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Safety of the Dark

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Liam’s having a bad day.

For starters, he got a poor mark on his Biology test, even though he actually studied for it. Then his mum texted him to let him know she’s been asked to do another flight, so it’s going to be a few more days before she gets home.

 

The school bell has just rang, signalling the end of the day and the start of the weekend. Liam’s walking down the hallway, trying not to get crushed by the rush of excited students when his phone starts ringing. He digs it out of his pocket and sees ‘Dad’ on the display.

“Hey dad, what’s up?” Liam says as he answers the phone.

“Hi sweetie, it’s Melissa from the hospital.”

“Oh, hi Melissa. Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine, don’t worry. Your dad’s been called into an emergency surgery, a pretty nasty car crash victim.”

“Ouch. Do you know how long he’ll be?” Liam feels a clap on his shoulder, and sees Mason has materialised beside him.

“Sorry sweetie, I’m not sure. Your dad’s wondering if you can do him a big favour, though.”

Liam sighs, already knowing where this is going. “Look after Aria?”

“He knows you had plans, but your regular sitter’s busy.” Melissa sounds genuinely sympathetic, and Liam knows that she is; her son Scott isn’t too much older than Liam, so she’ll remember all too well how disappointing it was when they had to cancel plans due to unexpected patients coming in. “Aria’s on a play date at the Parrish’s, could you pick her up later?”

“Yeah, sure. Thanks Melissa.”

“See you soon, sweetie.”

 

“Dude,” Mason sympathises as he wraps an arm around Liam’s shoulders. Liam immediately relaxes into the touch, leaning against Mason.

“I can’t believe I have to miss Sinema,” Liam groans. It’s all ages night every Friday, but even then the doormen are sometimes reluctant to let Liam in because of his height. His growth spurt can’t come soon enough.

“There’s always next time,” Mason says distractedly. Liam follows Mason’s line of sight, and immediately sees why; Corey’s ahead of them, skittering between people in a half-run to get out of the building. Liam doesn’t know what Mason sees in Corey, personally, but who is he to judge.

“You making moves on my boyfriend, Hewitt?” Garrett asks by way of a greeting, leaning in to kiss Liam.

“He’s all yours,” Mason laughs.

Liam kisses Garrett back. “Your hair looks good, by the way. I don’t think I told you earlier.”

He’s started sticking his fringe up in a quiff, instead of just leaving it flat against his forehead.

Garrett smiles, all pearly whites. “It takes me from a solid 9.5 to a perfect 10, right?”

“Yes, totally, your beauty knows no bounds.”

“Asshole.” Garrett lightly punches Liam on the arm.

“By the way, I can’t come to Sinema tonight. I need to look after Aria.”

“Lame. I’m still going, though. I’m not missing Sinema for your sister.” Garrett gets his phone out and promptly starts tapping away on it. Liam shoots him a glare, but he’s too preoccupied to notice.

“You guys wanna come back to mine and play X-Box for a bit?” Liam asks. “I don’t need to pick up Aria until later.”

“Whatever,” Garrett shrugs.

“I dunno man, I should probably get a head start on my homework instead of leaving it all until Sunday night again,” Mason says.

Liam looks at him incredulously. “I can’t believe my best friend is such a nerd.”

“Hey, laugh all you want but don’t come crying to me when you’re worrying over what assignment not to hand in.”

“Oh please,” Liam scoffs, “we both know I’m going to do exactly that, and we both know you’re going to help me anyway.”

“And this is the thanks I get, being verbally abused to my own beautiful face.”

“Seriously though, come back to mine. I’ll order pizza.”

“Hmm, I don’t know…” Mason looks so genuinely conflicted that Liam might think he actually wants to go home and do homework.

Liam decides to play his trump card. “I’ll pay for pizza.” The corner of Mason’s mouth hooks up in a smile. Hook, line and sinker.

“You just know me so well,” Mason sighs, wiping a fake tear from his eye.

 

Garrett and Mason are sitting on the couch, while Liam sits on the floor between Garrett’s legs. Mason lets out a shout of triumph as his team wins, while Liam groans at losing.

Liam tilts his head back to stare up at Garrett, who’s tapping away at his phone. “Hey, you wanna play next or are you just gonna keep staring at your phone?”

