Alice lies in her bed, brown hair curling across the pillow as she tosses and turns. The clock reads 11:12 when Alice’s dreams take a turn for the worst.
Bright lights dance behind her eyes and the scent of smoke and fire fills her dreams, her back feels like it’s burning, and she convulses like she’s been hit by lightning. After a minute, the vivid dream passes and she slumps back down in her bed. A few minutes later it happens again, stronger this time, and she lets out a low-pitched sound, rolling over as her body shakes.
At midnight, the fire returns in her mind, powerful and dangerous, and she feels like she’s being ripped apart. Alice rolls again and falls onto the floor.
Alice wakes with a start, green eyes opening wide, breathing heavily. Her back feels raw, like it was dragged through fire, and she picks herself up off the ground. The time reads 3 past 12 and she hisses, pissed that she’s woken up.
“Fuck, just great,” She moves around the small apartment, throwing the comforter that was tangled around her back on the bed before going into the kitchen and turning on the kettle.
Alice looks at the pile of textbooks on the countertop as she pulls out a mug and a teabag. Her schoolwork has been the last thing on her mind since Pogue, the good-looking Spencer boy she works with, ended up in the hospital. She hasn’t been to see him yet, worried about running into anyone else from Spencer.
How do you explain to rich kids that you're visiting one of them because you work together?
She sits down at the table when her tea is ready, strong with milk and sugar, ignoring the textbooks on the counter, and sips her tea. Her mind replays everything that’s happened in the last couple of months, from Pogue’s accident right back to the incident that started it all. July 14th, when she dropped in the middle of making lunch and started convulsing on the floor. When she woke back up, in an empty apartment because the apartment had been empty since her brother had left for college, there had been an emblem burned into her back.
She’s afraid to look again, she doesn’t know what she’ll see now. Maybe another one, maybe nothing.
Alice sips her tea and blocks it from her mind. It’s Saturday, her night off from Brody’s and the shop. Tomorrow, she’ll be working on Pogue’s bike bright and early, before visiting him in the hospital, and then she’ll waitress for a few hours. After that, she’ll come home, do some schoolwork, and then pass out with enough time to get a decent amount of sleep before school on Monday.
She has everything under control, which was exactly why she feels something would go horribly wrong.
Alice finishes her tea, washes the mug, and climbs back into bed. Tomorrow everything would be better, she felt sure of it.
“Hey Pogue, the receptionist told me you woke up last night,” Alice walks into her coworkers' hospital room after double checking there was no one else, carrying a vase of flowers and a card. A grunt from the bed is the only acknowledgment he gives her.
“I was at the shop before coming here, Harold wanted you to have these. There’s a get well card too,” She places both on a small table in the corner, “From all of us.”
“How’s my bike?” Pogue asks, glancing at the flowers as he sits up and winces.
“I’m fixing her up,” Alice smiles, leaning against the table staring at him. “You did quite a number on her, huh?”
“Kate was in the hospital,” Pogue defends, “She was hurt. I needed to get to her.”
“Yes, and biking at full speed in the rain was the obvious solution,” Alice gives him a look, “But you overshot, and instead of visiting her in the hospital you ended up in the hospital.”
“You’re cheerful today,” Pogue ignores her comments, “Just make sure you give me the good pistons, not the shit we typically put in bikes,” Pogue frowns at the flowers behind her, “Harold really got me those?”
Alice shakes her head, “Harold got the card. Bailey got the flowers and they decided to merge the two gifts. And don’t worry about your bike, she’ll ride like a dream by the time I’m done with her.”
“Yeah,” Pogue nods before looking around the room. “Hey, where’d the guys go?”
Alice frowns, looking around, “What guys? I didn’t see anyone when I came in, you know I checked.”
Pogue frowns and moves to pull his IV out, “What is with you and not wanting to meet my other friends?”
“Hey, whoa whoa whoa,” Alice stops him, “Don’t do that. I’m sure they’ll be back soon. They must have left for food or something. And I don’t want to meet them because they’re Spencer kids and I’m not.” She sits down on the hospital bed, “Simple as that.”
“You gonna stick around and meet them this time?” Pogue teases, a smile barely gracing his lips.
“Not a chance,” Alice rolls her eyes, smiling, “I’d prefer not to let them down, seeing as they only know me as ‘Al the Mechanic’ and not Alice.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Pogue looks back at the flowers, “If you don’t stick around, they’re going to wonder who brought me flowers.”
“Then they can wonder,” Alice looks back at the flowers, “I signed the card as Al in case they read it anyway.”
“You know, they’d like you if they met you,” Pogue grabs her arm as she tries to stand.
“I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t.” Alice gently removes her arm from his grasp, “But thanks for the vote of confidence.” She moves to the door before turning back to him, “Get better soon, okay? The shop’s boring as shit without you.”
“See you Alice,” Pogue nods, letting himself fall back on the hospital bed.
“See you,” Alice nods at him before leaving.
In the hallway, Alice passes a group of 3 boys heading in Pogue’s direction. She slips past them silently and easily, a learned skill, on her way to her truck in the parking lot.
Alice calls Pogue the next Friday at about 8pm. He answers after 3 rings. “Hello?”
“Hey Pogue,” Alice stands up from where she was tinkering with the insides of his bike, “I’ve finished with your bike. I’m putting the last part in now, it should be ready in 10 minutes.”
“Great,” His deep voice crackles over the line, and in the background Alice hears music, “I’ll pick it up tomorrow then.”
“Actually, I was thinking I’d test drive it,” Alice worried her necklace between her fingers, “I’ve got to be at Brody’s at 9 so I figured I’d drive it over there. You can pick it up from there tonight, I can get a ride home,”
There’s a silence on the other end of the line. Alice hears a song she vaguely recognises playing.
“Or you can bring it to Nicky’s,” Pogue says, “I’m there right now. I’ll give you a ride over to Brody’s afterward. You could grab a bite to eat while you’re at it.”
“Are you there with the guys?” Alice asks. There’s silence on the other end of the line. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Alice sighs, “You know I don’t want to meet them.”
“They want to meet you,” Pogue protests, “And they’ll love you. You have nothing to worry about.”
“They want to meet Al the Mechanic, not Alice,” Alice fights, “You talk about me as if I’m another middle-aged guy you work with when you're around them. How do you know that they’re not going to find it weird that I’m a female high school senior?”
“Because they’re not like that,” Pogue raises his voice slightly, and the music in the background fades. Alice guesses he’s outside now, “I’ve known them my whole life, they’re not gonna turn up their nose at you simply because you’re a girl.”
“Is that Al?” Someone asks in the background. A door opens and closes faintly. “Tell him to come down, so we can meet ‘em.” Alice doesn’t know which of the boys is talking, but she knows it’s one of them.
“See, they don’t want to meet me,” Alice blows air out of her mouth. Pogue sighs loudly through the phone.
“Just, bring the bike down in 10. We’ll be waiting,” And he hangs up.
Alice stares at her phone as it blinks ‘call ended’ up at her, more than a little upset that Pogue hung up on her. She debated what to do, looking from her phone to the bike which still needed that last part put in.
Alice could always just not put it in, call Pogue in an hour, and forget about it. She could get Harold to drive it down to Nicky’s. She could get Bailey. But she still needed a ride to Brody’s and the easiest option was fixing the bike and riding it down to Nicky’s. Even if it meant finally meeting Pogue’s childhood friends.
Alice huffs and shoves her phone back in her pocket, meeting the other Sons of Ipswich it is.
20 minutes later, Alice pulls up to Nicky’s, the engine on the bike rumbling as she pulls it to a stop in a parking space. She recognizes Pogue at the door, standing with 3 other boys she doesn’t know but could guess the names of. They all start walking over to her.
Alice’s hands shake at their already weary faces. They know her body isn’t the body of a middle-aged man.
As they approach, she pulled off her helmet. Pogue smiles and pulls her into a light hug as she got off the bike.
Alice relaxes at the surprised but not upset faces of his friends.
“How’s she riding?” He asks.
“Better than ever,” Alice pats the bike, “Although don’t get into another crash or you made need a new bike. I fixed the things I could, replaced some parts, gave her a paint job, but structural integrity is another thing.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Pogue steps back to let the others look at her, pointing at them as he introduces them, “Alice, this is Reid, Tyler, and Caleb. Guys, this is-”
“Al the Mechanic!” Alice finishes for him. “Although, my full name is Alice.”
Reid smiles widely, “Al’s a girl! Pogue, you were holding out on us!” He immediately moves forward to shake her hand, “Reid Garwin, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Pogue talked about Al a lot, but we never thought you’d be him. He made you sound-”
“Middle-aged and male?” Alice finishes, shaking his hand, “Yeah, he’s told me.”
“Caleb Danvers,” Caleb shakes her hand next, “You work with Pogue?” Caleb’s handshake is firm and strong. A tingle goes down Alice’s spine, something curls in her stomach.
“Every day he’s in the shop,” Alice nods, “I’m in there more than him now, even though I only started a couple of months ago.”
“Tyler Simms,” Tyler shakes her hand loosely, “Were you the one who dropped off the flowers at the hospital?”
“Yeah,” Alice nods, “Harold, our boss, got Pogue a card and Bailey, the other mechanic, got him the flowers. I was tasked with delivering them.” She looks at Pogue, “I believe one of the conditions of me coming down here was that you buy me food.”
