I saved her life last weekend. Give her some more credit, Dylan.” Seth spoke.

Nate got up and walked to him. “No more school today?” he asked, and Seth shook his head. “I’m heading out west.” He replied, walking up the stairs. “Checkpoint C?” Nate asked, and Seth shook his head again. “No. I need to find out where the hell Alyssa is. She has never missed a birthday so… I gotta find her.” He said. Nate heard the door to Seth’s bedroom close, and he returned back to Lauren in the living room. “Nope, he’s not returning to the school either.”

Thursday September 20th, 2007

By Thursday, the story had already crossed school to the point that spotting Seth or Jason had become pretty much a game, one that some of the sophomores occupied themselves with. One of the few places where Seth still showed up was the track field, where he’d shown up on the regular hours of practice, and took a seat on the stands.

Seth found that it put his mind at ease when he sat on the top row, watching over the field but also having a good view of the school. He was now officially notorious. He also knew his gained status at the school meant chances were slim anyone would try to come up and talk to him. Except for people who were even more notorious than he was.

“Hey. I’m Samantha. You may know me, I’m a junior and so is your brother so... I wanted to invite you both to my party this weekend. I’m only inviting a certain amount of people though.” She said. Seth took the invite only because she had been holding it out for ten seconds. “Alright, hope to see you there. And I hope your injury gets better.” She said, before descending the stairs again. Samantha handed an invite to Justin too, as he walked off of the field. Justin then looked up, waved his invite to Seth, and then walked into the locker rooms.

Justin knew for a fact that he had no intention of going to the party, and he then checked on the invite to see if it was labelled. When he realized it wasn’t, a thought jumped to mind and when he got changed he walked over to Mila’s dorm. “Hi. Got you something.” He said, handing over the invite to the party. “You want to talk to Katie, right? Well, I bet she’ll be at Samantha’s party. Go there, and promise me you’ll talk.” He said.

Mila sighed, at first not convinced of the plan. Then she looked at the party and saw it was a limited invite. Suddenly, her interest in the party doubled, and she nodded at Justin. “Thanks. I’ll pay you back.” She said, but Justin shook his head. “Don’t. Just… pay me back by being happy.” He said, before he walked back to his own dorm.

That evening the school was buzzing with news about Samantha’s party, and Claire was glad that it kind of took over from the story about Seth and Jason. However some students hadn’t let it go. ‘You need to stop skipping classes.’ Claire texted Seth, pressing send before she continued watching the episode that was on in the third floor rec-room. Three minutes later she got a reply. ‘We have stuff to do. Can't waste around hours on end sitting in a classroom.’

Claire scoffed, and started typing again. ‘People are talking about you guys. Can you at least show your face at Samantha’s party?’ Claire asked. Seth’s reply came quickly. ‘Can’t. Jason’s birthday is this weekend, and Lauren has made plans for us. After that, Jason and I are heading out of town for a bit.’ Seth wrote. Claire frowned at that. ‘I’m trying to allow you guys to stay IN town, and you’re leaving?’ she asked. Seth didn’t reply for 11 minutes. ‘It’s important. Nothing to do with you guys. Family stuff.’ Seth wrote. ‘I’ll be in school tomorrow.’ He then added.

Friday September 21st , 2007

And indeed, Seth showed up at school the next morning. But he wasn’t actually there. At lunch, Claire tried her best not to focus on how odd Seth was acting sitting across the cafeteria. “It’s almost weird, not having Dean’s sarcastic comments.” Mike said, and Payton shrugged, sort of admitting it. “I wonder if he knows about the rumors though.” she then said, and Mike frowned at her.

Payton held her apple out, frowning. “You don’t know? Oh right, of course you don’t. You were too busy making out at the party last week.” Payton said as a dis to Mike. “Apparently people are saying Dean’s back to school party got delayed last month because of some drug-situation.” Payton explained.

“That is so wild.” Mike commented, shaking his head and then glancing over at Mila who hadn’t said much all day. “Earth to Mila?” he then asked, and Mila blinked a few times. “Sorry, what?” she asked, and Mike laughed. “No comment on Dean?” he asked, and Mila shrugged. “Don’t really care what he does, Mike. I know Samantha has been totally obsessed with her project, to keep her mind distracted. The girls at her group say she acts all weird when they mention Dean to her.”

“Girls in her group? You mean Katie?” Mike asked, and to this Claire turned her head, looking at Mike with a deep sigh. She then looked at Mila and gave her a sympathetic smile. Mike frowned. “What, you still haven’t talked to her?” he said, and Mila rolled her eyes. “I will tonight. But it’s not that easy Mike. Yes, I like her. But I don’t know… I’ve never actually…” Mila didn’t finish the sentence and groaned a bit annoyed. That’s when Payton cut in. “Mila, you’re an amazing person. And you’re very strong, owning who you are. I think anyone who would date you would be the luckiest guy or girl in the world.” She said, before pulling her friend in for a side-hug. Mila smiled a little, and Mike nodded at her. “We got your back.” He added. Mila almost melted, her cheeks flushed red for the support her friends showed. She took a deep breath, before she continued her lunch. She needed that. She needed her friends to assure her. To be there for her, no matter what. After all, that’s what friends did.

