CONT - Friday, September 28th, 2007

“What are your plans for the day?" Jason asked after a while. It was all empty now, their entire room. He tried his best not to pay attention to it as he sat down on the bed. Seth sighed deeply, doing something similar by grabbing his phone, looking anywhere but at the empty bookshelf, the clean desk and the fact that his bed was in the normal position again from where they’d moved it to make the room a bit more accommodating.

“Maybe try to help Justin with his track. The kid really deserves the scholarship, and I feel bad for even briefly taking that away from him.” Seth explained. Jason wished he had at least made one friend whose life he could impact a bit before they were gone. Then he realized he did. Sort of. "Alright then, let's do this. Final day." Jason said as he got back up, even smiling faintly. Although Seth looked right through that.

Jason had to wait four hours before he finally managed to approach Mila without Payton being around. Right now she was sitting in the 2nd floor rec room, which made Jason lucky. He smiled, genuinely unlike that morning, and started walking up to her until one of the people on the opposite couch started talking.

“You know, Lincoln has been MIA for a while now. Mila, you know anything?” the guy asked, and Mila looked up from where she had been looking at photos on her camera. She thought for a bit, then shook her head. “No. Now that you mention it, he’s been pretty lowkey. I don’t even think I’ve seen him in class like, for a while.” Mila said. She then looked up towards the archway and frowned when there was nobody there, even though she could have sworn there was.

Jason sighed as he descended the stairs. Of course people were starting to notice Lincoln’s absence. They didn’t know how they had saved their lives by getting rid of him. Well, Claire did. She had killed her first vampire right there in front of him, and the look on her face still made Jason feel sad, even though it was a while ago now. A sad feeling grew thinking back at it, and the fact that he wouldn’t be able to talk to Mila. The less contact they had the better, after all soon Jason and Seth would be the names that people whispered, wondering where they went and how they left.

He thought about it as he walked into the driveway. The sad feeling in his chest only grew as he took in the house. The huge mansion that once amazed him by its size and warm feling, suddenly didn’t feel like home anymore. The furniture they had picked out to replace those from last century, the desk in the library which now had a computer on it. All the new technology hadn’t left enough room to stack his journals. Almost as if they weren't really supposed to be there. Everything felt out of place now.

He grabbed one of the books from the shelf in the living room and sat down on the couch. If one thing, he always found wisdom in those things. Books made him occasionally forget all about the world around him. He spent hours in books, learning along with the characters and embracing their flaws and their strengths. It made him think of a quote someone once told him.

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies" she had said, as she walked in on him reading in his books, in a comfortable chair with a lamp behind him. She had walked in, and stood in front of him for at least a minute or three before he could tear his eyes away from the pages. He looked at her, this time in a lavishing black dress, and she looked at him and they didn't say a word. He simply switched off the lamp, put his book to the side and followed her to her bedroom, holding her hand merely by her fingertips so that they could let go at any given moment if someone came around the corner. Then they reached the bedroom, where they wouldn't bother turning on the lamps.

In the beginning they did, but then he had gotten used to unbuttoning her dress in the dark that there was no need to it. Aside from that, the light would draw unwanted attention. Last thing Jason needed was for anyone to find out he was sleeping with his boss. Last thing May needed was for anyone to find out she was sleeping with one of her soldiers.

However soon enough they both got tired of the hiding. Three more nights and an equal amount of sneaking out of her room followed, until the next morning Jason got a letter. A call to the office, where May had told him he had done a great service to her. She'd spun a story how he had caught a spy, and proclaimed that he earned a special reward for it. And so Jason got promoted. Commander Jason Carrington had a nice ring to it. What it also had was status and pride, enough to publically have a relationship with the woman of his dreams. He made it. He was proud of himself, and rightfully so. And once in a blue moon he would imagine what his father would say now.

The Carringtons were no strangers to pride and prejudice. Jason's oldest brother Jared was good at basically anything he ever tried his hands on. Reading, writing. Horseback riding and flirting with every single female in a 5 year age range. Jared was the flagship of the Carrington family. Wealth, prosperous and with a savvy business instinct, as his father was a trader in early Boston establishment. Jason himself been blessed with the ability to read, but he never got a true chance to be extremely good at anything but staying at home, sitting by the piano and playing lullaby's for his younger siblings.

That was all he'd do for days, until his mother took pity on him, and so she had given him the chance to read as much as he possibly could. Regardless if it was his father's desire or not, he would know how to read one day, even if it was by small steps. In contrary to some of his sisters, however. Lorraine, his youngest sister, was probably way to playful to ever sit still at a table for hours and learn how to read. Phillip, his younger brother, would be all too eager to do it. He took every opportunity to be like Jason or Jared. Then Louise would probably be so determined she'd excel over every other child in the family.

Louise would end up the most literate of them all. And Rebecca loved secrets too much not to learn how to write so she could write letters with secrets in them. Katherine was older than Jason, and she had learned how to read and write along with him. But it was her twin brother, Jared, who had been privately thought by their father. Lauren then walked from the hallway to her and Nate’s bedroom, where she closed the door behind her and she breathed in deeply. "That doesn't look so great." She said, leaning against the door. “Jason looks really sad.” Nate looked up on his bed, paused the sound of his music and got up. "We should go talk to him. Or something. I don't know." She said.

Nate bridged the gap between them, now standing in the middle of the room in front of her, his hands in his pockets. "I don't think there's much we can do now." Nate replied. He lifted his hand and brushed it through Lauren’s hair.

He hated seeing her worried. He fell in love with one of the most empathic people he had met in his entire life. Someone who would do anything for someone else, but be satisfied with a smile in return. Lauren would die for the people she loved. And it was Nate’s number one job to make sure that she didn’t. To make sure that she didn’t sacrifice herself all the way. And yes, maybe also to have her to himself a little bit.

But that wasn’t hard. If there was one person Lauren would do anything for, it was Nate. ‘Join me in Moskow’ Nate had asked her. Lauren had joined him in Moskow. ‘Let’s open a record store in London’ Nate had suggested. Lauren had been there, clapping for him as he cut the ribbon. The only thing she had ever refused him, was a ring. “Nathaniel Bolton, I will not marry you until all men and women can marry the people they love.” She had stated at a protest march years and years back. Now it was 2007 and things had changed – had progressed – but Lauren had her mind set. Legal marriage for everyone, that was her one requirement. But Nate wanted to. He wanted to show the world that out of every soul he could fall in love with, he chose her.

James and Elisabeth had gotten married, but Alyson and Dylan hadn’t gotten married either. They didn’t need it, or so they explained. Nothing about a ceremony or a particular place in the world would be able to represent the love that they wanted to share with each other forever. They were home for each other. They were family for each other. That was all they had needed. And even if Alyson and Dylan wanted to, they would have to go through the painful mess that was the topic of Alyssa.

No other vampire group had a situation like the Dawsons had with Alyssa and Alyson. And to the extent also Dylan. Their situation wasn’t exactly according to the vampire sireline rulebook. Alyssa saved their lives, but she couldn’t stay around to teach them how to be a vampire. This left a void, a void that Alyson filled with anger, because Alyssa had ruined everything.

All Alyson said for the hours following her revival was 'What about the kids', unlike Dylan who remained mute for a good three days. When Alyssa had entered the cellar where Alyson and Dylan temporarily remained, he had snapped at her. Called her a murderer, for leaving innocent children to die. Luckily, Alyssa remained calm and stated she couldn't have saved them anyways. But Dylan just wouldn't accept. Only when James explained him the same thing, he started to let it sink in. Over time Dylan learned that Alyssa probably did the right thing. But he never accepted Alyssa as his vampire sire.

Alyson simply had to many reasons not to like Alyssa. Firstly, Alyssa didn't help the kids of the family Alyson and Dylan both worked for, the kids who were under her supervision. William, Mary, George and Adeline. The names that echoed in her mind like a prayer. Secondly, she had not allowed the kids to be properly buried. Alyson had started digging graves, but Alyssa had stopped her saying people were coming and that there was no time so they had to leave the bodies behind.

After being turned, Alyson and Dylan had weeks of training from James, while Alyssa slowly disappeared from the picture. Until that one Sunday afternoon. Alyssa came walking into the garden like all was rainbows and sunshine, but in Alyson's heart everything turned to stone. Alyson ran up to her own sire, and tried to rip off her head. But Alyssa was swift, trained and... better dressed for the occasion. In a swift motion Alyson was on the ground, and the entire family on high alert.

Alyson wasn't proud of that moment. That day became a display of Alyson's grieve over the family she never had. Up until that point, Alyson had also faced little resistance. Alyssa had taken the accusations, the fights, the insults. It was only when Alyson started to call out Alyssa for being a murderer like the rest of her family, that Alyssa had started to fight back. That was when Alyson experienced the unwavering loyalty of Seth and Jason, and that was when she knew she would never win against Alyssa.

Alyson had seen the similarities between Alyssa and the Silverstone sisters too. Jason and Seth had actually meant it when they talked about how compassionate they were. And Alyson had seen why. Claire was more likeable than any other human she had met in her life. Claire made her forget that she was a vampire to begin with, which is why she was nothing like Alyssa. The farthest thing from it. And Payton was one of the strongest people Alyson had met. The other Silverstones were all more modern versions of one another. Good housewives, obedient witches. All that jazz. But Payton actually had the guts to resist her ancestor's weakness. They were strong, and they didn't just nod and agree with everything. Alyson admired that.

Lauren then sighed as she was resting her head on Nate’s bare chest. She was looking at the orchids that stood on her dresser, the one Nate got her a few days ago, and she smiled slightly. She would miss this room. She liked this room. The soft covers, the view, the feeling of waking up next to the person she loved every day and not hearing the overwhelming sounds of morning traffic in Chicago. Waterfall Creek was nice. Waterfall Creek was home. “I can see now why James and Elisabeth wanted to return here.” She whispered, smiling. Nate rubbed his hand gently down her spine, not even aware of the motion as he was wrapped up in thoughts. He just hummed in reply.

“I wonder if Jason and Seth are going to come with us. Wherever we go next.” Lauren then said. They hadn’t discussed, but James usually had several options that they would vote on. Waterfall Creek had won by a unanimous vote. Nate then blinked a few times and focused on what Lauren said. “Oh. I don’t know. Maybe they’ll visit Alyssa. I think I heard Seth mention that.” he said. “Maybe.” Lauren said softly, trying not to show the disappointment that they wouldn’t get to see Alyssa.

She hadn't had the chance to get to know Alyssa very well. She knew stories. Plenty of stories by Seth and some by Jason. She knew she was Alyson and Dylan's sire. And she knew that meant Lauren and Nate were part of her bloodline too. But that was it. She was also sad that she never got to spend time with Payton and Claire. It had been just Elisabeth, Jason, James and Seth who were there when the Silverstones came over for tea. Lauren felt like she lost out on a chance to connect with the most powerful witches in the world. Get them to remember her, maybe even become friends with them. Then again, she lived in one town with them and lived to tell the tale, so she should probably count her blessings.

Also counting his blessings was Seth, who so far hadn’t run into Payton. He had agreed to a bet with Dylan about Payton firing one last epic poetic speech at them. Seth had said Payton was just as tired as they were, but James had doubled the amount saying she would say some final words to them. And when Seth walked into the Great Hall, Seth knew he had to pay. He briefly considered walking in the opposite direction. But then again he had nothing to lose, except 200 dollars, so he met her halfway, his backpack casually swinging over his shoulder. “Hi Payton.”

Payton frowned, as if Seth had just called her by an insulting name. “Don’t you ‘Hi Payton’ me. You had your chance. We gave you guys a fair chance and you kept secrets. And now it’s the end of the month.”

Seth rolled his eyes. “Yes Payton. We know it’s the end of the month. We’re busy packing our stuff, so you don’t have to worry.” He said, about to walk away. Then he thought of what she said, so he paused his movement and looked back at her. “But sometimes I do wonder if you did. If you ever gave us a fair chance.” Payton didn’t know what to reply. Payton Silverstone was actually speechless for a bit, and Seth was certain this would mean he didn’t lose all his money. Then he let the smirk on his mouth fade again and he cleared his throat, realizing he may have stepped a line.

“Sorry.” He said looking down at his feet. “I know you… I mean, you never owed us anything. I know that. I know why you did what you did.” He said. Payton looked at him and Seth could visibly see her build up the damage he had done by his statement. "Yeah well… Anyways.” The brunette in front of him spoke. Geez, she didn’t look much older than 16 the way her eyes had lost their fire a little and her confidence was but a mirage. “I hope you packed everything. I can't guarantee the survival of anyone inside the town's borders after the spell we'll be doing on Sunday." she said, before turning on her heels and heading back towards the newspaper office.

Seth remained standing where he was. Then the bell rang to announce the end of lunch, and in a matter of seconds the great hall was filled with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors trying to get to their class. And for Seth that meant he had to listen to the teacher talking about the human body, followed by a class about STD’s, both in the company of 16 year olds. Not that he hadn’t enjoyed these classes in the past couple of weeks. But now he was heading towards the classroom with a heavy heart. It might have broken when he saw Claire, and she sighed deeply as he walked into the classroom.

In first period they both had math, but Claire hadn’t seen him from her seat. But now she saw him standing in the front of the classroom, and she knew. They both knew. This was it. This was real. Seth had counted three more classes and then it would be over. Three more classes, including the class he was in now and ending with History. He smiled at the irony of finishing off with History. It was a class he had a love-hate relationship with. One that was given by a wonderful teacher who was passionate about her subject, but who also kept in mind that she was telling 16 year olds about the French revolution, not her history co-workers.

Seth had related to that because he himself was constantly trying to get on the level of these teenagers that surrounded him, the people who he had spent so many hours in one classroom with. TJ Greenberg who managed to turn any wastebin into a basketball hoop. Bianca Diaz who filed her nails during math class because she had already finished the exercises 7 minutes ago, not because she was vain. Leah Chang whose ringtone during one class three weeks ago had caused for most of the sophomore class to jam along to 7 nation army by the white stripes from back in 2003.

Which happened to be the year Justin started track. And since Justin wasn’t there himself to defend his accomplishments, Max did that for him. "But they still have Justin. He's good." Max said in defense of their former star athlete, and Mike agreed to that. "Yeah, Justin was faster than Seth at the beginning of the year. He can do it." he said, looking aside to Mila for some support. “Yeah. I mean, who knows maybe the challenge Seth brought has helped Justin.” Mila said, and all five of the guy sitting around her looked at her like she just invented warm water. “What? You guys, seriously that’s logic.”

All of them started laughing and Mila blushed a little when one of them told Mike to bring his girlfriend to hang out with them more often. That’s when Mike cut in. “Mila and I aren’t dating though.” He said, looking aside at her and smiling a little. “She’s one of my closest friends. So you need to stop with the sexism too. Mila isn’t just some potential girlfriend. She speaks twice the amount of languages most of you guys do and she is amazingly compassionate.” He said. “You only make those comments anyways because you know yourself can’t get a girlfriend anyways.” Mila then said, and all of the boys but the one guy started laughing.

The group then suggested to go to the movies later that night, and Mila declined the offer. She had felt like Payton was distracted by something and Mila could use a break from her own emotional turmoil to see what Payton had going on. Maybe they’d watch a movie together and have a heart to heart over some nachos. It wouldn’t be the first time.

However Payton's plans mainly focused on creating a spell that would keep out the vampires, something that had been her main focus since the run-in with Seth earlier that day. And she hadn’t made it easy on herself. The spell had to be perfect, and couldn’t contain a single flaw. She figured out she would protect the town by creating a dome around it in the hopes of keeping everyone inside of it safe. It would require a combination of spells and different steps, all of which Payton could not be distracted for. So after 10 minutes she had given up and she switched off her phone when she kept getting text messages.

Claire noticed from across the room and she smiled when Mila ended up texting her instead. “Mila just texted me. You don’t want to go with them to the movies?” Claire said, and Payton looked up momentarily, before shaking her head. “No. I don’t have time for that. These ingredients wouldn't be gathered at the popcorn stand.” Payton replied, and Claire smiled a bit. Payton had now moved on to double checking every single amount of every single ingredient, and Claire was still watching her.

“How about I finish with those and you go and hang out with your friends. I can do that, you can take the rest of the night and relax a little.” Claire said. At this Payton looked up and the look on her face didn’t question Claire’s qualifications, more her motivations. “Why, Claire? So you can go ahead and sabotage this?” Payton asked, and Claire met her eyes.

“Payton, don’t do this, please.” Claire then said, getting up from her own bed. “They saved my life, Payton. What do you want me to do? Stand by as you chase them out of town and cast a spell on the border so that any vampire that enters will be turned into ash?” Claire said.

Payton swallowed a little at how gruesome Claire made it sound, but she straightened her shoulders anyways. “You don’t have to stand by. In fact, on the contrary. We have to hike a while to get to the purest soil so there will be no standing by.” Payton spoke, then getting up and walking to the bathroom. “But I am going out, actually. I have wasted enough time with my friends on those vampires. Those need to be mixed and put in a bag. Don’t mix those two piles by any means.” Payton said, and Claire watched with her mouth slightly open as Payton got up and walked to the door. “One day you’ll know I did both of us a favor, Claire.” Payton spoke, and then she was out of the door.

Claire felt the sting of that comment for a while after that. Yes, it was hard seeing Payton like this. The constant battle mode that she had switched on meant she was unable to see what Claire had been starting to see and it was hard. However Claire couldn’t think about that too long. Not long after the door closing, Claire moved to the desk and she had measured up the ingredients for her own spell first. Then she did like Payton had instructed, yawning through all.

Saturday September 29th , 2007

The next morning Claire felt the repercussions of the choice to stay up late when she was buzzed awake by Justin, asking her if something was wrong since she wasn’t awake yet. Claire checked and saw the time indicating 10.42 which for a Saturday was pretty unusual for Claire.

She typed her reply while her eyes are trying to adjust, and when she asked back if he wanted her to come over, Justin replied saying he was spending the majority of the day helping his mother out with the back yard, so there was no point in that.

Claire then looked up suddenly when she heard a loud noise, and when she checked Payton's bed she found Payton still sound asleep. Claire was glad about that, because that meant Claire could work on her spell a little longer. She then slowly got out of bed, avoiding the many books that were on the floor. She almost tripped on one however when another thud was heard from the hallway. Carefully she grabbed her bathrobe and she peeked outside the door.

In the room across from Claire and Payton's, Seth looked over at Jason who was piling the boxes ready to be carried outside, and it dawned on Claire that Seth and Jason were actually packing and leaving town. It hit her that despite all they tried, they still got this treatment. And it wasn’t right.

Seth tried to socialize, and saving Claire’s life had been a turning point. Jason had tried to put in the effort as well. After Payton's eviction notice, he had tried not to walk past the music room on Fridays. He had tried not to sit too close to Payton or any of her friends in class. He had tried not to make eyecontact during lunch.

Seth then caught Claire standing in her doorway, and he instinctively knew that this interaction was one for the list of ‘things Payton didn’t know that happened.’ Just for that one moment they have a conversation that nobody else knows of. A conversation that doesn't require words, because Claire’s face says it all. Then Claire took two steps back and the door closes with Seth being unable to see Claire's face. He then stared at the door to the room across the hall and he sighed.

Lauren came to walk up behind him and she placed her chin on his shoulder, staring at the door with him for a while until she broke him out of it with a sympathetic kiss on his cheek. Seth noticed she was still looking at their room as if it was the most wonderful thing, even though it was empty now. It reminded Seth of a conversation from six weeks ago as they were loading the car on their way to the school.

"You get to go back to the school and be a normal teenager for once. Go and.. mingle and stuff. Make friends." Elisabeth had said. "Get to know what the fashion is like these days." Lauren added as she padded his shoulder walking past him. Now Lauren was tripple-checking their boxes to see which were vulnerable and which weren’t. It reminded him of when they were packing back in Chicago earlier this year.

In Chicago had a set of houseplants, which she tended to carefully. They didn’t have a large garden like the house here in Waterfall Creek. Jason figured it had been one of the reasons why Elisabeth voted for Waterfall Creek, and he knew she was sad to leave it behind now that she just got started with it.

