A/N: Please note I changed Claire's name to Kacey.
Elijah could see Tera peeking around the corner of the living room, pale and skinny just like the last time he saw her and grinning at him in the cute way that she reserved only for him. He had seen her at the top of the stairs when he had entered through the foyer and he could see her now, peeking around the wall, distracting him.
Not that there was much to distract him from. Above him, his mother was prattling on about his "special needs" and how Tera's father, being the wonderful man that he is, had discovered this program. Like she could save face now and pretend like it was her idea. Blah blah blah. He stopped listening as Tera made a face. He attempted to keep a straight face as she mocked his mother, wordlessly moving her mouth and gesturing with her hands in the airy way his mother did. He snorted a laugh and she grinned evilly, finally succeeding in wanted.
His mom stopped talking and turned on him with concern. Mark looked down at him confused. Kacey was the only one who caught his gaze and caught Tera peeking before she ducked back.
"Elijah, are you okay?" his mother asked.
All of a sudden Elijah wanted to smack Tera very hard. "I'm fine. I choked," he lied. His mother looked soothed at the answer while Mark didn't look so convinced. Kacey looked amused, glancing between Elijah and the living room doorway. Tera had not appeared again.
"Is Tera around here somewhere?" his mother asked to the couple. She had already removed her attention from her son.
"In her room probably," Mark answered. Elijah looked up at the auburn haired woman who looked at him with laughter in her eyes. He shook his head, hoping she understood. She must have because she said nothing about Tera being outside the living room.
"That's probably for the best." His mother did her best to keep a sour look off her face. "I wouldn't want to upset her." Tera's head appeared again, rolling her eyes. Elijah wished she would stay out of sight. "Perhaps I should go."
Elijah pulled his attention away from the doorway to his mother. Her eyes were becoming teary, though they had spent most of the last week bloodshot. He groaned inwardly. She was going to make a scene. He hated it when she made a scene. Waterfalls started down her cheeks. "Oh my baby!" she shrieked in his ear, pulling him into a chokehold hug. "I'm going to miss you!" He wanted to pull out, yank himself away from the tears soaking his shirt, but she would have killed him for doing so. Thank god she wasn't wearing make up.
"Yeah," he said emotionlessly. "I'll miss you too." Tera was gagging again and he wanted to laugh.
"You have to try for me. Be good for these nice folks." His insides burned at the child-like chiding in front of Tera and these people he didn't know. "I still believe in you, honey."
He had to fight himself from groaning. Mark seemed to catch the glaring look Elijah was giving as he was strangled in his mother's arms because he stepped forward. "Mrs. Brandow." The name made him cringe. "Why don't I walk you out? Your flight leaves in a couple of hours and it's a long drive back to town." His mother pulled away. She was still crying and Mark took her by the arm.
"Goodbye, Elijah, baby. I love you." He mumbled words that sounded like goodbye. Mark and Kacey led her out the door and Elijah sat back with a sigh. Was he glad to be rid of her? Yes, but as he gazed around at the unfamiliar living room dread filled him.
"Tera, get in here," he called. She peeked around the corner first, eyeing the room for other occupants before stepping out; pushing dark bangs out of her eyes. "Hey Te."
She approached him, pulling up her pants slightly. "Hey E."
He gave her a once over with his eyes. As usual, she looked tiny in huge clothes, assorted men's clothes. He recognized the plaid over shirt as his. She had probably taken it right before she had run away the last time.
Without warning he slapped her thigh, not hard, but forceful enough to make her jump. "What was that for?" she demanded in a yell.
"You haven't been eating!" he yelled back with the same ferocity.
"What makes you think that?" she barked, rubbing her leg. If looks could kill, he'd be nothing but a crater in the Harris' living room.
Luckily he was used to it. "They told my mom!" Her fists clenched at her sides, he could see her nails digging into her palm. She looked away first. "And now she's going to go back and tell your dad and then your going to have hell to pay. He's going to kick your ass." He scowled. "Can't you just behave?"
"No, obviously not," she murmured to the floor. "My dad won't do anything. He'll just call and yell."
"You're such a brat." He gave her a weak, playful push. "And did you really have to stand there and make faces? I wish you had gotten caught by my mom."
She smirked and fell into his lap, the momentum of the movement sending his wheelchair rolling back on the carpet. "Not my fault you can't control yourself." She looked down at her lap, looking uncertain. When she raised her eyes to meet his, her look had softened and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Nice to see you, Eli," she whispered into his neck.
He hugged her around her middle lightly, feeling like he could break her if he did so too hard. "You too. It's always good to know you haven't been killed." The sound of the front door opening and closing made Tera jump to her feet, away from Elijah's lap. "Mom told them you and I don't get along."