“Alyssa, god damn it pick up your phone. I’m coming out west. Meet me at the bar in Chicago, 10PM. Please.” Seth said while standing on the stairs at the front of the school, before hanging up the voicemail. He then got in his car and drove downtown Waterfall Creek, doing a sweep to take note of any suspicious activity before he drove to the Dawson house. “Downtown is cleared.” Seth said as he got to the second floor. Music was coming from Lauren and Nate’s room, not that it drowned out that much, and Seth rolled his eyes for agreeing to take over Nate’s watch downtown to begin with. Then again if he had a girlfriend he would probably want to take advantage of the few hours in the day when there wasn’t anybody around in the house.

Seth then fell backwards on his bed, staring at the ceiling for a bit. A few moments later he got a text. “I will make it up to him, Seth. I wouldn’t skip if it wasn’t important. Can you hand him my present? It’s at the bookstore in Salt Lake City.” Alyssa replied, and Seth rolled his eyes. He mentally noted anything Alyssa could have gotten from a bookstore was probably better than what Seth had gotten him, but Jason was always difficult to buy anything for, so after almost 200 years Seth figured he had some lean-way with buying a mediocre present. But Alyssa probably hit the jackpot, again. Like every time before, she made it a mission of hers to get just the perfect gift.

Mila was also on a mission that Friday night. Having downed one more beer, she walked up to Katie and tapped her shoulder, apologizing to the people Katie was talking to and pulling her away gently. Not that Katie protested, but she obliged when Mila took her to the seats on the deck.

Once they both sat down, Mila took a deep breath. "So I've been trying to wrap my head around it. Why you would leave like that the next morning. And I can't figure it out. I haven't talked to you all week because you have been avoiding me but I need to know. What happened between the kiss and the next morning?" she asked, and Katie looked at her. Her eyes were almost pleading, her lips were pressed firmly together and she nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She then said Mila's name, and Mila’s heart sort of skipped a beat. Katie hesitated to speak, and Mila could see her mind searching for the words, so she cut in instead.

"You kissed me, Katie. I said there was something I had to tell you, and you kissed me. And it wasn't a drunk kiss. I was looking right into your eyes before. You weren't drunk. You knew what I was going to say. You knew I was going to say I liked you. I like you… as more than just a friend.” The words came out like a waterfall, but then again Mila was glad they did. She had said it. She had said what she wanted to say, and now it was Katie’s turn. But Katie just cast her eyes downward, losing the strength to look at Mila directly.

Then she moved her hand and placed it in Mila’s, allowing herself this much after fighting it for the past 5 days. Fighting the part of her that wanted to roll around in the bed, teasingly poke each other and throw pillows around. The part that wanted to wake up next to Mila, look at her face and press their lips together once again. But she couldn’t. “I’m sorry.” She then said as she got up and walked away from Mila, into the deepest end of the back yard.

Tears were starting to form as she reached the back fence. Then, she heard people shushing from behind the tree, and she frowned, walking over a few more steps. "Oh.. Ohgod." Katie said, as she looked right at Dean, who had Max look at him in an intense stare, before turning his head too and seeing Katie standing there. In a matter of seconds, Max backed away and Dean pulled at his jacket to look somewhat composed, but the damage is already done as Katie is standing there, eyes covered and awkward.

"Katie? Mila? What the hell." Dean then said. Katie noticed the second name after hers and moved away her hands from her eyes, to reveal Mila was standing next to her, one hand on her mouth. Then, as she turned back to Dean, she dropped her arms completely. He didn’t even look mad, he looked more scared than anything. And that was when a thought hit her: he was just like her.

Dean then looked at Mila with the same mortified expression. Mila recognized the fear instantly. "Dean. It's okay, don't worry. I won't tell anyone." Mila said quickly. She then looked at Max, who gave her a nod to the unspoken question Mila asked. This wasn’t a one time thing.

Max then turned back to Dean, both his hands resting on Dean’s shoulder, which he shrugged off quickly but Max just placed them back again. "It's okay, you can trust her." Max then said. Mila nodded, and walked in a bit closer, noticing Katie actually followed her. Dean was hesitant to look up, his whole body is tensed and he was now shying away from looking up at the girls. Katie noticed it too, and more puzzle pieces fell together then. And it made a lot of sense. "Dean you need to tell Sam. She's madly in love with the idea of you guys. SJBS power couple. She measured her entire year around it." Katie said after a couple of moments of Max trying to get Dean to look at him.

Finally Dean looked up, and Max gave him an encouraging nod despite the fact that Dean was inching away from him. Most people at the school knew Max had spent the summer at his grandmother's house in an ultra-religious environment, in an attempt from his parents to deny their son their sexuality. But nothing changed, because this wasn’t something a religion would cure. It was love. Love was love, and nobody should try to stop anyone from loving who they want. Not the school, and definitely not Samantha Washington.

"How do I know you won't tell her?" Dean then said. It caused for Mila and Katie, who had been exchanging a look to snap their heads back to the guy in front of them. Their hands had intertwined at some point, and now Katie was using it to keep Mila from being insulted by what he had just said. Mila was willing to help Dean, but she wasn’t going to be taken for someone who outed people.

But Dean was just scared. Katie understood. She probably understood more than most. "Trust me, I know a thing or two about what's going on." She said, leading Max to rise his eyebrow, but Dean didn’t take the two seconds to think about what that meant.