Maybe they’d move to a city again. Or maybe they’d settle in the countryside of Canada. Jason didn’t know what he preferred. He didn’t know what he liked best, out of both environments. He did however know that things would be different since living in a boarding school with two witches. Both Seth and Jason had way more control over their bloodlust, something they had trained excessively over the last couple of weeks. Wherever they would end up next, they wouldn’t be at such a high risk of losing control. Then again, the risk would always be there. Jason and Seth both had a relatively low count for amounts of detoxes. Jason had more, but Seth only had 7 marks behind his name, not counting what happened at the gym with Claire. He hadn’t entirely lost control there, and he hadn't slaughtered a classroom of teenagers. Now that would have given Payton a reason to ban them from the school.

They would have had to move while Seth was probably going through detox. Jason didn’t even want to think about the nightmare it would have been, let alone actually getting Seth to complete his detox. Maybe he would have called Alyssa, and it would have been enough to convince her to come and visit. Because if there was one person who had experience with detox, it was Alyssa.

Alyssa’s lifestyle gave her far more counts for falling off the wagon. Seth was there in one of the first accounts, and the first time he saw her as a type B vampire he barely recognized her. Her face was covered in blood, her eyes were so dark you could barely see the color they had. She was looking at him as if he was the biggest burden of her life, and then she ran off.

That was 1834. For the remaining 22 years Seth and Jason only heard of her every now and then. Her victims, rather than her herself. When she came knocking to their door in 1856, her face filled with desperation, Seth and Jason had tried her best at getting her through detox, but Jason’s limited knowledge from his mere 44 years vampire failed him. Seth had even less experience, and as a result their method of cutting Alyssa off cold turkey backfired when she killed half the village.

They changed their strategy after that, and with a lot of effort Alyssa stayed a type A vampire for 6 struggling years before breaking her diet again in 1862. In those years the Anconi was keeping a close eye on the American continent, so Jason and Seth knew they couldn’t risk anything. James and Elisabeth stepped in and they tracked down Alyssa in mere weeks, followed by months of excessive detox therapy to ween Alyssa off bit by bit.

“I’m taking these three to the car then.” Lauren said, and Jason jumped out of his thoughts, looking at Lauren. “Sure, go ahead.” Jason said, as he finished taping up the box in front of him. He paused halfway when he noticed the contents of it, and he breathed in deeply when he saw the notebooks on top of a pile of other schoolbooks from their classes.

It is then that Jason noticed the presence at the other side of the hallway, and he fought the urge to walk up to their door. Instead, Jason took some stuff out of the box and placed them on the bed, before sealing it off and setting the box on top of the other two that Seth was carrying. Jason then moved to get the final three boxes from the corner of the room, and lifted them in his arms. He walked out of the room without looking back, his attention grabbed more so by the door across the hall opening and his eyes locking with Payton’s.

Her eyes spoke loudly. Mostly relief and victory. But Jason swore he also saw a hint of regret in there. Then he saw Claire, who was watching over Payton’s shoulder. She gave gave him a warm smile which was about the last thing he expected. Then he looked back at Payton, and if Jason was already surprised by Claire’s smile, he was even more so when Payton gave him a small, subtle nod. Few seconds later, Jason was at the end of the hall and he started descending the stairs, arriving at the car several moments later and putting the boxes into the trunk, before getting in and telling Seth they were good to go. And just like that, they left SJBS behind them.

CONT - Saturday September 29th , 2007

Claire watched Jason descend the stairs until he was out of sight before she returned her gaze to the room across the hall, which was now empty. Except Claire spotted an amount of files on the bed, and she moved past Payton right away to go and get them.

“They left this.” Claire said, as she looked up at Payton with disbelief in her eyes. “It’s their research. Their observations. Of our friends.” She added as she started reading. Claire handed Payton half of the pages and then she sat down on her bed, grabbing a pillow as she continued reading. Then, she smiled, and she started reading out loud: “They described us all. Justin as ambitious, loyal and sociable. Mike as righteous. Caring and a hidden talent for detection work. Mila as passionate, loving and with a remarkable soul. Katie as optimistic, energetic and joyful. Dean as strategic and determined. Samantha as truthful. Troubled, but certainly not a drug user.”

Then Payton looked down at the pages in her own hands, and she cleared her throat before she started reading. “I would describe Payton as loving, protective and extremely powerful. And Claire as accepting, open minded and wise.” Judging by the handwriting she can tell these were written by Jason, as the next page includes music notes and on top the words ‘To Pass The Time’ written in the same handwriting. Payton has no time to wonder why Jason would leave them music notes, as Claire inhaled deeply which drew her attention. “I had wondered where it went.” She said, as she gently touched her drawing of the waterfalls she made this past summer. She looked at it for a few more seconds before looking up at her sister. “Payton… I told you, they’ve been trying so hard. All of this only shows they never had any bad intentions.” Claire said, walking up to her sister and taking her hand.

Payton looked at the files for a while, and then she scoffed, letting go of Claire’s hand abruptly. “All this was is a desperate final attempt. To humanize their intentions.” Payton spoke. She couldn’t say they failed, though. “I’m going to the library now. I need to check which area of the woods has the best soil to use, and I need to dig into the geographical maps of the town for that.” Payton spoke. A few minutes later she was descending the stairs at the front of the school, and Claire watched her through the window. Then she grabbed out her phone, and scrolled down in her contacts.

‘I know you left the files for us to find. I also think I know why you did it. But Payton won’t change her mind. I’m trying to do what I can. I’m sorry.’ She texted to Jason, her thumb hoovering over the send button before she finally pressed it.

Across town Seth, Lauren and Jason arrived at the house, their car packed with their dorm stuff, leaving some room for some additional boxes. At that moment Dylan walked out of the house with Alyson following close behind carrying out three boxes, which she placed in the trunk. Yesterday James and Nate had taken down all the paintings and rolled up the rugs, which basically stripped the house down to its skeleton, and Jason didn’t even want to go inside.

Then his phone buzzed, and he was surprised to read Claire’s text. He wasn’t surprised though when he saw what she was saying, and he briefly wondered why he even allowed himself to be hopeful at seeing Claire’s name appear on his screen.

He then went to tell Seth about what he did, and Seth sighed deeply. “That was actually not a bad idea. I’m glad you did that, Jason. Maybe if we do return here in a few years, those files will vouch for us.” Seth spoke, then leaning against the hood of the car. He sighed deeply, not needing to say anything more because that would only make things worse. They were leaving tomorrow. And there was no turning back.

Sunday September 30, 2007

Seth and Jason spend the majority of the evening and the following night hunting with James, Elisabeth, Lauren and Nate while Alyson and Dylan stayed at the house. They would leave early on Sunday morning and split up from the rest of them, returning to their condo in Paris and visiting friends, while the others voted and tried to figure out where they would move to.

Seth was a bit surprised James hadn’t given it that much thought, judging by how they were standing over the car now. Eventually the choice came down to Calgary or a small property by the Idaho state border, which got Seth’s vote. Nate and Lauren both voted the same, while James, Elisabeth and Jason opted to move to their house in Calgary.

“I don’t know, we were in Chicago just a couple of months ago. I just feel like I’ve had enough of cities for a while.” Seth explained. Nate was sitting in the trunk of the car, Lauren leaning on his lap and they nodded in agreement with Seth. “Yeah, Calgary is just not something I want to do right now. I wanna have a small-scaled life.” Lauren said, earning a kiss on her cheek from her boyfriend.

“Maybe you guys should move in with Seth then? The rest of us can go up north?” Jason said, and Seth frowned at that. “You mean splitting up? No no, we’re not splitting up.” Seth spoke. “Jason, there’s vampires after our territory. We won’t be able to properly defend it if we’re split up.”

“We won’t be able to do that either if we’re all in one place.” Jason countered, and Seth rolled his eyes with a dramatic sigh. “Okay mister war strategist. How about we just start off by picking a spot outside of town to meet up tonight, and then we can see from there?” Seth suggested. Right now he was just more focused on actually surviving Payton’s deathwave than figuring out where they would end up eventually. Besides, wherever they went Jason and Seth wouldn’t stay long because they were going to look for Alyssa.

“There is a campsite around here somewhere. Has been abandoned for almost two decades.” Elisabeth said, pointing at an area in the map. “James and I can track it down, get you guys the coordinates. We still need to go to City Hall to arrange some final paperwork.”

Nate then got up, taking Lauren’s hand and tapping the roof of the car. “Sounds like a plan. Text us the coordinates, Liz.” He spoke, before walking with Lauren down the road. “Where are we going?” she then asked, and Nate smiled. “It’s our last sunrise here. Seth told me the view from the waterfalls is very nice. So we’re going to the waterfalls.” Nate whispered in her ear.

And they weren’t the only ones watching the sunrise. Unable to sleep for several hours, Claire was staring out of her window watching the sun come up. It was a beautiful sight to see, the way the sun was glowing and illuminating everything. Claire kind of wanted to draw it, but she knew she didn’t have the time.

Taking advantage of Payton being asleep, Claire grabbed the eight personal items she stole from the Dawsons. After preparing the spell, the stone she had selected started glowing, much like the sun was doing, eight times in a row. Once for each object. Then the stone remained dull, and Claire carefully tucked it into the pocket of her jacket. Then she put the objects back under her bed, and just as she was getting up from sitting on her knees, Claire heard her older sister wake up across the room.

Claire quickly stretched out her arms above her head, faking a morning stretch when Payton opened her eyes frowning, seeing her sister out of bed at this time of the day on a Sunday morning. “What? You told me we were hiking. I was doing some sunrise yoga.” Claire spoke. Payton then checked her alarm and sighed deeply, before allowing her head to fall back into the pillows. “Whatever Claire. Just make sure you’re ready in a few hours.” Payton spoke, before she turned on her side and she allowed herself to drift off again.

She slept for a few more hours, waking up at around 10 and heading downstairs for breakfast. When she returned, Claire was getting dressed when she got a text from Mila, asking if she wanted to hang out today. Claire couldn’t exactly reply that she was going to perform a very difficult, very dangerous spell this afternoon, so she told Mila she wasn’t feeling that great.

At around 4PM, Claire and Payton left through the back yard, using the hole in the fence they have used frequently to leave school property and head into the woods. They avoided being seen with boots and a backpack just to make sure nobody asked questions.

"Okay can I see the map again?" Claire then asked, and Payton looked behind her. “You just keep your eyes on the ground, and don’t trip on anything.” Payton said. For a while Claire was offended, but then she knew Payton had a point. “And can you please not hit every branch you can possibly break?” Payton said a minute later. Claire nodded silently. They then passed a ledge, where the soil suddenly went downhill and Claire froze for a second when she saw the small waterfall up front.

Claire remembered this place. It was the place where she talked to Seth, and where she discovered their secrets. Claire knew she couldn’t tell Payton about that, and so when she realized she had slowed down without noticing, she put in a small effort to catch up again.

“Payton, are you sure we’re going the right way?” Claire asked her sister who was now a couple of steps ahead. “Yeah, couple of minutes left.” Payton replied. Claire didn’t believe a word of it, and she was convinced they’re lost from that point. Until Payton stopped, and Claire almost walked into her. “Here?” Claire asked, alternating between looking up for a few seconds and down, before she looked behind her. “Is this the place with the town’s oldest soil?” Claire asked, Payton nodding confidently in reply. “Yeah, according to the town records it is.” Payton said. She then checked the time, 7.09PM , and looked at her sister. “You should sit down.” Payton added as she sat down on a tree log.

Claire claimed her spot with her jacket, and Payton lifted an eyebrow as she did so. "What? Grass stains would ruin the jeans.” She said, and Payton laughed. “What?” Claire then repeated, and Payton leaned her elbows on her knees. “Remember when Pierre would always put down his jacket for me, and then you’d sit on It first. And we’d try to squeeze on it together. And then I usually ended up just sitting on his lap instead?” Payton said, in a bit of a dreamy voice. Claire smiled. “Yeah…” she said, unable not to think back to those times fondly. Then she looked at her sister, and she knew it was her job to say something. “I wonder if he does that for all his girlfriends.”

Payton looked up right away. Some people would call it mean, but when Payton smiled nodding, Claire knew it was the right thing to do. Despite their differences, they were still sisters and they always got each other’s backs. Payton then put down a picnic blanket that Claire totally forgot they owned and they started talking in a way that they hadn’t done in a while. Claire could tell Payton was reaching out to her, just as tired of the constant fighting and bickering. Claire knew Payton was doing this because things would be over soon. At least, that’s what Payton believed.

The stone in Claire’s pocket suddenly felt heavier than it had before, and Claire found herself focused too much on the sandwich she was eating than on the story her sister was telling. Then, Claire saw the final glimpse of sunrise disappear behind the trees, and she knew it wouldn’t be long now.

Sunset also meant it was time for the Dawsons to leave behind their home, which they had one last training match in. After all, wherever they went it would include defending their territory, and their opponents wouldn’t hold back. “Okay, I think we’re good to go now.” Seth spoke as he pulled a clean shirt over his shoulders, and he walked onto the driveway.

James and Elisabeth then left, and Lauren waved at them. They would see each other in a few hours, since they had chosen to drive separately as to not draw attention. Alyson and Dylan had gone ahead and taken their car, Jason and Seth would take another and James and Elisabeth just left with theirs. That left the vintage car for Lauren and Nate, and Nate just finished fueling it up. “Does it drive?” Lauren then jokingly asked, and Nate pretended to be offended. “Lauren, babe… I love you but don’t joke about my cars.” Nate said. That’s when Seth walked into the garage. “She has a point though. You’ve been working on it for years.” He joked, and Lauren had to suppress her laugh at Nate’s face.

“Anyways… Have you seen Jason? We need to leave in 2 minutes.” Seth said, checking his watch. Jason then came around the corner, and Seth frowned a little because he looked confused. “Hey, have you seen the present Alyssa got me while you were packing?” Jason asked, and Seth shook his head. “No. It’s probably in one of the boxes. We need to go now, or we’ll be late at the rendezvous point.” Seth spoke, but Jason froze. “Damn it.”

“What’s the matter?” Nate asked, and Jason sighed deeply. “It’s in my nightstand at SJBS.” He explained, and he looked at Seth who had already walked over to the car. “Seth, wait. We need to pass by the school.” Jason then said. “Alyssa will kill me if I lose her gift after one week.” He reasoned, but Seth just shook his head. “Jason, it’s a book. We can’t change our plans for a book. Besides, we can’t go back there now. Payton and Claire are going to be there, planning a spell to wipe us out. It’s too dangerous to go back.”

That’s when Lauren walked over, looking back at Nate and then looking at Seth and Jason. “Count of Monte Cristo right? What if Nate and I picked it up? The Silverstones won’t pay attention to us. We actually kind of look like teenagers, remember.” Lauren spoke. Seth knew she was only trying to light the mood, but right now it didn’t help much. Then again, Alyssa had once not spoken to him for 4 years because he forgot their 50th anniversary so he knew she was prickly like that.

“Nate’s okay with that?” Seth asked, and Lauren nodded. “Yeah. It’s not that far, we’ll leave now and we will get to the rendez-vous point in time. You guys should leave now though.” Lauren said. Jason and Seth exchanged a look, and Jason thanked Lauren before he got in the car. A few moments later, they were driving down the driveway, and Lauren returned to Nate. “Okay, well I think it’s time we test her out then. We’re going to the school.”

Much to Lauren’s relief the car did start, and seeing how happy it made Nate to drive it, Lauren felt butterflies in her stomach all over again. Then they drove onto the school parking lot, and Lauren got out of the car to rush up the stairs to the third floor. Once she got there she retrieved the book and she closed the door behind her again before she started descending the stairs.

Once she got outside however, she slowed down her pace as she noticed Nate on the steps in front the school. They were lit by just the lanterns on the parking lot, and it gave Nate an idea. "I thought you'd wait in the car?" Lauren asked, and Nate nodded. "Yeah. But I know there is something I have to do." Nate said, and Lauren frowned before he kissed her in front of the school, even picking her up and twirling her around, before putting her down again and breaking the kiss.

Lauren was smiling against his lips and she rested her forehead against his. "I've always wanted to experience that. Kissing my boyfriend in front of school." she said, and Nate nodded. "I know. So now you did it. You made out with your boyfriend in front of the school entrance." Nate said, and Lauren couldn’t stop smiling about it. "I love you, Nate." she said, and Nate caressed her cheek with his thumb. "I love you too."

Lauren then received a text from Jason and Seth, stating they were leaving the town border, and Lauren checked the time. "We need to go. There is one thing I need to gather at the house before we leave." Lauren then said, as they walked to the car. This bit of nostalgia has added one more thing on the list of items she needed to feel at home wherever they were planning to go next. Nate frowned at her in confusion, but when she emerged from the Dawson house 20 minutes later with a box in her hands, he couldn’t help but smile. “I’m not leaving this behind.” She said, holding the box of love letters. “You do have some more room in your car right?” She asked, and Nate smiled at her. “Yes, I do.” He said as he took the box from her and placed it in the car.

Closing the garage door, Nate officially ended the short revival of the Dawson Mansion in the 21st century, leaving it behind in all its potential. Alyson and Dylan’s room had the wallpaper is in the middle of being removed. The history room was chaos, and the plants in Elisabeth’s conservatory would die soon without their care. Anyone who wanted could just walk in and make a fortune off the stuff they left behind, like several paintings, books and jewelry. But nobody would. It was just an abandoned building now, filled by the light of the star sky above it, as the wind causes the house to sound like it was howling. Crying.

Nate then took her hand and smiled “Whatever happens.” He whispered. Lauren nodded. “We’ll be together.” she replied, and the words came out more natural than ever before. It was their motto, something they established back in the days when they spend afternoons in a flower field. Lauren had reminded the both of them countless times how lucky they were. How they stayed young, also in spirit, despite people their age being in elderly homes by now. Or even dead. Whatever happened, they would be together.

Seth and Jason had made a similar pact, many many years ago as well. It wasn’t the same thing Lauren and Nate, Alyson and Dylan or James and Elisabeth shared. It wasn’t the same thing Jason shared with James, Dylan and Nate, who he considered his brothers as well. It certainly wasn’t like the disgust Jason felt for his real brother, Jared. No, Seth wasn’t just a brother. They had a bond bigger than that. Something that connected them through an invisible force. Something that was the reason why they sat in the same car tonight.

Seth sighed as he looked outside of the window up to the sky, and his brain tried to imagine what spell Payton and Claire would create underneath it at midnight, in 18 minutes. For once, the moon wasn’t in their favor, and Seth felt an anxious feeling in his chest grow.

Jason then checked the fuel tank and broke the silence that had been building up since they had gotten into the truck a while ago. “How long were we supposed to follow this road for?” Jason asked, and Seth shook his head a bit distracted, before he looked down at the map. “This one 6 miles. Then you need to take the left.” He explained. Jason knew he shouldn't expect a conversation like usually. They weren't hunting together, like so many nights. They weren't in their room at 9PM listening to the people at the school. They were running away. And there was a heaviness that came with that.

They had left the town border behind them a while ago, but it felt like a piece of them had remained there. And not just a figurative piece of them, as Lauren and Nate were actually still inside the border. “Nate, what the hell is going on?” Lauren said as Nate checked under the hood of the car. Nate mumbled something about oil changes and cooling systems, but all of it made little sense to Lauren. “We’ll just walk to the town border.” Nate then said. He closed the hood of the car and went to take Lauren’s hand. “It’s gonna be fine. The border is only a few miles out. We’ll call Jason and Seth and see if they can turn around and pick us up and…”

Suddenly Nate was cut off my Lauren pressing her lips on his, and when she broke the kiss again, she smiled, and then she started walking in the direction of the border. They left the car where it was, the only thing Lauren took with her was Jason’s book and the letters they came back to the house for. They would leave behind some boxes of clothes, Nate's computer and other multimedia he was exploring, and some of Lauren's shoes. Overall, the damage would be reasonable.

“We’ll be fine.” Nate said again few minutes later, as Lauren frantically checked her phone to read the time. Lauren nodded her head slightly, grabbing his hand tighter as they were walking. They walked slowly, at first. Then Lauren checked her phone two more times, and they speed up their pace a bit. They were really gambling with time now.

“What if we find Alyssa in Vegas?” Seth then said, and Jason could feel his gaze on him. He intentionally didn’t look aside, as he sighed deeply. “Alyssa is across the country. Pennsylvania.” He then said, and Seth frowned at him. “I tracked her down when she called me at my birthday.” Jason said, his eyes remaining on the road.

“Why?” Seth then asked. Jason sighed. “I have my reasons, okay?” Jason replied, and Seth turned his upper body towards Jason a bit, intrigued by this answer. “Why do you only tell me this when I bring up Vegas? I mean I know you’ve told me a million times that nothing happened there but it seemed like something was going on right before I walked in. Did you guys…?”

