The doorbell chimed early that morning, summoning Audrey out of the kitchen and toward its insistent call for attention. She wiped her hands on the apron, smearing the powder mix from the pancakes before turning the knob to see who was there. It was still rather early in the morning, and none of the kids were up yet.
She opened the door to see a young, handsome police officer standing outside. "Can I help you?" She asked, confused as to why he was there.
"Just a few quick questions ma'am." he replied politely.
Audrey smiled, wiping the rest of the pancake mix away as she let him into the house. "What can I do for you," She realized she hadn't gotten his name.
"Evans," The Officer smiled. "Early this morning, we apprehended Paul Hilden, the leader of your son's bullys." He paused, scratching his head. "Do you know where your daughter was around four this morning?"
Audrey's smile of relief faded to a confused frown. "She was asleep, in her room. Why do you ask?"
Again, the Officer hesitated. "When we apprehended Paul, he'd been pretty badly beaten, he claimed, that your daughter and two older male accomplices had done it."
Audrey shook her head, suppressing a sarcastic laugh. "Meghan is only twelve, she couldn't have beaten up that boy. And she has no older friends."
The officer studied Audrey's face for long moments before smiling. She wasn't lying. "If its not too much trouble, may I talk to your daughter?" He asked. He was sure that the young girl had nothing to do with what had happened, but he had to be sure.
Audrey was about to question the officer when josh came down the stairs, rubbing the remaining sleep from his eyes. "whats going on?" He asked when he saw the officer, his mind immediately waking to attention.
Audrey forced a smile, looking at Josh. "Can you go get your sister?"
Josh starred at her a moment before nodding and heading back up the stairs. He didn't like the tension in his mothers voice, nor the look in her eyes. Something was going on. He knocked on Meghan's door twice, waiting for the muffled groan to leak through the door before opening it.
Meghan pushed herself up, irritated at having been woken up. "What?" She asked groggily, rubbing her eyes.
"There's a police officer downstairs, and Mom wants you." Josh said, searching her confused face for answers.
Meghan pushed herself out of bed before turning toward Josh and ordering him out of her room. She'd expected this, and she was ready for it. Quickly, she ran her hairbrush through her hair and pulled her robe on over her pajamas. When she left her room, Josh was waiting, starring at her curiously. She didn't say anything to him as she headed down the stairs, looking first at her mom, and then the police officer.
'Did something happen?" She asked with innocent confusion.
Officer Evans smiled as he slowly approached her. "I have a few questions for you." he said softly.
"Okay." Meghan replied, making her expressions as innocent and confused as possible.
"Where were you at around four o'clock this morning?"
"I was in bed." Megan said, peaking the curiosity in her voice. "did something happen?" She looked to her mom uncertainty, spreading worry over her face. She knew how to fool just about anyone, she was proud of it.
Officer Evan's shook his head, offering a smile. "Nothing bad happened. We found the other man who hurt your brother, and he said that you had him beaten this morning."
Meghan mixed the emotions in her face, turning them to confusion and shock. "I'm too little," She said softly, putting her head down. "Is he okay?" She forced the concern.
The officer patted her on the shoulder, believing her completely. She was too young, too sweet to have done any of the things Paul had said. "He'll be fine."
Officer Evan's stood up, turning toward Audrey and offering a sympathetic smile. He could see how bothered she'd been by his visit. "I'm sorry for bothering you." he offered, shaking her hand and walking toward the door. "You folks have a good day." he said before leaving.
Meghan turned toward the stairs, seeing the look of disbelief on Josh's face.
"You promised you wouldn't go after them." he said softly, so that Audrey wouldn't hear.
Meghan smiled, flipping her hair off of her shoulder. "I promised that I wouldn't go by myself." She smiled maliciously, stepping passed Josh. "No one messes with you two, except for me." She said harshly before going back to her room.
Audrey looked up at josh, seeing the look on his face. "Are you okay?" She asked, stepping toward the stairs and reaching a hand out to grip his.
"I'm fine." josh lied, offering a smile. 'Seeing the officer just shook me up a little."
Audrey smiled, knowing how he felt. "They got the last guy, its over now." She said softly. "Drake is safe." It hurt to realize that Drake had never been safe just being home, that they had needed that last man behind bars.
"Yeah..." Josh sighed, pulling away from her.
"Breakfast will be ready soon." Audrey said, stepping toward the kitchen. "Is Drake up?"