"Yeah well, tell anyone and I will..." He then started, but he didn’t finish the threat. Instead, he sighed in frustration. Mila then noticed how Dean seemingly surrendered, and Max caught up on that too, taking the moment to step closer to Dean and wrap his arm around him. Dean all but crashed his head into Max’ shoulder and he stood there for a while, breathing in Max’ scent as if it was the only thing on the planet that could make him feel safe. Then, he looked up again, the defeat clearly visible in his eyes.

“I can’t tell her. You know as much as I do that she will use the school newspaper to out me as soon as she gets the chance." Dean said. Max just stood there, looking at Dean in a way that he had heard that before. “She’s not that horrible.” Katie then said, and all three pairs of eyes looked at her. Max lifted an eyebrow, and Mila sighed. “Regardless, it doesn’t matter. She is not in charge of the newspaper right now. Payton is. And I know for a fact that Payton wouldn’t let anyone be outed like that.”

She then took her phone and started typing. "Payton Silverstone?" Dean asked, turning to Katie when he realized Mila was busy. Katie smiled while she nodded. Then Dean sighed again. “She’s not a fan of me either. I may have rubbed her break-up with Pierre in her fact last year.” Dean said, and Max rolled his eyes. Mila then finished typing, and she looked at Dean. “I’m not your biggest fan either, Dean. But I won’t stand by and watch people having to hide who they like. None of my friends would.” Mila said. It went unspoken that their group of friends was supportive of things, whereas Dean and his goons had stood by without acting as people vandalized Max’ locker. Max who, as it now turned out, he even had a thing for. "I trust her." Max then said, followed by Dean sighing and turning his head to press one more kiss on Max' lips, before he looked back at Katie and Mila. "Fine." He said, then letting go of Max and walking away from the others.

Mila then smiled softly at Max, and when Max frowned, Mila noticed that Katie walked off very quickly. “It’s okay, go.” Max said, and Mila nodded before walking after Katie. "Katie wait." Mila then said as she chased after her. Then, as Katie paused, Mila caught up to her. “Please, Katie. If what happened there proved anything it’s that we’re not alone. You’re not alone. Please, talk to me.” She begged, and Katie closed her eyes while still standing with her back towards Mila. She didn’t want to discuss this. Because then it would be real.

Helping Dean and Max – Dean and Max, that was a thing now – Helping them was different. This was about her own feelings. Her own sexuality. And while she related to Dean, she wasn’t able to act on her feelings like he did. Because he didn’t have things figured out yet. And now he was cheating on Samantha. And it just went to show that she needed to have things figured out first. So she continued to walk, allowing a small tear to roll from her eyes as she joined the rest of her friends again.

Max then walked up behind Mila, and sighed deeply as he stood next to her. “I thought I’d check up on you.” He said, and Mila looked aside for a bit. “How long have you known?” she then asked, and Max shrugged. “A while.” He then laughed, and Mila is able to conjure up a smile as well. “She just means a lot to me. As a friend and as more than that.” Mila said, then reverting her eyes away from the group. “I just don’t like to see her go through something like this. Whatever it is exactly.” “It’s denial.” Max then said, and the way he said it reminded Mila that he knew all too well what it was. “How long has this thing with you and Dean been going on?” She then asked with a smile, and Max looked around carefully before he looked back at her. “Few months. But it’s not always make-outs at parties. He’s conflicted, fighting an internal battle. Trying to please both sides of him. Being with Samantha, being with me. I think he drinks and gets high to push it all out of his head.” He said, his voice soaked in sadness. Mila nodded, adding the value into Dean’s equation and she saw it made sense.

“So he does have an involvement with the drugs?” she then asked, and Max was reluctant to reply. Selling out Dean like that would be tricky. Then again, after tonight, he knew he could trust Mila. “Yeah. He did bring them to school. Samantha sort of took the fall for him. Not sure why. I’ve been trying to keep him away from it. But then he just pushes me away, so…” Max ran a hand through his hair. Mila sighed deeply and then took two red cups.

“Here, we deserve this.” She said, handing one to Max. “Samantha has the people we like stuck in the closet. At least we can do is take the alcohol it’s getting us.” She said, and then she chugged down her drink. She expected Max to do the same, which he did. Mila laughed, and then tilted her head when he stared off into the distance. “You okay?” Max nodded. “Yeah. I just hate that damn closet so much.” And to that the two of them started laughing.

“Do you think he’ll come out?” she then asked, and Max looked at her as if she had the answer to that question rather than him. “I don’t know. I guess he does care about his reputation, and I do feel like he cares about Samantha, just not in a romantic way. But there’s more to them that her just being his beard” Max said “I just hope that after that he’ll finally admit it. To himself, and to everyone else. He deserves to just be happy. He's a great guy once you get to know him, really.”

Mila took his word on it. "Thanks for checking up." Mila said, and Max hugged her. "I should be the one saying that. Thanks to you he won't be outed by someone else." He then let go of her again and took out his phone. "See you on Monday?" he said, and Mila nodded.

Max spent time with his parents that weekend, and Mila found the school was rather empty. She shouldn’t be surprised, knowing this weekend was bound to be one of the last sunny ones of the year. But that was not something the Dawsons planned their weekends around. Especially not this weekend.