Jason sighed. “No, Seth. For the hundredth time, no.” Jason said. Jason still avoided eye-contact, and Seth put his two shoulders back against the seat of the car. “Take a left here.” Seth said after a few moments. From here on out it was all national reserve until they’d cross some small towns, but before they headed onto route 18 they’d go north and they would stay in the dense forest of the state Oregon for the next couple of days. The rest of their road trip went by in silence, until Seth started playing some music that he and Jason both agreed on was pretty good. It broke the ice again and brought both of them back to when they roamed around for a few years, doing bachelor things. And maybe that was simply how they were supposed to live. Not cramped up in a little dorm bedroom right across the hall from the Silverstones.

But not everybody had that choice. Payton and Claire didn’t, although they had been lucky in sharing their room together. It caused for many stories, from falling bookshelves to dying, and revived, windowsill plants. But they had run through most of the good ones in the hours that they’d been camped out in the woods. Now, it was time for them to do the spell.

“Okay, it’s time.” Payton announced, and she got up from the tree log. She then grabbed a handful of soil, and dropped it in a large bowl. “You got it memorized?” Payton asked just to check, and Claire nodded. Payton then grabbed the athame that was permanently in the inside of her boots and pricked both their fingertips, allowing a few drops of blood to poor into the soil. Payton then closed her eyes, and they both commence the spell, as Claire reached in her pocket. “Phasmatos vivum retraction morietur. Mortuum non vivet. Abluere solo immortuorum." They both said, however it was only Payton's voice that added the ending of the spell: "Et nos vivere.”

The bowl beneath them started forming a light, but Payton had no eyes for it as she just frowned at her sister. Then Payton saw the crystal Claire had in her hands, and before she could interfere, Claire added it to the spell, and the light intensifies. Claire finished the spell by saying “Et nos vivere.” And then avoiding Payton’s eyes as the shining white light now bursted through, going upwards and then creating a shockwave effect visible as a bright sea of light. Visible to them, but not the human population. But Payton couldn’t care less.

“What the hell was that?!” Payton asked, as she grabbed the crystal. It doesn’t take her two seconds to identify it by the energy that was coming off of it. Claire saw an anger she had only seen last year when Payton had sworn to skin Pierre alive. “How did you get this? How did you get eight personal belongings of each of them. What did you do?! Claire, what the hell did you do?!” Payton yelled. It wasn’t a real question though. Payton knew very well what Claire had done. Payton knew Claire had used her notes on how to capture essences, Payton knew Claire had used the moments Payton wasn’t keeping an eye on the spell to modify it. Payton knew Claire had gone along with her mission to help the Dawsons.

Claire let her sister fume for a minute and twenty seconds. Only then she talked. “I did what I had to do to keep us alive.” Claire said, then looking up to meet Payton’s gaze. Her entire face spoke of only one thing. Why? Why the betrayal, why the lies, why the risk of putting their lives in danger for eight people who wouldn’t blink if they were in trouble or hurt.

Claire had rehearsed this, but none of the words she planned come out. No determination and sense of righteousness could go up against the look on Payton’s face that made Claire feel like an absolute failure. “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done.” Payton then spoke, her voice breaking a little and she cleared her throat as she continued. “Because you just killed us both.”

Monday October 1st, 2007

Lauren lifted her head up and looked around, immediately tugging Nate’s hand as she crawled up from the ground. Nate then groaned, and opened his eyes too. Lauren carefully reached and touched the side of his face, and Nate put his hands on hers. Their fingers then intertwine as they both got up. Nate then looked around, and spotted the town sign at merely a couple of feet away.

“Are you okay?” he then said, turning to Lauren, and she nodded as she fixed her hair in front of her face. “Was that…?” Lauren then asked, and Nate frowned a little because he knew what she meant, but if it was they were supposed to be dead. “I don’t know. Whatever it was, it doesn’t feel entirely right.” Nate said, touching his chest. “We should get out of here.” He then added, and he quickly walked across the border which seemed to be harder than usual. As if something was holding them back, pulling them back towards town. As if they weren’t supposed to leave. Lauren moved to fall into an embrace when they made it across, and Nate softly whispered in her ear; “We’re safe. It’s okay, we’re safe.” As they both breathe in each other.

They stay like that for several moments, until Lauren’s fingertips started tingling. “What the hell?” Lauren mumbled, as she broke the hug and she stared at her hands, as she felt the rest of her body react to… something. Within seconds, she felt like she was standing in the middle of a desert, her throat running dry and her veins feeling like they were on fire. “Nate? Nate, what’s going on?” Lauren asked, breathing heavily, trying to control something inside of her that she hadn’t faced often. Nate looks up, and Lauren steps backwards just a tiny little bit when she sees the look on his face. And if she didn’t feel like she was on the verge of totally losing it herself, she would have tried to stop Nate from doing the same. “I don’t know.” Nate said in between labored breaths, and he grunted when he is unable to get his own body under control. He’s trembling, feeling the intense need to sink his teeth into an artery and feed.

“We need to call James.” Lauren then said, already reaching out her phone. She then shook her head as she let out repetitive “No, no no.” upon her phone not responding. Nate then took out his own, and angrily smashed it to the concrete when it showed no sign of live either, being cracked all over even before it hit the ground. “I can’t…. I can’t stay here Lauren. I need to… I need to run, I need to… I need to…” “Feed.” Lauren said, her head nodding a little. The nod almost came as a way to convince themselves that everything would be fine. But that wasn’t the case. They then agreed without words, needing to still the hunger inside of them since their veins were on fire. They both started running, as if enough speed would make the aftermath of Claire’s spell just go away.

It wouldn’t, but Claire didn’t know that herself either. And right now she was too focused on her sister to care if her spell actually worked or not. They both noticed how the light returned, like a boomerang, and then the light was entirely gone, casting both of them in a darkness that felt too appropriate for how they were together right now.

Payton then started packing their stuff back up and started walking away. Knowing she would get lost right away, Claire hurried in grabbing her jacket and she walked after Payton. “Payton, please. All I did was avoid a full-out war. Do you have any idea what that would have meant? You almost started a full out war with their entire species. And we’re already almost extinct.” Claire said, now shouting every argument that came to mind. “Payton, they probably don’t even know anything happened. I didn’t tell them I was doing this. I told them to leave. I let them leave, and they’re gone. I just did this to make sure. I couldn’t take the risk if Seth or…”

“Please don’t ever let me hear that name again…” Payton said, and she stopped walking instantly and looked at Claire with a warning look. “That guy has done nothing but ruin any chance of a normal life for us. And what do you do? You decide to help them by literally giving them free access to kill us.” Payton said, then continuing to walk with fierce strides. Meanwhile Claire continued her stream of apologies. “I knew I had to do something, Payton. I’m sorry but I couldn’t stand by, like I said earlier.” Claire’s voice echoed through the woods at a little past midnight. “I… I actually got the idea from dad.” Claire then added, and at this point Payton abruptly stopped once again. However she didn’t spin around quickly and look at Claire with the biggest glare. Instead, she turned around slowly.

“An idea from dad? An idea from DAD?!” Payton yelled. “Do you really think our drunk dad is the best example here? Is that really your role model, Claire?” Payton asked her younger sister. “Some rebellious kid on the block, who then became an alcoholic? Claire, being dad’s daughter is nothing to be proud of. Ever.” Payton said. Claire nodded, wanted to make a comment about the rebellious part, indicating Payton had read the journals too, but didn’t. “I know. I know Payton, I know. But I did what I had to do.” Claire said, walking up to her sister lowering her voice. “I know you’re trying to protect me, but killing the few people who might actually be able to help us just wasn’t right.” Claire whispered, and Payton looked at her sister. “Yeah well, their species killing our mom wasn’t right either.” Payton said, tears now rolling from her cheeks as she tried to keep her face intact.

Payton’s next words washed over Claire like a cold shower. “I don’t want to see you in the morning. Not even on the other side of the room. You should probably not sleep in our room tonight.” Payton said, before she continued walking. When Payton got to her room, she closed the door behind her and held her hand to the doorknob before sliding down against the door until she reached the floor. That is when she lets go of the tears, and she started crying, sobbing.

Claire arrived a few minutes later and a few feet lower, and she knocked briefly twice on Mila’s door. Claire knew her face was all red, and her puffy eyes would give away that she had been crying. She was just hoping Mila wouldn’t ask questions tonight. And she didn’t. “Claire…” Mila said, a bit confused, but then she was suddenly very swiftly in pulling Claire inside and wrapping her up in the blanket burrito she had been in.

She then let go of Claire, and pulled out the mattress from under her bed. Claire took the time to head into Mila’s bathroom, and she wiped some of the signs of her nighttime adventure from her. A few minutes later, her head landed in Mila’s spare pillow, and without asking any questions Mila clicked off the light. “She loves you…” Mila said, knowing only a fight with Payton could upset her this much. Then the room was silent, and Claire fell asleep minutes after that, allowing her thoughts to take a rest as long as the moon was up and the sun wasn’t.

Monday October 1st, 2007

The same moon was in it’s prime by the time Jason and Seth approached the camp site, the headlights of the car pointing on the side of James and Elisabeth’s car before they flicked off. “Quarter to three, nicely on schedule.” James nodded. “Alyson and Dylan just called, they got on their plane.” Elisabeth stated as Jason and Seth got out of the car. “Yeah. Lauren and Nate were going to by the school first, I forgot Alyssa’s present there so Lauren offered to go get it.” Jason replied. Elisabeth frowned a bit at that, and then she shrugged. “Okay, well we got the blood in the trunk if you guys want some.” She then said, and Seth was at the trunk in a matter of seconds. Elisabeth looked at him for a bit and smiled.

They hung around the meeting point in silence for a while. Jason and James were reminiscent of the time they first met each other, when James and Elisabeth had been on their way back from founding Waterfall Creek. And while the two guys talked it over – debating on some futile matter – Elisabeth joined Seth on top of the roof. Seth noticed once she did, and he moved to make a little bit room for her.

“I don’t get how such a sad night can have such a beautiful background.” Seth sighed, and Elisabeth sighed too, placing her head on his shoulder. “I know.” Was all she said, not needing any more words to tell him that she knew it was harder on him than anyone else. Seth had tried the hardest out of all of them. He cared the most. He lost the most. “Lauren and Nate will get here any time now. And then we’ll just have to move on from that town.” Elisabeth spoke. She then looked at Seth and smiled a little. “Hey. You’ll get your chance. I promise.” Their moment got disrupted when Seth heard his phone ring all the way in Jason’s car.

On the other side of the line, Nate looked at Lauren with a frown, asking “When did you find the time to memorize that. We all got our phones 4 weeks ago." Lauren didn’t answer, instead she glanced over at the body of a young woman a few feet further away. They had been running around for what seemed like hours, trying to satisfy their thirst with whatever living animal they could find, but nothing helped. Nothing stilled the hunger, nothing stilled the fire. Eventually they had come across this couple, camping out in the woods with their tent. And they had made it quick. No pain, no suffering. Lauren had snapped the girl’s neck, killing her instantly. Nate had manually stopped the heart of the guy in front of him from beating.

And Lauren was glad at least that part of them remained. Amongst all the rage and the speed and the craving for blood, they held back on actually feeding because of each other. They didn’t drain these poor souls of every last drop in their bodies, because they knew it would cross a line they might not be able to uncross. But they could have been less lucky. Had the two bodies not been a young couple, much like themselves.

“Seth? It’s Nate. Look, something happened. Me and Lauren…. Something is not right. We’re outside of town, but we were still inside at midnight and now it’s like…” He paused to look at the body of the hiker below them. “Something’s happening to us.” He said, then wiping the blood of his left hand when he noticed it. Lauren then grabbed the phone from Nate’s ear. “Seth, please. You need to come back here. I can’t… Everything feels like it’s burning. Please, you need to help us. Please. We need help.” Then a car grabbed both Lauren and Nate’s attention, and Seth’s voice was speaking into thin air as the phone landed in a mixture of blood and soil.

“Lauren? Lauren, are you still there? We’re coming to get you guys. Lauren, can you hear me?” No reply. Seth’s repetitive words were just a shout into the void, but it had been enough to call James and Jason back to the cars from the other side of the campsite. “It’s Lauren and Nate. They’re in trouble.” Seth said even before they could ask what was wrong. “Something happened to them, we need to go back.” Back on a three and a half hour drive. Back to a town they were literally kicked out of. Back to two people of their family who were in trouble. “Stay on the line. It might help us track them down.” James then spoke, and he quickly got into his car. “Let’s go.” He said, and Seth got into the car after closing the blood and the trunk. He saw the other car already speeding off the dirt road, Elisabeth behind the wheel.

"They're going to be okay, right?" Jason asked after a couple of minutes. Elisabeth only sighed. "I don’t know, Jason. It depends. If...” She didn’t have to finish that sentence. If they had killed and fed on human blood, then they might not be okay at all. “They’re using someone else’s phone. I don’t think that person just handed it to them.” She said, looking over to the side and Jason could see she was saying it with a reason. Because if they had killed, then others would follow. And when there was a killing spree done by someone in their family, Jason vividly remembered one particular event. Alyssa and the Massacre of SEUSA.

It was the early fall, and in July the wrong person had crossed Alyssa at the wrong moment. What followed was five months of massacres along the South-East coast of the USA. Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville, all the way up to Miami, before returning along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Because it was not their territory, there had been few things Jason and Seth were able to do about it, and Alyssa was skilled to avoid being captured by the people who actually could do something about it. She had been avoiding them for most of her life anyways. But when she then finally crossed the Mississippi, Jason and Seth awaited her. Alyssa has always meant trouble for the two boys. But she also saved their lives.

When Alyson and Dylan were found barely alive and hanging by a wire, Alyssa's recent diet was what saved them and turned them into vampires. None of the Dawsons, following their Type A diet, had the ability to turn other vampires. But Alyssa was a rebel, and she had been snacking on the side. So she turned Alyson and Dylan. Shortly after she got control over herself again and all was good, only now there were 7 of them, not 5. They were starting to become harder to go around unnoticed. They would hunt in the bigger reserves and that meant more chance of them getting spotted by hikers. And Alyssa didn't like all the caution, so briefly after turning Alyson and Dylan she left.

Next time Jason and Seth saw her at the riverbank of the Mississippi, blood was still dripping from her mouth, her eyes had a rage in them that could only come from a fresh kill and her clothes were stained and damaged from being chased. Seth could see the hesitation in her eyes. If she crossed the territorial border, the boys would get her and get her better again. If she stayed, she'd be punished for the killing spree that would go down as the Massacre of SEUSA. And as she was contemplating her two options, she looked down. To the water of the Mississippi river that was flowing below her. The water moving at a significant speed, like a force of nature sweeping away everything in its path. Alyssa wished it could sweep her away too.

She then put a few steps backwards, towards the voices she could hear shouting commands at one another. They were less than a mile away. Alyssa's trained ear could tell them apart. And that's how Jason and Seth knew it too. The way she turned her head at just a slight angle, as if she couldn't be bothered making a full head-turn. Then she smiled. And Seth looked at Jason. The next moment, Alyssa ran backwards a few more feet, before running and launching herself forward, soaring over the river like she was levitating. Then she landed a few feet away from Jason and Seth, her knee hitting the ground furthermore scraping her clothes apart. This Alyssa didn't care about the damage. But Seth knew. They wouldn't hear the end of how her favorite dress got ruined. Of course by then they were more occupied with dehydrating her to the point where her throat felt like sandpaper.

"Okay, how do we do this?" Jason asked, pulling the map from the glove compartment of the car. The map has the hunting area marked, and so Jason grabbed a marker to start pinpointing. "Okay so here's a hikers trail. There’s a campsite over here. Around this time of the year, there might be some people out there. I think we need to head that way…" Jason said. Elisabeth glanced at the map, and then nodded. Jason then took out his phone, and dialed to the other car.

“James? Seth?” he asked, and both of them replied with “Yes, we’re here.” from the other car. “We need to check on the campsite about 2.5 miles west of town.” Jason spoke. His voice had a certain determination, which reminded Seth that Jason was former military. Seth looked at the map and nodded. “Got it. We will go there. We should also call Alyson and Dylan.” Seth spoke. Elisabeth shook her head. “There’s no point. They’re halfway across the country by now.”

Elisabeth also had a very operational voice. No surprise since she too had served in the war, with a medical unit to help the wounded upon their return. “Okay. Never mind then.” Seth spoke, and Jason sighed. “Just… call us when you get to the campsite and keep your eyes open.” Jason spoke. “Where are you guys heading?” James asked once it was clear that Jason was about to end the call. Jason and Elisabeth exchanged a look, and Jason sighed deeply looking out the window. “Home, James. Where else would we go.”

And so they continued their 3 hour drive, back to the place they had left merely hours before. They drove in the darkness of the night, no other cars in sigh neither front or back, and the only sound was the radio playing, which Elisabeth had reluctantly agreed to. Slowly but steadily, the stars exchanged themselves for a purple glow around the horizon, and Jason knew he had to do something.

Across town Claire was taking in the exact same sunset, after she had decided fifteen minutes ago that sleep had no point. All she saw was Payton telling her those things, yelling at her and it came all very close to a nightmare for Claire. So when she saw the clock said 6.43AM she decided it was finally a decent hour to start moving around in Mila’s room, much to the annoyance of the sleepy girl on the bed.

With a little groan, Mila opened her eyes and she took in Claire’s appearance from head to toe for a bit. “Was she awake?” Mila asked, but Claire shook her head. “Maybe for the best. Last night was pretty…” Claire sighed deeply. “Intense.” Mila nodded, pursed her lips in a moment of thought and then looked back at Claire. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I know there has been tension, lately.” Mila explained. Claire smiled a little. She knew Mila meant it when she said it. But Claire had to say something. She had to get it off of her chest, at least as much as she could disclose.

“It’s… about our dad.” Claire started, knowing that wasn’t a lie. “I said something about him, that… that he inspired me for something. And she reacted to that. And then she said some other stuff…” Claire trailed off, and Mila nodded. She understood. She did. “Well, how about we go get some breakfast. We don’t have a first period on Monday so I doubt she will be in the cafeteria.” Mila spoke.

Sadly, Payton was in the cafeteria. And she was talking to Mike, which made that this was officially a sister versus sister thing, that their friends got wrapped up in. “Don’t say anything to the others. Please.” Claire spoke as she and Mila approached their table where Justin waited for them. Mila looked at Claire and nodded, before setting down her tray.

“So, did everyone have a good weekend?” Mike asked, in an effort to release the tension in the air. Justin was totally oblivious to it, and he complained of how his brother hadn’t helped out at all this weekend while they were cleaning up the garden. “That’s just what younger siblings do, Justin.” Payton then commented, and all of the juniors turned to look at her. Justin then laughed a little, playfully poking Claire who managed to conjure up a little laugh. “I ehm… I actually don’t feel so good. I think I’m going to the nurse’s office.” Claire spoke. In a matter of seconds she was up and walking back out of the cafeteria, her eyes burning and tears starting to blur her vision.

She found her feet taking her to the art room, and she was able to breathe again when she took in the empty drawing board in front of her. Drawing would do her good. It always managed to cheer her up and distract her. And so she took a pencil, and pulled up a little chair. She was just about to put her first line on the paper, when her phone beeped. "Claire Silverstone.” Claire spoke. The other side of the line was silent for a few seconds. “Hello? Who is this?" Claire asked, her voice sounding hoarse and weird in the void of the nurse’s room.

"It's Jason. Look, Claire, something happened. Something went wrong, with Lauren and Nate. They're on an uncontrolled rampage. We don't know where they are, but they..." Elisabeth then ripped Jason's phone from his hand, and angrily presses the red phone button before putting the phone in the storage console on the driver's seat. "You think calling the witch who did this is going to help?” And although it sounds harshly in Jason's ears, he knows there could be some truth to it. That a little girl is not the answer."

Elisabeth sounded harsh. Angry, even. Which Jason wasn’t used to. “Why are you angry? They’re protecting their town? They told us to get out. I’m the one who asked Lauren and Nate to go back for my book. They’re in this position because of me. So if you think I’m not going to call Claire Silverstone to help us fix this, you’re wrong. This is Claire we’re talking about. She will not let uncontrolled vampires go on a killing spree. I know she will help.”

Jason could tell by the way Elisabeth sighed that she wanted to say something. But then again she couldn’t. Jason was without doubt a better expert at Claire Silverstone than her. “I just hope you’re right Jason.” She then said. “I just hope you’re not delivering us for them to finish it off. Because don’t doubt this: If there is one more body in that town, then I don’t think even Claire Silverstone will be able to talk her sister out of it.”

