A/N: I'm really not expecting too big of a response to this update. Let's face it, it's been damn near six months. But, I'm updating anyway, because hey, I don't quit something I start, and I am still in love with this story. Hopefully there are still a few of you out there who are still too. Thank you to those who do review. You rock. -Jess
Chapter Fifty Two: Fault
A sudden, thumping sound made Ellie stir awake from her slumber. Her eyes fluttered open and she gently shifted her body back and forth on the hard, uncomfortable mattress. She shivered a little in the cold, drafty air of the room above the Heights, curling her body into itself tighter for warmth. Her eyes closed again as she began to drift back into sleep.
Then she heard the sound again, this time louder than before. She heard a rough voice swear angrily.
At the sound of the voice, her eyes opened and she sat up in the bed, this time more alert. She looked across the room where the only other bed in the room was stationed.
It was empty.
"Henry..." she murmured to herself, then called out his name, "Henry? Are you alright?"
There was no answer, so Ellie threw the thin covers back and got up from the bed, sucking in a sharp breath as her feet hit the cold floor. She hugged her arms around herself tightly as she went to the stairs leading down to the auto garage, following where she had heard the sound come from.
"Henry? What are you doing out of bed? You know if you had to use the bathroom you could have..." Her voice trailed off as she came down the stairs and looked into the auto garage.
She first saw the drum barrel that had been knocked over. A broken bottle of Jack Daniels was lying near it. Several other smaller and larger bottles of gin and whiskey, still intact, were scattered around it.
Henry was sitting on the ground in a corner, panting heavily. He sat with one leg thrown out in front of him, the other tucked into his groin. His right arm rested on the extended leg, the inside of the arm bared. He clutched a syringe poised just over the skin of where his elbow met his forearm.
His eyes met with Ellie's and held for a long time. He looked at her with a grim wariness, his breathing uneven and labored. Ellie didn't move from her spot at the last step, her mouth agape in horror.
When she could finally speak, she had to fight to keep her voice from trembling, "What are you doing, Henry?"
He didn't answer, and she came forward, stepping around the broken glass and the other bottles to come over to where he sat in the corner. "What...are you doing?" she repeated more firmly.
Henry shook his head, "It's nothing." he muttered.
"Nothing?" she cried, "Is that what you call this?" she snatched up the syringe and flung it away across the garage, "Is that what you call those?" she jabbed her finger at the alcohol. "What the hell are you trying to do, Henry? If you really want to kill yourself then why don't you just rip out your feeding tube?" She knelt down and grasped his torso to help him, "Get up," she ordered angrily, "Get up, and get back into bed!"
"Just leave me be, Ellie." he said, his voice dull and listless "Stop trying to save me."
The words struck her to the core, but she wasn't about to allow him to see that, "Be quiet- just be quiet and get up! If you could get up and risk stopping your heart just to shoot whiskey into your veins then you sure as hell can get up to get back in bed!" She shook him by the arm hard, "I said get up, damn you!"
All of a sudden, he gave her a rough shove that she hadn't expected him to even be strong enough to give, yelling, "Stop it! Just stop!" She saw the moisture glistening in his eyes as he whispered again, "Please... stop."
Ellie shook her head, "Not unless you tell me where."
"You don't have any money, Henry. There's no way you could have been able to afford all this alcohol. Who gave it to you?"
Henry hung his head, "I stole the money." he said quietly.
"No, you didn't. Tell me the truth. Where did you get this?"
He didn't speak again, but he did raise his head to look at her. His eyes spoke volumes.
Ellie's eyes narrowed, "You mean he-" she cut herself off, pressing her lips together tightly. After a short pause, she reached out to Henry again, "Come on," she said, her voice like steel, "You're getting back into bed."
Although he had become somewhat stronger than he had been when he first left the hospital, Henry was still weak, and after some stumbling and struggling around, Ellie managed to help him back up the stairs and back into the hard, uncomfortable army mattress.
As she pulled the thin, ratty sheett over his frail body, she paused for a moment, looking down at him. She just couldn't believe that the ill, gaunt man in the bed had once been the tall, robust young boy she'd lived with, cooked for, cleaned after and taken care of, "I don't understand, Henry," she murmured, "How could you let him do this to you?"