Saturday September 22nd, 2007

"Finally." Lauren said softly looking out from her bedroom window. Seth then subtly nodded to Lauren, before walking with Jason into the foyer. "Jason, I need your opinion on something over at the car." Nate then said. Jason frowned, but then shrugged and walked with Nate to the garage.

Lauren smiled as she pulled at Seth's arm as they walked into the kitchen. "Has Alyssa called?" Seth shook his head. "Nope. Looks like Jason's 218'th birthday will have to take place without her." Seth then said. He had agreed to picking up her package from Jason, but while he was running the errand across the country, he had started to allow a sense of anger settling in his stomach. Jason was their best friend. What would be more important?

A couple of minutes later Jason and Nate returned from the garage, and Nate continued to lead Jason through the house, this time leading him to the kitchen for Jason to check out the new security system. Jason mentioned going out to check the perimeter again after he saw the system, but those plans got put on hold once he walked into the room and he got a bunch of confetti thrown at him.

Everyone yelled surprise, and Jason rolled his eyes for a bit. “You guys, I told you I didn't want a party." Jason then said, as he approached Lauren who he knew must have organized this. Lauren then smiled as she hugged him. "I don't care, we needed some positivity and you only turn 218 once." She said, and everyone laughed. "Yeah, if we're gonna have to move next week, we wanted to have at least one party in this house." Dylan then said. Jason and Seth exchanged a look about Dylan’s statement while he handed Jason a glass that could pass off as a pinot noir from an outsider's perspective. But it wasn't.

"To immortality." Seth then said as he lifted his glass, nodding at his oldest friend standing beside him. Six other glasses raise in the air. "To immortality." Jason nodded, before he put the glass to his lips and drank half of it in one go. They then relocated to the Dawson’s basement, where Nate showed off his new multimedia installation and as per Dawson tradition, Jason signed the birthday book. In there they kept an overview of all the birthdays and where they were spent. Jason filled in the date, and next to it he wrote down ‘Waterfall Creek’. Next, they moved on to presents.

Everyone had gotten one, and Jason opened all of them. Then, as the party was over – Dylan’s 2007 playlist had only 12 songs on it so far so it was a brief one – Jason returned to his room, where he found a box standing on his bed. Jason frowned at first, but then he opened it up and he smiled right away. ‘Hope you like it. - Alyssa' it said on a note written inside, before Jason unfolded the wrapping paper to reveal a rare version of 'the count of monte Christo', a book Jason loved to read.

Seth then texted Alyssa saying Jason got the gift, and minutes later Jason’s phone rang. His face lighted up as he saw Alyssa's name on the screen, and he eagerly pressed the green phone button. "Hey Alyssa." "Did you get my gift?" she asked, and Jason looked over at the box. "I did. Although I do hope it doesn't get damaged in the move." he said, causing a silence from the other side of the line "Alyssa?" He asked, after which he heard a sigh. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to help you guys.” She said softly. Jason could hear she was serious, and for a second he wanted to ask her what was going on, but then she cut him off.

“Where will you guys go? You know you can't go back to Chicago right?" she said, and Jason interrupted her back before she could start explaining all the reasons why that wouldn't be a good idea. "No, I know. We're not sure where we're heading, but I'll let you know when we do find a place." Jason then said, and Alyssa laughed a little, recalling the bomb he dropped by text in the form of ‘moving to Waterfall Creek’. "Good." She said. "I’m glad you liked the gift. This one isn't easy to come by so..." She said, and Jason put his hand on the box.

"It's very thoughtful Alyssa. I love it. But thanks for calling. I'd pass you on to Seth but he is out in the woods, checking the perimeter.” Jason said, then smiling a little. “Doing my job, actually. Apparently they decided I was too stressed and needed a day off.” Jason said, kicking his legs up on his bed. Alyssa laughed again. “You do, based on what Seth has texted me. How’s the situation going?”

"Well the spy is gone. Knowing who he was, we were able to find a file on him and he always works with the other guy, Andrei. So the two of them are now off the table, which means the town is a bit safer again.” Jason explained. Alyssa hummed. “And that won’t convince the witch to let you guys stay in the town you guys helped build?” Alyssa asked, emphasizing the final bit of the sentence to accentuate it’s injustice. Jason just sighed. “No, Payton is pretty much a goner. Claire has been trying, but she’s so young.” Jason sighed, recalling the look on Claire’s face last weekend.

Then he heard some voices in the background, and next Alyssa sighed. “Well I need to go again. But you need to promise me something." she said, and Jason switched the phone to his other ear when she sounded serious. "Don't give up on that town. It's more special than you guys know." she said, and this time it was Jason's end of the line that grew a little silent. As if she knew what he was thinking yesterday morning when he was looking out of the window. Or Tuesday, during lunch as he took in the cafeteria for one last time. Or Monday, when he caught a glimpse of the Silverstone's room as Claire opened the door for Justin. "Yeah, I know." He then said. "Bye Alyssa." "Bye Jason."

Later that night, at around midnight, Seth got back to the house and Jason grilled him on how they pulled off the plan. Jason had to admit his own focus on the vampire situation had made him distracted enough. Seth then explained he fetched the package for Alyssa and placed it on his bed. That’s when Jason explained more of the conversation he had with her. “I don’t know. Up until then I was suspicious. Maybe she was drinking on human blood again. Or got herself in other trouble. But talking to her… I think she just needs some time.” He said. Seth frowned at that, staring into the fire in the history room’s fireplace.