“When did we agree to that?” Pogue frowns.
“After you hung up on me,” Alice hands him his keys and starts walking towards the door. The boys don’t move. “If you guys don’t follow I’m telling Nicky it’s on you anyway,” Alice calls behind her.
She enters the bar and makes her way through the people to the bar. Nicky nods to her.
“Hey Al,” Nicky smiles behind the bar.
“Sup Nicky,” Alice nods back at him, “Can I get a cheeseburger, fries, and a beer. Anything dark on tap.”
“You 21 yet?” Nicky asks, amused.
“You care yet?” Alice shoots back.
“Okay, cheeseburger with fries and a beer, how you paying?” Nicky writes it down.
“It’s on me Nicky,” Pogue appears behind her, “And add a BLT club to the list, Kate’s hungry.”
“Got it,” Nicky nods and moves away from the counter. Pogue grabs Alice’s arm and leads her to a section of the bar with tables. Reid and Tyler have pushed two of the tables together to fit all four boys, plus two other girls, and Alice.
“Hey guys,” Caleb nods to the two as they come up, “Sarah, Kate, this is Alice, Pogue’s friend from work.”
“Hey!” Kate smiles and stands up, hugging Alice, “Nice to finally meet you. Pogue talks about you sometimes, says you’re one of his closest friends outside the school.”
“Nice to meet you too,” Alice struggles to talk as the girl squeezes her, “Pogue basically waxes lyrical about how much he cares about you at work.” Kate laughs and lets her go, sitting back down.
The other girl smiles and extends a hand from where she’s sitting, “Sarah, good to meet you. Haven’t heard that much about you, sorry.”
“Alice,” Alice shakes her hand, “Nice to meet you. And it’s fine, Pogue doesn’t talk about me that much, and this is Caleb’s first time meeting me.” They smile at each other.
Alice takes an empty seat across the table from the two couples, ending up next to Reid.
“So, you work on cars?” Reid asks, something glinting in his eyes. Alice knows that look, younger male patrons at Brody’s sometimes get it, but she ignores it.
“Motocycles actually,” Alice corrects gently, “Cars are great but I don’t have the arm muscle for the lifting required to work on their engines. Motorcycles are my specialty, and Pogue works on cars mostly.” She points to Pogue.
“Still, you're a mechanic,” Reid presses and Alice nods, “How’d you get into it? I know Pogue’s story, but how does a young, pretty girl such as yourself end up working in a garage?”
Alice stiffens for a second at his question before relaxing, “My older brother was a mechanic. He taught me lots of stuff, was always working on bikes or cars in the driveway and I’d always hang around trying to learn. Over the summer he left for college so I took over his spot at the shop. Everything else I learned on the job.”
“But why take the job?” Tyler asks from the other side of Reid.
Alice gives them both a look, “Normal people have jobs you know.” She replies defensively.
“That’s not what I meant,” Tyler looks pained, “Why take the job at the shop. There could be other, less dangerous or messy jobs out there in Ipswich to do, why work at the shop?” Alice is struck by how sincere the two of them are. Yes, Reid is batting his eyelashes at her, so to speak, but they’re both genuinely interested in why she works at the shop.
Alice shrugs and looks away, at the bar where Nicky gives her a nod. “I guess I just wanted to feel closer to my brother now that he’s in California,” She stands up, “Excuse me, I’m just gonna go grab the food.”
Alice walks over to the bar, moving through the people using her skills picked up at Brody’s, and grabs the tray of food and the beer. “Thanks Nicky,” She yells over the music, which sounds like it’s gotten louder, and he gives her a nod.
She makes her way back to the table, putting the tray and beer down at her seat and passing the BLT club to Pogue.
“You got beer?” Pogue eyes her glass.
Alice shrugs, “It’s Saturday night and I’m working later, I need something.” She takes a sip and scowls.
Reid laughs, “Don’t like it?”
“I hate beer on principle,” Alice says before downing a third of the glass with a grimace, “But that doesn’t mean I won’t drink it.” She picks up the cheeseburger and takes a bite.
Pogue reaches over to grab at the glass. Alice glares at him. “Hey, I’m paying for it,” Pogue rolls his eyes and takes a sip before putting it back down.
Alice takes another bite of her cheeseburger as conversations go on around her. Reid and Tyler are talking about who they can hustle in pool, Caleb wants to know if Sarah wants to dance while Sarah is trying to steal a piece of the BLT club, Pogue and Kate are deep in a conversation about Pogue’s birthday a few months from now.
Her back starts tingling and Alice gets lost in her thoughts.
“Hey,” Reid pokes Alice in the arm. She looks down to see that her cheeseburger is nearly gone and she’s finished her beer, “You wanna play pool with us?” He looks from her to Tyler.
Alice nods, a plan forming in her head, “Yeah, I’m not great though. You up for a little 1 on 1?”
“Sounds perfect,” Reid takes the last piece of cheeseburger and shoves it into his mouth, “Now we don’t have to wait for you to finish,” He says as he chews and swallows. Alice wrinkles her nose in disgust, but stands up and follows them to the pool tables.
Caleb and Pogue hoot as they grab cues and Tyler sets up.
“You wanna break?” Alice asks Reid.
“Sure, you wanna put money on this?” Reid shoots back as Tyler removes the triangle.
“Fine, 20 bucks says I win,” Alice smirks.
“20 says you lose,” Reid breaks.
They play fair, Alice doesn’t play to her full strength, missing some shots and faking some others. Reid plays well, and in the end he wins.
“Thank you,” Reid laughs, taking the $20 out of Alice’s hand.
“Another game?” Alice laughs, leaning against the pool table, “50 says I win this time?”
“You wanna raise the bet?” Reid laughs, “Sure, I’d love taking 50 from you.”
“Okay,” Alice smiles as Tyler sets up the balls again, “But this time, I’m breaking.”
Alice beats him after 2 turns. Reid looks shocked at her as she checks the time before taking the $50 from his hand.
“First rule of pool,” She says, “Don’t hustle a hustler. I work in a biker bar, of course I know how to play pool. Speaking of which,” She looks over at Pogue and taps her wrist. He nods, stands up, and kisses Kate on the forehead, “I have to get to work. Nice playing with you boys,” She moves past them, purposefully bumping shoulder with Reid, “Maybe next time.”
Reid gives her an amused glare as she walks away.
The next few months pass in a blur.
Alice spends her time, in between working two jobs and going to school, hanging out with the Spencer kids. As it turns out, Sarah and her have the same taste in books, and Kate and her have the same taste in movies. Reid takes any chance he can to play pool against her again, but he never bets money on their games. Caleb and Tyler bond with her less, but during group events they always make an effort to include her. Pogue returns to work but now his stories about his friends are constantly interjected with Alice’s own thoughts and opinions.
The week before Pogue’s birthday is where time seems to slow down again.
“Trust you to be born the day before Christmas Eve,” Alice laughs as she finishes up an oil change on a bike, “You’re really not going to throw anything?”
“Nope,” Pogue laughs, cleaning an engine piece, “This year it’s just me, Sarah, Kate, and the guys.” He flicks a bit of grease at her, “I’d invite you too-”
“But Ram’s coming home and I’m spending Christmas with him up in our family house in Maine,” Alice finishes, “I know. I would have loved to come but family comes first.” She shrugs, giving him a look.
He doesn’t know how loaded that statement actually is.
“Exactly,” There’s something in his eyes she can’t place as he says that, before he turns back to his engine part. She finishes up the oil change, rolls the bike to the front of the shop, and clocks out with a ‘goodbye’ in the general direction of Pogue.
Her truck carries her down to work at Brody’s, but her mind is on Pogue’s expression. Maybe he’s got his own burden to carry.
The girls and her go see a movie the day before she leaves for Maine.
“I’m so excited for Pogue’s birthday,” Kate exclaims before they go in, “It’s going to be great!”
“I know,” Sarah gushes back, uncharacteristically happy, “It’s going to be incredible. I missed what it was like for Caleb.”
“Missed what?” Alice frowns and they both look at her in surprise, “I know Caleb didn’t have a party or anything but we’re you with him that night? In the Putnam barn?” She looks at Sarah.
Sarah and Kate look at each other before answering.
“Well, yes,” Kate flaps her hands around.
“But it’s not the same, not one on one. Pogue’s birthday should be better because it’s inner circle,” Sarah says carelessly, “Minus you of course,” She adds as an afterthought.
“Uh huh,” Something in Alice sinks, but she ignores it. “Come on guys, let’s just go get our seats,” She starts heading toward the theatre, not bothering to check if the girls are following her or not.
The day of Pogue’s birthday, December 23th at exactly 3:27 in the afternoon, Pogue ascends in Ipswich. At the same time in Maine Alice starts convulsing in the bathroom floor, her back feeling like it’s being burned away. It ends after a minute, and her brother leans over her, his fade framed with worry.
The other kids ask what happened later on. Her brother doesn’t mention the truth, her episodes coming and going randomly, and Alice avoids looking at her back.
That night, in her room she shares with her brother, she checks and another emblem is there, perfectly black like the other two, perfectly positioned down her spine, right under the second one.
She wonders again what it could mean.
