Beth looks down, sees the rocks, and the clear, snow covered ground. She’s got her sister’s hand in hers and her other hand is holding on to an old branch. The man with the flamethrower reaches to them, one hand extended.
“Hannah, listen to me, I’m going to drop you, protect your head and neck,” Beth tries to say it as quietly and calmly as she can.
“What?” Hannah replies and the man with the flamethrower tries to reach for her other hand, firmly on the branch.
“I’m going to drop you in a few seconds, protect your neck!” Beth repeats and she lets go of her hand. Hannah screams and she hears the branch break as she looks at the masked face of the man watching them.
Protect your neck protect your neck protect your neck she thinks as she hits the ground.
They’re gone. His sisters are just fucking gone, and almost everyone left after the police talked to them, they wanted to go home. Chris finally left after Josh snapped at him. Everyone’s gone, his sisters, his friends, everyone but Sam. She crossed her arms and met his stare defiantly.
“I’m not leaving. They’re my best friends. I’m helping you look. You can’t stop me. You need someone here,” Sam tells him firmly. The lodge is too big for just one person, and she’s just as stubborn as he is. She holds her ground like a champ, always has, in the few arguments they’ve had.
“Fine. The cops who talked to me this morning they probably died last night, it was cold outside,” Josh says. He watches Sam flinch and he knows he’s being cruel but he doesn’t feel bad-he doesn’t feel anything. If he feels one thing, he’s going to feel everything and he can’t let that happen. Deep down he knows it’s not healthy, Dr. Hill would tell him that, but he’s bottled everything up already. If it’s bottled up, it can’t hurt him.
“Put this on,” Sam throws a scarf at him and he catches it. They’re ridiculously bundled up but he knows Sam doesn’t want to believe they’re dead either. He already knows she had nothing to do with the prank, thank god. He could handle everyone else being absolute assholes-but Sam is different, for reasons he’s not willing to admit to anyone yet-especially not himself.
It took Sam a good while to rouse him after she tried to follow his sisters outside. She couldn’t find them and she couldn’t feel her fingers. She failed too, she knows he blames himself-she blames herself for finding out the plan and not following, for not stopping the prank. It took them both to wake Chris. Josh hates himself for drinking so much, his hangover feels like someone smashed his head open and left him to dry out in a desert.
The cold air doesn’t help any of the pain he’s feeling, but Sam marches on through the trees, calling his sister’s names as loud as she can. Josh wants to tell her to not even bother, to just fucking go home and leave like everyone else did already . It’s too late, Sam is confidently marching forward.
“Stop! There’s a cliff ahead,” Josh says and Sam raises an eyebrow before she takes a few careful steps forward. The sign is broken and Sam looks down to see snow covered rocks. It doesn’t help that Beth and Hannah got lost the night of a snow storm-it’s killed a lot of the evidence that would help the search. Still, anything helps. She can’t stand just being back at the lodge, swarming with cops like the woods are, knowing Josh is waiting to be scolded and smothered by his parents. Technically, just his mom-his dad’s too busy in Hollywood. That must rip Josh up inside, hell-she gets angry thinking about it. His daughters are missing and he doesn’t care enough to fly out-to put work on hold. Josh mentioned a while ago they don’t see him much anymore. She puts that anger into her voice, making herself as loud as possible.
“Beth! Hannah!” Sam shouts and as much as he likes her, okay loves her-even if he’ll probably never admit that to her-her shouting has only made his hangover worse. He deserves this though, so he shouts with her, with his dry throat and his painful head, and beats back the urge to puke in the snow. It’s another minute or two of yelling before Sam freezes.
“Sam?” They hear a voice call, distantly. It sounds like it’s coming from below the cliff.
“Beth? Hannah? Is that you? This is Sam! I’m with Josh! Are you okay?” Sam shouts back. Josh allows himself a sliver of hope.
“We’re in the cave down here! Can you find a way down?” one of his sisters screams back and Josh strips off his coat, hat, and scarf.