They had the tradition to drink a bottle of scotch while going through their history, recalling stories and adventures. This time, they only had one common thing to talk about. “Why won’t she just tell us though?” Seth asked, and Jason shrugged. “Probably not to get us involved. She knows we would drop everything for her. We’ve told her that. Maybe.. Maybe she doesn’t want us to drop this.” Jason said, gesturing vaguely around himself. But Seth got the message. “You think Alyssa cares about our mission at the school?” he asked, and Jason frowned. “I don’t know. But she cared enough to tell me not to give up.”

Seth nodded, taking in that information, and then he took a few more sips from his drink. “Maybe she’s right then.” He mumbled, before getting up from his seat. Jason chugged down his drink too, getting up after him. “Maybe she is.”

Sunday September 23rd, 2007

Claire was making her way back inside from spending the afternoon drawing while Mila took pictures. It had felt good, knowing that there was no spy around. And she knew, she trusted, that the Dawsons had enough control to keep the others out of town. At least until Claire had finished the spell.

She had given herself a short break from working on it, and when Mila had offered to enjoy some of the remaining sunshine, Claire had agreed. She knew Mila needed, to talk about the party. So Claire had let her. Hesitant at first, after a while Mila opened up about what happened at the party. Claire also found out about Dean and Max, although Mila didn’t say that out loud so she couldn’t comment much on it. But it was a piece of information that made the whole puzzle a bit more clear.

Claire was busy wrapping her head around it when she saw Jason in great hall. Suddenly her friends’ love life seemed a trivial matter in the grand scheme of things again, and Claire felt that anxious knot in her stomach that told her if she failed to make a proper spell, she could destroy everything. “Jason, hold on.” She said, before she walked towards him. Jason paused, then turned around. “I just wanted to ask... Is everything okay? Seth told me he had to leave for family business. Was it about the other vampires? Are they attacking again? What is going on?” she asked, and Jason sighed. “Claire, too many questions.” Jason said in a sharp tone, causing Claire to close her mouth and pout, just a little. “Relax, okay. My birthday was yesterday. Seth had to get my present.”

“Oh.” She said, processing the information. It made her realize her mind had been on fight or flight mode for a while now, and she only turned it off when it came to her friends. Maybe she should try to turn it off when it came to the Dawsons too. They had simple things going on, like birthdays and blood deliveries. Not everything about them screamed death and destruction. But then again they weren’t friends either. They were allies, at most. Somewhat secretive too, since Payton couldn’t know about the spell Claire was making for the Dawsons. Not friends. But not monsters either.

“Alright. Well, happy birthday then, I guess.” She said, before she turned around and headed up the stairs to her room. In the back of her mind she tried to recall what age Jason was from their visit to the Dawson house weeks ago, but she couldn’t recall, and she dropped it as soon as she got to her room. After all she had a spell to finish, and she knew Payton was at the library at the moment. So Claire pushed herself a little, trying to find the right balance for the spell she needed, practicing for roughly an hour until she felt physically exhausted. In the exact moment that she was closing her books and putting them back so Payton wouldn’t notice, she heard a knock on the door. “Hi.” She smiled at Justin, who walked in and handed her a box of cookies. "Here, my mom made these."

“What’s the occasion?” Claire asked while taking one, and Justin smiled. “Does my mom need an excuse to treat you like the daughter she never had?” he said, and Claire shrugged with a little smile. "So, what are the plans for today?" he continued, as Claire sat on the bed and shrugged as if she hadn’t just been pouring all her energy into a spell. “Want to teach me that game on the PlayStation? You know, the one I suck at?" She smiled mildly, and Justin looked at her with a smile as well. "That is a hopeless cause. You can't jump over three logs of wood in real life, so I'm doubtful you'll have the coordination to master the controls of that game." he said and Claire's mouth rounded into an o-shape, before she threw a pillow right at his face. Which he was pretty sure was aimed at his hands.

"You take that back. I am not that horrible at coordination." She said, but Justin just raised his eyebrow and smiled. "I'm not." Claire repeated, but by now Justin was laughing out loud while trying to shield himself from the pillows being thrown his way. Then as Claire realized she had run out of pillows on her side of the room, Justin grabbed the three closest to him and launched a back to back attack. Claire backed away to Payton's bed, and sought refuge when Justin came at her with more pillows. "Okay okay... I surrender." She said, putting her hands up while still giggling. Justin paused an attack mid-air, and dropped the pillow to the floor. "Good." He said before walking back to Claire's bed and taking two of the cookies. "They're good." He said with a mouthful.

When Claire commented that they weren’t part of his diet, Justin replied saying even the best athletes needed to treat their bodies every now and then. Claire was glad to see Justin smiling again talking about track. He was her best friend, which made his smile hers. The streak of laughter continued when they played the PlayStation like Claire suggested, and to Justin's surprise Claire actually got better at it over time. However her general coordination was still horrible, as evident by the way she almost tripped over the rug in her room when she walked back in.

“Seriously Claire.” Payton said with one eyebrow raised from where she sat on her bed, tying her running shoes. Claire frowned, and turned towards her sister. “You’re going running?” “Training.” Payton said, then standing up and putting her hands on her waist. “Someone right under our nose tried to kill you last week, Claire. I’m not relying on the Dawsons to fix that problem for us.” She said, and then she grabbed her stuff and headed out the door again.