Alice comes back from winter break more worried than relieved. Her brother is doing well in university, and her grades look good in terms of getting a scholarship to a prestigious university, but the thing with her back bothers her to no end.
You coming down to Nicky’s tonight? Reid sends her a text as she pulls into Brody’s to drop off some papers. Pogue wants to celebrate that you’re back. And I think I can finally beat you at pool now ;) ;P His name in her phone is Casanova.
Alice laughs. Yeah she writes, I’ll be there in half-an-hour. I’ve got to drop something at Brody’s first
Sweet Casanova replies simply.
Alice enters the biker bar, and the scent of whisky, old leather, and burgers hits her nose. Nicky’s may be a favorite of rich teens from Spencer, but Brody’s was a classic among the oldies in this part of Massachusetts.
“Alice, you waitressing tonight?” An older man, Wily Joe, called out from a table he’s sharing with his buddies. At the bar, a younger but not young man turns to watch her.
“Sorry Joe,” Alice calls, heading behind the bar to Brody’s office, “I’m not on tonight.”
“We’ve missed you though,” Wily Joe calls back, “When will you be back?”
“Tomorrow,” Alice smiles at them before disappearing into Brody’s office. After dropping off the papers, her 4-month notice because she doesn’t think she’ll want to be working 2 jobs during finals, she reenters the bar.
Joe and his friends are immersed in a drinking game, but the man behind the bar looks like he could use another pint.
“You want another one?” Alice asks, removing his glass and grabbing a new one.
“I thought you weren’t working tonight?” The man asks, bright eyes sparkling behind middle aged skin. If he were younger, Alice would consider him good-looking. “But I was having the lager if you want to pour me another pint.”
“No worries,” Alice pours the lager from the tap. She sets it in front of him, “You’re new right? Just passing through or planning on becoming a regular?” She adds the extra pint to his bill, making conversation.
“I’m thinking of sticking around,” He says, taking a sip of the lager. He puts the pint down and extends a hand, “I’m Chase,” He smiles, “Chase Pope.”
“That’s cool, my friend Pogue used to have a friend named Chase,” Alice smiles and shakes his hand, “Obviously not you because they went to school together, but that’s still cool.”
“Obviously,” Chase smiles and Alice feels an unpleasant tickle at the back of her neck, “And your name is?”
“Alice,” Alice retracts her hand, “Nice to meet you. I’m in here a lot, waitressing and bartending, so I’m sure I’ll see you around. Have fun with your pint, sorry but I have to run.” She smiles at him and leaves the bar. His eyes follow her.
When Alice gets to Nicky’s, she notices two things. One, Reid looks like a kicked puppy for some reason, and two, Pogue is radiating energy.
Alice makes her way through the crowd, dropping a quick hello to Nicky as she passes in the form of a nod, and ends up at the Spencer kids table.
“Alice!” Pogue jumps up and catches her in a good-natured, tight hug, “How was Maine? How’s Ram?” He’s smiling when he lets her go.
“Maine was fun,” She says as she hugs both Sarah and Kate, who have attacked her since Pogue let her go, “Ram’s good. He’s doing well at college, he misses the guys at the shop though. Apparently they’re not as great in California.”
“Of course they wouldn’t be,” Pogue smiles and pulls out a chair for Alice to sit in, “You want something?” He asks over the music.
“A hamburger with bacon,” Alice replies back, smiling and nodding at Caleb and Tyler. Reid doesn’t acknowledge her, which makes her frown.
Alice makes small talk with Kate and Sarah, commenting on the movie she saw in Maine with her brother, and ignores Reid.
Pogue drops the burger in front of Alice, climbing into the chair next to her, “Your brother mentioned another episode, what happened?” He asks softly. Across the table, Caleb turns ever so slightly to hear better.
“I just dropped again,” Alice says before taking a bite, “No warning. It was over in like a minute, but apparently I was seizing pretty bad on the ground.”
Caleb frowns but doesn’t say anything, turning back to his conversation with Sarah. Reid talks lowly with Tyler, not acknowledging Alice in any way.
“You sure you’re okay?” Pogue presses as Alice starts to eat, “Maybe you should go to the hospital, have a brain scan done or something. That’s the second in a couple of months, right?”
“Yeah, since I turned 18,” Alice frowns, “But I don’t have the money for the doctor, and I’m going to be put on the pro-bono list because I work two jobs and am in full time education.”
It’s Pogue’s turn to frown, “Are you sure? They sound bad from what Ram told me,”
“I’m sure,” Alice rolls her eyes, “And Ram’s over exaggerating, you know he likes to do that.”
“Okay,” Pogue squeezes her shoulder affectionately, “I’m here if you need anything, okay?”
“I know,” Alice laughs and shoves his arm off, “Now go pay attention to your girlfriend,” She shoves his shoulder so he faces the other way.
Without Pogue to talk to, Alice feels like the odd woman out. She eats her food slowly, her mind racing with the talk of her episodes. The seizures aren’t bad, but the accompanying feelings of being struck by lighting, and the marks on her back worry her the most. What do they mean? Who can she talk to about them, since she can’t exactly go to the doctor. Why are they appearing? It’s more than a medical condition, but who’s going to believe that tattoo’s randomly show up on her skin?
Alice doesn’t realize she’s finished until she looks down and her plate is empty. Her mind is swirling and the atmosphere in Nicky’s suddenly feels like a prison, constricting her. Pogue’s shoulder accidently hits her as he talks animatedly with Kate and it feels like an electric shock to her system.
“You okay?” Caleb asks suddenly, looking at her.
“I have to get some air,” Alice stands up, the hairs on the back of her neck rising as she feels a familiar sensation passing over the back of her neck. Like a cool breeze just went by, only none did. That had been happening to her randomly since she was 13.
Alice makes it outside and breathes heavily, leaning against the wall. Her mind clears, and the sensation building in her chest dissipates. The sky above twinkles with stars barely seen behind the neon road lights lining the alley.
“You okay?” Reid leans against the doorway Alice just came out of, concern very naked on his face.
“You care now?” Alice bites out, trying to control her breathing.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Reid asks defensively.
“You invited me here, and you barely acknowledge me the whole time I’m around,” Alice doesn’t want to have this conversation now, not when her head is recovering from whatever the fuck happened in there, but once she’s on a roll she can’t stop.
“Oh what? You freaked the fuck out because I didn’t acknowledge you in there?” Reid yells.
“A hello or something would have been nice!” Alice yells back, “And that’s not the reason I’m out here asshole, god how fucking narcissistic can you be!” She balls her hand into a fist, “Just go back inside Reid, I’m not in the mood to deal with company.” Her anger flares inside her, and she begins to feel like punching the wall until her hand breaks.
She’s at her tipping point, she knows that. Maybe she’ll be okay this time.
Reid looks like he wants to say something else but doesn’t instead heading back inside and letting the door slam shut.
Alice breathes heavily in the alleyway before slamming her fist into the wall as hard as she can; once, twice, three times.
“Stupid fucking idiot,” She whispers to herself harshly before running a hand through her hair. The motions calms her as she leans against the wall, bringing har hand up to her face. It’s going to bruise, she knows that for sure, but it doesn't look or feel like anything’s broken.
At least she hopes nothing’s broken. Broken bones don’t mend well when you’re a mechanic and a waitress.
Alice leans in the alley for sometime, letting the calm of the night air wash over her. Anger gets her nowhere. Maybe she should apologize to Reid.
She shakes her head, she never apologizes. That means admitting weakness, and while she knows the boy know about her seizures that's a medical weakness, apologizing means revealing a mental weakness.
Better to just leave, which is exactly what she does.
Alice spends the next few days going through the motions, avoiding Pogue, not answering texts anyone from Spencer sent her, working, and going to school. She avoided looking at her back, thinking about her seizures, or anything out of the ordinary about her life. The sensations on the back of her neck happen frequently, but she ignores them too.
“Hey, bitch,” Alice gets shoved to one side by one of her classmates, a guy she didn’t remember the name of, “Fucking move,”
“Fucking make me,” Alice finds herself saying, planting herself in front of the guy in a flash, her eyes burning, “Dumbass,”
“You wanna fucking go you narc?” The guy shoves her backward, and she returns by pushing him as hard as she can into a group of lockers.
“Like you could take me you hunk of meat,” Alice cocks her head to one side. The guy thinks for a second before slamming his fist into her face.
The fight is fast and dirty, over with Alice and the guy being torn apart by teachers. He’s got a gash on one side of his face from her fingernails, and bruising along his collarbone and around his neck. She’s got a black eye forming, along with a bleeding nose and a shoulder half out of the socket.
Alice is escorted to the principal's office after admitting she started the fight, while the guy is brought to the nurse. Alice is suspended for 3 days for fighting, but since she’s 18 her parents won’t be informed.
Great, Alice thinks grimly, it’s not like they could be informed anyway. Her shoulder pops back into its socket painfully as she’s in the office.
She doesn’t mention that to the principle or the office secretary, who hands her the slip to let her off campus early. She doesn’t even go to the nurse.
Alice leaves campus in her truck, her eye starting to hurt and her shoulder numb. She drives around, not really knowing where she’s going, until she ends up at Spencer.
It’s snowing outside, and there are groups of students on the lawn making snowmen and snow angels. Alice watches them from her car, thinking about using the snow to calm her swelling and bruising face.