"Yeah." Josh lied again. He'd never realized just how easy it was to lie. He turned back toward the top of the stairs, slowly going up each one as his mind ran rapid with his thoughts. Drake and Meghan had always been fantastic liars, never getting caught. To have been able to lie so easily, and to his own mother, made him feel awkward. Sure, they'd been harmless white lies, but what would he lie about next? Would he fall into those lies, and take them as far as he could like his brother and sister? Josh shook his head, smiling to himself. He could never be that good at it.
Josh walked into his room, sighing heavily as he approached his closet and pulled out fresh clothes for the day. He wasn't proud of what Meghan had done, but he was thankful for it. With Paul locked up, Drake could focus on getting better. He didn't have to be afraid of anyone coming for him.
When Josh thought of everything that Drake had been through in the last few weeks it brought tears to his eyes. There had been so much pain, physical, emotional. There had been a time when he'd thought that Drake was too simple a guy to handle it all, but he'd done it, despite everything he'd survived. Even when he'd tried to just give up, Drake had pushed through. It was amazing, just how much fight was hidden inside of him.
As if Drake knew that Josh was thinking about him, he opened his eyes and turned toward his brother, watching him wipe the tears from his deep eyes. "whats wrong?" Drake asked groggily, sitting up.
Josh turned toward Drake, smiling brightly. "It's nothing." he stepped closer to his brother. "The police got Paul." He wasn't sure he wanted to tell Drake what Meghan had done, not yet anyway.
Drake nodded, swinging his legs over the edge of his bed and watching them dangle. He'd been so afraid that Paul would come back for him, that the hate he harbored wouldn't be forgotten. He was relieved that Paul had been caught, but with the absence of fear, he didn't know what to feel. It seemed too early to be completely at ease.
"You okay?" Josh asked after long moments of silence.
Drake shrugged his shoulders, trying to find the words. He'd been trying to stay positives for his family, but now he just wanted to be alone, to break down and let the pain out. The medications had dulled the pain, and his positivity had diluted the rest of it, but it hurt more to keep pushing it back and forcing smiles.
"I don't know." he finally whispered, not looking at Josh. "I know I should feel relieved, maybe happy? But... but I can't." Drake shook his head, biting his lip against the oncoming tears.
Josh stepped toward Drake, reaching up to put a hand on his shoulder. "No one expects you to just magically recover from this. I'm here for you, bad or good." He said, looking up at Drake's pained face. "It'll get easier." josh promised.
"I know," Drake whispered. "But I'm still afraid, and its stupid."
"It's not stupid." Josh assured him. "You've been through some heavy stuff, and its not just going to go away. Being afraid doesn't make you weak." Josh offered a smile, hoping that his words were reaching drake. "You're one of the strongest people I've ever known."
Drake shook his head. "You're just saying that..." He said harshly, pushing himself off of the bed and away from Josh.
"No, I'm not." Josh said. "I couldn't have gone through what you did and come out smiling for the sake of my family. Even though you're still hurting, you're fighting that pain for everyone around you. That takes strength, Drake."
"I don't feel strong." Drake replied, looking helplessly toward Josh.
"You will." Josh looked into Drake's eyes, wishing that he could see his own strength. It wasn't something he could see with words, not from anyone else anyway.
Drake forced a smile, knowing that it would help to ease the worry in Josh's eyes. "Thanks." He said softly,
"Anytime." Josh smiled back. "Mom's making breakfast."
"I'm starving." Drake laughed. Without Cody and the others stopping him, he'd been eating all of the time.
They went down to the kitchen together. Drake pushed the hurt from his face when he saw his mother, falling into her smile and letting her warmth chase his hurt away. She'd been through too much to have to face his darkness. Drake let her hug him, allowing her as much time as she needed before feeling her hesitate to pull away.
"How'd you sleep?" She asked, trying not to suffocate him. She wanted to be attentive, but not overbearing. She didn't want to risk chasing him away when he was finally opening up.
"I'll sleep better when this cast is off." Drake joked, grabbing a plate and sitting at the table.
Audrey smiled at his light mood, taking comfort in it. She'd been so worried over the last few weeks that it felt almost foreign not to. To see Drake smiling, and eating again filled her with such relief that there were no words to describe it. She joined her boys at the table, trying not to stare smiling at Drake as he ate. He still had a lot of healing to do, and it wouldn't be easy, but she felt confident that he'd pull through what had happened.