At first she had planned to run on the track field, but then she had realized no vampire would challenge her to run a few laps and so she had migrated to downtown. She jogged a while, until her feet brought her to J.L. Meierstreet and she slowed down her pace once she got to the house that used to belong to her parents. It was abandoned, had been since that day all those years ago. They had lived there for a short while, until Aunt Lucy had found a smaller house that she rented for her, Payton and Claire to live in, until Claire had been old enough to go to boarding school as well.

Payton wiped away a tear, staring at the house in front of her, and then she picked up her pace again, choosing the woods behind J.L. Meierstreet to run in, leaving the silent street behind her. Silent, aside from one car’s engine rolling towards the end of the street, which made a turn and headed back north.

Nate sighed deep when he drove onto the driveway, and he rested his head on the steering wheel briefly when he had parked the car in the garage shortly after. Then, as he got upstairs, he tried his best to look composed. But he wasn’t selling it. Lauren looked up when she saw the expression of his face, and made her way towards him.

"What happened?" she asked concerned, as she walked up to him by the window. Nate sighed and shook his head with his eyes closed. "I saw Payton. When I was checking downtown. She was on a run, and she paused at her family’s house and I know I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t keep on driving.” Nate’s words flew from his mouth. “I pulled to the side and I sat there for a while. Because she looked so vulnerable, Lauren. She looked so… broken.” He rambled. “They’ve been through so much and we come in here and Jason and Seth make their school a living hell and I keep thinking if things could have worked out if we had been at the school..." He said. He then allowed Lauren to wrap her arms around him, and he breathed in her scent. It calmed him down instantly.

"I'm so sorry about that." he then added, but Lauren wouldn't have his apology. He had apologized a dozen times for them not being able to go to the school. And Lauren was so done with that. "Nate, it's not your fault." She said, resting her head on his shoulder. "You have always tried to do the best thing for us. But this is not your fault. It is nobody's fault.” she said, then lifting her head back up from his shoulder to look at him. But Nate didn’t look at her.

“Maybe not the school thing. But their life… Their life is a mess because of us.” Nate said, and Lauren considered her reply for a bit. “Their life started out that way, Nate. And that wasn’t our doing. We didn’t kill their parents. We are not the reason you saw Payton cry outside her parent’s house today.” Lauren said, the last sentence slowly and firmly. And Nate needed to hear that, before he could refocus on what they could do. Which was keeping the town safe.

Monday September 25th , 2007

Lauren’s motivational speech had helped. And it had rubbed off on Jason, who had been down in the library listening along to it all. She had a point about not being to blame for the things that had happened to Claire and Payton early on. The things that ripped through their childhood and was the direct cause of the way they had been acting towards them. And Nate had a point too, about making their life hell. Jason knew their absence was only the latest in a long list of things that made it harder for the Silverstones. So they decided to change that. Entering their final week at the school, the boys decided to do their best and they went to their classes.

“Okay so I will go to all but my final class.” Seth told Jason as he packed his bag. “And then we leave for the border at 5PM right?” Jason hummed, as he placed some books into a box. Jason had decided to spend his free first period packing up their room a bit, before he headed to his classes too. The other students lasted until 3rd period to comment on his absence the last couple of days, and Jason came up with the elaborate excuse of a ‘family emergency’ before he glared them down. He was there, he was attending classes and he didn’t need to justify himself to a bunch of children.

However the return of the Dawsons was not what had the cafeteria buzzing during lunch. Jason had picked up on some chatter, and after being told by Seth that Samantha threw a party this weekend, Jason had discarded it. But now, the rumors were becoming more solid as people spoke of Dean being back. Or, at least on school property again, as he was seen near the principal’s office. Jason still reeled from the principal’s accusation after Andrei’s attack that he might be the drugs dealer just because he was the new kid. So Jason was intrigued by the whole situation, rightfully so.

At the end of lunch, Mila waited so she could talk to Payton. “Payton? You didn’t have anything to do with Dean’s appointment at the principal’s office, right?” Mila asked, and Payton looked at her frowning. “Me? No. Why would I? Look, you asked me to make sure Samantha didn’t pull any tricks to run a story. And I will. No story passes before I’ve seen it.” Payton said, getting up and walking to her locker, which happened to be right outside the newspaper and the principal’s office. Mila nodded, and Payton frowned. “Wait, that story I’m supposed to stop is about Dean?”

Mila sighed and followed Payton up to the classroom where they have their next class. "Yes. Something happened at the party that could really hurt him if it spread over the school.” Mila said. Payton only had to look at her friend once to know she was genuinely worried, and so she sighed. “Okay. Okay sure, I will stop the story about Dean if Samantha tries to run it. Whatever it is.” Normally Payton would demand to know what the story was, her inner journalist just craving the info. But right now her head was too wrapped up in vampire business to even care much. She only cared this much because Mila asked. Mila thanked her with a hug, and then they approached the classroom.

“But Samantha is relentless. What’s to say she won’t just go to the school’s intercom and shout it from the rooftop?” Payton then asked, and Mila scoffed a little. “Because she is trying to hold on to her dignity. Doing it like that would destroy her social status. Doing it while reclaiming the newspaper, would save it. In her logic.” Mila said, her stomach turning at the thought that someone would out another person just to fix their social status at the school. Samantha really was twisted like that.