The blood from her nose has already dried and caked, but a little bit of blood from where she bit her lip after being punched the third time is leaking out of her mouth. She laps it up with her tongue, keeping her eyes on the student in the snow.
Something bangs on her window and Alice turns with a start, the face of Reid going from smiling to concerned in 2 seconds.
He opens the door roughly, “What the hell happened to you?” his voice is laced with concern, his eyes burning in a similar fashion to when they fought a few nights ago, but this time it’s not directed at her.
“Reid what are you- Oh,” Pogue comes up behind him, his eyes staring at Alice’s face, “Who the fuck punched you?” He’s instantly in protective older brother mode, moving Reid aside to get a better look.
“Jesus christ!” Caleb and Tyler round the car, seeing Alice’s face for the first time, “Holy shit what happened?” Caleb exclaims.
“Guys, let her breathe,” Tyler tries to pull the boys back. Alice continues staring at all of them, her eyes flitting between their appalled and angry face.
“I take it it looks bad, right?” She says after a second, her words slurring from the stiffness of her face and the pain.
“It looks like you died and came back to life,” Reid exclaims, “Who the fuck did this to you? I need to kill them, immediately.”
“Alice, what happened,” Caleb says softly, putting a hand on Reid’s shoulder to calm him. The sensation flits across the back of Alice’s neck for a second. “You don’t have to be afraid of telling us, whoever did this to you won’t do it again.”
“A guy at school,” Alice says, “He shoved me in the hallway,” She shrugs. Pogue’s expression changes slightly.
“And?” He asks, his voice harder than before.
“I kinda blew up at him,” Alice looks back at the students in the quad, “I taunted him into shoving me again, then I shoved him into some lockers, then he punched me, I punched back…” She trails off, “I’m suspended for 3 days. He’s got 1 day I think, if any.”
“Because he punched you?” Reid sounds outraged that he doesn’t get any time disciplined, “That’s fucking outrageous!”
“I said it was my fault,” Alice shrugs again, “They only gave me 3 days because I was honest. Typically the suspension is a week for fighting.”
Pogue looks at her, a mixture of hurt and fear in his eyes, “Why Alice?”
“I needed to feel something,” Alice says softly, looking down at her hands, which are shaking. After a second she looks back up to see his eyes, more concerned than ever, “I was just driving around when I ended up here. Sorry for bothering you guys, I’ll head home, you probably have class.” she tries to close her door, but is stopped by both Caleb and Reid, together.
“You need medical attention,” Caleb says, his voice strangely calm, “Stay. Reid and Tyler share a dorm here, and Pogue has a single. We can get medical supplies from the nurse no questions asked.”
“You can also sleep a little,” Reid adds.
“You look like you haven’t slept in a while,” Pogue examines her closely, “I’ll carry you to the dorms, you can’t walk on your own.”
“But it’s my face that’s messed up not anything else,” Alice tries protesting but he unbuckles her and picks her up in the same motion. Tyler moves forward to turn off the truck, grabbing the keys before closing and locking the door. Reid and Caleb share a look as Alice, strangely not protesting, is carried into the dorm hall by Pogue.
They reach Pogue’s hall and turn around as a group of students come down the corridor Pogue’s room is on, and stop in front of it’s door, chatting.
“Shit,” Pogue curses and Alice groans, giving him the stinkeye. It simultaneously says ‘get on with it asshole’ and ‘I told you so dickhead’ without saying both. Pogue gives her a glare back.
“Reid and Tyler’s room,” Caleb offers, and they go up a flight of stairs.
Surprisingly, when they get to Reid and Tylers room, Reid’s bed is the only one made. Pogue sets her down on it, and Alice rolls over before sitting herself up and clutching her head.
“Tyler, go get medical supplies,” Caleb orders, “Pogue, go back to her truck and grab anything with her school's name on it, I’m going to call them,” Alice mutters something like ‘Don’t’ but it’s so slurred no one knows what it means, “Reid, go into the bathroom, grab tylenol and a bucket. I know you have one, you come home drunk enough times.”
“Why a bucket?” Pogue asks as Tyler throws her keys to him before leaving the dorm.
“If she got hit in the stomach she’s going to want to puke,” Caleb nods toward him to go. Reid returns from the bathroom, placing a towel down on the floor next to his bed, next to Alice’s head, before putting the bucket down. He put a bottle of water and two pills on the bedside table.
Alice drifts in and out of it, a headache appearing and her vision going fuzzy, while the two boys look on.
“You think she’s depressed?” Reid asks in a low voice, as not to wake her. He looks to where she’s floating in and out of consciousness, the aftermath of the fight all over her face and neck, “I mean, what the fuck? She looks like she’s gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali,”
“Keep your voice down,” Caleb whispers harshly, “I don’t know. She looks terrible, but she might just be in a funk.”
“Caleb, the last time we spoke she screamed at me, out of nowhere,” Reid persists, “And now her face is all fucked up, and you heard her! She said ‘I needed to feel something’ as if she doesn’t regularly! I’m telling you, she’s depressed.”
“And I’m saying she might not be,” Caleb puts his hands on Reid’s shoulders again, using to calm him down like he did before, “I’m not against you Reid, no one is, but jumping to depression is a big leap.”
“I know what it looks like,” Reid looks into Caleb’s eyes, and the brother realizes that Reid’s scared for Alice.
“I know you do, I do too.” Caleb reminds the younger gently, “We’ll talk with the guys when they get back. You help Tyler with her bandages, I’ll call her school and talk to them about the suspension and the boy she got into a fight with, okay?”
Reid doesn’t say anything, looking back down at her before looking at Caleb, “Okay.” He nods.
Alice wakes up in an unfamiliar bed, feeling well rested and calm in a way she hadn’t felt in a while. Her face hurt and she moved her mouth, trying to get the taste of yesterday’s food out of it, and the memories of the fight came back to her.
She couldn’t remember much about after it, but something in her gut told her she had ended up at Spencer Academy.
That would explain why Reid, Pogue, and Caleb were sleeping on the floor, and why Tyler was sleeping in the bed across the room. She must be in the dorms.
It’s still dark outside the window, but the stillness in the outside air makes her think it’s somewhere between 4 and 5 in the morning. She sits up, already planning on how to get out of the room, down to her truck, and out of there. She didn’t know where the keys were, which means she would need to hotwire it. That’s okay, it’s not like she hasn’t hotwired a car before.
“Don’t even think about it,” Pogue’s voice stops her train of thought. He sits up, the closest to the bed, and pulls himself onto it. She folds her legs to give him space, “Don’t even think about leaving. Don’t think about disappearing, don’t think about cutting us off.”
“I wasn’t,” Alice looks away from him, the lie blatant on her face.
“Alice, I know you,” Pogue doesn’t make a move to touch her, but his voice makes her look back, “What’s going on?” He cocks his head, giving her the worried puppy eyes.
Alice feels like crying. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind,” She says instead, not looking at Pogue. He says nothing and she continues, “It’s just, shits getting really hard.” Her head feels fuzzy and heavy, but still awake.
“What do you mean?” Pogue takes her hand gently, the brotherly vibes coming off him making her continue and spill everything.
“Ram’s in California and I’m in an apartment all by myself and I can’t have a life because I’m working 2 jobs but I can’t drop one of the jobs otherwise I lose the apartment and the seizures have bizarre side effects I can’t wrap my head around and everything just feels like it’s trying to drown me and I think it is,” Alice sobs softly without tears, looking back up at Pogue, “I can’t feel anything. I’m numb, drowning, and I’m terrified. I’ve stopped sleeping, I haven’t applied for universities yet, and nothing makes sense in my head anymore,” Alice doesn’t cry, but her voice cracks.
Pogue looks at her as if he’s seeing her for the first time.
“What about your parents,” He says softly and Alice lets out a sad huff. “What?”
“My parents died when I was 7,” Alice says softly, almost inaudible, “I was in a foster home from then until Ram turned 18. He’s not my real brother, just another foster kid. We had the same social worker, we bonded, and he got me out. The person who taught me and him about cars was our social worker. Every Christmas I go up to Maine to visit the foster house I grew up in, to volunteer there with the kids. I don’t have anyone to help me. Sorry I lied to you about having parents, I just don’t have anyone.”
“You’ve got us,” Pogue says, “If you don’t push us away.”
“I’m unstable and a burden,” Alice contradicts, “I don’t want to put that on you.”
“Reid unstable and sometimes a burden,” Pogue counters.
“Reid’s a Son of Ipswich,” Alice fights in a low voice, “He’s been with you guys from the start. I don’t have that bond, eventually you’re going to get fed up.”
“Hey, no,” Pogue shakes his head, “We won’t get fed up. The guys adore you, I care about you like a sister, the girls want to petition the school to give you a scholarship so they can spend more time with you, we will never get fed up.”
“But I am a burden. You can’t just say you won’t get fed up now when worse comes to worse you’re going to drop the ball.” Alice shudders, “Everyone drops the ball.”
“We have enough wealth to never think of you as a burden,” Pogue reaches out a hand and pulls Alice closer to him slowly, “And there’s 4 of us. I can’t promise that we’ll be there always, but there has never been a time where at least one of us hasn’t been free. You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
“You were never alone in the first place,” A voice from down below adds, Reid sitting up from where he was sleeping on the far side of Caleb, “Ever since Pogue met you, all he talked about, besides Kate, was Al the Mechanic. You always had him, and now you always have us.” Caleb rolls over, looking at her, nodding in agreement.
