"Are you alright?" Dean asked, watching me carefully as I shifted nervously. The two of us had been curled up on his bed watching some comedy show when he'd rolled me over and looked me deep in the eyes, telling me that he was glad that we were all safe.
Pangs of guilt seemed to be tearing at my heart, but I knew that I couldn't tell him. He wasn't stupid, there was no way that he was going to let me go to the rings, especially not on my own.
"You've been acting strange ever since the movie night… did something happen?"
See what I mean? So not stupid.
"Nothing," I said with what I hoped was a convincing smile, reaching up to peck him on the lips and letting my hand doodle patterns on his chest. "I've just been thinking a lot. Maybe you and I could take up martial arts with Kieran again… Owen, Ari and Kallie could come, too. It'd be good to do something high-energy again."
Dean mulled this over for a long second, before nodding and allowing a grin to spread over his face as his hand ran through my hair.
"Sounds like a plan," he said, smiling at me. "I've been missing training with you."
I laughed a little, remembering the days when the three of us used to spend hours in the gym with Kieran practicing to be the best of the best.
"You mean that you miss getting your butt kicked by me," I teased lightly, before letting loose a jaw-breaking yawn. He grinned, kissing my nose before lightly shoving me and teasingly ordering me to get some sleep. I slapped his chest lightly, but rolled over and did – strangely – as I was told.
I couldn't help the smile that graced my face at the familiar sight of the gym, and it only grew when I saw Ari's face beaming up at me.
"This place is awesome!" He grinned excitedly, taking a moment to observe all of the different sections before finally coming to rest on the area where Kieran was adjusting a CD player. Within moments a song with a heavy beat was blasting out, and he finally turned to face us.
"Ah! You made it, fantastic! Now, just to wait for the others—"
"Others?" I queried, Dean and I exchanging a confused look as Kieran turned crimson.
"Yeah, well, Fang and Iggy overheard me talking about the gym and asked if they could come along, and I said yes, and then it dawned on me that this is the only free session. You're alright sharing with them, right?"
"Sure." I said with a smile, not wanting to make Kieran feel awkward. "It's no problem."
Dean nodded, but there was something on his face that told me that he would rather that it was just the five of us. Him and Fang had an uneasy relationship at best, although I'd never quite worked out why. Frowning, I nudged him in the side and kissed his cheek a few seconds before the door opened and Fang and Iggy appeared. They were both decked in sweatpants and T-shirts, and even Iggy looked care-free as Owen and Kallie appeared behind them.
"Ari!" Kallie giggled, skipping over.
"Alright," Kieran said with a grin. "Let's get to work."
Sweaty and tired, Dean, Ari and I stumbled back into the apartment, laughing to ourselves.
"Alright," I grinned, "I'm gonna get a shower, and then I'll go and get some stuff for dinner. Alright?"
The two boys nodded, collapsing onto the sofa as I headed into the bathroom and relaxed into the hot jets of the shower. Dean's apartment wasn't exactly the nicest in the world, but it was better than our old one, and it had a power shower, so it was more than good where I was concerned. Finally, after a little longer than was neccessary, I climbed out of the shower and wearily headed to the store.
"Excuse me," A female voice called, and I started, turning to see an elderly-looking woman at the end of the corridor.
"Yes?" I asked, and then. "It's Miss Allister, right?"
"Right," Her smile was clearly forced, and I realised with a sudden jolt that I wasn't going to like what came out of her mouth. "I wanted to know where your parents are, dear."
"Uh," I blinked, startled by the seemingly random question. "They don't live here... I live with my boyfriend, and my younger brother. Why?"
She frowned. "I really don't think that's appropriate."
If I had been a dog, my hackles would have been up.
"I really don't think that's any of your business," I said rather rudely. "We haven't given you any trouble, and I'd appreciate if you'd return the favour."
I turned and walked down the stairs without another word.
Perhaps if I'd known what was going to happen, I'd have been a little nicer.
"I'm home!" I called, kicking off my shoes and grinning as Ari scrambled to help me with the bags. It took a few seconds of unloading groceries for me to realise that Dean was missing, and I frowned, quickly dishing Ari's dinner up before heading through to the bedroom, where his voice was coming from.
"Dean?" I asked gently as I headed inside, shushing myself quickly when I realised that he was on the phone. The look on his face had dread registering in the pit of my stomach even as my ears refused to process what he was saying until he hung up. Silently, I sunk on to the bed next to him and caught his eye - he only held my gaze for a few seconds before he dropped his gaze, and my stomach dropped with it. "Dean, who was on the phone?"
"It was... uh, it was a hopsital. In Scottsbluff, Nebraska." He paused, as if saying the words aloud would be the only way to make them come true. "They have my brother there, Max. He was... in an accident."
"Is he... alright?"
We both knew what I was really asking.
"He's alive, but they don't think that he's going to be able to walk again. They tried to get ahold of my father, but they couldn't reach him. They said that he's going to need round-the-clock care."
The true meaning of his words really dawned on me. The hospital wanted him to give his brother round-the-clock care.
"I don't know what to do." He whispered, brown eyes meeting my own and pleading with me to understand. I did understand.
"You have to go," I told him, squeezing his hand gently with my own. "Robert needs you."
"What about you and Ari?" He asked desperately. "You need me!"
"Ari and I can take care of ourselves," I told him evenly, although some part of me was screaming at me for what I was doing. How could I let him go? "Your brother can't. He needs you, and you have to help him."
"But he left me!" Dean near-shouted. "He abandoned me, and I won't pick him over you. I won't leave you, leave behind what we have together. I can't."
"You have to." I said sternly, standing abruptly and dropping his hand.
"Your brother needs you, and if you don't go then I'll-" I faltered for a long moment, before finally locking eyes with him in a deadly serious, quiet voice. "Then I'll leave you."
My stomach flipped at the realisation of what I'd just done, but I forced myself not to think about it. I forced myself to meet his eyes with my own, unwavering, and I forced myself not to open my mouth and take it all back. Robert had been a jerk, there was no denying it, but Dean was being given the chance to fix things with his family. It was something that I had longed for since my mother had died, an opportunity that I'd never get the opportunity to be presented with, and I wouldn't let him pass it up. I couldn't.
"No. You're going to help him, Dean. You have to."
Alright, so I suck for not updating in MONTHS. I'm not going to list reasons why. On the plus side, here you have it, the ever-illusive Chapter Sixteen. Lots of drama and foreshadowing for you... sorry for all of you Dean lovers! For the FAXNESS to happen, he had to leave, and I didn't want to make him the bad guy, so here you have a lose-lose situation. Poor old Max, and poor old Dean.
But don't worry! You'll hear from him/see him later in the story!