And Jason was right indeed. As soon as the call had ended, Claire had stared in front of her for exactly 20 seconds before she started to move, heading outside. She followed the path that had formed itself in the woods from the many times Seth and Jason travelled from their house to the school and back. A little while later, a sigh of relief exists her mouth. The Dawson house. The huge mansion the group of vampires had called their home. Now towering over a blonde sixteen year old in all its might. "Hello?" She called out, and for a brief period she awaited a reply, before lowering her bag on her arm. She took in the large building, which now seemed more like a haunted house. All in all it looked like a place that was left behind, without a proper goodbye.

Claire took the time to look around 360 degrees, and when she realized there was nobody there she suddenly felt empty. She had gone to Mila’s room, and she had been met with a blanket burrito. And even in the cafeteria, despite Payton’s comment, she had felt like she could focus on something else. Hell, the entire point of going to the art room was to draw. But now, she was faced with the repercussions of her actions. The empty house, the void inside of it. She had risked everything, her relationship with her sister, for an empty shell. The Dawsons wouldn’t return. They wouldn’t come back to the place where Payton had banished them. Not for as long as Payton lived, would they probably dare to set foot in the town again. And Claire wasn’t even sure they could, if they did.

Claire then remembered Jason mentioning an uncontrolled rampage. Innocent people might die because Claire felt rebellious. And Claire decided to torture herself with envisioning the scenario. Lauren and Nate must have still been inside the border when midnight came. And considering Jason spoke of them being alive, that must have meant they were inside the border, but didn’t die. At least that much worked, Claire told herself as she thought about the situation. But then something worse happened. Uncontrolled rampage, Claire repeated, and then she suddenly realized. If Lauren and Nate were inside, and then they left afterwards, it would have affected them.

Suddenly she got even colder. Then the soft sounds of rain start to echo through the house, mimicking the urge Claire has to cry right now. She wants to cry so badly, but she can't. She can't because apparently the universe decided she had cried in these type of situations enough. Standing in an old house, doors and windows open and the rain pouring down. Two year-old Claire had been sobbing on her sister's shoulder, constantly trying to free herself from the arms of her 4 year old sister who was trying to protect her from the sight of their parents, dead. Payton had been covered in blood, and by holding her sister she had smeared it in Claire's hair. And now, Claire had blood on her again. At least all those years ago she was holding her sister's hand. Now, she was standing there, all alone.

She got taken out of her daydream, or more so a continuation of her nightmares, by her phone. Jason’s name on the display gives her a sense of relief she didn’t know she could feel when a vampire was trying to reach her. “Jason?” she asked, and Jason sighed, glaring at Elisabeth. “Claire? I’m… I’m sorry, I know you’re in class.” Jason then suddenly realized. Claire shook her head. “No, no I’m not. I called in sick. I’m…” Claire looked up at the mansion. “I’m actually on your front doorstep.” Claire spoke. This caused Jason and Elisabeth to look at each other, and Jason checked their surroundings. “We’re 25 minutes out. We’ll make it 20.” He said, as he gestured for Elisabeth to drive faster.

“Okay. But you need to tell me what’s going on. What were you saying, last time you called? What happened?” Claire asked. Jason recalled what Seth told them. “It’s Lauren and Nate. They… they were still inside the border. Claire… You said your spell was supposed to kill everyone inside.” Jason then stated. “Why are they losing control over their bloodlust instead?”

Forty seconds there was no reply, so Jason called out Claire’s name a few times. “I fucked up.” Claire then spoke, as she went to sit down on the steps in front of the Dawson house. Jason frowned. “You…. What do you mean Claire? What happened?” Jason asked. He was clueless, of course he was. And Claire didn’t even know where to start filling him in. “I tried to protect you.” Claire then spoke, swallowing and blinking her eyes, trying to compose herself a little. “I… I did a spell, to alter Payton’s spell. I wanted to make sure you could return. You wouldn’t have been able to return, you would have died crossing the border.” Claire spoke, and then a panicking thought emerged. “Wait… Jason, where are you?”

Jason looked outside of the car window. “Four minutes outside of town.” Jason replied, “Why?” Claire got up from where she had been sitting, and she looked around in panic. “Don’t… Don’t cross the border. Don’t come into town.” She spoke, then grabbing her bag. “I’m meeting you there. Wait outside the border, I’m coming over. The entry road by the small waterfalls. I’ll be right there.” Claire spoke as she started running away from the Dawson house, to the closest road which lead to the town border.

Claire sighed when she heard her phone beep, and as she took it out she bit her lip harshly. ‘Why are you skipping class?’ Justin had texted, and Claire closed her eyes for a bit. She couldn’t deal with this. Not right now. ‘Cover for me, please? I’ll explain later.’ She replied. Justin read her reply, and a worrying frown settled on his face as he took in the two empty seats in the classroom. One belonging to Claire, and one belonging to Seth. Then the teacher called out his name, asking if he was aware of Claire’s whereabouts, and Justin told the teacher Claire had an appointment at the dentist.

And if only a sore tooth was Claire’s biggest problem. Instead of her teeth, her feet were begging her to stop walking. Yet she didn’t, and she kept on hiking for the second time in less than 12 hours. Then after several long, long minutes she finally saw the car in the distance, and she slowed down her pace when she saw Jason and Elisabeth in the middle of an argument. And they were standing there. On the other side of the border. Right outside of town.

CONT - Monday, October 1st 2007

“Hi.” Claire said walking up to the border. She kept her distance, remaining several feet away from it but even from where she stood she could feel the energy that the dome radiated. It was glowing in a white light, bending towards her slightly. That made sense, because her and Payton’s blood was used in the spell. “So… there’s a…” Jason pointed around and Claire nodded, biting her lip. She didn’t even dare to look at them, knowing that Lauren and Nate were in trouble because she messed up. “Look, I just wanted to say that…”

“Cut the formalities, Claire. We don’t have time for that.” Elisabeth spoke. Jason looked at her, a bit angry too. “Can we go into town or not? It would be really great if we have our house as a home base while we try to help Lauren and Nate.” She explained. Claire only now dared to look up. “Ehm, well… I don’t know. When I did the spell… something must have gone wrong. Lauren and Nate were supposed to be fine, all of you were.” Claire said, already allowing her mind to drift off to the endless possibilities of how her spell could have gone wrong.

“Claire? Claire, focus.” Jason then spoke. “Look, James and Seth are checking out a place outside of town but we told them to meet us here. By then, we need to be able to get in. Can you do that?” Jason asked. To that Claire breathed in deeply, and she nodded. “Do you have scissors?” Claire then asked, and Elisabeth frowned a little. “Unless you want to go ahead and try your limbs out on a potentially all-destroying protection dome, I suggest we start with a piece of hair.” Claire said. That’s when Elisabeth nodded and skillfully pulled some from Jason’s head.

“For fuck’s sake Elisabeth.” Jason complained, and Claire almost laughed, but she kept her face in check when the experienced medic looked at her seriously. Claire then pulled out her notebook from her bag, ripped off a page and placed it right in front of the border. She then slid it forward, and warned Elisabeth not to touch the dome as she placed the hairs on the paper. Elisabeth carefully followed Claire’s instructions, and then stepped away again. Claire then sighed deeply as she pulled the paper back, and once it was on her side of the border, she observed the reaction that formed.

Which, much to her relief, was none. “Okay, looks like you are good.” Claire then spoke, and Jason smiled at her, a certain pride growing over him. He then watched as Elisabeth walked to the car, and Jason himself took in the invisible border before stepping over it. It caused for a noise to appear from the dome, but not one that worried Claire. What worried her more was that Jason was now standing right in front of her. “Look, about Lauren and Nate…” But Jason would have none of that. “Claire, I don’t blame you. They should have gotten out. You told us that.” Jason explained, and then he put a hand on her shoulder. “You did good. Your sister will realize that soon.”

Jason then waited for Elisabeth to drive the car over, and he then opened the passenger seat of it. “How did you know about Payton?” Claire then asked him, and Jason smiled faintly. “I like to think I know your sister a bit by now. And her not being here, plus the redness in your eyes.” He said. Claire felt utterly vulnerable when he pointed out everything that was wrong in her life right now. “I see.” Claire spoke softly. She nodded and then looked around a bit, calculating how long it would take her to get back to school. She would miss second period as well, for certain.

“Wait.” Jason then told Elisabeth when she was about to drive off, and Jason got out of the car again to look at Claire. Not like she was broken, or a little girl, or all of the ways that Claire had expected. He looked at her with…. Concern? “Things are really that bad?” he asked. Claire nodded, trying her best not to cry. “Yeah. Kind of. But it will be fine. I will fix it.” She said, wiping her thumb underneath her eye. “And I will fix whatever happened to Lauren and Nate too. I promise.” Claire stated.

Jason then looked at her and shook his head. “Claire, you don’t owe us anything. You don't have to help us. You owe us nothing. You didn't get them in this mess." he said. His brain then made the thoughtful flash to when he agreed Lauren and Nate should stop by the school. They got themselves into this mess. And if anyone should be carrying the guilt it was him, not Claire. “Look, you are clearly exhausted and missing school. So how about we take you back to town, okay?” Jason said, and Claire wanted to protest. She wanted to say no to the kind gestures that she knew she didn’t deserve. She had messed up, big time, and they had no reason to be nice to her while Lauren and Nate were out there, in danger. But then Claire looked down at her feet, she sighed deeply due to the pain radiating from her back and reluctantly she got in the car.

Thankfully the ride to school was silent, something Elisabeth had decided when she looked at Jason right after Claire got in the car. But that was fine. Claire didn’t need chit-chat. She needed a ride back to school. She needed to get there before 3rd period, and once the day was over she needed her bed.

“Take care of yourself, Claire.” Jason spoke as they arrived at the school. He didn’t get out of the car to talk to her like before, preferring to keep a low profile in front of the school. But Claire could feel that he meant it when he said it. He was worried about her. And he was probably one of the few people right now. “You can ehm… You can tell Seth and the others that it’s safe to cross the border.” Claire then said. Jason nodded.

He then took in the building behind Claire, and sighed deeply. “We ehm… we don’t know what’s gonna happen now. With everything going on. But we will be at the house until Lauren and Nate are found. And until they’re better.” Jason stated. Claire nodded. “Don’t worry, Payton is too mad at me right now to be mad at you guys. I’m taking the heat.” She said with a small smile.

Jason really wished she didn’t. It only showed how broken she felt, and how badly she needed her sister right now. And he also knew that the moment Claire faced her sister, things would be worse before they would be better. “You’re a truly admirable person, Claire Silverstone.” Jason then spoke, and Claire smiled a bit bigger now. “Thanks.” She shrugged. Then her smile faltered. “I hope you’re able to find them soon.” Claire then said, before re-adjusting her bag on her shoulder. “Text me, when you do, okay?” she asked. Jason sighed deep, and eventually nodded. “Okay.”

Claire then nodded once more, and then turned around, facing the school. She wiped her fingers under her lashes once more, before she walked up the stairs of the school. Then she walked into Great Hall, and she bit her lip as she considered what she should do next. But her body basically made that choice for her, begging for her own bed. And so Claire started climbing the stairs, despite the fact that she knew the stairs would terrorize her feet. and when she walked into her room she was glad to find it empty. Not that she had expected Payton to skip school. Claire knew this meant Payton’s lecture would follow soon. But for now she didn’t care.

Claire then put her bag down on her bed, and took in the notes that were still left on Payton’s table. She hadn’t cleaned them up yet, which showed that Payton probably was equally messed up after what happened last night. With every right too. Claire knew she had betrayed her sister. She knew Payton’s trust was rare, and that she broke it. But she also knew that Payton was the only living relative in a 5-state radius, and the only person who could even remotely imagine what she was going through. Well, maybe not the only.

Claire then sat down, and allowed herself to kick up her feet on her bed and rest her head on her pillow. Her back immediately thanked her, her feet pulsating and her eyelids drifting closed. And she didn’t intend to sleep. But sleep came with a welcome escape of all the horrible things going on in her life right now, so why wouldn’t she sleep.

It was 12.30 when Claire heard her name, and when she opened her eyes, the nightmare that she managed to avoid in her dream, appeared in front of her in full consciousness. “Payton.” She said softly, swallowing hard at seeing the way her sister looked at her. Payton arched her eyebrow and Claire sighed, getting up and throwing her feet off her bed again. “I talked to Justin in the hallway. You skipped class?” Payton asked, not even hiding the judgement anymore at this point. It was pretty evident how Payton felt about Claire skipping class, to sleep in her presumption. Payton didn’t need to look at her, considering she was currently standing with her back towards her, for Claire to noticed it in her voice. Claire nodded, running her hand through her hair. “Yeah. I ehm… I went to the border this morning.”

Payton looked up from where she had been putting away her bag, not really paying attention until now. “What? The border?” Payton frowned. Claire bit her lip slightly and nodded. “Lauren and Nate are in trouble. Jason called me. I… I messed up Payton. What I did… It affected Lauren and Nate.” Claire explained. Payton took in the information carefully, and Claire could tell that, the empath that she was, Payton actually did feel sorry for Lauren and Nate. She did have that little hint of sadness in her eyes, if only for a split second. Then, her face turned to practically stone again.

“So what were you doing by the border?” Payton asked, not like she still had to. Claire knew Payton would ask, and she braced herself before slightly tilting her chin. “I let them back into town. I had to. They need to be able to help Lauren and Nate. There’s only gonna be more people getting hurt, the longer Lauren and Nate are out there.” Claire explained.

Payton nodded, jaw clenched. “Right. It’s all about the people.” She said, turning away from her sister to look out of the window. She crossed her arms, sighed deeply and stared. She was looking at nothing in particular outside of their window. But anything was better than looking at her sister, who was currently trying to convince her that allowing vampires into their town was “for the town”.

“You know, I did wonder last night.” Payton started, turning her head a sharp 90 degrees to look at her sister. “When I was, you know, crying myself to sleep. I was wondering how the hell it happened that we let vampires stand in between us. How the hell.” Payton said, picking up volume. “… it’s possible that my little sister has started to care more about those people than she does about me. Why she would, out of all the things she could do, take a page from our father’s playbook. Why she would stab me in the back like that.” Payton spat out.

Then she calmed down again, tilting her head a little before walking to get her bag. “I would just like to know that. So when you do see her. My little sister. The person who used to crawl into my bed when she couldn’t sleep. The person who, two years ago, was delighted to share a room with me because ‘I don’t ever want us not to live in the same place again’. If you see that person in the mirror tomorrow morning… Let me know. Cause I’m not seeing her right now.”

Then, like the water running out despite the shower just having been cold as ice, Payton took off. She took her bag and left their room, leaving Claire stranded. And feeling more alone than she had in the past 12 hours.

Payton didn’t pay much attention to Katie down the hallway when she walked past, but Claire noticed her right away when she gently knocked on the door to their room. “Hi… I… I couldn’t help but overhear some of that. Are you guys okay?” Katie asked. Claire blinked her eyes rapidly a few times, then wiping away some of the tears lingering on her waterline. She briefly considered what Katie might have heard, but then she realized soon enough that if she had heard the part about vampires, then she wouldn’t have been standing there right now.

“Eh yeah. We… we’re just… It’s okay, we will fix it.” Claire said with an attempt at a confident smile. Katie sighed, obviously not buying any of it. “Okay.” She said though, deciding that whatever Claire was avoiding to talk about, was serious enough to cause a rift between her and Payton. Which meant that maybe, it was none of her business. “You know you can talk to me, right? I’m just a little bit down the hall if you need me.” Katie said with a wink, and right now Claire thanked Katie’s eternal optimism, and the tendency she had not to pressure things.

“I do, thanks.” Claire said. Katie then closed the door behind her again, and she walked back to her room where she landed on the bed. A bit hesitantly, she opened her text messages to the conversation with Mila, before she started typing. ‘Do you know what’s up with the Silverstones?’ She then hoovered her thumb over the ‘<3’ that came in as suggested text, but instead she pressed the back button and she send the text without any hearts in it.

Mila received the text right away, and she was just about to reply to it when Max appeared next to her locker. “No Max, I’m not going to that party on Friday.” Mila said in advance, and Max frowned. “I don’t care about a party. I need your help.” Max said. He then sighed, his eyes frantically looking around and Mila paid attention when she realized what the subject was. “Dean is going to tell her this weekend.”

Mila looked at him and nodded. “That’s good. Why… why don’t you seem happy?” Mila frowned. Max sighed. “Because I don’t think he’s ready. I think… he has no idea what he’s even going to tell her. He literally texted me ‘Will tell her about it this weekend’. As if it was the bruise on his right arm.” Max said.

Mila bit her lip while she was thinking, and then she looked up. “Look, Max. You can’t pressure him, okay. You may want him to come out, because it’s been a sense of freedom for you. And I get that. I’ve been talking to my friends about how I feel and it can feel good to say things out loud. But that requires strength. And not a deadline.” Mila said.

She then caught Payton over Max shoulders and she knew she had to talk to her, but she returned her attention to Max regardless. “You need to be there to make him feel good. Confident, strong. He needs you to support him, no matter what. Don’t point out the clock every two seconds. And don’t ask him to define it. Even if he just tells her they should break up, it’s one step closer to him discovering that part of himself. Let me know how things go.” Mila said, before she patted him on the shoulder and walked in the direction where she saw Payton go.

However the hallway was so crowded by now that Payton had disappeared in the masses. And Mila could have gone to check in the newspaper, but she then realized she had no idea what she should say to Payton. Surprisingly, considering all the advice people asked her she was actually not that good on giving it. So instead, she chose for the cafeteria where she joined Mike and Justin.

“What are we talking about?” Mila then asked, and Mike just shrugged. “Just guy stuff.” He replied, before biting off his sandwich. Mila nodded. “Hey, Justin…. Is the cheerleading squad performing at homecoming?” Mila then asked, and Justin frowned for a second, then nodding. How did Mila know exactly what him and Mike were just talking about?

“Why? Wanna join?” Mike asked, his face serious as Mila had ever seen it. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. She wanted to make a joke about how cheerleading made her appreciation for track competitions go below minus. But then again she was planning on going, so she couldn’t exactly say that. “No. But I’m curious to see what they will do this year. They keep improving. Who knows, they might actually get the recognition as a sport.” Mila said. “Plus, some girls in the locker room said they changed the outfits.” Mila said, shrugging as she started her own lunch.

Mike shoved Justin’s shoulder. “See! I knew it. She knows what the girls know man.” Mike said, and Mila frowned a little, then rolling her eyes. “Mike… just because I comment on the cheerleaders changing outfits doesn’t mean I’ll be drooling like a puppy over their skirts. That’s sexist. Plus, I don’t think that part even changed. Just something about the logo and the stripes being altered.” Mila said.

Mike groaned a little, and Justin smiled at him. “Don’t worry bro, you’ll get your shot at the party Friday. Mila, you in?” Justin asked. Mila shook her head. “Nope. Enough parties for me for a while. But thank you for the invite to Samantha’s party though. It… It did help. A little.” She smiled faintly. Justin nodded, getting up from the table and putting a hand on Mila’s shoulder. “Anything for you.”

Claire swallowed deeply as she saw her friends from afar, jealous of the careless smiles on their faces. She turned around before Justin got up, and she strode towards her next classroom. She wasn’t that hungry anyways. But despite the nap she allowed herself when she was in her room, she was still exhausted and every muscle in her body hurt. So once she got to the classroom she sighed deeply and then sat down. In the silence of the room, Claire permitted herself to rest her head on her arms folded on the desk.

“Claire?” Justin then asked a dozen minutes later, and Claire blinked a little before looking up. “Oh… hi. Sorry.” She said, putting a strand of hair behind her ear. Justin just sat down with this worried frown on his face. “Don’t look at me like that. I just… need some sleep.” Claire could tell that Justin was trying not to say anything, but his thoughts were loud enough so she told him to just spit it out. “Claire, if you and Payton are fighting then you should do everything you can to fix it.” He said. Claire sighed deeply. “Justin, it’s not that easy.” She started to explain, only to be cut off by the bell sound, and so she turned her body to the front again. Justin let out a frustrated sigh behind her, and then he mumbled something that made Claire loose what little focus she had left. “At least you’re in class now. Seth has been absent all morning.”