Alice lets a tear roll down her cheek.
Tyler sits up and walks over to Alice and Pogue. Gently, he reaches out and hugs her and she lets him.
One by one the boys hug her, careful of her face, and she cries silently.
“You have no idea how much it means to me,” She says softly as Reid hugs her tightly. The blonde makes her feel even calmer like he could protect her from the world, and she squeezes him right back.
“Everyone should have someone to help them get through shit,” Caleb says, looking at his brothers before staring down at her, “Even public school girls who work two jobs.”
Alice sticks her tongue out at him, giddy from the euphoria of being loved unconditionally. A small part of her is scared of when the ball drops, but for now, she’s content.
“Can we go back to sleep?” She asks suddenly as the boys continue standing around, “It’s too early,” She lays back down and uncrosses her legs.
“Can I get my bed back?” Reid asks hautly as Pogue and Caleb return to the floor and Tyler returns to his bed.
“No,” Alice stretches herself like a starfish, “It’s comfy and mine now,” He chuckles and lies down on the floor next to it, the bucket having been removed once Alice had drifted off to sleep. He watches as much as he can of her as she shifts before falling back into a dreamless sleep, worries and concerns flitting over his mind.
She’s an orphan? Her foster brother is her only confidant? She works two jobs just to survive? She’s always alone? She feels like she’s drowning? And the biggest question of all, what bizarre side effects to her seizures? Reid knows that seems minuscule compared to the others, but he can’t shake the feeling that it’s important.
He puts it to the back of his mind as he falls asleep.
In the morning, the real morning with the sun shining through the window and everything, Alice wakes up to her fingers carding through someone’s hair. It’s nice, she thinks as she wakes up, the feeling of hair between your fingers, the smoothness and simpleness of us. She snaps her eyes open abruptly, realizing instantly that her hand is hanging off the bed, the unfamiliar bed, and that she’s basically petting someone lying on the floor.
Looking over the side, she realizes her hand is carding through Reid’s hair, since she’s in Reid and Tyler’s room, and retracts it immediately. No matter how nice it felt, if she could help it she’d never mention this again.
She doesn't know who else is awake. As memories of last night come filtering back to her, of her breaking down with Pogue and the sheer amount of love she felt from the other boys, she’s not sure she wants to know who else is awake.
“You know, if you want I can come up and you can continue playing with my hair,” Reid looks up at her, his Casanova grin on his face, and her heart flips slightly at the thought. Reid wasn’t supposed to mean so much to her, nothing was.
“In your dreams Casanova,” Alice replies, trying not to convey how much she wants to put her hand back in his hair.
“You know you are Alice,” Reid sits up, looking at her, “You fully awake or do you need another hour?”
“I’m good,” Alice sits up experimentally, and when she feels no headache she smiles, “But don’t you guys have to be in class now or something?”
“Yeah, but,” Reid shrugs, glancing around and looking at the clock, “Not for another hour. Spencer starts late.”
Alice glances at the clock and realizes that she would already be well into her second period of school at this time. She remembers how different Spencer and public school is, how different these boy’s lives are to hers. Why would they want to keep her around?
“Hey,” Reid brings her out of her thoughts, “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Alice puts on a brave face, “Just thinking.”
“About?” Reid presses, his eyes concerned, “You blanked out when I mentioned Spencer starting late.”
“It’s just,” Alice huffs, “Your lives are so different from mine. If this were a normal day, I’d already be finishing second period, heading to third. If this were a normal day, I’d have been at the shop until midnight and then been doing work until 2, then waking up hours ago to drive to school. It’s just,”
“We run on different wavelengths?” Caleb finishes for her, sitting up across from Pogue’s form in the middle of the room.
“I really hate that you guys all listen in to conversations and then pop up randomly,” Alice gives him a small glare.
“What, like this?” Pogue sits up, smiling.
“Or this?” Tyler sits up too, as if on cue.
“I hate all of you,” Alice says, a smile on her face.
“Ah, you say that, but I don’t think you do.” Pogue stands up, the boys follow, and Alice attempts. She collapses almost instantly, Reid catching her.
“Whoa, you good,” He asks, his hands holding her in place.
“Yeah, I think so,” Alice frowns and puts the majority of her weight on her legs. They don’t collapse like before. “Weird,”
“As weird as those side effects you mentioned last night?” Reid jokes. Alice stills at his words, remembering that she mentioned that. What would they say if they found out?
“Whoa, okay, you keep blanking out,” Suddenly Pogue’s in front of her, “We should get her down to the cafeteria, she needs to eat.”
“I can’t go wearing yesterday’s clothes,” Alice complains. She normally doesn’t care, but the clothes she slept in and wore yesterday were starting to grate her skin.
“Here,” Reid goes over to his dresser and tosses her a sweatshirt, “Wear that,”
Alice shrugs and drops it on the bed before moving to pull off her own shirt.
“Whoa, what the fuck are you doing Alice?” Pogue asks, averting his eyes.
“Cool your jets, it’s a sports bra,” Alice rolls her eyes and pulls it off. All four boys go silent as she changes. When she turns around to them, they’re all staring at her, eyes wide.
“Alice,” Caleb asks in a too calm voice, immediately, putting her on edge, “Why do you have a family crest tattooed on your spine and on your neck?”
Alice ate in silence, the four boys watching her. Every so often Pogue would drop more food onto her plate, or Reid would snag something. The other Spencer kids in the dining hall stared, Alice could feel their looks on her back, not used to someone outside their school sharing a meal with them.
Alice’s stomach was a pit of anxiety. The boys knew about the tattoo’s, they’d seen them. What would they say if she told the truth? Would they believe her if she lied? Too much was happening inside her head, and the bruises on her face started to hurt.
“Alice,” Reid said gently, putting a piece of toast on her plate instead of taking something off, “Alice, slow down and breathe,” Alice stopped chewing for a second, the sound of his voice making her pause, and the back of her neck tickled.
Alice took a breath, it didn’t ease the anxiety in her stomach, and continued eating.
“Who the hell is this?” A boy with shoulder length wavy hair, someone Alice recognized from Nicky’s but couldn’t name, walks up, “And what the hell is she doing here?”
Alice turns around to look at him, he pales at the bruises on her face. Next to her, Reid and Pogue both turn to look at him, Reid’s arm going out to the back of her chair, Pogue putting an arm threateningly on the table.
“You got a problem?” Alice asks, her voice laced with malice.
“Yeah Aaron, you got a problem,” Surprisingly it’s Caleb who repeats it, leaning forward. Alice doesn’t let her surprise show.
Aaron looks between the 5 of them before backing off, turning away without saying another word. Alice turns back around.
“You gonna tell us about the tattoo’s?” Tyler asks and she freezes.
It takes her a second to get the words out, “Not here. It’s a complicated story.”
“Why is there a story behind tattoo’s?” Caleb asks.
“There’s always a story,” Alice answers before taking a bite of her toast. The boys eat in silence for the rest of the meal. Alice finishes first, watching the boys exchange looks. When they’re all finished, they all stand and Alice follows.
“I already told the Provost we’d be out for the day,” Caleb says as they walk out of the dining hall, “We’re taking the hummer. Reid, you drive.”
“It’s my car!” Tyler protests, but a look from Pogue stops him short.
They all climb in, Alice in the middle in the back, Caleb on one side Pogue on the other. Her anxiety returns full force.
“You wanna tell us now?” Pogue says gently as Reid pulls out of Spencer.
Alice takes a breath. “You know how I get seizures?” She starts off. The boys furrow their brows, what does one have to do with the other? “Well, it’s related to that. Or at least, I think it is. When I start seizing, I can still feel, I don’t exactly blackout. I feel like I’m being struck by lightning, continuously, for about a minute. Then I blackout. When I come to, my back feels like it’s been roasted over hot coals, and the tattoos have appeared.”
The guys exchange a look as Reid turns onto a dirt path through the woods. “Anything else?” He asks.
“I looked up the crest after the first time it happened,” Alice continues, “It’s the family crest of John Putnam, an accused witch from Ipswich during the Salem Witch Trials,” At her words, Caleb swears and Reid swerves. “I thought it was cool, but then the Putnam Barn burned down the night I got the second crest.”
“When did it first happen,” Caleb asks, grabbing her shoulders.
“July 14th,” Alice answers after a second, “I think it was July 14th.”
Reid swears this time, low and long. He puts his foot on the gas and turns a sharp corner, muttering.
“The other times?” Caleb asks, all business.
“A few days after Pogue ended up in the hospital, the night the Putnam Barn burned down like I said,” Alice says slowly, unsure about why this all matters, “And then the day before Christmas Eve.”
Pogue swears this time, and Reid slams on the gas again. Alice grows more worried as the seconds pass.
“Why does this matter?” Alice asks, glancing from Reid to Caleb to Pogue, none of which are looking at her.
“Fuck,” Caleb glances at her, not answering her question, before looking at the others, “Fuck. Reid, stop the car,” Reid breaks fast and Alice nearly launches forward, Pogue’s arm the only thing stopping her.