Henry was looking back at her sadly, "Because there's no use fighting anymore, Ellie. Can't you see that yet? There isn't." his own voice dropped to a whisper, "He's won."
Ellie shook her head again, "No, he hasn't." She reached out and gripped his chin with her fingers, "You listen to me," she said firmly, "I know that things seem very bleak for you right now. I know that you think that your life has ended and that you'll never be able to fix the things that you ruined. I know that you've lost all your hope. But I'm telling you Henry, it is never, ever too late to do the right thing- just as long as you're still alive. I know that you still know how to do right. I still believe that you will. "
He was quiet for a long moment, before replying, "Then you're wrong."
But she shook her head, "No, I'm not." she said, "And even if you can't do the right thing, I can. And I will."
Cat was up well before dawn. She had been sleeping less and less lately. It wasn't that she was never tired or weary. She avoided sleeping because she wanted to avoid the dreams that she had been having; terrible nightmares where all of her worst fears came true.
On the nights that Heath was home, she stayed laying awake in bed, staring into the darkness as she became lost in her own thoughts. On the nights (and days) like this one when he wasn't there, she would go out for long walks or runs in the fields and plains surrounding the property. She walked or ran for sometimes hours, losing herself in her thoughts to the point where she lost track of time or anything else she wanted to temporarily forget about.
She dressed herself quickly, putting on some loose fitting shorts, an old t shirt of Heath's and some gym shoes. As she sat down before the mirror to pull her hair back into a ponytail, she stopped short, looking at herself.
Her cheeks were drawn, and her face was bordering on appearing almost gaunt- even more so than the last time she had bothered to really take a good look at herself in the mirror- which she couldn't even remember when that had last been. Cat knew that her drastic weight loss was probably due to the running combined with her appetite that seemed to decrease more and more. None of her clothes fit her well anymore and she had taken to wearing sweatpants with drawstrings to even be able to dress herself. She could have went out to the city to buy new ones at any time, but she just didn't feel like it now.
Cat turned away from the reflection. She didn't want to continue to look at the girl in the mirror. If she did, she would have had to acknowledge that she was the girl with the gaunt, drawn face, the girl with the hair that had begun to gray at the temples, the girl with the empty eyes. She didn't want to acknowledge any of that. It had just become easier for her to stop seeing herself completely.
Outside, she stood on the porch, pausing for a moment to close her eyes. She breathed in the scent of the morning air, listening to the sounds of distant grasshoppers and birds. Even then, after so many years had passed, the sounds and smell of her home hadn't changed. Those small, familiar things that she took more and more notice of were some of the only things that Cat found herself taking comfort and a small measure of peace in anymore.
She couldn't go to Ellie like she could as a girl to discuss and share her problems. Not anymore. Ellie busied herself much of the time with taking care of Henry and Cat didn't want to see Ellie, because seeing Ellie meant seeing Henry- and that was something that she just couldn't do. Heath had forbidden her from even being near Henry, and even on the days that Heath was gone, she still made sure to keep her distance. She found herself plagued with guilt when even thinking about her brother. The defeated look that had been in his eyes the day that he returned from the hospital continued to haunt her, even months later. Even worse was the nagging sensation Cat had that she was to blame for everything that was happening to him, and that she should have been doing something to help.
She couldn't talk to Heath about her depression and angst either. Not anymore. Not when he was so sensitive now and took everything so personally. Cat knew that if she even raised the subject of her being unsatisfied about the smallest thing, then he would immediately take it as a sign that she was unhappy with him, which would inevitably begin another argument. If what happened during those times could be called arguments, anyway.
What had begun as disagreements between Cat and Heath in the past had now become nothing more than opportunities for Heath to launch into a tirade against her for what was sometimes the smallest offense.
The Cat that had grown up in this house would have never allowed anyone to yell at her in that way, not even Heath. Not without putting up a fight. Even the Cat that returned with him to the Heights would have given him back just as good as she got. But one day, when sitting in the window sill of their bedroom as Heath let into her for what he thought was 'looking at him the wrong way,' Cat realized that she wasn't that same girl that had returned with him to this place. She'd simply averted her gaze away from Heath and closed her eyes, knowing that she wasn't the Cat that had grown up there, doing exactly as she pleased. She wasn't adventurous, daring, or rebellious anymore.
Now, Cat was just tired. Too tired to fight. Too tired to miss that person that she had said goodbye to so long ago.