“I’ll keep staring, thanks.” Garrett doesn’t even look up from the screen as he says it.

“Whatever,” Liam mutters. “Next round, let’s go.”

 

Liam could actually win this round. He’s leaning forwards, willing his character to win. He sees Mason’s character, is about to take the winning shot-

-then suddenly there’s an arm covering his eyes, pulling him backwards. The unmistakeable sound of Liam’s character being killed resonates from the TV.

“Garrett, you asshole! I was about to win!” He shoves Garrett’s arm away from his face, but instead Garrett leans down to wrap Liam in a bear hug, tickling Liam’s ribs as he does so. “Stop, stop!” Liam laughs, trying to squirm out of his grip. Garrett peppers his face with kisses, then lets him go.

“Hey, Liam,” Garrett says.

“Hmm?”

“You were supposed to pick your sister up 20 minutes ago.”

“Oh fuck.” Liam jumps to his feet and Mason snorts. “Lydia’s going to kill me. She is literally going to end my life. You’ll never see me again.” Liam grabs his keys and runs out the room. “Just let yourselves out,” he calls over his shoulder.

“Good luck,” they both call back.

 

***

 

Liam decides to cut through the skate park. He would normally try to avoid the place altogether, since the people who hang around there are kind of dicks. However, there are big, dirty clouds rolling across the sky, threatening to rain at any moment; and Liam, in his haste, forgot to pick up a jacket. He hops the fence and sure enough, there’s a crowd of people; some are doing tricks on their skateboards and BMX bikes, while others are just sitting around smoking cigarettes.

He nearly reaches the other side without incident when he hears one of them call to him. “Hey, Liam.”

Liam groans. He doesn’t have time for this right now. Theo’s probably only talking to him to annoy Hayden.

The thing is, everything about Theo screams ‘popular’, yet he barely seems to speak to anyone in that crowd. Maybe he’s just not interested in the vapidity of high school’s social hierarchy.

“Liam!” Theo calls again. This is promptly followed by a crash and jeering from the other habitants of the skate park. Liam turns around to the sight of Theo Raeken on his ass, wincing and holding his arm, skateboard slowly rolling away from him and towards Liam. He knows he’s caught at this point, so he picks up the skateboard and walks over to Theo, who’s still sitting on his ass. He’s wearing these skinny jeans that do wonderful things for his legs, even if Liam would never admit that out loud, and a white t-shirt which Liam would happily admit out loud is a stupid idea when he’s likely to get dirt and/or blood on it.

“Thanks,” Theo smiles when Liam offers him a hand up.

“You okay?” Liam asks, motioning to Theo’s arm. There’s blood dripping between Theo’s fingers where he’s holding the injury, and as predicted, a few spots have gotten on his t-shirt. “We need to clean that up.”

Corey and Hayden are sitting nearby, watching the exchange with interest. Corey still manages to look nervous, somehow, and Hayden glares daggers at Liam when they lock eyes. Hayden’s hated Liam for years, ever since he got in a fight with some boy at school and Hayden got in the way, which might have resulted in Liam accidentally breaking her nose. On school picture day. She broke his nose back, but even then she never really forgave Liam.

“Hey Corey, pass me that water bottle,” Liam says. Corey looks like a deer in the headlights, eyes going almost impossibly wide. Liam isn’t sure if he’s done something to upset Corey in the past too, or if the guy’s just generally a bit of a reticent, anxious mess. He makes no move to hand over the bottle, though. Liam rolls his eyes and picks up the bottle himself, unscrewing the cap.

“Liam, wait, that’s not-” Hayden says as Liam starts to pour it onto Theo’s wound. Theo hisses in pain and yanks his arm away. “-water,” Hayden grimaces.

“What the fuck is it?” Liam scowls, upset that he’s hurt Theo instead of helping him when he didn’t even want to be here, anyway.

“Vodka,” Corey states. Then his eyes widen slightly, as if surprised that he actually spoke.

“Huh. Didn’t think you had it in you, Bryant.” Corey must take it as a compliment, because a bashful smile spreads across his face. “Seriously though, are you okay?” Liam asks Theo.

“Yep, never better,” Theo grins, and Liam can’t help but laugh because he’s so clearly lying.

“I don’t have any plasters left, Theo, your clumsy ass used them all,” Hayden says.