“What the fuck is going on?” Alice asks him but he doesn’t answer.
“Everyone out,” Caleb commands and everyone moves. Pogue holds the door open for Alice. Her hands shake as the boys regard her and then each other.
“Are we going to tell her?” Tyler asks after a second.
“She’s already a part of this,” Caleb answers, looking at Alice, “The dates match. If the first one is Putnam I’m willing to bet anything the next two are Danvers and Perry. She’s been in this from the beginning.”
“In what?” Alice asks, worried. They’re all acting like it’s a cult or something.
“Alice, please don’t freak out,” Pogue puts a hand out.
“Why would I freak out?” Alice asks, trying to put on a brave face. She’s pretty sure that a bunny would scare her at this point.
“Because what you’re about to see isn’t natural,” Caleb answers.
“Like my seizures and the tattoo’s aren’t natural?” Alice cocks her head to one side.
“Exactly like that,” Reid nods.
Alice looks between them before settling her eyes on Pogue, the one she’s known the longest, the one she trusts wholeheartedly.
And then his eyes turn black.
Alice screams as she looks to the other boys, whose eye hand all turned black. She backs up to the hummer, her hand hovering over her mouth, uncertain of what she’s seeing.
“Alice, we’re still us,” Pogue blinks and his eyes are back to normal, “We’re not going to hurt you.”
“What the fuck are you?” Alice asks, her back pressed against the car.
“You should be asking yourself the same thing,” Reid’s eyes go back to normal, as do Caleb’s and Tyler’s, “Somehow, you’re ending up with our family crests tattoo’d onto your back the day of our 18th birthdays, when we ascend.”
“When we come into our full powers,” Caleb explains, “We’re the descendants of witches, and we inherited their powers like our fathers and grandfathers before us.”
“So, the founding fathers of Ipswich were witches,” Alice says slowly, “And you guys are too.”
“Yes,” Reid nods, “And somehow you're connected to that.”
“How?” Alice asks.
“We don’t know,” Caleb offers, “The crests and the dates of your seizures have to be more than just a coincidence, but we don’t know the why or the how.”
“I guess me being an orphan doesn't help, does it?” Alice jokes. Pogue gives her a look. She swallows the thing smile on her face.
“We’ll let you think over everything,” Tyler offers, “In your own time.” He heads toward the car and Alice moves aside, keeping herself far away from the boys. She leans herself against a tree a few yards away from the hummer, letting the boys climb in.
She turns away from them. Things start making sense, but not really.
She stiffens when she feels a presence behind her. Alice glances back to see Reid.
“Pogue wanted to do this, but I insisted,” Reid says softly, keeping himself a foot away from her, “We still mean what we said last night, about wanting you around. You’re not weird, and yeah, we’re surprised, but we’re not going to turn our backs on you.”
“Not even if I end up being something you should turn your backs on?” Alice asks in a low voice. They’re acceptance only extends as far as her not being a threat to them, that much she’s figured in the last few minutes.
“You’ll never come to that.” Reid puts a hand on her shoulder, “Don’t even think like that.”
She looks at him, “What if your wrong?” Alice says, trying to pair the boy in front of her with the black eyes. “Show me some magic,” Alice demands softly, “Show me what it looks like when you do magic.”
“When we Use?” Reid asks with a small smile, “Are you sure?”
Alice nods. She wants to see this.
Reid’s iris flares gold for a second, expanding outward as his eye is replaced with deep black. The back of Alice’s neck tickles for a second as the car behind him turns on. The boys, who are leaning against the car not inside it, jump back for a second.
Reid’s eyes return to their blue and the car turns off. Alice lets out the breath she was holding in.
“Still scared?” Reid asks, his cocky smile back.
“Wasn’t scared to begin with,” Alice says hautly. Reid laughs and turns to the guys. They both slowly walk back to them, Alice in the rear, her pulse racing. It’s one thing to see one person do magic, it’s another to know that your 4 closest guy friends can all do magic.
“You okay?” Pogue asks immediately as she joins them.
Alice nods, “Yeah, I’m okay. Just don’t put me in the middle,” She climbs into the car and takes a seat on the far side, “You boys mind dropping me at home?”
The boys share a look before climbing in. Tyler takes the wheel while Caleb sits in the passenger seat, Reid in the middle in the back and Pogue on his other side.
“Sure,” Caleb says hesitantly, “But first we need to go somewhere.” He looks to Tyler, “The Colony House.”
“You sure?” Tyler asks as she starts the car. Caleb nods. “Okay then,” Tyler drives.
“What’s the colony house?” Alice asks after they clear the treeline.
“The house my ancestors built when they first moved here,” Caleb explains, “It’s the only one still standing of the original colony houses for our family. It’s been with us for generations.”
“And what’s so special about it?”
“You’ll find out,” Reid gives her a sly smile and Pogue elbows him. No one says anything more.
Chase watches the group stop at the Colony House from the woods, a smile gracing his lips. His hands twitch with the urge to Use as he watches them, the urge to blast them into nothing where they stand. But he can’t, because Caleb has power that rivals his and Pogue’s already ascended. His best bet is getting after Reid, the one already teetering on addiction, the one with the least to lose.
But Alice is a pleasant addition to this little group, one that might prove handy. He doesn’t know why they’re taking her to the colony house, and he doesn’t care. Reid’s birthday is in 2 weeks, that’s what matters.
Chase Uses, barely, just enough to ebb his addiction, and Alice turns sharply, looking straight towards him without seeing him. She gives the trees around him a funny look before turning back and following the boys toward the Colony house.
Chase frowns, unpleasantly surprised. How would she have been able to tell he was using, much less where he was? That was unheard of and impossible considering the other boys couldn’t tell when he was using.
He watches the group enter the colony house, and vanishes from the woods.
At the door, Alice turns around again with a sharp intake of breath, the unpleasant feeling tickling the back of her neck. Pogue gives her a strange look.
“You good Alice?” He asks as she crosses the threshold and follows the boys down to the basement, the stairway lit with candles which light as Caleb passes.
“I just felt like someone was watching us,” Alice confesses. She doesn’t want to divulge the feeling on her neck, not yet. Something in her tells her it’s not the right time.
“No one knows we’re here,” Pogue assures her.
“And even if they did, no one can get into the Colony House, much less this part of it, without us wanting them too,” Caleb adds from the front of the group.
The rest of the walk down the stairs is silent. When they hit the bottom, Alice feels something shock her system as the candles flare up in the basement revealing 5 stone chairs carved with family crests and symbols around a stone altar with a pentagram carved into it. Lining the walls are bookshelves filled with old volumes.
“What is this place?” Alice looks around, turning in a slow circle, trying to take in everything, “Did the founders build this?”
“The Danvers line has been the head of our Covenant for centuries,” Caleb explains, walking over to a stone chair with his family crest carved into it, “The original Danvers had this built as the headquarters for the Covenant. Over the centuries, things have been added.”
“The stone table and chairs are original.” Pogue explains, moving to his own chair, “Built using the Power to withstand everything.”
“There’s 5 chairs and only 4 of you though?” Alice frowns as Reid and Tyler move to their own chairs. She looks at the 5th chair, “That’s the crest of John Putnam. He was one of you?”
“He was never one of us,” Reid says darkly, “The Putnam line was cast out because John wanted more power and wasn’t afraid of doing whatever was necessary to get it.”
“So the chair has been empty ever since?” Alice runs a hand down the side of it, feeling the cool stone.”
“We don’t sit in the chairs that aren’t ours,” Pogue takes a seat and a fire lights the stone table, pointing towards him. The others follow and the fire grows, encompassing almost everywhere around the table except for where the 5th chair is placed.
Caleb frowns at it, “That’s odd,” He says, glancing at his brothers.
“What?” Alice asks.
“Normally it covers the whole table, even with only 4 of us.” Pogue looks from the table to Alice, “Take a seat in the 5th chair.” He commands.
Alice gives him a look, “Really?”
“If she’s not meant to sit there she’ll get hurt,” Reid protests.
“She’s the only new factor,” Pogue looks at him, “If she sits in the chair and the fire complete’s itself then we know for sure she’s somehow connected.”
“Pogue makes a good point,” Caleb looks between them, “But it’s your decision, Alice.”
Alice looks at all of them before sitting down on the stone chair. The light stone feels cool under her, which contrasts the heat as the fire completes itself in front of her. The other boys suck in a breath as a book lifts itself off a bookcase and floats to the center of the table.
“This is highly unusual,” Tyler comments, “The book shouldn’t react to her unless,”
“Unless she has Covenant blood,” Caleb finishes for him, “But there’s only one child born to each family every generation, that makes no sense.”
“What about the Putnam line?” Alice asks, looking up, “Couldn’t I be his descendant?”
“No,” Pogue shakes his head, “We already found the descendant of John Putnam for our generation. He’s dead.”
“Well,” Alice looks at all of them, before settling on the unusually quiet Reid, “Where do I fit in?” At her words, the book suspended in front of them opens, flipping through pages rapidly. It stops on a section outlined in gold ink.
“Second-born descendants,” Caleb reads before the book rotates and floats toward Alice.
She reads the page aloud, “Second-born descendants are rare, but not impossible for members of the Covenant. They happen when the male heir impregnates a second female before the first male is born. They possess no power of their own but can feel the Power of the others and know when the members Ascend. Children of second-born descendants do not possess any sensitivity to the Power.” The book snaps shut as Alice reads the last word.