After breakfast Josh went to work, and Drake went back to his room. He needed time alone, to let the mask fall and try to deal with everything. He put his notebook on the couch, and layed his guitar over the cushions, carefully sitting next to it. For the next few hours he wrote and crossed out lyrics, trying to put all of his feelings down into song. In the past, music had always been what helped him most. It was so much harder when he couldn't hold the guitar and let the sound flow out from his head.
With a lot of effort, he managed to work out a way to awkwardly hold the guitar and play a little, but the sound wasn't right and he became frustrated with all of it. Drake set his hands on the couch, feeling his fingers reaching for the razor that wasn't there anymore. He was glad that it was gone, because he didn't want to hurt himself anymore. But he missed that shallow relief he'd felt when he cut. That brief moment of comforting pain that had let him know he was alive.
"I don't need that..." he whispered, pulling his hand away from the couch. "I can do this."
He didn't believe his words, but he tried to. He wanted to feel that strength that Josh saw in him. Somewhere, deep inside of himself the power to get over everything that had happened was hiding, but Drake was afraid of facing the memories. With the razor in his hands, it had been easy to think about what had happened and push the pain away. He was used to pain now. But relaying on himself to get through this was so much harder then simply cutting the pain away. The memories of every word and hit struck at his mind, bringing him to tears as he tried to overcome them. He didn't want to cry anymore, to feel this growing darkness swallow him whole.
Drake took heavy, shuddering breathes as he remembered everything, and tried to see through the lies that Cody had filled him with. He wasn't weak, because he had survived it all. He wasn't alone. He had his entire family beside him, ready to do anything in their power just to help in whatever way they could. Drake tried to reason with himself, telling himself that all of Cody's words had been lies, that Paul's hatred had been a crutch to try and deal with his own problems. HE had been the victim of misguided hatred and wrongful words.
Admitting that to himself had been the hardest part. What happened, hadn't been his fault. He wasn't to blame. There would always be scars to remind him of what had happened, but they couldn't control him. He'd fallen into darkness, and he'd hurt himself to try and cheat his way through it. There was no bleeding the pain away anymore, and no matter how badly he wanted to do it, just one more time, he refused to let himself. He was going to get better, without the pain to guide him.
Drake didn't care how many times he'd need to wear those masked emotions, as long as when he was alone, he could be himself. As long as josh was by his side, to help him find that strength that he'd forgotten how to see. Drake let himself cry as he sat alone in his room, watching through blurred eyes as the hurt slipped away. When he wasn't holding it prisoner inside of himself, he felt the relief wash over him. It felt good to truly feel again. Not just the bad things, but the good.
Drake was waiting for Josh to get home when he went down to the kitchen to get something to drink. All of his tears had left him dehydrated, and it was making him dizzy. He stopped in the doorway when he saw Walter, pouring himself something to drink and humming loudly and off key.
"Hey..." He said awkwardly as he stepped toward the cabinet with the glasses in it.
Walter stopped pouring looking at Drake with a smile on his face. There was hurt in his eyes. "How are you feeling?" Walter asked. He'd felt terrible going to work when his family needed him. He wanted to be here, to help.
"I'm okay." Drake said passively as he grabbed a glass and filled it at the sink. "Just thirsty."
Walter put his own glass down, fidgeting with his hands as he looked at Drake. He wanted to say so many things, but all of the words seemed wrong to him. "Drake?" He finally said softly.
Drake looked at Walter, feeling guilty when he saw the hurt on his father's face.
Walter cleared his throat, putting his hands behind his back. "I want you to know that I'm proud of you."
"for what?" Drake asked, shocked by Walter's words.
"For standing up to them, and for pulling through. I know it must have been hard for you, and we weren't there for you when you needed us. But, I'm proud of you, no matter what happened." Drake hadn't told them everything, and he was sure that he never would. Walter couldn't imagine what had happened to push Drake toward suicide, what the last few weeks had been like, but to see Drake doing better meant everything to him.
Drake smiled, taking comfort in Walter's words. He'd never really been able to talk to Walter, but he was glad for Walter's persistence in talking to him now. "Thanks, dad." Without thinking, Drake stepped forward and hugged Walter, hiding the tears that were threatening to fall. He didn't want Walter to see him cry, to look so weak and beaten down. After a few deep, concentrating breathes Drake pulled away, smiling.