Tera rolled her eyes as the Harris' walked back into the room. Mark's eyes widened at the sight of Tera. "You missed your step-mother, Tera," he announced as he dropped Elijah's black duffle bag that his mother had told him to leave in the car. Apparently she thought he was too weak to carry it in on his own.
Tera shot her look of death toward Mark. "Don't call her that! She's just my dad's hussy."
Anger surged through Elijah and he slammed his fist into Tera's arm. She howled in pain and surprise. "Don't call her that, you little fucker."
"Fuck you, Eli!" she snapped, rubbing her arm. "That fucking hurt, bastard!"
"HEY!" Mark exploded, catching both kids by surprise. "That's enough. Elijah, don't hit her! You two are stuck together so you're just going to have to figure out a way to get along."
"We get along just fine," Tera growled before Elijah could speak. "The hussy-" she had to jump to escape his hand from grabbing her. "Eli's mother," she spat. "just doesn't know what she's talking about."
"Tera, stop insulting Elijah's mom. Or I will let him hit you," Kacey threatened softly. There was seriousness and a chuckle in her voice at the same time.
Tera exchanged a look with Elijah that looked incredulous. "Permission or not, he'll do it anyway."
Mark rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I see how well you get along. Why don't I show you to your room, Elijah?"
Elijah glanced at Tera and shrugged. "Sure, I wouldn't mind getting settled."
"Alright, follow me." Mark started out of the room and Elijah pushed his wheelchair to follow. As he rolled by Tera, he knocked her with his elbow. Without a word she began to follow them out.
"Hey Tera," Kacey called and rigidly the teen paused. Elijah cast a quick glace over his shoulder, but continued following Mark out of the living room. "Do you want to help me make dinner?"
Tera's face screwed tight. "What are we having?"
"What would you like?"
"Doesn't matter, I won't eat it." There was a challenge in her voice and the way she held herself with her arms crossed over her chest. "Doesn't Mark usually cook?"
"Usually, but it's my turn tonight." Tera said nothing else. With a sigh, Kacey shook her head. It was very clear getting though Tera wasn't going to be easy, nor was she going to make it that way. "Have you seen Taylor?"
"She was up in the room when I came down." Tera glanced over her shoulder, sending her bangs into her eyes that darted over the hallway where Elijah had disappeared down. Finally, "Elijah likes lasagna," before she left the room.
Elijah followed Mark out of the living room, hoping Tera would follow. They toured the foyer that held the door that led into the dining room, stairs that led to the second floor. They continued into a long hallway where Mark narrated their journey, pointing and explaining as he went.
"This door leads into the dining room," he pointed to the first door on the left before going forward again. Elijah followed in silence. A door came up on the right. "This is the boy's bathroom." They didn't stop, just continued to a second door that sat open a couple of inches back up on the right. Peter stopped. "This is the boy's room." Elijah didn't like how Mark continually used 'boys' rather than 'his.' A roommate was not what he wanted. But before Elijah could ask Mark pointed further down the hall to a pair of elegant French doors that took up the end hall. "That's the library. We have a lot of books and there are computers there. We'll talk about internet privileges later." He reached for the doorknob, but paused when Elijah spoke.
"Where's my sister?" Mark looked confused. "Tera. Where's Tera's room?"
"Oh," his voice sounded surprised. "She's upstairs with her roommate Taylor. Mine and Kasey's room is up there as well."
"Who's closer to the stairs?"
Mark's eyes narrowed at the question. "It's the same distance. We're each on opposite sides of the landing. Why?"
Elijah shrugged; his stormy blue-gray eyes locked on the doorknob where Mark's hand rested. "You just have to watch out for her."
Mark gave a nod, though he didn't completely understand, but he had a vague idea of the message behind Elijah's words. "Alright, this is the boy's room," he introduced before pushing open the door.
The room was not impressive; in fact it was rather dull. If he had any care for decorating he would have noted the smooth hard wood floors, the deep green walls with white trim, cherry wood furniture and a wide elegant window that looked out onto a forest of gold, red, yellow and brown. But he wasn't a queer and he didn't care about those things and instead saw black walls, a bare desk and a sour looking Mexican boy sitting on one of the two beds.
"Elijah, this is Alex. Alex, this is Elijah."
"His name is Eli." Tera suddenly appeared in the doorway. "Elijah makes him sound like one of those biblical losers." Se gazed around, taking in the sight of Elijah's room with mild interest. Elijah noted Alex's sour look changed into something of distain as he looked at Tera.
Mark looked down at Elijah. "Which do you prefer?"