She descended the porch steps, beginning to enter into a gentle jog down the driveway. As she went further and further, she quickened her pace, until she was running down the dirt path that led into the forest, away from the main road.
When she had gone about half a mile, Cat slowed her pace. She had suddenly begun to feel as though the ground beneath her was uneven and slanted, as if she were running on the edge of a very steep slope, just about to lose her balance. Looking down, she was surprised to see that the ground was straight, smooth and flat.
But the world around her was wavering, and her head felt heavy. Cat came to a complete stop as her dizziness escalated to the point where her vision started to blur. She closed her eyes, raising a hand to her forehead as she stumbled back and forth on her feet until she finally dropped to her knees, panting.
There was an excruciating, intense pain in the center of her head, feeling as though at any moment it would bore through her crown and split it clear in two. She pressed her hands on either side of her temples, as if doing so would drive the pain out of her head.
But it didn't. In fact, it only worsened. Cat gasped and moaned in agony, her eyes squeezed shut as she fell backwards onto the ground. The blood was rushing into her head, muffling her hearing so that all she could make out was a pounding, rushing sound.
Suddenly, there was no sound at all, and even when she opened her eyes there was darkness.
Her eyes rolled back into her head and her body began seizing and jerking back and forth uncontrollably.
Then there was nothing at all, as Cat lost consciousness completely...
The first thing that she saw when she came to, was that the sky was darkening.
Cat's eyes slowly opened, her vision was still slightly blurred and she blinked and rubbed at her eyes to try and improve it.
She slowly sat up, looking around her, then back up at the sky with a frown.
It couldn't have been evening already. It just couldn't have. Not when she had first come out for her run in the early morning. If it really was approaching the evening then that meant she had been passed out for hours.
No one at home would know where she was or what had happened to her.
It was this last thought that made a lurch enter Cat's belly.
Suppose Heath had come home to find her not there...
She hastily stood to her feet, trying to ignore the wave of nausea that rose in her belly as she did. She swooped her fingers through her hair, taking a deep breath. After taking several, she turned back in the direction of the house, her steps slow and unsteady. After she had gone for a little ways though, she managed to go at a steady stride.
Sweat had formed beneath her armpits and was brekaing out in tiny droplets across her forehead. She reached up her hand to wipe them away and realized that her hands were shaking in small, jittery tremors. Cat only kept going though. She had to get home. She just had to get home.
To her relief, she didn't see Heath's truck parked in the driveway of the house. If she hurried, she would be able to take a shower before he returned so he wouldn't be able to tell that she had left. Then she would go back to bed and try to rest and forget about what had happened to her back in the woods, whatever 'it' had been.
She slowly and haltingly climbed the stairs of the house. It was dark inside, but she didn't rush to turn on the hall light, leaning up against the front door.
Cat gave a small shriek of surprise, startling at the sound of the familiar voice calling her name, "Oh my God, Ellie!" she cried at the silhouette standing inside the hall closet door, "What the hell are you doing scaring me like that?" She flipped on the light switch as Ellie came out of the closet.
"I'm sorry, Cat." Ellie said, "I had to talk to you alone and I didn't want Heath to know."
"If you've only come here to cause trouble, you can turn right back around and get back to Henry and the Heights," Cat muttered. The shock was beginning to wear off and the familiar fatigue and dizziness was returning to her head, which was still throbbing with pain. "I can't take anymore of that- not right now."
"Cat, you know I wouldn't even be stepping foot inside this house unless it was important. This is about Henry. And I'm here because if I don't do something, he'll die." She went back into the closet and pulled out an empty glass vodka bottle, holding it out for Cat to see.
Cat stared at it, "Where did you get that?"
"In a drum barrel in the Heights. He's got a collection in it that he's been hiding for I don't know how long."
"Probably enough to kill him in a week if we do nothing." She paused then, frowning as she stared at Cat. "Are you alright?"
Cat was gripping the banister at the foot of the stairs tightly, her eyes shut. A second dizzy spell had started to come upon her, along with the nausea, which she struggled to fight against.
"Cat?" Ellie called out sharper, "Cat, what is it?"
"N-nothing ," Cat said faintly, "It's nothing Ellie."
But Ellie was already touching a hand to her forehead and smoothing the beads of sweat from her brow, "You're feverish," she muttered, "And you're shaking. Here, sit down."