It was the nail to Claire’s coffin today. Justin’s words had reminded her of how much she had fucked up. How Seth was now out there hunting down Lauren and Nate. And it surprised Claire how unprepared she was to not seeing him sitting on the other side of the classroom. Their attendance hadn’t been great the last couple of days, and she knew Seth always kept quiet, not drawing too much attention in class. But still, the prospect of never seeing him in the classroom did something to her. Enough to keep her occupied through most of the school day, to the point where her mind drew a blank when her teacher asked her a question, which earned her a glare. Of course this didn’t help with Justin’s worried look, so in the evening Claire texted him to meet in the 3rd floor rec room, where she told him what happened. Or, the version of it that she had prepared for their friends.

“So yeah, it is kind of my bad. I shouldn’t have brought up my dad.” Claire ended up saying. Justin then sighed and pulled her in his arms, whispering comfortingly and Claire sighed deeply. “Okay, well… Seems to me like you can still fix it. Don’t let this turn into something big, okay? You can fix this, easily. You’re Payton and Claire.” Justin said, placing a hand on her shoulder. He then looked up when Payton emerged on the stairs, and Claire exchanged a look with Justin. The one he gave her back made Claire cast her eyes downward, before getting up and walking after Payton.

“Payton.” Claire said, standing in the doorway to their room. “Please. I can’t stand this fighting. Everyone knows by now, and I don’t want this to mess up other friendships. Please. Can we be okay again?” Claire said, not even caring at how much she sounded like a little child, whining right now. She needed her sister.

Payton turned to look at her and breathed in deeply. “I’m just trying to understand, Claire. I… I’m trying to, really. I’m trying to see what you see, but I just can’t.” Payton spoke. She then went to close the door behind Claire, and ran a hand through her hair. “What you see in them is just…. It’s just not possible for me. I just can’t.” she tried to explain. Then she looked at Claire. “And you’re standing here, pretending like I’m willingly choosing to not get it. But I’m not. I wish…. Damn it Claire your my sister. I don’t ever want to fight with you. Us not being on the same page on this…” Payton trailed off, moving to take off her shoes and throw them by the others. “I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to see them the way you see them. Those vampires you’re trying to save at the expense of us.”

The same vampires who were now all standing over the library reading table; James, Elisabeth, Jason and Seth. Seth and James had arrived at the Dawson house not too long after Jason and Elisabeth had. Seth and Jason exchanged a look, and Jason nodded with a silent reply. They then moved to the library, where James set up their computer system. Elisabeth uncovered the couch in the library, and Jason went to the garage to switch on the main electricity.

As he walked back, he could hear Elisabeth and James in a discussion, mentioning perimeters, searching the woods and ‘last time this happened’ at least 3 times. When he returned to the library, he closed the door loudly. “Last time this happened it was Alyssa, Liz. This is Lauren and Nate we’re talking about.” Jason shouted. “So you need to stop comparing them. We don’t know if they have killed. We don’t know if they have gone halfway across the state by now. We will only know if we actually go look for them.” He said, before he pulled his jacket back on and looked at the two leaders of their group who, as they stood behind the computer now, looked little more than some of the boys Jason saw in the trenches. Not knowing a thing about anything, clutching on to what they did know as they prayed to god they didn’t die today. “So let’s go.”

They stayed out looking for most of the day, but they didn’t actually make much progress until the night fell, which allowed them to take away the layer of caution reserved for potential hikers. Nightfall also meant Claire was eyeing her bed as she cleaned up her notes from the spell, until Payton had enough of it. “It’s your bed, Claire. You can sleep in it whenever you want. Sorry for… for saying that yesterday.” Payton said. Claire looked up, then looked at her bed and she sat down on it. “It’s okay. I get it.” She said, before she changed into her sleepwear, and settling under the sheets, even though it was barely 10PM. “I’m going to prove you wrong though. I’m going to fix this. All of it.” Claire said with a smile. As soon as she had some sleep. “Goodnight Claire.” Payton sighed in reply. Claire smiled faintly. “Goodnight Payton.”

Tuesday October 2nd, 2007

And Claire was right. Sleep had been exactly what she needed and as a result she woke up 3 minutes before her alarm. Three minutes which she normally would take to draw some quick sketches, or determine her outfit of the day. But right now she didn’t. Right now she looked at her sister, 25 months older in age, who was looking very much like the toddler Claire had seen on the pictures. Like the girl Claire looked up to when aunt Lucy started helping Payton with her magic. Like the sister she decorated their shared dorm room with last year.

She knew that Payton wasn’t far gone. She knew she was right under the surface, ready to be shown. She knew if anyone could rise above the childhood trauma she had endured, it was Payton. Claire was fully aware of that. Maybe not so much back when the Dawsons still roamed the halls. But something about not having Seth in her class anymore yesterday made her realize something. For Payton the vampires were always there. She had been killing them long before Claire had killed Lincoln. She had been taught to hate them while Claire played with her building blocks. Payton just needed time. And time, Claire could give her.

Then again she couldn’t waste it either, and after getting ready for school she walked downstairs to the cafeteria with her books in hand. An unusual sight it was, seeing Claire as the first person to sit at the table at breakfast, no sketchbook but school notes in front of her. Justin even had to chuckle a bit as he took in the sight. “Yeah, answer 5 is a tricky one. I’ll let you think that one over for a bit before I hand you my notes.” Justin spoke, startling Claire a bit. She then looked back at the assignment and rolled her eyes. “Remind me to never skip half a day of class again. Midterms are in three weeks, homecoming the weekend before…” Claire said. Justin shrugged.

“I’m not too stressed. Mike has actually been helping me out, we’ve been doing some studying together and it’s really working.” Justin said, before starting his breakfast. Claire nodded, considering asking Mila and Katie for their input on the material. Then she realized they had their own drama going on, so maybe that wasn’t a good idea. “You know, if you and Payton are on good terms again you could ask her, right?” Justin said, and Claire looked up. She sighed a little, closing her eyes. “Well, things are stabilizing. So there’s that. But I don’t think I can call in any favors.” Claire said. Justin nodded, agreeing that stabilizing was better than falling off a cliff, and that they needed time. “Hey, how about at lunch we go downtown. If you still haven’t caught up on your notes I’ll help you out.” he suggested. And Claire smiled at him.

So Claire met up with him outside on the stairs. The one thing Claire miscalculated was the fact that Justin was way more in shape than she was, and the last thing she needed right now was to hike across town. Especially not after her nighttime adventures. But she did it anyways. “Are you proud of yourself?” Justin laughed as Claire ordered her soda, and the blonde nodded. “You have no idea how much I have exercised these past 48 hours.” Claire said to defend her choice of beverage. Justin laughed, shaking his head a little as he sipped his water. “Plus, you have to be in shape to run the track and field competition. I just have to cheer from the stands.” She argued. And Justin couldn’t say much against that.

“I just hope there’s something to cheer for. Seth had actually been helping me with my finish a little last week but he hasn’t been in class for two days now.” Justin then said. It made Claire choke a little on her food, the sudden mention of Seth in their conversation. It made her realize that maybe Seth and Jason did a better job at blending in than she thought, considering how everyone talked about them as if they were normal teenagers. “You’ll be fine, Justin.” She said. “I believe in you.”

Which was the truth. Claire knew he was talented, and she was glad that he got his chance to shine at the upcoming competition at homecoming. But she also knew that Seth and Jason’s absence would start to shine as well. In hindsight, she was a little bit glad about the fact that Jason and Seth chose to ignore their attendance, which made it take a little longer as usual for the school to start the gossip. But Claire knew it was coming. Soon, people would be just as obsessed with why Jason and Seth were gone, as they were when Jason and Seth arrived into town.

In that moment, Claire got a text and upon seeing the sender she told Justin she was going to the restroom inside. However she walked around the corner into an alleyway instead. “You found them?” Claire asked as soon as the call connected. Jason stepped out of the library and he sighed. “We think we did. We found tracks, not that far north. James and Elisabeth are out there. Claire, I only texted you so you’d know we’re close to getting this under control. I don’t want you to..” “I’m on my way, Jason.” Claire said. That’s when Seth appeared next to Jason, and without much say, he took the phone.

“Claire?” Seth then spoke, and Claire froze in her steps “Claire, you can’t come here. Claire, Payton will be furious if she finds out what you're doing.“ Claire took a few seconds, needing to compose her thoughts at hearing Seth across the line, and then she sighed deeply. “Seth, what Payton is doing to me is none of your business, okay? I can take her. She is my sister. I can handle it. But right now, I need to help you guys. I can’t sit around and do nothing.” Claire said. Seth looked at Jason and then focused back on the call. He sighed deeply, some little voice in the back of his mind reminding him that he should have known better than to expect Claire Silverstone not to care. “Okay fine. Be in front of the school at 6.”

CONT - TUESDAY October 2nd, 2007

“You okay?” Justin asked as Claire sat back down, and Claire nodded with a smile. Justin then grabbed his bag, and handed Claire his notebook. “Here. Get them back to me by tomorrow morning?” he asked, and Claire beamed. “I will.” She promised. Justin sighed and looked at her with a concerned look. He wanted to ask about it. Ask about the bags under her eyes, and finding her asleep in class yesterday at noon. He wanted to ask where she was yesterday morning, and he wanted to ask how things were going between her and Payton. But he didn’t. He couldn’t, not when she finally seemed to be relaxed a little. Claire then smiled at him as she drank her soda and Justin smiled back, faintly.

They walked back to the school after they finished their lunch, and Justin caught her yawning a few more times, the last one of those being at dinner. This time Mila noticed it too, and Justin exchanged a look with her. He was just about to mention that maybe Claire should go to bed early, when Claire jumped up. “It’s almost 6PM…. I got to go. I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.” She said in a hurry, and then she put away her food before she walked up the stairs. A few minutes later she walked back down and at 5.58, Claire walked through the door at the school, leaning against the statue by the parking lot. At 6.01, a car turned on the parking lot with headlights that almost blinded Claire. At 6.02, Seth Dawsons stood in front of her.

He had his hands tucked in his jeans, and his head was slightly tilted as he looked at her. And Claire could tell why. He was tense. Strained. Tired. “You’ve been looking for them the entire time?” Claire asked, and Seth nodded, not saying anything. Claire nodded too. When Seth noticed she was about to say something, he opened his mouth. “We should go. I need to be back there.” , then walking to the car. And he didn’t know exactly why he did that, but he did.

Moments later, Claire got into the passenger seat next to him. He turned on the music, again not really sure why, and he started the car. Then he felt her eyes on him and he breathed deeply, looking over at her slowly. That’s when Claire swallowed, and turned to him. “I’m sorry.” Seth looked at her, saw her. Felt the guilt that came with those emotions, and he recognized the look in her eyes. “I know.” He replied, and then the car moved.

They drove down main street and water street in silence, stopping at the traffic light and only then did he look sideways again. The interior of the car made Claire look small, but after what he knew she did that image didn’t fit her at all anymore. He had always known there was a side of her that wasn't so small. He just hadn’t seen it until he had seen the protection spell as he walked across the border himself, a barely a mile from where they were right now. Then they drove onto gravel stones of the Dawson driveway.

Less than a minute later the car turned silent again, and Seth moved quickly walking towards the house, at which the door opened and James appeared. This caused Seth to come to a standstill. Claire could see Seth close his eyes and then sigh deeply. And if Claire could tell from where she stood by the car, she would say it was a sigh of relief. “They’re back?” Claire asked, and Seth turned to her to nod. “They’re here. In the basement.” He said, then turning to James who looked firmly at Seth. “James, let her in. She can help. It’s her magic that did this after all.” Seth spoke, trying not to sound too accusing but…. Failing. That’s when he shot a quick apologizing look towards Claire. James then looked at her too. “I’m not letting her in if her sister doesn’t know she’s here.” James then spoke.

Claire sighed deeply, shaking her head slightly as she looked aside. They were really doing this. Alright then. “James, what do you want me to do? Payton and I aren’t exactly on good terms. If you’re waiting for her approval, you might wait a long time. Please, just let me in. I want to help.”

Seth sighed deeply from behind her, but Claire kept her gaze on James. That’s when he stepped aside, and he allowed her to walk in. Seth followed directly after her, and he walked up to the stairs. Claire looked at James once more, before she followed after him, a little frowning. Then they got to the same staircase they had taken once before, and moments later Claire was standing in the history room. Seth closed the door and flicked on one of the lights.

He walked through the room, opening the curtains to let some more light in, before turning back towards Claire. “You can help them?” he then asked, and Claire nodded. Then she grabbed her bag and pulled out a separate little bag from it. She handed it to Seth, and watched him open it. “I needed those for my spell.” She explained as he took out the eight personal belongings. Seth looked down at them, and then back up at Claire. “Do you still need them?” he then asked, closing the bag again, asking casually as if Claire didn’t steal them. So Claire frowned. “What? You’re not going to yell at me for stealing them?” she asked. Seth looked up and smiled, clearly amused by something Claire didn’t understood.

“Claire… most of these things have been in this room for decades. Untouched. Changes are they didn’t even know they had them. It doesn’t matter.” He explained, then gathering them all in his hands and he started to walk to the closest cubicle. Claire watched as he disappeared and returned 5 times, and Claire is running her hand through her hair, uncertain on what to even do.

“Claire?” he then said, from across the room. “Don’t doubt yourself. You created a spell that allowed us to enter town. It’s the reason I’m standing here right now. It’s the reason we were able to track down Lauren and Nate. I don’t care what you had to do to accomplish that. I’m glad you did.” And Claire smiled. Somehow it is exactly what she needed to hear, and she moved over to the desk which Seth nodded at, telling her it was okay for her to sit there. Seth came to stand on the other side of the desk.

“You really think you can fix this?” he then asked, and Claire looked up at him. His tone was different. More vulnerable. Desperate. Claire nodded, firmly. She wanted to reassure him. “I will do anything I can.” Claire said. Seth managed to put a little smile on his face. “I’m sure you will find a way.” He said.

Then he looked up abruptly, and he moved to the door all of the sudden. Claire moved to get up to, but Seth put out his hand. “Jason just called. I should go help them downstairs. If you need anything, just ask. We’ll hear you. Do not come downstairs by yourself.” Seth spoke. Then he left through the door, closing it behind him and locking it? Did he just lock her into the room?

He did, and now Jason awaited him by the bottom of the stairs. “You really think having her here is going to help?” Jason asked, and Seth rolled his eyes. “She’s 3 stories higher. I locked the room, she’s safe, Jason.” He replied. “She needs to be here if she wants to help them.” He added.

Jason nodded, but he put a hand on Seth’s shoulder when Seth moved towards the basement. “You do know we’re not staying after this, right. You should keep your distance. Emotionally too.” Jason spoke, and Seth looked up at his friend as he did.

“Got it.” Seth replied, then removing Jason’s hand so he could walk downstairs to the basement. He put the implication aside that he was being pulled in emotionally, and told himself that this was all pure business, nothing more. He told himself that the soft tension in the air as he and Claire walked to the car was just due to the evening setting in. He told himself it was only the responsible thing to do, as he waited until her seatbelt clicked in place until he started driving.

“Do you think it’s going to work out?” he asked at the red light downtown, which somehow always jumped to red when they approached. Seth looked aside. Claire didn’t look at him, too busy fidgeting her hands. “I hope so.” She said softly, then allowing the engine of the car to be the only sound for a little bit. “I figured out I got too worked up. Too greedy. Wanted to do too many things at once.” Claire explained. Seth nodded, and sighed. “Sometimes you really want something to work so badly, you oversee the potential dangers of it.” He says quietly, his eyes now focused on the traffic light, which jumped to green.

Moments later they are on the school parking lot again, like they were 4 hours ago. Seth’s gaze went up to the building behind her. “You miss it?” Claire said, and Seth looked at her for a while. “I do miss it.” He replied.

Wednesday October 3rd, 2007

He didn’t miss the classes though. He found himself in the woods on Wednesday afternoon not worrying about science or English literature or whatever class they had. He was in his favorite place in town, clearing his head as Elisabeth and Jason guarded their friends. He was kicking branches and pulling on leaves, smiling at the trees that started to sway a little when a gust of wind rose. Then he remembered this assignment about identifying different types of trees, and he chuckled a bit. Actually laughing out loud, at how Mike had complained about the point of it.

“What’s so funny?” James asked from behind him, and Seth turned around. Then he sighed and gestured in the general direction of the school. “Just thinking back at some stuff.” He said. James nodded. He seemed to be contemplating how to convey the words he was going to say next. “Seth, maybe you should go back there.”

Seth blinked a few times. James put his hands in his pockets. “Elisabeth and I were going to mail the paperwork once we got to a new town. If we don’t then… you guys just stay enrolled.” James explained. Seth was frowning now. “Payton will kill us in the middle of the hallway, she won't even care who sees." He said.

"She's not going to kill you in the middle of the hallways. Besides she's one witch. You said in your notes Jason, that her hand-to-hand skills are weak." James says, and Jason frowns. "I didn't write that so we could underestimate her. Besides, wasn't it the plan we'd be done with school?" Jason asks, and Elisabeth and James exchange a look. "Plans change. Right now we think someone needs to keep an eye out there. If you don't want to attend classes, fine. But you need to keep an eye out. You guys have your cover to be at the school. Isn’t there that homecoming thing coming up?” James asked. Seth nodded. That was next weekend though. A lot could happen between now and next weekend.

Seth sighed, rubbed a hand through his hair and told James he would think about it, talk it through with Jason. Which he had to wait for Thursday evening for, because Jason and Dylan had gone hunting before Seth had returned to the house.

Thursday October 4th, 2007

“Geez.” Jason said as he walked into his room where Seth was on his bed, reading. Seth put down the journal, tapped on it. “Your human stuff is wild you know that?” he joked, and Jason rolled his eyes. His human life was boring, and he always felt like he missed out on stuff. Stuff his brother got to do. Like dance with pretty girls and spend time with their father.

“What are you doing in my room? Why… Why did you uncover the bed, Seth?” Jason asked. Seth looked up at Jason. He wasn’t going to ask. “James said we could stay. Keep the town safe. Keep the school safe.” He spoke.

Jason blinked a few times at that. “Stay here? In town? With the Silverstones?” he asked, and Seth rolled his eyes a little. “Well we shouldn’t live in the dorms. I realized that might be too much. But yeah. James is open to it. I’m pretty sure he’s down to his last resort.” Seth explained.

And if James was ready to make drastically moves, then there was some reason for concern. Then again Lauren and Nate weren’t getting any better, as Jason observed them through the cut-outs. And he probably shouldn’t. Nobody really came down here to sit around and dwell in the situation they had gotten themselves into. Dylan and Alyson were upstairs preparing the blood-doses. James and Elisabeth were scanning the perimeter and Seth “Lauren…” Jason said, and methodically she held out her hand, craving for the blood. Jason passed the small bottle through the cut-out. “Nate.” Jason then said, and Nate did the same. All done with the carefully measured daily dose – enough to keep them alive but not too much to give them the energy to try and break out – Jason leaned against the wall and started sliding down. Then, he got a text-message, and he frowned.

‘Seth is ignoring me? I texted him saying I found a solution. It’s too late for me to leave now, but I need to come over tomorrow.’ Claire typed. Jason read the message a few more times, and agreed to pick her up after school tomorrow. He added that they would show up at school again next week. Claire didn’t reply to that.

Friday October 5th, 2007

Claire stopped in her tracks a little when she walked out of her room to see the door across the hall, and she thought back at the text Jason had sent last night. As Payton walked out of their room behind her, and almost bumped into her, Claire quickly started moving again to come across unphased.

“Got any plans for lunch?” Claire then asked, and Payton looked up from her phone where she was texting Mike. “Eh yeah. I need to work on this project with Max. So we’ll be at my office at the newspapers. Mike’s joining because Dean has been an ass lately and he doesn’t want to face him downstairs.” Payton explained.

“Dean is an ass most of the time.” Claire commented, and Payton shrugged. “Things did seem to be going better. I don’t know, Mila said something about how people might have other stuff going on than they show on the surface.” Payton said, then she looked at her sister. “We can’t exactly disagree on that thought, can we.” She said. All the secrets they had kept from their friends over the years. Just last night Justin asked her if she and Claire were okay.

And what was the answer to that? They hadn’t discussed what happened last weekend or Monday. Payton knew Claire was planning something though. She had been reading a lot lately, trying to be subtle about it. But Payton had ignored the warning signs once. She had let Claire do her thing last week, and look where that got them. Look where that got Lauren and Nate.