“Oh, hold on. I think I’ve got a plaster.” Liam digs around in his pockets and, sure enough, produces a pink plaster from one of his back pockets.

“Pink, huh? So manly,” Hayden laughs.

“You know I have a little sister,” Liam scowls.

“Don’t listen to her, Liam. I think it’s manly as hell.” Theo puts the plaster on his arm and proudly displays it for everyone to see. “Thank you,” he says more quietly, more sincerely.

“No problem. I really need to go, though. I’m meant to be picking Aria up,” Liam gets his phone out to check the time, “…over half an hour ago,” he sighs.

That’s when the sky decides to open, rain soaking everything in a matter of seconds.

“Fuck,” Liam mutters.

Theo jogs over to where Corey and Hayden were sitting -they’re both hurrying to get out of the rain- and picks up a hoodie. “Here, take this,” Theo says, handing the hoodie to Liam.

“You sure?” Liam asks sceptically.

“Positive. It’s a trade, you gave me a plaster, I’m giving you my hoodie, totally a fair deal. You can just give it back to me at school or something,” Theo shrugs.

“Cool, thanks,” Liam tugs the hoodie on. “See you later.”

 

***

 

“I’m so sorry,” Liam says before Lydia has even fully opened her front door. Lydia lets him in and Liam winces when he sees he’s tracking a puddle through her hallway. “I cut through the skate park to try and get here quicker but this idiot hurt himself so I stopped to help and then the rain started and-”

“Liam.”

That’s all she has to say to shut him up. Lydia has this wide eyed, intense stare. It’s as if she’s looking straight into your very soul. It really helped with her job - she was a hotshot lawyer before she had her daughter, Christine. She didn’t have to choose between her child and her career, but she decided to take a career break until Christine starts school. She still works with some private clients to bring in extra money, though.

“And how’s Jordan?”

It’s probably a bit strange that Liam knows most of the adults in Beacon Hills on a first-name basis. But between his dad working at the hospital, and all the events and play dates he attends with Aria, it’s not that much of a stretch.

“Oh, just worrying himself silly over this possible promotion. You know what he’s like.”

Sheriff Stilinski is retiring soon, and pretty much everyone thinks Deputy Parrish is going to get the promotion - except for Deputy Parrish himself, that is.

“The girls are through in the living room. You can stay until the rain stops if you don’t mind watching them.”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Good, good…” Lydia muses. Then she shoots him a positively terrifying grin. “Mommy needs a glass of wine.”

 

“Liam!” the girls squeal as he enters the living room, both running to him for a hug.

“Hi girls,” he smiles, crouching down so that he’s closer to eye level with them. “Are you having fun?”

“Lots of fun!” Aria gushes. “Look, I drew a picture. Come see it,” she tugs on his arm, already running over to the table with all the colouring pens in her excitement. “Look!” she says excitedly once Liam reaches her, thrusting the drawing at him. It’s of their family: Aria with her dark skin and frizzy hair; their dad looking the same –minus the hair-; Liam, looking very pasty in comparison; and their mum, up in the sky in something that almost resembles an aeroplane.

“That’s really great,” Liam says enthusiastically, and Aria beams with joy.

“Look at mine, Liam, look at mine!” Christine hands her picture to him. Likewise, it’s a drawing of her and her family: herself, Lydia, and Deputy Parrish with his badge on his chest.

“That’s really great too. You’re both so talented.”

 

“Right, it looks like the rain’s stopped. Time to go home.” Liam stands up and stretches, relishing the feeling of something popping in his back.

“Thanks again, Lydia,” Liam says as she materialises in the doorway. “What do you say to Mrs Parrish, Aria?”

“Thank you Mrs Parrish.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie,” Lydia smiles, the warm smile reserved only for small children.

“Right, come on, take my hand,” Liam tells Aria as they leave.

Just as they reach the end of the driveway, Liam’s sure he sees Corey going into a house on the other side of the street. He’s surprised, hadn’t realised Corey lives in this part of town. 

 

***

 

“Do you want some lasagne?” Liam asks Aria when they get home, heading straight to the oven to turn it on.

“Yes please,” she replies, making a beeline for the TV in the living room.