“So you’re a second-born descendant,” Reid says softly, “But what line?”
“No clue,” Alice leans forward, her head resting on her hands, “My biological dad was never in the picture. My step-dad and mom never talked about him or had any pictures whatsoever. I don’t even know if he knew I existed.”
“We could always ask Pogue’s dad, or Tyler’s?” Reid offers, “See if either of them know about one of the older generation impregnating two girls within the same 6-month span,”
“I don’t want to bring them into this until we know for sure what we’re dealing with,” Caleb contradicts, “They’re not going to take the news of a second-born descendant lightly.”
“I think we’re ignoring the obvious,” Pogue says. They all look at him, “She’s in Putnam’s spot. The book only came out once she was sitting, the fire wouldn’t light all the way without it, it makes the most sense for her to be a descendant of John Putnam.” Alice looks back up at the crest, which suddenly feels like a weight looming over her.
Alice shakes her head, “This makes no sense. I was born before all of you, there’s no way I’m a descendant of any of your lines.”
“When did you turn 18?” Reid asks, leaning forward.
“Late June, the 26th,” Alice frowns, “Which makes me older than all of you. How could I be a second-born and be older than you all?”
“Well, you’re definitely connected to us.” Caleb muses, “And the book opened for you. What did it say, specifically?”
The book opens again, to the same page as last time, and presents itself to Caleb as if it has a mind of its own.
“Second-born descendants happen when the male heir impregnates a second female before the first male is born,” Caleb reads softly, “It only says impregnate, not that the second female has to give birth after the first.”
“So, a premature second born is something that could happen?” Tyler asks slowly.
“It’d be a one in a million chance,” Reid muses, looking at Alice, “But then again technically we’re all a one in a million chance.”
“We need more information,” Caleb muses, looking at Alice, “Wild speculation isn’t going to get us anywhere. But it’s reasonable to assume that you were a premature baby, Alice. You’re definitely a second-born descendant, you have the marks on your back to prove it.”
“But the question is which son,” Tyler looks at her, “And what else can she do besides sense when we’re ascending.”
“Anything else happen when we Use?” Pogue asks, “Anything at all?”
Alice thinks but shakes her head, “Nothing I can think of.”
“We just need to figure out her lineage, then we work on the rest,” Reid says.
The others all nod in agreement.
Tyler pulls the hummer into a parking space next to the apartment block Alice lives in, turning off the engine. Alice opens the car door and climbs out, followed by Caleb and Pogue, who were once again sitting in the back with her.
Reid and Tyler climb out, Reid looking up at the building.
“Not very friendly, is it?” He comments.
“It’s home,” Alice shrugs and starts walking towards the front entrance. The boys follow her, like a line of guards. “It’s not supposed to be friendly.” She glances back at the boys, “You know you don’t have to follow me all the way in, right?”
Pogue gives her a look, “We want to Alice,” The others nod in agreement. Alice grinds her teeth and turns back, pulling out her keys as she moves to the door.
As they all reach the front, the door opens on it’s own.
“Alice, dear,” An old woman walks down the steps, a smile on her face, “I haven’t seen you in a while, how are you?”
“I’m great Mathilde,” Alice smiles and hugs the woman, “I just got back after spending a night with friends.”
“What happened to your face dear?” The woman touches her cheek gingerly before looking at the boys warily, “Did one of them do this to you?”
The boys look affronted at the accusation but Alice just smiles, “No, it was a guy at school. These are my friends, they helped me last night.”
“Well, it looks bad,” Mathilde smiles, “I’ll be over in 2 hours then with some soup and some of Chef’s old medical supplies,” She says without discussion.
“Thank you,” Alice says before one of the boys can protest, “I’ll see you in 2 hours then Mathilde. Have a lovely walk,”
“Thank you dear,” Mathilde starts walking down to the road as Alice punches in the code for the door and opens it.
“You have elderly neighbors?” Pogue asks when they’re inside. The boys move towards the sign for the elevator but Alice starts walking towards the stairs. After a second the boys follow her.
“Which floor do you live on?” Caleb asks in the stairwell.
“The first floor,” Alice replies from halfway up the first flight of stairs. The boys follow her to the first floor, where she walks to the end of the hall and opens the second to last door on the left, number 119.
“It’s small,” Reid comments as they step into her apartment. Pogue smacks him on the head. “Ow!”
“It’s home,” Alice looks at them all, “It’s not much but it’s home.”
“It’s got character,” Caleb comments, looking at the artwork hanging on the walls. Tyler skims the books in the bookcase, humming as he reads the names.
Alice walks to the kitchenette and pulls out a box of pasta, “So, did you end up contacting the school about my suspension?” She changes the subject and puts on the stove.
“Yes,” Caleb nods and Reid and Pogue sit down at the table. Tyler pulls a book from the bookcase and follows them, flipping it open. “They’re not going to let up about it. You’re out for 2 more days, and it’ll probably affect college acceptance.”
“I haven’t even applied yet,” Alice rolls her eyes, “But okay,”
“I was able to convince them to give the other guy, who you apparently nearly blinded, the same suspension as you. His name’s Jackson, by the way. Jackson Ruth.” Caleb continues, ignoring Alice’s comment.
“Good to know,” Alice turns on the stove, “I’ll be sure to get him a card,”
“Alice,” Pogue says grimly.
“What? Am I not allowed to make jokes? I find out you four are like the male version of The Craft and I got beat up by a guy named Jackson,” Alice looks at all of them, “I’m allowed to make jokes.”
“Don’t talk about us so flippantly,” Caleb hisses. All the other boys tense up.
“No one gives a shit,” Alice turns on the sink and fills a pot with water, “But if you’re really worried I won’t mention it again,” She rolls her eyes.
There’s silence as the pasta starts cooking. Tyler continues reading and Reid looks over his shoulders at the book before getting up. He makes his way over to the bookcase.
“What’s good in here?” He asks Alice. She looks at him, surprised. She didn’t take him for an avid reader.
“Well, there’s some Terry Pratchett on the bottom shelf, next to some Neil Gaiman.” She points, “But my favorites are on the top.”
“The Foxhole Court?” Reid raises an eyebrow, “What’s that about?”
“Nothing you would be interested in,” Alice rolls her eyes, “The mafia and a college sports team. For you I’d recommend, wait I don’t even know what you like to read.”
“One of my favorite books is Dreamcatcher by Stephen King,” Reid explains, looking over the top shelf, “But my tastes vary. I keep most of it on a Kindle though, so it doesn't clutter up my room at Spencer,”
“Yeah, clutter, that’d be a shame,” Alice says sarcastically, looking at her bookshelf, “I don’t know, you might like Revolution. It’s a story about a girl in modern day France and the story about a girl during the French Revolution.”
“Sounds cool,” Reid pulls out the book, checking over the cover before flipping it open, going back to the table and sitting down.
“When do you boys have to be back at school?” Alice asks, pouring in the pasta, “It’s like 11:30.”
“We should be back before 1,” Caleb checks his phone to verify the time, “For afternoon classes.”
“Can we keep the books?” Reid asks, looking up from where he’s reading the first chapter, “I like this one already.”
“You can,” Alice nods to him, “Tyler, unfortunately, Good Omens doesn’t leave this house.”
“Why?” Tyler looks up sharply, “This book is incredible already,”
“It’s also literally my favorite book and I’m super protective of it,” Alice gives him a look.
He nods and continues reading, “Fine, I’ll put it back after lunch.”
Alice rolls her eyes and continues cooking for the idiot Sons of Ipswich.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
The next 2 days are quiet for Alice, who doesn’t do anything besides keep up with homework in her classes via email and work at both the shop and Brody’s.
When the guys a Brody’s saw her face they vowed to kill whoever did that to her, before she calmed them down and explained that the fight had been her fault and the guy had nearly been blinded by her so there was no reason for them to defend her honor.
Chase quietly told her afterward that he would still kill him if her told her the name, she thanked him but said it was unnecessary. He offered to buy her a drink and she accepted, because beer was beer and he was sincere.
The night before she went back to school, Reid knocked on her door, Revolution in hand.
“I finished it,” Is all he says and she lets him into her apartment.
“What did you think?” Alice asks, sitting down on the couch as Reid goes to her bookcase and puts the book back.
“I liked it. The message at the end was really powerful, and the way it was set up was cool. It was a little tame for me, I like books with more action in them though,” He scans the books, “Tyler mentioned Good Omens was good.” He picks the book off the shelf.
“Have you read anything from Gaiman or Pratchett before?” Alice asks, looking up from where she’s reading her own book.
“No,” Reid shrugs, “Why?”
“Maybe try out something like American Gods first,” Alice scrunches her nose, “Good Omens is a little chaotic to read without any prior experience with Gaiman's writing style.”
“Lame,” Reid frowns but puts the book back, “Have you read all of these?” He scans the bookshelf again.
“Yeah,” Alice nods, watching him from the couch, “This is just the stuff I keep out here, I’ve got more in my bedroom,”
“Your bedroom huh,” Reid gives her a smirk.
“Funny Reid,” Alice gives him a look. He laughs and drops down on the couch.