Cat would have tried to fight her, but she felt far too weak. Before she knew it, the two of them were sitting down on the bottom step of the stairs. She reached out her hand and closed it around the rung of the bannister, leaning away from Ellie and against the wood.
"How long has this been going on?" Ellie demanded, her voice concerned and impatient.
"I...I don't know...I can't remember," Cat murmured, "Don't worry, I'm just...I'm just tired."
"No, you're more than that. You're sick. Have you told Heath about this?"
Cat gave a soft, broken chuckle, "No." What did she think Heath would do about it?
"We have to get you to a doctor,"
"No...no doctor...no hospital..." Cat didn't want to go to the hospital. She'd spent hours in hospitals. First for her mother, her father, Ellie, then Henry- she'd had enough of them after all of that.
"Yes!" Ellie insisted, "C'mon, I'm going to get Henry ready, we'll all have to go.".
"No...no..." Cat moaned. She couldn't let Heath return to find all of them gone. He would be angry that she hadn't waited for him. He wouldn't understand.
But suddenly she heard the sound of an engine rolling up the driveway outside. The headlights flashed through the hall window. Heath was home.
Ellie reached out and pulled Cat close. Cat didn't know if the gesture was meant to comfort her, or keep her from budging from the seat on the step before Heath came inside. But she was too tired to care then. All she wanted to do was sleep.
A few moments passed. She heard the sound of steps coming up the porch steps. The door unlocked, then opened and Heath came inside, followed by Harry. He stopped short as he saw them on the steps, his brow raising in obvious surprise.
"What is this?" he asked cautiously, "What's going on?"
Cat opened her mouth to speak, but her weariness made her too slow and Ellie beat her to it, "Cat's sick." she announced, "I think she needs to go to a hospital."
"No..." Cat murmured faintly. She eased herself out of Ellie's arms and managed to stand up by herself, but still held onto the banister, "Really, I'm fine."
"No, she isn't fine." Ellie insisted, "She needs to see a doctor right now."
Heath paused at that, "For what?" he asked.
"For what?" Ellie repeated incredulously, "Just look at her. She has a fever, Heath. She's shaking, she can barely hold her head up right now and she's lost too much weight. Haven't you been able to see something was wrong? Or have you been so obsessed with ruling everything and everyone that you don't even care anymore?"
His eyes met with Cat's, and she saw that his face seemed to change for an instant. She thought she saw something like the smallest bit of worry in his eyes. It was gone in the next second however, and he was looking at Ellie again with the cool derision he always seemed to reserve for her. "What are you even doing in here?" he demanded, "Shouldn't you be worrying about your other little patient? Why don't you get back to the Heights and worry about him, and leave her to me?"
"I am here for Henry!" Ellie snapped, "I'm here for both of them, and I won't let you destroy this family anymore than you already have!"
"Ellie, no," Cat pleaded, "Please, don't start-"
"And don't you start defending him, Cat, not when he doesn't deserve it! He's the one who gave Henry the alcohol!" Ellie cried out angrily, "He's been supporting your brother's habit just so he can kill him!"
Cat was instantly and jarringly shaken from her weariness, "What?" She exclaimed, "No, no, that can't be! Heath-"
"Don't listen to her, Cat." Heath said swiftly, "She's nothing but a goddamn liar, and Henry's nothing but a worthless drunk."
"I'm a liar?" Ellie snatched up the bottle she'd brought with her, "If I'm a liar then where did Henry get this? Where did he get all of that alcohol that you know damn well is stocked in that drum barrel?"
"He's an addict, they'll do anything to support their habit." he replied evenly.
"I'm with him for every hour of every second of every day," Ellie retorted, "Henry hasn't left that room since the day you threw him out of this house. There's no way he could have gotten the money, or the alcohol without help- your help."
"You can't prove anything." he said. "Not one damn thing." There was almost a tight kind of smile on his lips that made Cat feel a new kind of ache in her stomach, beginning to wonder if the horrible accusation wasn't as crazy as she wanted it to be.
