Maybe it was all in her head. Those days were long over and she was very, very far from Chance Harbor, and it had been a long time since she had seen anyone from high school. But, she kept her eyes open- watching and waiting and maybe it wasn’t in her head after all.
It started simply, a glimpse of broad shoulders leaning on a tree in the courtyard. She shook her head. It wouldn’t be him.
There was a week of small glimpses: sunlight through blonde hair as she rounded a corner of the art building, the sound of a cough behind her in the library where when she turned- no one was there. There were nights too where she thought she heard someone calling her name- breaths on the wind, the skitter of leaves over cobblestones, the drifting of pages through the library stacks.
It sounded like him, looked like him, but everything said it wasn’t him. It had been too long, and they were too far away from anywhere he should have been.
And maybe that should’ve been enough.
If she had stopped looking for him, then maybe whatever memory of him- of them- would finally drift away for good.
It was late and the library was quiet, all dark work stations and glowing computer screens. She was studying, or at least trying to study and for no real reason her attention kept drifting to the stacks behind her. Something called her attention more than any Medieval Literature book in front of her ever could.
She stood, leaving her books and bag at the table- it was too late to worry than any one else was going to take them, and she made her way back through the stacks. Uncertain what she was looking for, she let her feet and her mind lead her. She would know it when she saw it.
There was warmth on her shoulder, a hand, large and soft and she whirled, one of her hands raised, poised to hit or worse, cast.
“Shh, Cassie, no. Don’t. I’m...”
“Jake,” she whispered. Her hand didn’t lower, didn’t move and she thought about striking him anyway. She hadn’t been wrong. Something had her attention all over campus and now she knew what it had been. Just that- just the thought that he’d been watching her, kept her fingers ready.
“Please... Cassie, I’m not here to hurt you.”
Maybe if she’d been stronger, or hadn’t missed home or her friends, or the familiar tingle of the circle’s power on the back of her mind, she would’ve sent him on his way. But, it was there, a small pressure behind her eyes, a rise of goosebumps down the back of her neck, and the twined feelings of fire and ice building in her chest and stomach.
His hand had gone from her shoulder to hers- wrapping around her fingers, drawing it down and around him as he pulled her into a hug. He shouldn’t have felt good, she shouldn’t have felt safe and protected and... home.
But, she did.
She lifted her chin to say something- to ask what he was doing, why he was there, how long he had been watching her. When she looked up at him, all those words fled and it was just his eyes on hers, his hands around her waist, warm and comforting.
“Cassie.” His voice was little more than a whisper, but it was still more than she could manage.
She swallowed and turned her head, pressing it against his chest a moment longer, her curls cushioning the space between her ears and his shirt.
“I need to tell you something,” he said. A hand rose to her face as he pulled away, and he thumbed her chin, turning her gaze to him.
When she looked at him again, those bright eyes of his staring at her, she flushed pink. And then, she was bolstered by the warmth, and the spark of energy between them. She’d missed that, the curl of heat that coursed through her arms and ached to cross between them, from skin to skin.
“It’s just me... for now,” he said. “But the others, they’re coming.”
“Everyone,” he said and where he’d been soft and kind before, his voice was hard, edged with steel.
Everyone, meant the whole circle. Meant, Adam and there was a piece of her that ached for that two. For family and for home.
“Why?” She asked, quiet and calm like she didn’t know the answer already.
His head canted, and she searched the angles of his face, shadowed cheeks thin and pale. She wondered how long he’d been watching, had really been watching, had been keeping her safe. Before he could answer, she asked that too,
He breathed and his lips twitched.
“For you-” he smiled. “And for a while.”
A month, maybe more, if she remembered each moment just right. If she could put together each question she’d had. He’d waited, he’d watched and he’d stayed out of sight. And that should’ve seemed odd and probably would have if they’d been any other people. Should have- but she knew him. Like they all knew her- what she was, who she was, and everything she was capable of.
I’ll stay, turned into don’t go once they were all together again.
It was warm nights with the windows open in her dorm room, curled quietly on her bed and waiting for sleep. There were soft click on the walls outside that told her he was there, that they were all there.
For a weekend, and maybe, if it hadn’t been for school and the heavy load of books and work, she would’ve remembered something like an anniversary. She would’ve known why, exactly she needed anyone to check on her. To make sure that she was safe and cared for.
But, when they arrived, she knew.
Five years, and if she wouldn’t go home to them, they would come to her. They would gather near a fire, and they would remember.
And even if it wasn’t whole- not completely, she could touch his hand and it would feel like someone else’s. She could feel the whole of the Circle between them. She could feel the whole of history between them. That could be something.
Not much more than a memory when everyone was gone again.
When they left with light hugs and polite words that next year, she would remember- Next year she’d go back and they wouldn’t have to go to her. Not again.
… She still had a shadow, tall and blonde and his hand swept hair back from her face.
“Next year,” he said. “You’ll come home.”
“Maybe.” It was half a smile, but all that she had to give. Half a smile- half a promise.
“Maybe,” he echoed.