He shrugged, "Eli."
Tera sauntered into the room and settled on the unoccupied bed. A deep blue comforter crinkled underneath her. "My room's nicer." Elijah rolled his eyes.
"The rooms are the same, Tera," Mark replied. He turned back to Elijah. "Do you need any help getting settled?"
Elijah shook his head, feeling annoyed with Mark's company and the sour looking boy on the other bed. "No, I'll manage. And I can have Tera help me if I need anything."
"You wish," Tera mumbled from her cross-legged position on his bed. He shot her an irritated look, but she ignored him.
"Alright, well, that's your dresser and there's room for you in the closet. Those are the things your mom sent you before you arrived." Three boxes were piled on the other side of the bed. Tera eyed them. "Dinner will be around seven or so. You don't have to join us tonight, but after that you will be expected too." Elijah nodded his understanding. "I'll leave you to get settled. If you need anything, Tera will show you where it is." His stepsister scoffed.
He turned to leave and after a moment of hesitation the boy followed, still eyeing Tera with annoyance as Tera ignored him. When they were gone, Elijah turned to her. "What did you do to that little Spanish kid?"
"Nothing," she snapped, offense in her voice. "He just doesn't like me."
"Can't imagine why." She glared at him, but the look didn't hold the same ferocity that she gave everyone else. He wheeled himself closer to the bed and looked out the window. From this position he could see a cleared area just behind the house with trees surrounding it like a fence. "How big is their property?"
Tera shrugged as she leaned back on her hands. "Couple a' acres, I think."
He raised an eyebrow. "You haven't asked or planned out your escape route?"
She wasn't looking at him when she answered. Instead she shifted her weight to one hand and picked at shreds of cat hair on her baggy khakis. "I didn't put any thought into it." There was wariness in her voice that told him she was being genuine.
"So what's it like?"
"You mean for me or in general?"
By the tone of her voice he could tell she could go on about the former for hours. "More the second than the first, but if I haven't gotten too annoyed by your presence then you can tell me about your woes."
"Its…" she trailed off as her gaze shifted to the window. She was having trouble putting her thoughts into words, which for her and her never ceasing smart mouth was a big deal. "I dunno, E. It seems alright. Kacey and Mark seem to…well, they genuinely seem to care and want to help us. They are trying." She was unconsciously rubbing her arm. "And they're working hard to make this place feel like a home." She scoffed again and it sounded hollow. "Like we know what a home is." She met his eyes and her voice sounded raw.
"What about the others?" Elijah remembered Mark mentioning something about Tera having a roommate.
She shrugged with a smirk that looked sardonic. "What's there to say? I haven't heard either speak with the exception of Mr. Charming," she gestured after Alex, "say his name and my roommate cry. Although I don't know if that counts."
"So, all I have is you to talk to?" he growled sarcastically.
"Well, you could talk to our captors, but really, that's up to you."
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a minute. "How are you?" he finally asked.
"I'm clean." The statement was utterly simple, but explained everything from her fragile body with her haggard expression to her bitter, brazen tongue that never ceased. She didn't sound happy about it. "I'm alright. Pumped full of every med they can think of." She gave a shudder. "They watch my every move. I can't breathe under it. I guess I'm more trouble than the other two." He snickered; he could have told her that. "I haven't had a smoke in days!"
He did have sympathy for her for that situation. "Do you have any packs?"
"I had two emergency packs and now I am down to half of one. I've been nursing the same one for a little over a week." She held up a shaking hand. "I'm in serious nicotine withdrawals here." She looked at the boxes beside Elijah's bed. "Did my dad say anything about me before you left?"
He shook his head. "He doesn't speak to me. Which by the way is your fault. Ever since I became buddy-buddy with you." She shrugged. "I have a few packs; we'll see how long they last."
"E, you're my hero."
"Yeah, I know. That bottom box is yours." She glanced over at it. "It's just got some of your stuff, like books and CDs and some shit. Your inhaler's in there too." He eyed her. "Why do you have cat hair all over you?"
"My roommate has a cat."
"Shouldn't you be dying?"
"I'm pumped full of emergency allergy medications." Her sardonic grin returned. "Which also happens to be extremely drowsy. So I've been subdued. Lucky for everyone. So thank god you brought my normal meds." He chuckled. "I had better let you get settled." He nodded and she slid off the bed to retrieve her box. "Make sure you come to dinner tonight. I'm tired of being the only one who actually talks. If you're there maybe they'll stop trying to connect with me." As she spoke she picked up her box and hauled it to the door. "Oh yeah, you can't close your door. Something about 'trust issues'." With that she was gone with the door sitting open a couple of inches in her wake.