"We'll just see what the police have to say about that-"
"Stop!" Cat broke in then. She could feel the nausea and dizziness coming back over her, but she fought it desperately, "Please, just stop it, both of you! Ellie, you're talking crazy, Heath wouldn't do something like-"
"Oh for God's sake, open your eyes, Cat! Stop being so blind to what he is! You don't have a clue about what he wouldn't do. You don't have a clue about what he has done to-"
Before she could even finish, Heath crossed the distance between them in two swift strides, grabbing ahold of her forearm, "Get out." he said, all traces of the smile gone from his face and voice, "You get the hell out of here."
Ellie struggled to pull her arm free as she retorted, "Why? Because I know the truth? Because you're afraid that she's about to find out what you really are?"
"Heath, stop! You're going to hurt her!" Cat reached out and tried to tug his arm to get him to release his grip on Ellie's. Her grasp was far too weak though, and Heath didn't budge.
"Go upstairs, Cat." he said, speaking to her but keeping his gaze locked with Ellie's.
"Cat, don't you go anywhere!" Ellie snapped, "Not until you hear the truth."
Heath squeezed Ellie's arm tighter, pulling her closer to him as he muttered in a low voice, "I swear to God, Ellie...if you don't get the hell out right now-"
"You'll what?" she retorted, "Hit me? Go ahead, I don't care, she is going to hear this!"
"Cat, get the hell upstairs!" Heath suddenly yelled at her, making her jump. Nevertheless, she stayed where she was, gripping the banister with both hands for support for her knees that suddenly felt weak and unstable.
"Heath, what is she talking about?" Cat asked shakily, feeling a gradual sensation of dread begin to creep up in her belly. She'd seen the new look that was on Heath's face. He may have yelled at her, but one look in his eyes told her that it wasn't out of anger- it was out of fear. The sight of that fear was enough to worry her to the point that she wasn't even sure she wanted to know the answer to her question.
But Heath cut in, his voice even harsher than before, "Did you hear what I said?, Don't listen to her, just get upstairs, now!"
"He killed Francie!" Ellie suddenly screamed. Almost as soon as the words had left her mouth, Heath's fist cracked across her jaw and she went reeling to the bottom step, falling down upon it hard. Cat cried out her name in horror and immediately fell to her knees beside Ellie, the tears already falling down her cheeks. She helped to draw her up, wiping the blood away from her lip gingerly.
"Oh God...oh my God!" she whirled her head around to look at Heath, "What is the matter with you?" she shrieked, "This is Ellie!"
"Tell her, Heath!" Ellie screamed, panting heavily. No tears shone in her eyes as she wiped the rest of the blood away from her already swollen lip, "You tell her the real reason that Francie died that night! Tell her the real reason that Harry lost his mother! Tell her that you just sat there and watched her bleed to death instead of calling the ambulance that could have saved her life!"
Heath had already backed away from them, towards the door as he rubbed at the knuckle that had crashed against Ellie's jaw. That panicked fear was still there in his eyes. There was something in his eyes that reminded Cat of a caged animal. Their eyes met and held. Her eyes widened and her heart skipped a beat. There was no mistaking that look, or his silence. The truth stared back at her from the other side of his emerald eyes.
"...No." she whispered, "No. Heath, no..." she shook her head wildly as her voice cracked, "No!" A sob burst forth from her lips, "It's not true...it's not true!"
"It is." Ellie said, "He knows it is. He killed Francie, Cat. And now he's trying to kill Henry."
Cat was still shaking her head as she cried softly. The room was beginning to spin again and she felt like she wanted to throw up. "Heath," she whimpered, as if speaking his name would be enough to end this nightmare and make Heath assure her that Ellie's horrifying accusations were false, "Heath, please..."
But it wasn't, and he didn't. When Heath did speak again, it was to Ellie, his voice was clear, hard and unyielding as his eyes, "If you ever show your face in this house, or on this property again, I'll kill you, do you understand, Ellie? You stay away from here, and you stay away from her." he nodded at Cat before turning toward the door again and walking outside without another word.
They sat there for a long time, the only sound in the room being Cat's soft crying. Her eyes swept across the room, and suddenly fell on a small figure in the corner. Harry was sitting with his knees pulled into his chest in a tight ball. His eyes were squeezed shut, and his hands were clamped onto either sides of his ears, as if doing so would somehow shut out all the sights and sounds of the world around him...
"Don't go." Cat pleaded, "Please. Please don't go."