Payton sighed, once she sat down in her chair at lunch, where Max and Mike both stood in the doorway. “Payton, are you sure you’re good?” Mike asked, walking a bit closer. He then saw all the post-it’s on Payton’s bullet board and he looked at Max behind him. “Yeah, we could reschedule this, no problem. Maybe like, tomorrow.” Max suggested. Not that he would be doing anything this weekend aside from stare at his phone as Dean told Samantha about ‘it’.

Payton then shook her head. “No, no it’s fine. Sit. Max, tell me what chapter you wanted to work on.” Payton said. Max sat down and opened his notebook. “Ehm, chapter 7 seems like a good idea.” He said. He then got a text from Dean, asking why he wasn’t in the cafeteria, and he explained that he was doing some schoolwork. Then he stared at his phone, tempted to put it away for some time but he decided to add one more text before he did. ‘I don’t want you to feel pressured to tell Sam. I’m working with Payton on a project, I can keep an eye on Samantha too. Just because Mila and Katie want you to talk to her, doesn’t mean you have to say anything you’re not ready for.’ He pressed sent and then put his phone away. When he looked up Mike was looking at him with an arched eyebrow, and Max shrugged before he started on the chapter in front of him.

“No Mike, it was funny.” Payton said as they stood in the Great Hall, explaining how Mike got what he deserved for distracting them this lunch when his chair tipped over and he fell, hitting his head hard. He was still complaining about it, even though he had nothing to complain about because his parents were taking him to Cali for the weekend. “Now stop complaining you big baby.” Payton said, pressing a little kiss on his head because he was pouting. “Go. Tell Dianna I said hi.”

“I will. Also don’t do that. You’re only one year older than me and my mom only treats you like you’re her child, you’re not actually my older sister.” He said. Claire laughed a little at that. “That’s not half as bad of a scenario to be in Mike.” She said, and Mike just waved as he walked to his parent’s car. Mila, Payton and Claire were left standing in the great hall, and both the Silverstone sisters looked at Mila with that look that Mila usually gave other people.

“Don’t.” Mila said, walking up the stairs and sitting down in the second floor rec room. Payton settled in besides her. “Mila, we just want to see you happy. We all have stuff going on but if you and her are going to be together, we want to support that.” Payton explained. Mila sighed at that, and she pulled a blanket over her legs, fidgeting with the corners a bit. “I just don’t know where we stand. There’s some other stuff going on…”

Claire noticed a meaningful look between Payton and Mila, and then she learned that it was about Dean. Which explained a lot. “Anyways, it’s just very tricky right now. I don’t know what to think, there are so many mixed signals.” Mila sighed. Claire, sitting on the end of the sofa, pulled up the corners of her mouth a little. “Yeah but things aren’t bad. Maybe you just need time. Things will figure themselves out. I know they will.” Claire said. Then she got up. “I gotta go.”

“Where are you off to?” Payton asked, and Claire glanced over her shoulder. “Some stuff I need to do. Things I didn’t get to do last weekend.” Claire said. She knew Payton probably figured. Then, Mila tugged at Payton’s arm, and Claire slipped away while Mila asked Payton to a small party that was happening tonight. Claire heard Payton agree to it as she descended the stairs, and the fact that Payton would be at a party tonight made her feel a little bit of relief.

“So, you found a solution?” Jason asked, more so to break the silence in the car as they drove away from SJBS. Not that the silence was an awkward one. But he could feel that Claire was tense. Her heart was beating a thousand miles an hour and she was staring ahead, breathing systematically, a bit forced. Claire just hummed in reply.

Then they got to the house, and when Jason started walking towards the stairs, Claire remained put in the foyer. “I’m not going back to that room. I have to see them.” She said. Elisabeth then came walking into the foyer, just in time to object to that plan. “No, not going to happen.” Claire turned to her, and frowned. “I can’t do this blindly.” She explained, and Elisabeth sighed. “Claire, it’s too dangerous. Your scent… we don’t know what it will do to them.” Elisabeth explained. And Claire knew all of that. She knew it was dangerous. Then she looked back at Jason. “It won’t take long. I promise.”

Jason opened the door to the basement and Claire thanked him with a little nod. Not that it helped. Elisabeth still gave him a weary look before he started walking down the stairs, and as he heard Claire’s heartbeat speed up he knew it probably wasn’t the best plan. But this was Lauren and Nate. And they had been suffering for days. Jason couldn’t imagine how it must feel like, but the screams were getting too much. He had seen too many people in pain like this, feeling like their veins were on fire. It was a common way to describe what it felt like when a vampire first turned too. And Jason had had enough of that. He wasn’t going to sit around and let that feeling consume his two friends.

“Go right.” Jason said as they arrived in a small hallway, lit by artificial light only. Claire then heard a scream, and she stopped in her tracks. Jason sighed, carefully putting a hand on Claire’s shoulder. “It’s okay.” He said, before walking past her and taking the lead. He opened a double-locked door and Claire could tell it was heavy by how Jason was using his strength to keep it open for her. So Claire walked swiftly, arriving in a sub-section of the basement. On the right, there was some shelves with blankets on them and a bit lower a little table with some bottles of water. On the left, there was a freezer, and Claire swallowed at the thought of what they might be keeping in there. Another scream. Then, Claire heard a voice coming from behind them calling Jason’s name.

“Jason? What the hell, why is she down here?” Seth asked, as if Claire wasn’t standing in between them. Seth didn’t even look at her, he just looked at Jason, confused. Angry, even. Claire heard a lot of things, back and forth from both of them without a word being said. She blinked a few times, trying to block it out as it became a mess of thoughts about border-spells and pain and staying in town and a whole bunch of times she heard her own name. “I won’t put her in danger, Seth. Just stay here.” Jason then said, in an assuring voice. It seemed like they had had a conversation like this before. Something about not getting involved. Something about distance.

Claire shook her head. “Can you guys stop going all alpha male and just do something.” She said. This caused both of them to look at her, and she arched her eyebrow before Seth sighed and he walked through the door. “Don’t get too close.” Jason said before he did the same, and Claire followed in as third.

The area on the other side of the door was grim. The floor was no longer made out of tiles, but just dirt. There was one small little light, which didn’t shine bright enough for Claire to see where the end of the room was. She let out a shaky breath as she came to a standstill. Jason and Seth stood in the middle of two doors, two more next to it but they weren’t locked like the ones before them. Seth was talking softly to the one on the left, something about how things were going to be better, and lots of apologies. Jason then noticed Claire was staring, and he cleared his throat. “This is double reinforced steel. They can’t get out. It’s the safest thing for them.” He explained, and Claire nodded, slowly. It didn’t look safe at all. It just looked horrible. And the thought that she had put them in here, caused tears in her eyes.

She wiped them away quickly, hoping Jason nor Seth had seen them and then she grabbed out her notebook. “Okay so ehm…” she said, shaking her hair out of her face a little before she started reading a bit. She then frowned, then looked at Jason and Seth. “Are you sure those things are strong enough to hold them?” she then asked, and Jason nodded, frowning a bit too now. “Why?” he asked, and Claire dropped her notebook. “Because you guys can’t be here. It’s messing things up with the presence of magic. You need to wait behind that door.” Claire said, looking at the door she came through.

“No way.” Seth spoke, turning from where he had been looking into Lauren’s cell. Claire looked at him and shrugged. “I can’t do it otherwise, Seth. You have to trust me.” She said, and Claire looked at Jason next. “If you say they’re strong enough, everything will be fine.”

“Everything will not be fine. You are not doing some spell without someone there to keep you safe.” Seth exclaimed. He then looked down at her notebook and took it from her. “No spell.” He said. Then he walked upstairs, the textbook in his hands and Claire watched him walk away. Then she sighed, closed her eyes for a few moments before turning to Jason.

“I will go get him. You’re safe. Do what you need to do to… prepare or whatever.” He said. “I’ll be right back.” Before he walked to the door again and moments later, Claire was standing alone in front of the two cells. Claire then sat down on the floor, her back against the wall opposing the door to Lauren’s cell. Or dungeon. Or whatever they preferred to call it. She didn’t need her notebook. She memorized the spell during the car-ride over here. The only problem was that the energy radiating from Lauren and Nate was stronger than she thought.

Then the door opened again, and Claire looked at Jason, followed by Elisabeth. He handed her the notebook back, and Claire smiled a little bit. Then Jason looked at the cells, and Claire bit her lip. “There’s a lot of energy. From the spell.” Claire explained. “I can syphen that energy out. It’s not done that often in our family but there is a pretty basic spell from another bloodline that I found for it. I could do this…” Claire said, switching in between Jason and Elisabeth. “But I don’t know if I’m powerful enough to do it twice.”

Jason then frowned. “What are you saying? Do you need Payton for this?" he asked. Claire bit her lip. "She wouldn't agree with this. So there's a second option.” She said, dropping her notebook and swallowing nervously. “I could channel one of you."

“What does that mean?” Elisabeth asked, but Jason didn’t need her to. He knew what it meant. He had heard conversations when he was living across the hallway from the Silverstones, and they talked about balancing magical energy and how it was present in all supernatural beings, including vampires.

“Basically I use your immortal life-force as a battery for my magic.” Claire explained, and Elisabeth looked aside at Jason. And then he nodded. “Okay. We’ll do that.” He said, and Claire bit her lip a little. If only it was so easy. If only it wasn’t almost as dangerous as trying the spell she did Sunday. “I would have to prepare for that though. Can you give me ten minutes?” she asked, and Jason nodded. “Yeah, sure. Call me when you need me. I’m going to go and talk to Seth.”

“What do you need?” Elisabeth then asked, and Claire asked her for one of the water bottles – they were just that, water bottles, thank god – and Elisabeth took one of the blankets to drape it over her. She then sat down on the bottom of the stairs as Claire leaned her elbows on her knees, hands covering her face. She cried. Elisabeth could tell that she was trying not to make any noise, but she cried for a few minutes. Once the crying had stopped, Elisabeth walked in with a box of tissues, and Claire took them thankfully.

Then she moved her hair out of her face, putting it up so it wouldn’t bother her. “I’ll go get Jason.” Elisabeth then said, and Claire looked at her for a bit. “It has to be someone you have a connection too, right?” she asked, and Claire nodded. That would be ideal. Moments later, Jason walked down the stairs as Claire was repeating a mantra in her head. She almost didn’t notice Jason, until he stood right in front of her. “Oh. Hi. Okay.” She said, rolling up her sleeves. She urged Jason to do the same. “You know what you’re doing, right?” He asked once more, and Claire nodded confidently. “Alright then.”

James made his way to the door swiftly, and when he opened it he gaped a bit in surprise. That’s when Payton stared back at him, then glancing past him, before looking back at James. “Seth called me. I’m here to help.” She explained. James’ jaw visibly clenched, and Payton noticed. She sighed deeply, rolling her eyes because from the way Seth sounded, they didn’t have time for this. “Look, I never wanted anyone to get hurt. I had no idea what Claire was doing. Do you want to blame me for being a bad sister? Sure, go ahead. But let me save your brother and sister first. Let me help, and let me avoid Claire doing more than she can handle.” Payton said.

That’s when Seth appeared behind James, sighing in relief from where he walked down the stairs. James then looked at Payton and stepped aside, nodding in agreement with letting her help, just like he had done with Claire. Then, James looked at Seth with a stern look. Which Seth knew he somehow deserved. Calling Payton was reckless and dangerous. But it worked.

Seth opened the door to the basement and walked downstairs, almost skipping the steps of the staircase as he did. Payton was close behind him. “Elisabeth, tell them to stop.” he then said, and Elisabeth looked up from where she stood outside of the heavy enforced door. Then she saw Payton and she actually smiled, banging on the door a few times before opening it. “Claire, wait.” She said, and the blonde looked up frowning. “Elisabeth, I have to do this…” Claire started to counter any protests. Then, Elisabeth stepped out of the way and Seth and Payton just walked up to the door. “No, you don’t.” Seth spoke. “Not alone.”

The two sisters looked at each other for a moment, before Payton softly smiled. “Your track record of doing big spells on your own sucks, little one.” Payton smiled, and Claire couldn’t help but smile back a little bit. Then she looked at Seth behind her, and she smiled at him too. Then she looked back at Jason, who had already tugged his sleeves back down, a bit of relief on his face.

“You guys go. You shouldn’t be near when we syphen the magic out. That was the plan, I presume?” Payton asked, and Claire nodded. “We will come back up once we’re done.” Claire added, and Jason started to move away from them, pulling Seth and Elisabeth along with him. Payton then sighed deeply and she blinked rapidly a few times. “You can trust us.” She said. Jason paused at the bottom of the stairs and he tilted his chin a bit. He seemed a bit hesitant to say anything. Then he spoke after all. “We do.” He said. “Bring them back to us. Good luck.” And then he walked up the stairs, the door closing behind him.

Payton then turned back to Claire, who took her hand and then they walked past the final barrier, and a few seconds later they both stood in front of the cells. Payton released a shaky breath and then closed her eyes, pushing out the pain she felt radiating from the two people behind the doors. Then, once she opened her eyes she looked at Claire again, and she nodded. “Okay.” She said, turning 90 degrees to face her sister. “Let’s do this.”

CONT - Friday October 5th, 2007

As soon as the door to the basement opened, four pairs of eyes were on Payton and Claire. Despite their efforts they were unable to hide that they were drained and exhausted. James made sure they sat down on the living room couch, but he kept his distance. Elisabeth softly touched Claire’s arm when she put down the water, and Claire took a few sips. Then she looked at Payton.

“It’s done.” The eldest of the two sisters said, looking at James and nodding. “They should be fine now. As far as I know anything about vampire biology.” She said, then taking a sip from her water herself. She didn’t say much then, just staring ahead a little. Giving her mind the time to put some things in line. She had expected it when Jason spoke her name.

“Payton, once they’re better we will be going again. We will…” “No, Jason.” Payton said, sighing deeply. Jason wasn’t sure if it was the exhaustion or if it was something bigger. “You’re not leaving. You shouldn’t leave. What happened with Lauren and Nate… That would never have happened had I not forced you out of town.” Payton spoke.

Seth stepped forward to object, but Payton looked at him and shook her head. “I don’t think we can afford a war. If my little sister is willing to risk her own life, twice over, then I can’t do anything but accept it.” Payton spoke. The room was silent for a solid minute after that. Because this was big. If Payton was really willing to accept an alliance, then that changed everything.

James then looked at Seth, before he picked in. “We never withdrew Seth and Jason from the school. With the threat out there, maybe it’s a good idea if they stayed at the school? Keep an eye on things there?” he asked. “Only… only if you agreed of course.” He added.

Payton nodded, Claire smiling faintly at her in encouragement. “Yeah, that should work.” She said. She then looked at Jason who had been quiet throughout all of this, and she raised her eyebrow. “Unless you don’t want to?” She asked him directly, and Jason looked up, frowning. Then he smiled. “No, no, I do. It’s fine.” He said, then uncrossing his arms and looking at James. “But we need to get in touch with Alyssa. We were going to find her but… I mean, if Alyson and Dylan aren’t here.”

“Girls, I suppose you’d want to head back to the school.” Elisabeth then spoke, cutting Jason off. Claire brushed her hair out of her face a little. She was already leaning against Payton, and she smiled at Elisabeth. “I feel like you guys could run a taxi-service with the amount of back and forth rides you’ve offered us.” Claire said, causing Elisabeth to smile fondly. “No problem. If you would prefer to drive yourself, we could lend you a car.” She said, more directed to Payton then to Claire.

“Payton doesn’t drive yet.” Claire explained, and Payton shot her a look before she got up from her seat on the couch. “Yeah well, before this school year I didn’t exactly need to get halfway across town on a weekly basis.” Payton said, and Seth smiled a little bit at that. Payton was actually making a joke about this whole situation. She was talking to them, not threatening them in any way. And she seemed to have parted with the side of her that kept her mad at them for so long.

A part which Seth knew probably wasn’t far off. And they would have to talk more to sort all of this out. But for now things were okay. Lauren and Nate would get better, and that was the most important thing right now. “Thank you.” He then said, and he looked at them sincerely. “I mean it. Thank you.” He repeated, and Claire looked at him with a smile. “It’s okay. That’s what allies are for.”

Payton looked at Claire when she said that. Then she got in the car and Elisabeth drove them back to the school. Once they got there, both the sisters fell onto their respective beds, and Claire paid attention to Payton, making sure she was really okay with all of this. “I know calling them allies might be a bit overkill…” Claire started, and Payton looked up. She thought about what she was going to say to that, then straightening her shoulders.

“I did what I did tonight because Lauren and Nate shouldn’t suffer. I know you feel guilty about what happened. We both have reason to feel guilty.” The whole spell was one big mess that both of them were to blame for. Claire underestimated the spell, but Payton underestimated Claire and her desire to help others. “It doesn’t mean that I like them all that much. They still brought trouble to our town. They’re still vampires, and they always will be, to me. But if they’re making an effort to try and help the town, then I can make an effort to accept them living here.” She explained.

Then she run her hand through her hair. “I mean… It’s just exhausting to hate them. And I don’t want anything coming in between us. So I won’t oppose them being here anymore. After all… Seth did save your life.” Payton said with a faint smile. She wondered if she ever properly thanked him for that. Then, she realized she didn’t.

Saturday October 6th, 2007

“Can I sit?” Seth asked, and Payton nodded, staring ahead a little. Seth looked at her, waiting for her to say anything. When she didn’t, he cleared his throat, but then Payton turned towards him. “Thank you. For saving Claire’s life a while back.” She spoke. Seth blinked a few times, then frowned for a bit before he smiled slightly. “Ehm.. no problem.” He replied, and Payton shook her head. “No, Seth. Not everyone would have done that. Not every…” she looked around, but Seth nodded that he got the picture. Not every vampire would have saved Claire Silverstone. But he wasn’t just any vampire.

Seth leaned forward, arms on his knees, looking at Payton. “That is because we’re not like other vampires, Payton.” And Payton sighed, nodded and drank some from her water bottle. “I think I’m starting to realize that.” She said softly. Seth looked at her. Payton continued to stare ahead a little bit. “When I did that spell…” she then spoke, only now turning her head back to him, moving a strand of hair that was blowing in her face due to the subtle early October wind. Then her thoughts jumped.

“I’ve always been taught to hate you. You have to know that. Hating you has been in my DNA, almost literally. Claire, she… she was lucky. She doesn’t remember that night.” Payton said. Seth noticed how Payton’s face shifted. How she seemed to not hold back on showing herself. Being vulnerable, in front of him. No more layers, no more masks.

Seth suddenly felt very weird. Something in the way she was saying it, told him that she hadn’t talked about this often. And that maybe she shouldn’t be talking about this to him, of all people. Like, he shouldn’t even be hearing this. He wanted to stop her, tell her that she didn’t have to explain this all. But not a word left his mouth. And so Payton continued.

“I’m sorry for not realizing sooner that you guys… That your family…” she said the word in a different tone. Seth swore he could see tears in her eyes a little bit. “That you guys are different. That you guys don’t mean us any harm.” Payton spoke. “So I’m sorry. For doing that to you. And Lauren and Nate. Claire was right. Forcing you out of town and everything that came with it was not the best way to handle this. Thank you, for giving us a chance to fix all of that”

“Thank you for letting us stay.” Seth replied, and Payton looked aside in surprise. Then her face softened again, and she chuckled a little, seeing the humor in the situation. “Any other witch would have.” She replied. Seth saw the irony in that too, and they both shared a smile. Every other witch in her family had. But Payton wasn’t like any other witch.

“Yeah, she said she’s starting to realize we’re different. And then when I thanked her for letting us stay, she said any other witch would.” He smiled. Lauren laughed at that, dimples in her cheeks which had regained their color since the evening before. She was now sitting on the outside deck, blanket wrapped over her to protect her from the sun on the patio. But she was fine. Getting better. Like Payton promised. “Payton Silverstone following tradition… who would have thought she could still shock us.” Jason spoke, as he handed Nate and Lauren refills. “How are you feeling?” he then asked. Nate nodded, intertwining his hands with Lauren. “Better. I still feel like my throat is dry 5 bottles in but it’s less. It’ll pass soon enough.” He spoke, and Lauren rested her head on his shoulder. “And once we’re better, we are going to help you guys.” She said.