Liam rolls his eyes fondly. He can hear the opening sequence for Frozen in his head before Aria’s even got the TV switched on. As expected, that’s what she’s put in the DVD player. Liam goes to join her once he’s put the oven on and set the table.

They both sing along to the songs, Liam leaving Aria in fits of giggles when he sings in a silly voice, or getting cries of, “Noooo! Liam stop!” when he sings purposefully out of tune.

He goes to check the lasagne, deems it ready and plates up portions for Aria and himself. He puts tin foil over what’s left and sticks it back in the oven, ready to be heat up by their dad whenever he gets home from the hospital.

“Come on Aria, dinner’s ready, pause the movie for now.”

 

After they’ve eaten, they put the movie back on. Liam must fall asleep at some point, because the next thing he knows he’s being shaken awake by his dad, who’s got a sleeping Aria in his other arm.

“What time’s it?” Liam asks groggily, rubbing his eyes.

“Just past nine, it’s not too late. You could still go out, if your friends will be there.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I’m pretty tired, anyway.” For added effect, Liam’s body decides he needs to yawn. This sets his dad off, too.

“Frozen really takes it out of you,” his dad says, motioning to the TV; the opening sequence is playing in a continuous loop.

“Yeah, building all those fuc- ahem, fricking snowmen is pretty tiring.” Even though Aria’s sound asleep, Liam is still conscious to try and not swear around her. She’s like a sponge at her age, and Liam doesn’t want to be the one responsible for her learning any bad words. “How’s the crash victim?”

“She lived. She’s got a long road to recovery ahead of her, and it won’t be easy; but she lived.”

“That’s good. There’s some lasagne in the oven, by the way. It just needs heat up.”

“Thanks, kiddo.” His dad ruffles his hair. Liam squirms a bit, pretends he doesn’t like it, and his dad chuckles because they both know he’s just pretending.

 

Their dad goes upstairs to put Aria to bed. Liam follows him up, cleans his teeth and heads to bed. He sticks his phone on the charger then burrows under the covers, relishing the feeling of the cool bed warming up around him. He checks his phone and sees a few notifications – all of them Snapchats from Mason. He clicks play on the first one.

“Yooo Liam,” Mason shouts into the camera to be heard over the crowd and the loud music. As the fluorescent lights dim and brighten, his face goes from red to green to blue and back again. “Sorry you couldn’t make it, but it’ll be just like you’re here with us.”

The next one starts to play. “Look who I found!” Mason says, shoving the camera into Brett’s face.

“Hey short stack, too bad you couldn’t come tonight. Devenford are gonna kick your ass next time we play together,” he smirks.

The next one is a group of them, Brett and Garrett included, drinking non-alcoholic shots but all pretending they're alcoholic, screwing up their faces and grimacing before bursting into laughter.

In the next one, the music is more muffled, and okay, he’s definitely watching Brett and Mason making out. Then Brett opens his eyes and sees the camera. He pulls away from Mason. “Are you seriously sending this to Liam?” He takes Mason’s phone and stares straight into the camera. “Hope you enjoyed the show, short stack.” He winks, and the video ends.

The final video isn’t from too long ago. It’s Mason again, just himself this time in the club. He seems to be walking around, people passing him as he goes. “Surprisingly, filming us didn’t kill the mood,” he grins. “I’m getting ready to go home. See you later, Li.” Mason does a sweep around the club with his phone. Just before the video ends, Liam thinks he sees Garrett in the background. He watches the final video again, but furrows his eyebrows when he reaches the part he thought he saw Garrett. He can’t be seeing what he thinks he sees. He plays through the video once more, prepared to take a screenshot at the right moment. He captures the moment he wants and opens it in his camera roll, zooming in as far as possible without ruining the quality. There on his screen, he’s seeing Garrett pressing a girl against the wall, hand brushing her cheek and her lips locked in his.

He’s watching his boyfriend cheating on him.

 

Heartbreak swiftly transforms into anger, and Liam can feel himself ready to explode. He sends the screenshot to Garrett, accompanied by, "YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE, I TRUSTED YOU. WE'RE DONE."

He blocks Garrett's number, as well as removing him and blocking him on all social media. Liam gets out of bed and goes downstairs into their garage, and starts taking out his frustrations on the punching bag they have set up in there for him. He batters it until he's sweaty and breathless, until his knuckles are cracked and bleeding.