She, Ellie, and Harry stood on the porch of the house. It was only a short while after the episode with Heath on the stairs. Only a short while during which Ellie had packed a single bag of her belongings and called a cab. Heath had left and still not returned, and Ellie hadn't wanted to still be there when he did. All the while, Cat had begged her to change her mind.
"You can't just leave Henry here, he needs you. What's going to happen if you go?"
"He'll probably keep drinking." Ellie replied briskly, "He'll keep getting sicker and sicker until he finally dies...it's exactly what Heath wants to happen."
Cat shut her eyes, "Don't say that."
"Why not? It's the truth. If you could just accept that, we'd both be on our way back to New York now."
"Ellie...Heath lost his temper. I know he hurt you, but I promise that he didn't mean it. He didn't." she knew how empty and hollow the words sounded. Cat even know how untrue they were- but sheer desperation forced her to say them anyway. "He's just..he's angry and upset. You know he wouldn't really want to hurt you. You know that he's sorry."
"Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. But it doesn't matter- not anymore."
Cat shook her head, "Don't leave me here, Ellie." she whispered in a final entreaty "Don't leave me here alone."
Despite the ugly, purplish welt on her jaw, Ellie's face was serene and resolved. She took Cat's hands in her own, looking her square in the eye, "Come with me, Cat. There's nothing left for you here. You're sick, and staying here isn't going to make you better. The only thing Heath is going to be concerned about is keeping you locked up here to make sure that you don't leave him. Come back with me to New York. We'll call Edgar at the airport, he'll wire us the money for two plane tickets. Once we get home we can think of something to get Henry and Harry out of here and-"
Cat pulled her hands away, "I can't do that." she muttered, "I can't do that..."
"Whatever it is that you think you're staying here for doesn't exist anymore, Cat. It's gone, and it's not coming back, no matter how long you stay here, and no matter how hard you try with him. Heath's gone, Cat. He left you the day that he drove away from the Heights on that motorcycle- he left, and he never really came back. Deep down, you know that."
Cat couldn't accept that. Accepting it would have meant admitting that she had been deluding herself for months in believing that she and Heath had a second chance with each other. Accepting it would have forced her to face the fact that her immaturity and selfishness had succeeded in permanently and irreparably damaging their love. She would have to accept that her cruelty to Heath had made him into a monster that was obsessed with wreaking revenge on anyone he thought had wronged him, and ensuring that he controlled every person within his influence that had once controlled him- including her. She would have to live with that forever- that nearly everything that was wrong with her life, as well as her family's lives, was all her fault.
Cat wasn't strong enough for that. She didn't feel strong enough for anything anymore.
She threw her arms around Ellie, clinging to her as if she would never see her again. Perhaps she wouldn't...
"I'm sorry, Ellie," she whispered to the older woman that had served as her second mother, "I'm so sorry."
When Ellie drew back, Cat saw a thin sheen reflected in her eyes, "You really think I want your apologies for this?" she asked, although her voice was shaking, she almost sounded angry, "I just want you to be safe! I want you to be happy!"
Cat stared at her for a long moment, shaking her head as she replied almost as soon as the words came to her mind, "I don't think I ever really knew how to be."
Ellie turned to Harry, who was leaned against the one of the beams of the porch, watching them silently. She knelt down so that their faces were level with each other, reaching out and touching his face gently, "Someday I hope you'll be able to forgive all of us," she murmured, "You don't deserve any of this."
Harry didn't answer, staring back at her in stoic, sullen silence. Ellie's eyes became even glassier and she reached out, pulling him to her in a tight embrace. His arms stayed at his sides as she hugged him and kissed his forehead. When she finally let him go, there were tears streaming down her face. As she shakily rose to her feet, she turned again to Cat, "If you change your mind," she said, her voice firm and serious, "You make sure you bring him with you. Do you hear me? Make sure you bring him-"
"Don't." Cat cut her off, her voice choked and hoarse, "Don't."
The cab driver parked in the driveway honked the horn once to get their attention. Ellie waved at him in acknowledgement, then wiped at her eyes for a final time. "I'll um..." she murmured, "When I get back to New York, I'll-"
"You shouldn't call." Cat interrupted. "You know you shouldn't."
Ellie nodded, "You're right." she said simply, picking up her suitcase. "Goodbye, Cat."