“I just don't get what Katie loves about her.” Mila said as they sat down, and Payton shot her a knowing smile. “Mila, you and Katie aren’t so different when it comes to other people. You’re both very social, you have a way to reach people and see into their souls. Katie is the same. She sees the best in people, she brings out the light in others. It’s probably why you are drawn to each other.” Payton explained, trying her best not to sound like she knew all about what they were feeling which, well, she did.

“What are you girls chatting about?” Mike asked as he took his seat and Payton looked at Mila with a subtle nod. "The new Harry Potter movie." Payton then said, straightening her shoulders. Mike frowned, and then pulled out his books. "Well that's no surprise. Only one of us here actually reads the books." he said, and Payton looked at him. "Chris reads them too. You guys can start a bookclub." she then said, and she fell into laughter with Mila.

Jason noticed as he walks into the room, until he gets interrupted when he walks into Katie at his seat at the back of the classroom. "Oh, I'm sorry." he said, checking to see if he didn't accidentally move a row in front. But he didn't. "No, it's my bad. I’ve been sitting there the past week. I assumed you would…” she trailed off, then moving one seat to the left, clearing out the spot Jason was going to sit on. Jason nodded, and took his seat. "Thanks." he nodded politely, before looking up when a few beeps go off in the classroom. Right next to him, Katie opened her phone and she read the email out loud: "'Guess who is back at SJ. From Dean. Oh god, he's coming back."

The teacher struggled to get the classroom silent again, and the buzz continued through dinner later that day. Mike was convinced nothing could top that news. But Mila knew the story was bigger. And she also knew the story was walking the line between being notorious and being a return to Dean’s former social status. So Mila did what she could so control the narrative.

“Mike?” she said as the two of them sit in her room, working on their geography homework together. Mike looked up just for a split second, shorter than he had been glancing over at his phone a dozen time in the last minute. “Mike, I need to talk about the party.” Mila then said. Done. Mike turned his full focus to her, even closing his books. Mila frowned at that.

“Sorry. I’m just… This is about you and Katie, right?” he asked, and Mila nodded. Mike smiled. “Then I’m invested.” He said. Mila frowned at that, straightening her back and narrowing her eyes. “Mike… if this is some sort of lesbian fantasy thing you have going on…?” she warned him, but Mike frowned at her offended. “What? No. Mila, you’re my friend. I’m invested in your happiness no matter if it’s a guy or a girl you’re dating. But… I mean, you just said lesbians…” Mike said. There was a silence between the both of them during which Mila tried to discover what he meant by that. “Is that what you are now then? A lesbian?” he asked.

Mila sighed and threw a pillow at his head. “No, dumbass.” She said, before rubbing her temples. She knew she couldn’t be mad at his ignorance. He had been supportive, he just wasn’t entirely educated. “I’m bisexual if I’m with a man or a woman. It doesn’t make me a part-time lesbian and part-time straight person. I’m bisexual. Period.” Mila said, then her mouth turning into a slight o-shape because she realized she had never said it out loud as clearly as she did now. Not like this. Not with this much certainty. It unleashed something.

“What you’re thinking… that’s not how this works. Years ago, when I started to like boys, I also started to like girls. In the same way.” She said, the frown still on her face because she didn’t know where this came from. All she knew was that she needed the people around her to understand her. “And after last spring and this summer and everything…” she said, and Mike could tell she was rambling. That this was a path she hadn’t dared to go on before, and he suddenly realized he may have pushed too much with the comment. “It’s okay Mila. You don’t have to say anything. We’re 17, we’re supposed to be figuring all of this out. And… Well, I think you’re very brave for doing that.” He said.

Mila smiled slightly, her brain still trying to make a phrase with the words in her head. She liked boys. And then she also liked girls. She didn’t like everyone. She had preferences. But she liked both. Mila sighed deeply, her thoughts drifting back to Katie right away. Mike noticed from the way she started to play with the corner of the pillow. "I really like her. As more than just a friend. And she now knows that too. But she won’t talk to me." she then said, and Mike could see the tears in her eyes.

Mike didn’t hesitate a second when he reached out to her and pulled her into a hug, and almost instantly he felt her tears on his shoulder, as she gently sobbed while he just placed his hands on her back. It was enough, it had been enough, to comfort Payton months ago. The thought ran through his mind that he should become a professional heartbreak handler. Then he realized he meant the profession of a therapist, and he backed away from that idea right away. Payton was the all-knowing guru of how to deal with trauma and emotions. And Mike didn’t know how she did it. But he knew even she had needed a hug last spring. So here he was. Hugging yet another one of his friends, trying to take some of the pain of their ongoing heartbreak.

After a few minutes, he let go and he reached for Mila’s cheeks, wiping away the tears. "Anything else I can help with?" He asked, and Mila sighed deeply. "No, I… I think I just need some time alone. Just… Can you just go, please?” She asked. Mike nodded softly, grabbing his books and exiting the room as swiftly as he could, walking back towards his own room. Payton spotted him coming from the second floor as she sat in the recroom and she briefly considered calling him over, but then she realized he had probably come from Mila’s room, so she decided against it.