“I’m serious,” Reid looks at her, “I’d love to see your bedroom,” He gives her a flirtatious smile.
“Get out,” Alice rolls her eyes, “Under no circumstances will you ever see my bedroom.”
“You wound me Alice,” Reid holds his hands to his heart, “A mortal blow, fatal,” He rolls onto the floor and starts shaking, “I’m dying Alice, all because of you.”
“If you die, you won’t get to talk with my anymore,” Alice puts her book down on the coffee table, reaching over him.
“Oh, right.” Reid sits up abruptly, nearly knocking her arm, “Guess I’m not dying anymore.”
“Sure you aren’t, casanova.” Alice rolls her eyes again.
They lapse into silence as Reid pulls himself up onto the couch from the floor, throwing his legs over Alice’s. She gives him a look but he doesn’t move his feet. She rolls her eyes again.
“So they say,” Reid wiggles his eyebrows at her.
“Stop doing that, weirdo,” She hits him with the pillow behind her.
“Sorry,” Reid laughs and Alice realizes she wants to keep hearing him laugh.
They lapse into silence again, a question entering Alice’s mind that she doesn’t know if she wants to ask.
She decides to go for it anyway. “Reid, can I see you Use? Like, use your powers?”
“Shh, you can’t talk about that,” Reid puts a finger to her lips, “Seriously, don’t talk about it where others can hear.” Alice nods.
“But can I?” She presses, her lips brushing against Reid’s finger as she speaks, “I want to know what you guys do, if I’m somehow apart of this I should be able to see it.”
“I can show you now, if you want,” Reid nods, something glinting in his eye, “But not here. We’ll take your truck out to the woods, call the guys so they can meet us. They’ve been looking into the second-born descendant thing.”
“Will do,” Alice nods and gets up off the couch, pushing Reid’s legs off as well. She grabs her keys and phone and meets Reid by the door. “You ready?”
“Let’s go,” Reid nods and they leave the apartment.
Alice phones Pogue once they get into the truck, Reid insisting on driving. Pogue picks up on the third ring, “Yeah, Al?”
“Hey, Reid and I are heading to the woods to do some stuff related to the,” Alice stops, not knowing if talking over the phone is secure, “The things you guys do. He said to call you, apparently you’ve been looking into the descendant thing?”
“Yeah we have,” Pogue sounds like he’s nodding, “I’m with Tyler and Caleb now, we’ll meet you. Tell him to head to the cliff above the beach.” And with that Pogue hangs up.
“He says to head to the cliff above the beach,” Alice shuts her phone off and sticks it in the cubby behind the gear shift. “He’ll be there with the others soon.” A tingle goes across her neck as Reid nods and turns the truck onto a dirt road.
She watches the scenery pass as Reid drives recklessly through the woods, the dirt road turning into a path through the woods soon enough. She expects him to stop, but he doesn’t and they continue through the trees.
Reid only stops the truck once they’re out of the tree’s, on a clearing about 20 feet wide before it drops off a cliff. Alice can see the ocean beyond the cliff, and assumes the beach is below. The other boys are already standing on the edge.
Alice exits the truck as Reid turns if off. He tosses the keys to her over the hood as they walk to the boys.
“You want to see us Use?” Pogue asks as soon as they’re close enough.
“You said it yourself, I’m apart of this.” Alice nods, “I want to see this part of it.”
Caleb nods, “Okay, but we do this our way.”
And Pogue smiles.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Alice watches the boys eyes turn black for the third time since she met them, and she wasn’t met with the fear that had previously accompanied the shift. The back of her next tickles as they use, magic vibrating in the air as Pogue lifts up a tree branch and throws it across the clearing. Caleb pulls it back, while Tyler and Reid work together to swirl leaves and snow around.
Alice laughs as she watches, before getting the feeling someone is watching them. Her head snaps to the side, to the treeline, where she’s sure someone is watching them. She frowns when she sees nothing, but the feeling persists.
Leaves blowing across her face being her attention back to the boys, who are smiling as they continue playing around with magic.
“Watch this,” Reid smiles playfully and Alice smiles back before Reid turns and throws himself off the cliff.
“Reid!” Alice yells, rushing forward as she drops, her heart falling with him. There’s a tingling sensation in her fingers as she reaches the edge of the cliff, a tugging in her gut, and then something explodes.
There’s a touch to her shoulder as Reid unceremoniously falls onto the ground beside her, and the tingling sensation leaves her.
At the edge of the clearing a tree has caught fire, and Pogue looks deathly afraid.
“What did you just do?” His voice is hollow as he looks at Alice, both hands planted on her shoulders, forcing eye contact, “No one should be able to take power.”
“What are you talking about?” Alice asks, frowning, looking from him to Caleb. Caleb looks hollow, sunken, but as she watches color returns to his face, “What did I do?”
“You took my power,” Caleb says, frowning slightly, “Reid went off the cliff, which he shouldn’t have done, and suddenly my power was being tugged to you and the tree catches fire. Something happened.”
There’s a hollow feeling in my chest as he speaks and I resist the urge to look at the patch of trees where I think someone’s watching me. I don’t know what they mean, but it’s got to be bad.
“I felt this tingling all over my hands, this tugging sensation in my gut, and then like, an explosive feeling,” Alice says softly, trying to get them to understand, “I don’t know what happened any more than you do.”
“Something not right,” Pogue looks scared more than concerned, “Whatever’s going on, it has something to do with you and this second-born descendant thing. And it’s bad. You shouldn’t be able to use the Power, much less take it from us.
Alice looks at Caleb, “What did you find out about second-born descendents?”
“Nothing much,” Caleb nods to Pogue, who lets go of her shoulders, “Just stuff about them being second children and very rare. Typically female since first-borns are always male, the tattoos are natural but the lighting feeling and passing out aren’t, apparently. All branches of the four families have had at least one instance of a second-born descendant, and there’s only been 6 recorded since The Covenant started.”
“So which family do I belong to?” Alice asks, a little scared of the answer. In her gut, she knows which one it is, she’s felt it since she sat down on the stone chair and the circle lit up.
“John Putnam,” Caleb answers gravely, “It’s the only family that makes sense. We don’t know anything about him, you’re an orphan-”
“And you sat in the Putnam chair.” Pogue cuts him off, “There’s only one possibility.”
“So I’m the descendant of the outcasted family,” Alice nods, her head spinning, “A second-born descendant and I somehow managed to find myself back in Ipswich despite not having any clue about my family history.” She looks at them, “Doesn’t that seem odd?”
“What’s odd is you pulling Caleb’s power,” Tyler comments, “You’re not supposed to be able to do that. Even we can’t do it to each other.”
“I don’t know,” Alice says, looking between them, “I’m as lost as you are. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know if it’ll happen again.”
“I won’t jump off any cliffs anytime soon then,” Reid jokes and Alice shoots him a warning glare.
“That wasn’t cool Reid,” Pogue hits him on the shoulders, “You shouldn’t have been showing off. What if you hadn’t been able to catch yourself?”
“Just because you’ve ascended and I haven’t doesn’t mean I’m useless,” Reid fights back, “But I’m sorry for scaring you Alice.” Alice continues glaring. Pogue straightens like he’s going to fight Reid.
“Okay, break it up,” Caleb comes between all of them, “Calm down. Why don’t we all go grab a bite to eat at Nicky’s and discuss how we’re going to celebrate Reid’s birthday in a few days.”
“It’s your birthday soon?” Alice frowns at Reid. He didn’t tell her.
“Yeah, I ascend in 6 days.” Reid nods, “You’re coming to this one right? You missed Pogue’s.”
“I had plans up in Maine on Pogue’s,” Alice looks at Pogue, “But I’d love to come to this one. Keep in mind while you get your power, I’m going to be convulsing on the floor.”
“Right, maybe it’s not a good idea for you to be there,” Caleb nods, “Sara and Kate know about us, but you might be a little bit of a stretch for them. And we don’t want to freak them out at the ascension.”
“I want to see it though,” Alice protests, “I’ve seen you use and I’ve seen the colony house. I want to be apart of this, moreso that I am as a second-born descendant.”
“We’ll see what we can do,” Pogue smiles and wraps an arm around Alice, “I’ll drive you to Nicky’s the others can take Tyler’s truck.
Alice laughs and Reid watches them, an unreadable expression on his face.
Just inside the line of tree’s, Chase smirks. He’d figured Alice was special, but a second-born descendant with the ability to pull The Power was almost unheard of. The Putnam line had boasted a few second-born descendants over the years, but none came close to Alice. And with Reid’s ascension coming up, Chase could use this.
He could take their power and finally get rid of the Sons of Ipswich, like his dad had always wanted. With the power he’d stop aging every time he used.
He let himself use a little to take the edge off and Alice’s head snapped to him again. He was hidden, completely, so he knew she couldn’t see him, but it was annoying that she could sense his power. He wondered what else she could sense. He figured she knew when they ascended, but there must be more to it than that.
He needed to figure it out, and fast. He wanted that power, wanted the addiction to stop and the shaking and the aging. She could do that. He just needed to get close to her, manipulate her. Besides, they were siblings. What brother would he be if he didn’t pay her a visit?
Chase watched them drive away with a smile, watching Alice laugh at something Pogue said.
They wouldn’t be laughing by the time he was done with them.