Cat only nodded, finding herself unable to say anymore parting words in return. She watched Ellie walk down the porch steps, and get into the cab, then watched as it drove away. She turned to look for Harry but saw that he had already disappeared. Cat considered going to look for him, but decided against it. She'd learned a long time ago that if Harry didn't want to be found, then it was pointless to search for him. Even for as young as he was, he just seemed to enjoy his solitude. She started to go back into the house, but paused on the step. She didn't want to go back into that house- not to the bedroom with the large, cold, empty bed on which she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep but only lay awake in the darkness with nothing but her thoughts to torture her. She didn't want to be alone.
Cat heard Heath's voice in her head as she remembered the day that Henry had come home from the hospital- she heard the dangerously soft tone of his voice as he warned her to stay away from her brother. But yet, she still found herself walking in the direction of the auto garage. Maybe she would change her mind upon spending a few moments with Henry then go back to the house. Maybe she would only stay for a little while. And maybe...maybe the thought of Heath's anger just didn't seem to frighten her anymore.
As she climbed the stairs to the bedroom above the garage, Cat shivered in the drafty air that seemed even colder than the one outside. Once she reached the top step, she gently pushed open the door to the room. Squinting her eyes through the dimness, she could make out the shape of the bed in the corner of the largely bare and empty room. She walked over to it slowly, hugging her arms around herself.
The figure on the bed shifted, sensing her approach and turned to look in her direction. Cat's lips slightly parted in shock at the sight of her brother. He looked even worse than he had when he'd first come back from the hospital. As she stared at him in horror, she found herself wondering how she could have ever allowed this to happen to him. Even for all his faults, Henry had still been (was even still) her brother.
As she lowered herself down to sit on the edge of the bed, they stared at one another for a long moment.
"You shouldn't be here." Henry said at last, his voice hoarse but serious. "If he found you here-"
"Ellie's gone." she said, cutting him off. Henry frowned, sitting up in the bed,
Cat nodded, "She just left to go back to New York... She isn't coming back."
He searched her face for an answer, but finally seemed to understand. "What did He do to her?"
At the question, Cat felt her eyes become hot and gritty again, "He..." she murmured, almost unable to even say the words, "He hit her-" her voice caught then and she pressed her hand over her mouth hard in an effort to try and stifle the tears. When she had finally succeeded and looked back at Henry she saw the grim but unsurprised look on his face. "He made her leave." Cat paused then, stopping short of giving the real reason. She didn't know for sure if Henry knew the truth about Heath and Francie, but if she were to guess she would think that he didn't. And she didn't see the point in letting him know about it then, either.
Henry' gave a grimace that almost looked like a smile, "Then she's better off." he finally said, "She's well rid of all of us. If she has any sense, she'll stay as far away from here as possible."
Cat looked at him, speaking her thoughts aloud, "What about you?"
His expression sobered, "It doesn't matter." he murmured. "It hasn't for a long time now. Ellie just didn't know how to accept that.."
"Did Heath really give you that alcohol?" she asked in a small voice. Henry didn't answer at first so she pushed harder, "Tell me the truth."
"If I said yes...would it make you leave him?" When she was silent he gave a tight grin, "Then what difference does it make?"
"I didn't want him to hurt you, Henry. I didn't."
"Maybe you should've." he replied wryly, "Look around, Cat. I've fucked things up pretty bad. If there's anybody you want to blame for this, it should be me. This," he waved his head, "All of this...it's my fault." his voice dropped so low it was almost a whisper, "It's my fault."
Cat looked at him for a long moment, shaking her head, "No," she murmured, her voice trembling, "It's both our fault."
Henry reached out and touched her cheek gently. At the feel of his fingertip, Cat felt her eyes becoming hot and gritty again. She ducked her head, biting her lip hard, but it didn't matter. The tears sprouted and within a few moments, her shoulders were softly heaving. Henry wrapped his arms around her and drew her to his torso in an embrace. Before she knew it, the two of them were stretched out on the thin, narrow cot, Henry still holding her as she wept softly. They were the last arms that she had ever expected to find comfort or sympathy in, but Cat found herself remaining there in them, clinging to what she felt was the last place she could find either. To her, there was almost a bittersweet irony to it. Between the two of them, she and Henry had allowed their selfishness and cruelty to rob them of everything they had ever loved or cared for. Their actions had changed their home, and themselves forever. And now, they were left with nothing- nothing but the regrets that they could share with one another...