Seth exchanged a look with Jason, and Jason sighed. “It’s fine, we have it under control.” Jason said, and Nate shook his head. “No, it’s not fine. Alyson and Dylan are being cowards or something. They should’ve been back by now, they know we need them.” He stated. He was agitated at them, to say the least. “So we’re helping you guys as soon as we can.” Lauren said in determination. “Alright. But today you’re not doing anything. I’m heading out there right now.” Seth replied, getting up from his seat. He then walked to the kitchen to put away his bottle and he frowned a bit when James waited for him back in the living room.

“You met up with Payton?” he asked, and Seth nodded, slowly. “Yeah. I did.” “When? Where?” James asked. Seth sighed, crossing his arms. “This morning, on a bench at the school. She texted me to meet up.” He said. James didn’t seem happy. “Seth… the situation with Payton Silverstone is sensitive right now. You can’t go and meet up like that. We’re the leaders, we should probably…” “You should probably stop referring to her as if she is an atom bomb, James.” Seth interrupted him. Then he dropped his arms again. “Payton saved Lauren and Nate. Payton allowed us to stay. You can drop the diplomacy act, James. We’re a family, not a nation. And right now, me and Jason are the people that Payton knows best. You almost didn’t even let her into the house.”

James didn’t reply anything to that. Instead he sighed, and watched as Seth made his point by having a staring-competition. Then, when he felt like his point had come across, he walked away from James into the back yard, and James sighed deeply. He knew Seth was right, though. He knew all of the things he said were true and that James was probably being too cautious. But just like Payton had to get used to these news developments, so did James. And until his entire family was together again and everyone was healthy, he wouldn’t be able to give that much thought.

What also kept James’ mind occupied was Alyssa, who had a tendency of getting into trouble and James had a bad feeling about her this time. And he wasn’t one to doubt like that easily, but Alyssa had given them too many reasons to prove she was unpredictable, at best. So James sighed deeply, as he pulled up his phone contact list, and started drafting an e-mail. Three hours later, a file appeared on his computer that seemed like a perfectly innocent charity event hosted at their house. One invite got sent to each of their friends, allies and people who generally didn’t hate him. Including Alyssa.

“You think she will come?” Elisabeth asked him, and James looked up at her. “If she’s not in too deep, she will. If not because it’s us asking, then for Seth and Jason. Besides, she is our friend. All our friends now know about our territorial situation. If she doesn’t show up to help out with that, then that should be enough of a sign that something is seriously wrong.”

James pressed sent. Three minutes later, Claire’s phone beeped and a picture loaded in the text-conversation with Seth. Great, she thought. At least he was back to communicating with her again. Then she looked at the image closely, and she frowned a little when she read what it said. A charity ball? At the Dawson house?

“It’s a cover, obviously.” Seth spoke as he sat in the chairs at the 3rd floor rec room. Claire turned around and looked at him from where she had been ascending the stairs to her room. “Cover for what?” she asked, and Seth sighed. “James wants to see who our allies are and who.. aren’t. It’s about the territorial thing. I told him to invite you guys too. I mean… we’re allies now, right?” he said.

Claire bit her lip. “I don’t know if Payton is ready for that though. Did you send this to her?” Claire asked. Seth shook his head. “Just you. Figured you’d convey the message. Why? Claire… You can’t not show up now. All the people we know will expect you guys to be there. If you’re not there, our alliance will appear broken.”

“I know, I know. I get that. Trust me, I know a thing or two about political events.” Claire said, then sighing. “But Payton needs time. I know you met up with her and I don’t know what you discussed but I know my sister. If this goes too far, we will be right back where we started.” Claire then brushed through her hair, keeping her hand put so it stayed out of her face. “Just… just let me talk to her. Don’t mention any of this, okay. I will talk to her, and get her on board.” Claire said. Seth then smiled, and Claire frowned a little.

“Sorry…. No, I mean it I’m sorry. It’s just… you said that about your spell too.” He explained, and Claire ducked her head. She wiggled her toes a little, made herself small. When she looked up, Seth was significantly closer. “Hey… don’t beat yourself up over it okay? You did what you had to do. What happened to Lauren and Nate is as much on us as it is on you.” He said. Then he smiled at her encouragingly. “They’re doing better by the way. Your doing.”

“I’m glad.” Claire said softly, then continuing her walk towards her room. “Just… lay low until school.” Claire said. Seth nodded, and then Claire walked further down the hallway, and he stayed where he was. He returned back to the chair for a bit, and grabbed out his phone. ‘Keen for some practice tomorrow?’ he texted Justin. He got his reply within minutes. ‘Look who’s still alive. Yeah man, chill. You back at school?’ Seth smiled at the lingo. He tried to reply with the same amount of casual. ‘Yeah. Some family issues.’ Death in the family, James had apparently labelled it to the school. Close enough. ‘Tomorrow at 4 by the field. See you there’ he texted back.

Claire lingered around the doorframe when she saw what Payton was holding. Usually Payton didn’t gravitate towards the album that often. Claire knew that she wanted to avoid being faced with their last name in all the newspaper articles. The Silverstone name used to mean something in this town. Now it just meant ‘orphans’ and ‘accident’. Former fades of Lillian Silverstone’s time as a debutante got replaced by the newspaper article about her death.

Claire sighed and joined her sister on the bed, settling in close. Claire caught Payton’s eyes stuck on a picture in particular, and she looked at her sister for a bit. “Tell me about this day.” She spoke, and Payton smiled. Claire put her head on Payton’s shoulder and Payton started telling a story about their visit to the playground. Claire was obsessed with the pebble stones, and Payton kept showing off her outfit to everyone in the playground. Nowadays, the roles were reversed, though. Payton was the one cautiously keeping an eye on their magical stones, while Claire was into fashion. “Well it was an outfit to be proud of sis.” Claire smiled, and Payton smiled a little too.

Claire then turned towards Payton a bit more and she took her sister’s hand. “I’m proud of you. You know that right?” Claire asked, and Payton sighed, deeply. “I know you are, Claire.” She said, a bit shaky. Payton rested her head against Claire. “I’m just scared of not having anyone to share these memories with anymore.” She said. And Claire knew what she meant. Payton wasn’t scared of much, but she was terrified of Claire ending up in the same puddle of blood that she found their mother in. She would do anything to avoid that, and she was the strongest person Claire knew for that. Little had changed about the fact that Claire was safer when Payton was around. She could sleep soundly knowing that her older sister would always be standing in between her and danger, and that she would always be there to shield her heart from being hurt. “You don’t have to think about that. Because it’s not going to happen.” She said, smiling. “They’re not going to hurt us. Or anyone that we care about. They’re here to help. We’re going to be fine.” Claire said. Payton smiled faintly.

Sunday October 7th, 2007

“I’m glad you’re having fun with your parents Mike.” Payton said, rolling her eyes briefly at Claire who looked at her since Payton had said that two times already. “It’s a long weekend, I’m doing exactly nothing.” Payton said. Then she looked up when she heard a loud noise from the hallway. “I’m gonna go now Mike, enjoy my weekend. I’ll talk to you later.” She said as she got out of her bed and she walked to the door, almost simultaneously with Claire. When the door opened, Payton sighed deeply, trying to keep her emotions at bay. Claire wasn’t so subtle.

“What the hell?” she said, crossing her arms and leaning against the doorway. “Did I not say to keep a low profile?” Claire said. Seth looked up, and then glared at James. “Sorry. We’re just setting the room up again.” Seth explained. Claire sighed, and then she lifted her chin a little as James emerged into the doorway on the other side. “Sorry. We didn’t mean to interrupt your long weekend.” James said, then smiling a little. “I guess in some way, you have me and Elisabeth to thank for it.” He then said.

Payton’s face dropped. “I’m sorry, what?” she said stepping away from the door. She looked at James, and frowned. “You guys built a few houses. Then you left, and my family has been living here since it became an actual town. Since it became a society. My family name has been linked to this town for much longer than the combined time you have spent here.” She said, and Seth had now joined in on the hallway discussion because Payton was roasting James on history and he had to see his face. When James looked at him, Seth just shrugged, and Payton smiled smugly. “But thanks for founders day.” She then said, almost serious.

“You could thank us by coming to the gathering.” James spoke, and he did so just as Payton was about to turn around and walk back into the room. Claire and Seth exchanged a look, and next, Payton’s eyes were on Claire. “Gathering?” she asked her sister, and Seth stepped in front of James to defuse the situation. “It’s… Well, we are allies. And so I told James it would be a good idea to have you guys at our little… gathering.” Seth explained. “It’s all of our friends. People who would be able to help us. People we trust.” He explained.

Payton sighed as her shoulders dropped. “You’re saying there’s going to be more vampires here?” she asked, and Seth swallowed. This wasn’t going good. Claire was right, this timing could have been way better. “Just, a few.” Seth spoke. Then James raised his eyebrow at him and Seth sighed. “Seventeen guests have confirmed so far.” He then said.

“Seventeen?” Payton said, looking at Claire, before looking at the two vampires. “You’re asking us to be in the same room as seventeen vampires?” she asked. Claire just rubbed the bridge of her nose. Seventeen was a lot. More than she anticipated herself. Then again, she underestimated everything about the Dawsons. The size of their house when she first laid eyes upon it. The size of their family when she first saw all of them in the same room. The size of this vampire meeting they were about to attend. “Look, we will think about it. It’s not until a week from now. We will let you know.” She said, before taking Payton’s hand and pulling her back inside their room.

Once there, Payton lifted her eyebrow and Claire sighed. “I know, I know. It’s a lot. I didn’t exactly expect that either. I’m pretty sure that’s why Seth didn’t lead with that last night.” She said, and once again, Payton’s eyebrow rose. Last night? Claire ignored it. “But look, we’re allies now. He has a point. We need to keep this place safe. And we need to know who we’re keeping it safe with. Who is on our side. Who we can trust.”

“Well right now I don’t trust anyone of them yet. I trust you. And… maybe Jason and Seth.” She spoke. But trust was a big word and she wasn’t entirely convinced that they deserved it. Not yet at least. Then Payton shook her head. “You know what, I’m not going to think about this. Vampire meeting RSVP is officially postponed.” Payton said, then grabbing her book from her nightstand and sitting back down at her bed. She could tell Claire wanted to protest, so she cut in. “Claire, don’t push this. I will see in a few days from now. I’m not saying no. I’m just saying…. It’s a hell of a step to say yes. Especially since they haven’t shown anything for it.” She said.

Claire nodded, and she walked back to her corner of the room, where she was re-arranging her closet. “Okay. I’ll take that. Just… If we were to go, then I’m totally wearing this dress.” Claire said, pulling out a specific dress that has been waiting for the right opportunity in the back of her closet. Payton smiled and nodded. “That one’s very nice.” She said.

“Oh! And I know the perfect shoes to go with them. Oh crap, wait… Mila borrowed those. I’m going to go get them.” Claire said, her excitement barely controlled. At this point, seventeen vampires versus fashion was an equal battle for Claire, but Payton wasn’t won over so easily by dresses and shoes. There would have to be something to show for this new alliance that they had finally created.

Claire basically hopped through the hallways, and she frowned a little when she saw Dean walk past her on the stairs, it being a casual Sunday afternoon and everything. But for Dean it wasn’t casual. Three, four, five, six, seven. The count went on, far beyond a dozen until he was standing on the landing of one of the dorm floors. There he spotted Max, his back still towards him with his hand on the door handle. His hand lingering, not pushing down but not letting go either. Instead he looked at the door, blinked, and then looked back down at his phone, before turning around. Two seconds later, Dean’s lips crash into Max’. “She knows.” The first text read. “Turn around.” The second one said.

Uncertain if this was a dream or not, Max let Dean take control of the kiss. A kiss in public, in the dorm hallway. A kiss Max hadn’t expected any time soon. But here they were. “Wait… does… does this mean…” he asked, but Dean just shushed him, not needing big words thrown around now. “It means we need to talk.” He replied, then pushing the door handle down, and the two of them walked inside.

Dean had seen Max’ dorm room once, when they were lab-partners for a science project last year. But even then, when he was still in full denial about who he was, some part of his brain had taken in the room. His memory recalled the photos of his family, the color scheme of the room, and the two medals hanging from his bedroom closet door. But now, as the two of them barged in the door, he had little eye for those type of details.

"But that can happen later." Dean then said, allowing Max to close the door before pulling him closer. "I'm so sorry for putting you through all of this. I'm sorry I'm not strong enough like you." he rambled, causing Max to press their lips together again only to stop Dean’s talking. "You're perfect." he whispered when he feels Dean heartbeat finally slowing down through his hand on his chest. This was perfect. This was exactly what he needed.

“Everything okay?” Seth asked as he walked up to Justin who mumbled a “Yes mom, you’ve said that a million times, already, I got the message. Bye mom.” Before tucking away his phone. Justin nodded, then sighed when Seth kept looking at him and he took a seat on the bench. “My mom is all over my attendance. She had a parent teacher conference for my little brother and he’s been skipping school and with the drug situation here…” Justin trailed off. Seth nodded. “He’s not in SJBS? Your brother?” he asked. Justin shook his head. “No. He’s a freshman at Pacific High. Already causing trouble.” Justin said, a little fond smile for the kid who he used to ride their bikes with in the backyard on weekends. “So he’s the troublemaker, you’re the scholarship track athlete and you’re mom is on you for attendance. Sounds unfair to me.” Seth smiled. Justin shrugged.

“It’s… it’s just not easy for her. I’m here and not in pacific high because that would be better for our family. My mom only has to deal with one adolescent boy in the house instead of two, and my entire life is here anyways. Track, my friends…” Justin explained. Seth smiled when Justin looked up at him in particular when he mentioned friends. “Yeah well, friends…. Friends help each other improve their track skills.” Seth grinned. He then pulled out his chronometer. “Enough sad childhood backstory. Time to get a move on. You want to beat the tornados right. After that we can lounge around.”

And so Justin slaved away, increasing his record by a tenth by the end of their two hour training session, before falling into his seat at the table. “Okay so, that was hell. Please distract me from the pain in my entire body.” He begged. Claire smiled at him. “Poor you. Why did you even go training just now?” she asked. He didn’t usually do that.

“Seth offered.” Justin explained. At that Claire nodded knowingly. In the back of her mind she remembered that from tomorrow they would just be at the school like nothing had changed. She would have to see him in class again, whenever they had class together. She would have to hear from him from other people. Only this time, she didn’t mind. Two weeks ago she had started to worry about a spell, and seeing his face had caused her to stress out about it every single time. Now, two weeks later they had made some sort of alliance, which would be officiallized next weekend if Payton was able to convince Claire.

“Claire?” Mile then asked, and Claire lifted her head, frowning. Mila smiled. “Are you coming to the warehouse in Water Street? There’s an underground party going on there. Pre-party for founder’s day.” Mila explained. Claire looked around the table, seeing Justin nod, and then she landed on Payton. Payton wasn’t saying much though. Just looking at her. Testing her, probably. Claire smiled. “I’m good, you guys.”

Justin protested, saying Claire hàd to come. Mila promised Payton she wouldn’t drink too much, trying to convince Payton to come too. Throughout all of this, Claire looked at her sister while they had an internal conversation, between the two of them. Only they knew how crazy their lives had actually been these last few weeks. And only they knew how much they needed a break. Then, Payton nodded, and she smiled at Mila. “Fine, we’re in.”

The table cheered, and Mila took off to go and get them tickets from someone in her AP science class, and after Max showed up at the table, Justin went to ‘discuss something’. Then, it was just Claire and Payton at the table. And Payton had about enough of Claire’s grin. “What?” she asked, smiling shyly herself, and Payton reached out her hand across the table. “Nothing.” Claire said, still smiling. “Just… happy to have my sister back.” Claire said. Payton sighed at that, then she pulled up one corner of her mouth. “I was never gone, Claire.”

Three hours later, the group walked through downtown Waterfall Creek which was buzzing due to it being the night before founder’s day. The teens took a detour route to water street, arriving at the back of the building with other teenagers coming from all the corners of the property. The music was booming already, and Mila smiled as she took Payton’s hand and dragged her inside. Payton followed after her and they walked into the place together. She looked around for a bit, taking in the neon lights at the walls. Soon, she lost Mila in the crowd as she knew almost everyone that was here, and Payton caught a brief glimpse of Justin, Claire and some of their friends from their class.

Then Payton heard a voice close to her. “Hi.” She turned around blinking her eyes a few times. Jason was amused at how startled she was, and Payton tried to compose herself. “Hi.” She said back, then looking around. “I know, I know. Lots of people. But I’m good. I can handle it. And we can’t be careful enough. Someone had to volunteer to go to a rave party in a sketchy warehouse to keep an eye on some teenagers getting drunk, so here I am.” Jason said. It actually made Payton laugh, for how ridiculous it was that he was, in fact, here. “Well, have fun.” She said, and Jason nodded. “I will try to contain myself with 60’s dance moves.” He winked. He winked? Did he just wink at her?

Then he disappeared in the crowd. Payton scoffed, smile still stuck on her face from what she just saw. She saw Jason. But not just any Jason. He was smiling. Winking. Seemed happy. Seemed… no longer cautious and scared that Payton might drive a stake through his heart at any time. He seemed… he seemed to trust her. 

CONT - Sunday October 7th, 2007

Minutes later Jason found himself a spot on the staircase that led to the roof, and he took in the crowds below him. He was looking for suspicious activity, of course. But he was also looking at the people. Admiring them, envying them a little too perhaps. They were living their lives carefree. Meanwhile, three people in this room were aware that there could be half an army of vampires approaching them right now. Which made Jason think. He then grabbed out his phone, and started drafting a text to Alyssa, but he was cut off by a giggly voice saying his name.

“Jason! Hi.” Mila said excitingly, the drink in her hand swaying a bit. Jason forced a smile on his face, and next thing he knew, Mila lost her balance and she was falling over. The only thing preventing her from falling all over him was an extended arm reaching behind her, and then Jason saw Payton.

She pulled Mila back up and put both hands on her friend’s shoulders. “Mila, you need to get back down. This is a tricky staircase.” Payton took the drink from her and took a sip. “And go get some water.” She added. Mila pouted. It would be adorable, if Payton didn’t know that Mila was just drinking to forget about the situation with Katie.

Who, as of 10 minutes ago, was center stage on the dancefloor with Samantha and her friends. Samantha who didn’t seem to have a care in the world, flirting with every guy in a 10 feet radius. Payton sighed at it as she sat down beside Jason. She didn’t say anything though. She just put the cup at her lips and finished Mila’s drink in one go.

When she noticed Jason was practically staring, she frowned. “What?” “Nothing. Just… I didn’t think I’d ever see Payton Silverstone chug a beer.” Jason smiled. Payton swayed her head. “I never thought I would be sitting on a staircase at an underground rave next to a vampire.” She said. She said it without lowering her voice, but the music made it impossible for anyone other than the two of them to understand much. And Jason was able to hear the conversations on the other side of the room, so he had no problem understanding Payton. He understood her fine.

“Life is funny that way.” Payton said a bit randomly. Jason nodded. “You spend a lot of your time babysitting your friends like that?” Jason then asked, and Payton turned aside with a frown. “Oh, Mila.” Payton said, then letting out a chuckle. “No, she’s good on her own usually. But she’s going through some stuff, so she’s letting off some steam tonight.” Payton explained. She then arched an eyebrow. “Have you ever like, talked to her or something? I mean… she is very social and everything but she climbed all these stairs to get to you up here…” Payton asked. Jason shook his head, then, tilted it a little.

“Well… I mean I talked to her a little. But I never said anything in particular.” He explained. He then looked aside, making sure to look at Payton specifically. “Payton, I would never even consider that. I would never endanger a human like that. I would never consider being that close to a human.” Jason said. This answer seemed to settle it for Payton. She nodded, then sighed deeply. “Well, you’re going to be at the school again. So you will probably have some socializing to do.” She said. And Jason was well aware. There would be other parties. Homecoming was right around the corner. He would have to really make an effort to blend in. Give the people no reason of not trusting him.

“And maybe not sit up here like some sort of bat, watching over everyone like that.” Payton then said. Jason laughed when she mentioned bats. “Bats.. wow, okay that’s a low blow. We do not turn into bats.” He said laughing a little. Payton nodded, indicating that she was aware. But she said it anyways. And she did have a point. “Yeah well, it’s the best way of keeping an eye on things.” Jason said, and Payton could see that. Good vantage point. Not too many people. It was a good plan, actually.

“Hey, Payton.” Jason said, then looking at his phone. He remembered what he was going to do before Mila interrupted him, but now that Payton was sitting next to him he had to ask something else. So Payton looked at him, telling him to say what he wanted to say. “That spell… the border. How would it affect other vampires?” he asked. Payton frowned at that. Then the phrase ‘17 vampires’ jumped in her head and she sighed deeply. She really needed another beer.