And now she was also distracted from the book she was reading, so she soon got up and walked to her room. She smiled watching her sister in the doorway for a while, until she closed the door behind her. “What are you doing?” Payton asked, walking up to Claire’s desk. Claire swallowed, then covered the specific page she was working on and she looked at Payton’s notes on the eviction spell. “Just working on this. This right here, should it be Vivitum or Vivitae?" Claire asked, and Payton looked at the sentence Claire pointed towards. "Vivitum.” She replied. “Hey are you good if I go take a shower real quick?" she asked. Claire nodded, and as the door to the bathroom closes Claire’s guilt sky-rocketed and she sighed in relief. That was a close one, and Claire knew she couldn’t keep this secret much longer.

Thursday September 27, 2007

Finally, on Thursday she couldn’t stand the voice in the back of her mind anymore. “Payton? Can we talk?” she then asked, and Payton looked up from the books. Over the last few days Payton had started working on the spell more seriously, spending most of her evenings on it. When Claire spoke, her voice hesitant like that, Payton very slowly put away her book. Then Claire nodded, and she tried to say what she prepared in her head over and over again, but the words won’t come out. “I… I made a deal. I fell, and I made a deal. I mean… Seth… With Seth. Cause I fell, and then he saved me and…”

“Claire, what the hell. You’re not making any sense. Again. Slowly.” Payton then said, and Claire breathed in and out deeply. “I fell, at the party. Almost two weeks ago. Seth saved me. He saved my life, Payton. He didn’t have to, but he did. And it changed things.” She said, then looking up. “I want to give them another chance. Let them stay. And I need you to be okay with that. Please say you’re okay with that.” Claire said.

Payton frowned right away, taking in the information, then she looked back at her sister. “You made a deal to help them and you’re asking me if I’m okay with that?” Payton asked, discarding the fact that Claire hadn’t told her this for almost two weeks. “No, Claire. I’m not okay with that. Especially not if they feel like we owe them” She said, causing Claire to frown.

“But we do?” she said. “We owe them my life. How can you not even want to consider that. I would have been dead, or really hurt, if he hadn’t been there.” She said, but Payton wouldn’t let it phase her. “And they almost caused the extinction of our bloodline. Then you wouldn’t even have been born. They, he, the same guy you say saved you, was almost ripping open your artery a month ago.” She said. That was the point where Claire picked in again. “Yes. A month ago. And if you think I’m still holding that grudge you’re wrong. They learned. And they deserve a chance.” She said.

Payton then looked at her, just shaking her head. “And this is why you didn’t tell me for two weeks? You were hoping I would become just as naïve and think they’d changed too? Because they didn’t, Claire. They’re still vampires. And I’m not making peace with vampires.” She said, then pulling up the covers of her bed. “You need to tell them whatever deal you made, it’s off. They’re leaving town. Either by their own free will, or by wind as they turn into dust on midnight October 1st.”

Seth and Jason were right across the hall, and every word Payton spoke reached them. Now, both of them stared at the door, and then they looked at each other. Jason broke the silence between them. “At least she tried.” Then followed by “You believed in her. You believed in a little girl who could barely master her magic, but you believed in the idea. Nobody at the house will blame you for it. We all wanted it to be true.”

Seth just stood there, nodded, and then he went to grab the box next to his bed. He had been reluctant to start packing, even though he had been fine with Jason doing it. He just didn’t want to do it himself. He didn’t want to give up on the hope yet, on the little sparkle of faith, of reassurance, that Claire had given him. He had allowed himself to be pulled up by that, by her. He had believed in her, like Jason said. But he had been a fool. Payton Silverstone was too far gone, and she would drag her sister back into it. In a few months, Claire would be back to being scared of vampires like she once was. Like she was before he changed her mind about them. At least… that’s what he hoped he did.

What Seth didn’t know, was that Claire had been done letting others tell her how to feel for a while now. So what, Payton didn’t talk to her in the morning. That didn’t mean Claire was any less right in what she was fighting for. And Claire didn’t need Payton anymore to do magic. She could do it by herself. And she would.

Friday September 28th, 2007

“So, what do we do now?” Jason asked as he watched Seth unplug the alarm clock, and the 00:17 turned to a blank black screen. Seth hadn’t said anything for about an hour since they overhead the conversation across the hall. But Jason knew he had been thinking. So he waited. He waited for Seth to tell them what to do.

"We finish it. And then we move. We go look for Alyssa" Seth replied. “You heard Payton. If we keep this fight going, we'll hurt them more than we could ever help them. I don't want to leave either, Jason. But I also don't want to be the one who ruins any chance we have in the future to return to this place. They won. They deserve to win."

And that was it. The end of their SJBS adventure. From then on their dorm room seemed foreign to them. From then on, packing went easily. It had taken them a little over than a month, and some trial and error, to get used to a life they thought had ended over two hundred years ago. A social life, interactions with humans and friendships. And soon, all of that would be gone again.

And even if it was but a fraction of the time he had been on this planet so far, somehow Jason knew it would be memorable. Something had changed, coming here. Something was different now, knowing the people at this school. Knowing the Silverstones.

There was a whole new meaning to their lives now, but in a way that Jason lacked the words to describe it in his journal. So he just looked up, out of the window where the sun begin to rise slowly, and he smiled exhaling deeply. He could see it now. A normal life, but instead of sleeping they spend hours reading. A normal life, but instead of sitting down for a meal there are hunting trips. A normal life, with a touch of magic to it.