“You can climb down that. I know you can. I’m going to go get rope, or cops, or something. I’ll be back. You’d get lost if you tried to head back on your own. Take care of them, okay?” Josh asks, meeting her eyes, back to being the Josh she knows and loves, pressing the clothes into her hands. How he thinks she’s going to climb down a cliff with extra clothes in her arms is beyond her, but she watches him run off before she puts the extras on. The look is ridiculous, none of it even remotely matches-Jessica and Emily would be quick to tell her-but it’s also ridiculously warm as she carefully climbs down, slow and careful. Hannah and Beth are probably cold and injured, they need her to help them, and when she finally reaches the ground, she looks around.
“Guys?” Sam calls and she follows the sound of their voices. They’re in the old mines, and she sees the warm glow of a fire, the smell of old wood burning.
“Oh my god, Sam,” Beth breathes and Hannah embraces her with one arm.
“I have a broken arm and Hannah has a broken leg. Sam-there’s a guy out here with a flamethrower. He was chasing us and we fell-we could have died,” Beth tells her and Sam looks at them with wide eyes, giving them all the warm clothing she can spare.
“Flamethrower? I didn’t see anything when I tried to follow you both last night,” Sam replies.
“He was wearing a mask, it could have been anybody,”
“Not anyone we know, Josh and Chris were still out drunk when I tried to follow you, and Matt, Jessica, and Emily were still at the lodge,” Sam reminds them, and a chill goes up her spine, despite the warmth of the fire and all of the layers she has on.
“Then we’ll get back, we’ll pack, we’ll leave the lodge, go home and let the police look for that lunatic. Maybe we’ll go on vacation. Somewhere warm,” Hannah says quietly and Sam nods in agreement, waiting to hear Josh.
“They’re down here!” They can hear Josh, distantly.
“I’m going to leave the cave for a minute, help them find the cave, okay?” Sam says and the twins nod. As relieved as she is, she knows Mrs. Washington and Josh are even happier to have found them. The thought of not finding them, if they had hit the rocks just right, if they fell the wrong way, if she hadn’t pushed Josh in his hungover state to go out and search with her-there are a million ways this could have ended badly. As she watches Josh hug his sisters tightly, she blinks away a few tears. Josh would have gone out of his mind with grief, he took their missing state pretty damn hard. She would have lost it if they died. Their friendships wouldn’t survive the hell of that, she’s pretty sure she and Josh would go the hell off on Emily, Jessica, and Mike. Grief is a hell of a thing, and she’s so glad everything and everyone is more or less fine.
“Get in here, Sam,” Josh mutters, breaking her out of her thoughts and she takes a minute to experience pure relief and worry before whoever Josh tracked down takes the girls to the hospital off the mountain.
A few minutes after the helicopter gets there, Sam starts to wonder how long Josh will want her around, she hasn’t been alone with him in a while. If they’re hanging out, Chris is usually there or Hannah and Beth, or someone. It’s nice but almost odd to go back to it being just them again.
“Hey, I just let everyone know we found them. My mom’s going to meet us at the hospital. The roads should be clear enough for us to drive,” Josh says, grabbing his keys and wallet.
“Us?” Sam asks, hesitantly. Josh meets her eyes, startled.
“I mean, I just assumed you know-that you’d want to come with. You helped me find them and-” Josh mumbles. Sam stops him with a sunny smile, even though it’s cold and grey outside.
“Of course I’ll go with. I just didn’t know you wanted me to come with you or not,” Sam smiles.
“I always want you around,” Josh admits. He didn’t want her around this morning, but he didn’t want anyone around this morning when he was practically an emotion bottling factory. This is different, he’s not shutting down, and they need to go drive to the hospital.
“Me too,” Sam smiles and his phone beeps.
“Let’s go see them. Maybe we can get Chris back up here, have a quiet weekend,” Josh tells her as she follows him out of the lodge.
“Your sisters were telling me they wanted to go somewhere warm,” Sam informs him and he shrugs.
“Scrap my idea, that’s way better. How do you feel about beaches?” Josh asks, even though he already knows the answer, he knows her so well but he still wants to hear her say it.
“Love them. Let’s go to your beach house so the twins can get cast tans,” Sam jokes and he smiles. Life is good. They saved Hannah and Beth. As he looks at Sam, he wonders if maybe, she saved him too.