“Kill them upon entry.” She said, not looking at Jason. Because Jason knew the answer before she said it. He knew they were only in this town because of Claire. He knew Payton wasn’t stupid and her part of the spell probably did work because, well, she was Payton Silverstone. But Jason had to ask. “Can you take it down?”

Jason knew this was a big thing to ask. He knew they had only just gotten Payton to agree with some sort of alliance. And he knew that most of that was due to Seth, who talked to Claire. Because the two of them had some sort of connection. Some sort of understanding. Which he and Payton didn’t really have. So asking this, could potentially undo everything. But here he was at a high school rave talking to the most powerful witch on the western hemisphere so yeah. He had to ask.

“Jason, you know I can’t do that.“ she said. The way she said it, made it sound as if she had rehearsed it. As if she knew that she was going to say that if someone asked her. But then he noticed a hint of something in her eyes, and he turned towards her more. If there was even some doubt, a small chance of Payton trusting them enough in there, then he would take it. “Payton, we will protect you guys. We wouldn’t let anything happen to you guys, or the school, or anyone you care about. We do have a security system in place. Nate is installing sensors all over the woods that will register vampire speed so we would know if someone is in our territory. We have access to all surveillance cameras in town.” Jason explained, then putting a hand on her shoulder. “You can trust us. This town will be safe. It will be safer if we work together. But for that to happen, you need to take down the spell, so our other allies can also enter town.”

Payton took a deep sigh and got up. She looked down at him and closed her eyes for a bit. “I will consider it. But so far it has only been words coming from you guys. I need to be certain that the people I love are safe, Jason. I can protect myself, but my friends…” She looked down at the party and Jason knew. She didn’t have to explain herself. Payton’s family was important to her, and he knew that. So he would do anything to keep them safe, no matter what. “I will do everything in my power to make sure they’re safe. I swear to you on my own life.”

Payton rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “You’re immortal Jason.” She said, and upon seeing his smile she couldn’t help but smile a bit too. “But I’m serious.” Jason then said, in all seriousness. “And to prove it, I will point out to you that I just heard Mila order another drink over at the bar.” He said.

Payton looked down to the dancefloor then and without saying anything else to Jason she walked down the stairs, taking the drink out of Mila’s hands before she was able to put her lips to it. “I think you had enough sweetie. Why are you drinking so much tonight.” Payton said, rubbing soothing circles over Mila’s back as she made her sit on a barstool. Mila looked at her and she pouted “Nobody loves me.”

Payton sighed and she took a few sips of the drink Mila just ordered, before putting her hair up in a ponytail. “I love you, Mila.” Payton said, emphasizing the I. “Now let’s go home. It’s getting way too hot here.” She said. Mila didn’t really protest that, and so Payton held on closely to Mila and the two of them made their way out of the party. Once the cold air hit them, Mila smiled and she seemed to sober up because of it a little. By the time they reached SJBS, Mila had already found some more stability, and Payton was able to relax when she left Mila in her room, knowing she would be fine aside from potentially a headache.

Monday October 8th, 2007 (FOUNDERS DAY)

“Justin, can you not talk so loud.” Mila said the next morning at breakfast, and Payton smiled as she took a spoonful of her yoghurt. “Be glad I saved you from even more of a headache with that final drink.” Payton said, and Mila smiled at her. “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks. Why couldn’t you have been there to watch my back the entire evening?” Mila asked. It was more of a rhetorical question, but Payton answered anyways. “Because I do have a life, Mila.” And Mila frowned. “You were talking to Jason last time I checked.” This caused Claire to look up, and a small smile appeared on her lips. And Payton knew what that smile meant.

“You talked to Jason last night? I didn’t even know he was there.” Claire said the minute they got to the third floor. Payton waited with replying until the door to their room was closed. “Mila was like, trying to hit on him or something. But she ended up almost actually hitting him.” Payton explained as she sat on her bed. “And then he just… you know, he talked about the people. And he asked if we could take the spell down.” Payton said.

Claire turned around in her desk-chair, leaning both her hands on the back-support. Claire quickly figured out why. “Because of the gathering?” Payton nodded. “But I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Right now it’s keeping us safe. And I know that they promised they would protect the town, but I haven’t actually seen much proof of that yet. I mean, people have died on their watch before, remember that missing hiker.” Payton said. Claire nodded.

“Well, you don’t have to take the spell down. It’s on our terms, so if we say it stays, then it will stay. Just think about it, okay.” Payton nodded. “We’ll see. I will think about it, like I said. I promise, I’m considering it okay.” She said. Claire smiled. “I’m proud of you Payton. Trust me, they won’t let us down again.” And Payton trusted Claire. That was never a question. The question was, was she ready to trust the Dawsons with her life, and that of her family.

Tuesday October 9th, 2007

“Yeah I saw Claire’s picture. But I didn’t know there was a party on Sunday evening.” Mike said as he and Payton walked to class. Payton nodded. “Mila dragged us all down there.” And Mike cursed a little, damning his parents’ idea of a lovely family vacation which has just been ruined by the constant bickering that went on when his parents thought he was asleep.

“Well, at least you had fun on founders day right?” he asked, and Payton smiled. “Yeah, I mean I’m a sucker for town history. I interviewed Celine, the major’s daughter, about her involvement in this year’s festivities. I get to use that interview for my class, so that’s good.” Payton said. Mike nodded, but he was too distracted to notice what she actually said.

“Hey… things aren’t good?” Payton then asked, and Mike shrugged. Part of him didn’t want to bother Payton with this. Another part of him felt like he had to vent. “The usual drama. You know my parents, they don’t do well if they’re forced in the same place for more than 24 hours. It will be fine, eventually. They will figure out a solution.”

Payton stopped walking for a second to look at Mike closely. And she knew she was doing the thing, but she didn’t care. “I just don’t want to see you unhappy, okay. They should be putting you first. You’re their son. I know they care about you, they just suck at showing it. But they do care.” Payton couldn’t explain how she knew, so she hoped he didn’t ask. When he just nodded softly and then kept on walking, Payton sighed a bit in relief.

Then she went to class, and she had to get used to seeing Jason in the classroom for a little while, but by the lunchtime, it felt like he never really left. Seth and Jason’s names were back on everyone’s lips, the story being that they had a family tragedy to explain their absence lately. Payton found it a bit ironic, to label it a family tragedy. If anything was tragic it was her family, which was a knot in her stomach that had started to form over the past couple of days.

It was one thing to allow vampires like the Dawson to stay in town, given they didn’t cause trouble. But she had gone from not allowing that to considering opening up the border to a herd of vampires which wasn’t what her ancestors had in mind either. She knew it was important to find a good balance between the two. But it wasn’t easy.

Wednesday October 10th, 2007

It was Wednesday afternoon when the idea came to Payton, and she explained it to Claire later that evening. “I can create a spell. Using a pendant like Lucy used to suppress our magic as kids. I can use it to suppress the magic from the spell at the border. And that ensures our safety at the gathering. As long as we’re alive, the spell remains down. If anything is to happen to us, the spell gets reactivated and they all die.”

It was a lot to take in, but Claire got the outline of it. And she had to admit, the plan worked. “So then each and every one of the people there has an interest in keeping us safe. And the people we care about. We can say we’re activating the spell if one of our friends gets hurt too. Or someone from the school.” Claire added. Payton nodded at her, scribing away on her notebook. “Yes, good idea.” She said, then putting a dramatic period at the end. “There. Now we just need to talk about this with the Dawsons and we will be safe.” Payton said. Claire nodded. “As long as James doesn't get all stuck up about it.” Payton said, and Claire pulled a ‘Payton, don’t do this’ face so Payton sighed. “Yeah yeah, I know. We're allies now. But I can say that he’s not my favorite, okay. Neither are Alyson and Dylan. I mean, they’re still not back?” Payton asked, and Claire shrugged.

And maybe it was a bit odd indeed for 1/4th of the Dawsons not to be in town days before a big meeting between their allies, but then again Claire knew very little about vampire politics. She barely knew anything about magical politics, unlike Payton who had been pen-pals with Sebastian Ambroise, the eldest son of a powerful witch family in Europe. Then again, ever since the break-up Payton had showed little interest in the European continent, aside from her AP French class.

Which was what she was studying for when Dean appeared in front of her, and Payton slowly looked up from her notebook. “Hi Dean.” She said, trying not to sound too annoyed. But then took a seat, and Payton sighed deeply. “I broke up with Samantha.”

“You did what?” Payton asked, frowning at him in confusion. Then her face softened when she saw Dean was actually struggling with something, and she moved her notebook aside. “Is that why Mila asked me to keep an eye out for anything Samantha might publish? Regarding you? Because you broke up with her?”

Dean blinked a few times. How did Payton always know exactly what was going on? It was pretty mindlowing. “Eh, yes. In fact, I also need to talk to Mila. Do you know where she is?” he asked, and Payton shook her head. Then her eyes narrowed. “Dean… Is there some dirt out there on you that she might want to publish? Did you do anything?” she asked.

Dean frowned at that, offended. But then he figured out Payton had her reasons of saying this considering his behavior shortly after the break-up last year. Back when he was still trying to convince himself that he was 100% straight. He fucked up then. He knew that now. “No, I didn’t do anything. But Sam… Sam has her moments. She sometimes doesn’t think stuff through entirely and she might act on an impulse and I don’t know what she might write about me. To get back at me for dumping her, or whatever.”

Payton then rested her hand on her arm. “Samantha looked anything but set on revenge at the party on Sunday.” She then said, and Dean looked up when Sunday was mentioned. Sunday which he spend in Max’ bed almost the entire day. Free of that weight on his chest of having to hurt Samantha. Sunday was great.

“Oh… Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But if she seems chill then that’s great. Less chance she might do something. But still… thanks for keeping an eye out. I should go and find Mila then.” He said. And then he was off again, walking through the school but unsuccessful in trying to find Mila so he texted her instead.

However Mila didn’t pay attention to the text much. Instead she was scrolling all the way back through her text history with Katie. She had started using hearts in her texts two months or so since they had met, and their texts hadn’t been about school aside from that very first one asking which page they had to learn for science.

They had texted a lot in between then and now, talking about everything from planning shopping trips to school gossip. They texted late night ‘you awake’ texts to one another so they could talk until hours in the night. In some way, these text conversations were a big part of how she fell for Katie. There wasn’t the usual pulic flirtation that happened around boys. There was no seat-moving, no flower-picking and no leaning against her locker. But they had this. They had these effortless conversations, never more than a few minutes apart in between each conversation. And she would take this over any big romantic gesture.

If only she could kiss her. If only she could kiss her again, and show her that it was all going to be okay. That together they were strong enough to face whatever life offered them. Mila wanted to kiss Katie so badly, she fell asleep dreaming about the last kiss they shared.

Thursday October 11th, 2007

Which made waking up the next morning horrible, as her first thought was of Katie and she got out of bed with less willingness to move than she usually had. For a little bit, standing by the bathroom door, she considered up to Katie’s dorm right now and ask her. Ask if they could talk. Ask if they could just hold each other. She probably wouldn’t ask for a kiss. Or maybe she would, once she saw her. But she would try not to overwhelm her. That was the one thing she couldn’t do. But it didn’t matter anyways. Because Mila wasn’t going up there. Instead, she climbed in the shower and tried to get the images from her dream out of her brain so she would be able to at least focus a little bit.

Which may have been a good idea, since Katie was already worried about everything. The main thing being something she had never worried about, but now she did: Fashion. “Claire? You got a minute?” she asked, standing in the door to her room. Claire checked the clock and then nodded, before she noticed Katie was looking at her with her head tilted.

“Sorry. It’s just… You’re so great with clothes. I love what you’re wearing. That’s why I need you. My parents are flying over for the parent-teacher meeting in two weeks. They want to hear about my schoolwork now that the university plan is switching to a higher gear.” She said excitingly, and Claire smiled. “Right, you’re applying to Washington State...” Claire recalled, then taking in the variety of nice dresses and blazers hanging and laying around. Claire couldn’t help but smile because of it, and as she was standing there she witnessed Katie nervously relocate the dresses. First by length, then by color and now she was moving them by date of purchase. And every time Claire pointed out the same dress for the principal talk. And then same one for the dinner with her parents. And after three times, Claire realized she wasn’t here to discuss dresses.

“Katie, you got this.” Claire said as she got up and grabbed her bag. “You’re doing great at school. You have nothing to worry about. Come here…” And she leaned in for a hug, feeling Katie relax a little bit more. But Claire knew she is on the verge of talking, and because of that she looked at Katie once more after she breaks the hug. “Anything else?” Claire asked, and Katie sighed. There it was.

“It’s just my parents coming to town. They haven’t stayed here for longer than a weekend in two years. They’ll be here a whole week.” She sighed, and then she looked up in shock, realizing what she just said. Not only did she talk about her parents so that she wouldn’t have to talk about Mila, but she also talked about her parents in front of Claire.

Claire then breathed in and out deeply, and she looked down. “It’s okay. I’m glad you get to have your parents around for a few days.” But Katie can’t ignore the fact that she was insensitive. She shook her head in frustration and walked to the other side of her room in angry strides. She was angry, at herself. “I swear these days I need to glue my mouth shut. I can’t say this, can’t say that. All the while there’s only one thing I want to scream through the halls of this place.” Claire lifted her eyebrow, knowing what Katie was thinking and she lifted her chin in anticipation until the beeping of text sounds echoed through the room, and Katie reached for her phone on her nightstand.

“Girls night at Samantha’s this weekend.” Katie read, and she looked at Claire who apparently got the same message. “You going?” Katie asked. Claire hadn’t looked up yet, and she bit her lip a little. Then she looked up slowly and saw Katie’s pleading eyes, begging for Claire to say yes so that she wouldn’t have to face Mila. It was all there in her thoughts, but Claire would have understood that her friend needed her even without her powers. On the other side the alliance rested on the fact that the Silverstones showed up, and without the cooperation of the other vampires the whole town could be in danger…

“Sorry, I already made some plans.” She said, tucking away her phone. “The dresses are nice though. Good luck with your parents.” Claire said, then leaning in to hug Katie once more before she walked out of her room and downstairs to the cafeteria for breakfast. And as if she didn’t just blantly lied to one of her close friends in favor of going to a gathering at the Dawsons house, Seth and Jason were now sitting at one of the big tables, and both of them were looking at her expectantly. And once again, Claire knew why they were there without having to use her powers.

“I know that we mentioned you will have to blend in, but nobody pays attention this early in the day.” She said, sitting down next to Jason because, ambush as this was, they sat on either side of the table. Claire then decided to eat a few spoons of her cereal, while Jason actually bit an apple and Seth had a granola bar broken into smaller pieces, although Claire couldn’t tell if he ate one already.

“Okay, what is it?” Claire then said, moving her breakfast to the side a bit and Jason put the apple down now that Claire had decided to address the situation. “We, wanted to go over the people that will be there at the gathering.” Seth spoke, looking in between Claire and Jason and he couldn’t help but feel the sting of Claire’s judgement because unlike Jason he didn’t touch his food. So he quickly shoved a piece of granola in his mouth before he pulled out a piece of paper from his bag. “This is everyone we have confirmed so far. If you want we can go over them during break.”

Claire looked at the list and at the names on it, which sounded very old and more ancient as the list went down. Some of them had last names, others didn’t. An equal amount of men and women too, apparently. Claire nodded. “Eh yeah, sounds good. Come find me by my locker.” She said, and Seth nodded too, taking the list and tucking it away.

“Hi.” Justin then suddenly spoke from behind Seth, patting his shoulder and smiling at Claire. “I don’t see you guys around at breakfast often.” He said, and Jason exchanged a look with Claire. That’s when the laughter that approached their table stopped, and Payton and Mila stood on the end of the table, frozen a bit.

It took Claire to make eye-contact with her sister and giving her a small nod before Payton softly unfroze, and she hesitantly put her tray down as Justin started to complain about the load of homework he had for his Spanish class. And then the entire table turned their heads as Jason spoke, commenting how Justin was going to struggle even more next year, because the material only got harder. To that, Justin smiled.

“I’m good with the material. My mom is Mexican. But the homework just sucks. I mean, I had to sleep at home last night, because Chris had this huge math test he needed help with. But like, I totally forgot we had this entire Spanish report due which takes a lot of time, no matter how good you’re at Spanish. So I’m totally going to have to work on that during break.” To that, Claire nodded understanding and then her eyes drifted to Seth, who just gave her a smile in return.

The same smile which was on his face as he waited by her locker, and Claire looked around in the hallway to see if nobody was keeping an eye on them. “When I said find me at my locker I didn’t mean stalk me, you know.” She said, unable to hide her smile a little because this was the first time that a guy waited by her locker like this and it was... something. “Sorry, I will try to be less all American 16-year old and wait by the locker of the girl I want to speak next time.” He said rather seriously. Claire rolled her eyes a little, and then put her books away before they walked into the classroom next to her row of lockers. Claire sat down on one of the seats and Seth flipped around one of the chairs before putting down the paper in front of Claire.

“Okay so the list got updated, some more people agreed to come. And… Well, I added some names.” Seth spoke, his sentence drifting off as Claire scanned the bottom of the page to find her and Payton’s name on there. And she sighed. She sighed because she knew he wanted her to be there, needed her to be there. He relied on her to be there, to show their friends that they could all work together. So Claire looked down at the list once more before giving him a small nod. “Yeah… I’ll be there.” She said softly. Seth smiled at that, and then he pointed back at the top of the list, and he started to describe the person whose name was written first. Claire learned their names, where in the world they came from and how strong their connection to the Dawsons was on a scale of 1 to 5. Most people got a 3 or a 4, with an occasional 2 thrown in there. But only one person got a 5.

“Alyssa. Hi. It’s Jason. I just wanted to check in and see if you got James’ e-mail. Maybe you changed your e-mail or something, I don’t know. I have no idea how often people change e-mails, if it’s anything like phones…. Anyways, can you call me when you get this message, just so I can confirm and to be sure. Thanks.” He said. He then ended the voicemail and headed to his next class when he saw Seth across the hallway.

“You talked to Claire?” he asked, and Seth nodded. “Yup. She is up to date and she promised she would be there.” He said, and Jason sighed deeply. At least that was going well. Not that Jason missed the fact that he only mentioned Claire being there, but there was still time. Payton could still be convinced. And that was what Jason was going to try the next class he shared with Payton. Which happened to be biology in second period on Friday.

Friday October 12th, 2007

“Hi.” Jason said, as he took a seat next to Payton, who looked up from where she was making newspaper notes. Payton frowned, then looked around and then looked back at Jason. “What are you doing?” she asked, and Jason tried to gauge her mood, thinking about what he was going to say. When her face didn’t stay angry for longer than a few seconds, he decided to risk his chance. “I’m convincing you to come to the gathering.” He said, not missing how Mike looked at them frowning. But Jason was still looking at Payton. “You’re the one person who can help. Please, consider it.” He said, and then he got up from the seat again. “Sorry. Was just asking Payton for some help on an English paper. She’s all yours.” Jason said, and Mike took his seat next to Payton while Jason moved back to his regular seat somewhere at the back of the class.

Mike looked over his shoulder once as Jason plopped down on his seat before he turned to Payton who was purposefully not looking at Mike. “Just ignore that. It’s nothing.” She said, and Mike grabbed out his biology book with a little chuckle. “Payton, I wasn’t going to say anything. He had some family stuff going on and you’re the editor of the newspaper. Of course he comes to you for help on an English paper.” Mike said, and then he turned to where the teacher was standing at the front of the class.

A class which assigned homework over the weekend, which most of the students groaned about as they left the classroom, apparently many of the girls favoring a girls night at Samantha’s over studying micro-organisms over the weekend. Payton found that funny though. She hadn’t actually received an invitation to Samantha’s invite, but she did have Jason basically beg her to come to the gathering. So either way, she was in the same position as many of the people in their class. Or maybe not.

Payton realized that as she walked up to her room at the end of the day, her choice of how to spend her weekend was quickly made as she saw the lapis argentum on her windowsill glow up, and she quickly threw her bag onto her bed before moving towards it. Then she carefully picked it up as if she was handling a fragile newborn, and she looked around on her desk for a note, eventually finding an old post-it which she wrote “Divitia” on before sticking it to Claire’s desk. Then she returned her focus back to the stone in her hands, and she breathed in deeply before she started the spell.

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