Walter smiled back. "If you need anything, we're here for you."
"I know." Drake said softly, grabbing his glass and heading back toward his room.
Everyone had told him that they were there, but just hearing the words only did so much. Drake knew that they could only do as much as he would let them, and right now, he wasn't ready to drop his guard and let them in. The wounds were too fresh, and the risk of infection too high. He needed to heal on his own right now. He needed to get his mind set and feel better before he let them tell him that he was doing good, that things would be better. He had to see it for himself, or he'd never believe them.
Drake let his legs lead him back to the couch, where he sat and fiddled with his guitar until josh got home. He wasn't so dumb that he thought he could do it all alone. Josh was the one person he could be around without the mask, because, to an extent, Josh understood. He'd felt Cody's anger, the hungry steel of Paul's blade. Even though it had been brief, Josh knew.
He looked up as Josh entered the room, letting his old smile creep across his face. "How was work?"
Josh grinned, grabbing his pajamas and walking towards Drake. "It was, crazy. Helen's been asking about you, she wants you to know that she hopes you're okay, and that she misses you." Josh chuckled.
Drake scratched his head, laughing softly. "Sounds like her." He looked josh in the eyes, his smile slowly fading. "I need your help." he said softly.
Josh felt his smile disappear as he stepped closer, his hand on the back of the couch. "Whats wrong?"
"Nothings wrong." Drake assured his worried brother. "I just, I can't do this alone." he confessed. "The doctor recommended counciling, but I don't want to talk to a stranger about this. Honestly, I don't really feel like I can trust anyone, not yet." Drake stumbled over his words, unsure of how to say what he meant. "When I need someone to talk to, I want that person to be you..." He said softly, hoping that Josh understood.
Josh smiled warmly. "When you're ready, or if you need me, I'm here." he assured Drake. "I want to be there for you, when you want it."
"Can we talk, now?" Drake asked, worried that Josh would say no.
Josh put his pajamas down and carefully moved Drake's guitar, sitting next to him. "When you're ready." he reminded Drake.
Drake took a deep breath, trying to steady the shaking in his hands. "I thought about cutting today." he confessed, feeling ashamed. "I didn't do it, but I wanted to. All of the memories keep running through my head, and sometimes, I just don't feel like its really over. The hospital, everyone being arrested, it feels more like a dream that I'm too afraid to wake up from...'
"It's real." Josh said softly. "I, I know that the cutting was important to you..." It was hard to acknowledge that their ignorance to Drake's situation was what had turned him to hurting himself. "Because no one was there for you. But the important thing to remember, for now, was that you were strong enough not to do it. The temptation will be there, for a while, but soon you wont even think about it."
"How do you know?" Drake asked, looking down at his hands.
"Because I know you." josh grasped Drake's hand, squeezing it lightly. "I believe in you."
"I'm still afraid." Drake whispered.
"Honestly, So am I." Josh squeezed Drake's hand tighter. "Not so much of Paul and the others, but of what happened, and the effects of it all. I'm afraid for you, because I've seen how close to loosing you I've been, and it terrifies me. Just the thought of you being gone," Josh shook his head. "The pain can't last forever Drake. They broke you down, but they didn't break you."
"I want to get past this josh, I want to feel whole again." Drake's voice rose as the sobs grew in his throat. He wanted to cry, to relieve some of the pain.
"You will." Josh said, pulling Drake into a comforting embrace. "I think this is the first step," Josh said lightly. "Admitting the hurt, not just to yourself. You're walking down the right road, and I'm right here with you." Josh felt his own breath hitch as Drake started to cry. It still hurt to see Drake so broken down, but he was going to help him through this.
Drake closed his eyes against the tears, taking comfort in the fact that josh was there, and he wasn't alone. It was going to be hard, and he was going to cry more then wanted to, but he was going to get better. When a cut heals, it scabs. The dying skin falls away with time and healing, and the wound becomes whole again. Drake hoped that with time, the memories and pain would fade and maybe, he would feel whole again, just like the cuts he'd made.
I'm sorry for the delay in an update guys, I've just been really depressed and I haven't wanted to be on the computer. I hope that my personal mood hasn't effected the sorry, and that this chapter is enjoyable for you guys. There's one more chapter left now, and being so close to the end is crazy. Thoughts on this chapter are appreciated, mostly because I'm worried it came out badly. Again, I'm sorry for he delay, I try not to let personal life get in the way of my stories.