With Tera gone, Elijah left his things packed and wheeled himself to the window. Trees greeted his eyes as far as he could see; the warm colors of fall striking something icy in his chest. Dully he sat back in his wheelchair, feeling numb.
Dinners were always awkward in the Brandow-Leery house after the union of their parents. No words could describe the animosity, failure and disappointment that coursed through each of the family members, if they could ever be described as such. However, the dinner he endured tonight was almost as bad as those unappetizing nights in his old home.
Tera wasn't lying when she said no one spoke. Aside from himself and Tera there was his roommate and her roommate, a tiny blonde girl. Neither had spoken, they had barely made any noise over the clinking of forks on plates. Mark and Kacey led pathetic attempts at conversation to which Tera usually had a scathing reply. Elijah had focused on eating, rather than interacting and hated himself for not accepting the possibility of eating alone.
Elijah stared at the duffle bad and two boxes that now held the contents of his life. Until this moment he hadn't realized he could be so easily summarized. Or how easily he could be shipped off without a second thought. He never believed in Tera's father's stupid threats. Now he was faced with the task of resettling himself.
It was quiet in the house. At home there was always noise; the background soundtrack to his life. Outside cars backfired, horns blared and gunshots overtook the night. Inside his mother and Tera's father would watch a movie or sit up talking, renewing their disgusting love for each other and Elijah would have music on, very loudly, trying to drown out his life. And on the rare appearance of Tera there was more music and yelling.
But here in the middle of nowhere there were no car horns, no roving gangs and no police sirens. He had no stereo yet. And the house was so large he couldn't hear the others moving around. He knew the Harris's, along with Tera's tiny roommate, were in the living room watching a movie. Both Alejandro and Tera had retreated to the library after dinner and Elijah hoped Tera didn't start anything with the boy and by the often appearance of Mark walking passed his door, Elijah guessed the older man was hoping the same thing.
With a shake of his head, he turned to his monstrous black duffle and unzipped it. He didn't really care about settling, he just needed a cigarette. He stared at the rumpled shirts, shorts and other apparel. He knew they had searched his stuff, they had told him straight out what they had done, but he couldn't tell. Everything looked the same. He began to empty his bag, pulling shirts and piling them on the bed. There were hangers in the closet and a bar that had been lowered, just for him.
He came to the bottom of the duffle without finding the object of his search. He gave an angry sigh and backed his chair away from the bed. "Something wrong, Eli?" Elijah jerked as Mark entered his room.
Mark wasn't an intimidating man. At full height Elijah would have stood over him, not by much, but it would have been enough. But now Elijah stared up at the man who had the stature of a teacher and felt sick at the amount of power he held over him. "I was just looking for something I couldn't find," he replied, his voice even.
"Cigarettes, perhaps?" Elijah blinked, but didn't say anything in reply. "This is a smoke free house Eli. Kacey has asthma."
"You took them from my stuff." It was a statement, said without emotion.
"We told you and your mom that when you got here that we would search your things." Elijah fought a bitter retort and looked away. "And you can have them back when you're eighteen," Mark added coolly. Elijah rolled his eyes.
"If you don't mind, I'm trying to settle myself. Making myself at home." He meant for his words to come out sarcastic, but they were emotionless and closely guarded.
Mark leaned against the doorway with his arms crossed. "Need a hand?" Elijah shook his head. "We're watching a movie in the living room if you want to join us."
Elijah turned away and dumped the remains of duffle on the bed. "That's okay. I'm fine here."
Mark pushed himself off the doorframe and stuffed his hand in his pockets. "That's fine, Eli. But you're invited if you like." He didn't leave automatically; just waited until Elijah raised his head, acknowledging the invitation before he retreated from the room.
Elijah stared after the older man, unsure what to make of the place. He thought about Tera's confession of how they genuinely cared. At home he certainly wasn't invited to do anything; everyone was much happier when he was locked up in his room.
He didn't know why he kept bothering to think about Chicago. As if it had ever been his home. Just another place. He wasn't even sure what he had left behind. His friends were dead or in jail. His mom didn't care. His brother was probably back at home laughing at him.
And most of all, Tera was here.
He sighed. He didn't even know why he bothered thinking about what was there and what was here. It wasn't his choice anyway.
I know this took forever and a day to get out. But I spent the last five months working my ass off at Walt Disney World and it left very little time to write anything. So I just barely finished this. So I know it wasn;t too exciting. I'm getting there. I worry I am complicating this story more than it needs to be, so that's why its taking so long too. Please have patience with me, I have put way too much into this to just give up on it.
Later dayz, please review, my friends.