Dylan hesitated, glancing over at Silas. The younger boy squeezed his hand and then let go, silently indicating that he was fine; Dylan nodded faintly and then disappeared back into the house to fetch the older man.
Silas moved a little nervously back into the room and sat down in one of the antique looking chairs. "I didn't tell them about the book. I mean, they already knew. They were looking for it. They thought it was in the box we brought back. Dylan said it's dangerous. . . but he didn't say how. He said that wasn't his story to tell, not entirely." He turned to look at Evelyn at that last bit, giving the girl the floor but also clearly putting her on the spot to catch the rest of the group up on whatever it was that was actually going on.
Silas stepped out into the dimly lit foyer, the small lamp between the front doors and the living room vainly trying to provide light to the entire space. The yellowed beams gave up completely by the time they reached the stairs leading up to the second floor, leaving that area in ominous shadows. He softly shut the door behind him and listened to the sounds of the house, trying to track Dylan’s movements. Music drifted towards him from the direction of the living room, but he couldn’t make out the lyrics or the singer. The rest of the house was silent in the warm summer night.
He sidled over to the living room, expecting to see Mr. Clairburn listening to a record or something equally as so-last-century. That wasn't who he was looking for, but better to start with eliminating one room than to just wander aimlessly about. The room was empty, though, save for another beleaguered lamp this time lighting up the space directly around the table it was sitting on and the overstuffed chair set next to the fireplace. The music was coming from the far side of the living room from a door with a bar of light under the bottom.
He made his way over to the closed door, years of sneaking around in the woods granting him swift, quiet movements. Once to the far wall, he could see down through an open archway off the back of the living room that led into a hallway with a door to the left and let out at the other end to another large room. A billiard’s room, he thought idly, years of playing Clue with his parents and friends finally having real world application in correctly identifying the billiards table he could make out in there. The door halfway down the hallway had a bar of light under it as well; Silas figured that one and the one he was lurking at must lead to the same room.
"That house wasn't built back then; they built those three in the eighties and nineties. You might not be able to go there,” Clairburn said from the other side of the closed door.
"That land was ours once before it was Walsh land,” Dylan disagreed mildly. “It won't keep me out."
The teenager blinked at the odd snippet of conversation, hanging back a little as curiosity bit even harder on him. Does Dylan have an allergy to the 80's or something? He pressed his lips together hard to keep from laughing at the strange mental image.
"I don't like it," Clairburn spoke again as the music changed to another song by an artist Silas had never heard before. It sounded old. "It’s too soon. What is the rush?"
Dylan opened the door down the hallway to the billiard room, a smile spreading across his expression when he caught sight of Silas. He leaned over enough to not be seen by the man in the other room and held a finger to his lips to keep Silas quiet, then turned back to the room the Clairburn was in and shrugged. "Losing the Hannah girl has her worried, she's afraid that if we leave it there something may happen to the Johanson girl."
Silas' heart nearly stopped when Dylan looked at him, this time for multiple reasons. He simply froze, not moving a muscle to even nod to Dylan that he would stay quiet. He waited - little rabbit wondering exactly what was about to happen to him - while his mind was still trying to make the conversation make any sense. Hannah isn't lost, she just moved away. What might happen to Jo?
"Regardless,” Dylan presson on, “since the dog is here, she wants me to get the Box tonight, so you need to prepare the room to hold it. And I have to go." He reached in and pulled the door close, Clairburn’s muffled reply too indistinct for Silas to make out. As he steps up to Silas, he places his hand on the younger boys arm and leads him quickly and firmly toward the foyer; as always, his touch sent shocks of electric ice through Silas that left him with shallow breaths.
Silas lets himself be led off, not asking questions until they're were back in the foyer. When he does speak it is quietly and with a furrowed brow as several thoughts freefall in his mind looking for connections.
"Dylan, what's going on?" he asks with concern - not suspicion, though several things were lining up in ways that would have left most people not just suspicious but angry or indignant. That wasn't Silas and his innocent trust in those he considered friends - or more - was both sweet and probably quite dangerous.
Dylan said nothing until he led Silas past the family room, where laughter could be heard that was totally at odds with the tense air just outside the room, and outside onto the porch. The night heat hit Silas like a physical blow, sweat already beading up in the short time it took Dylan to silently close the front door and let go of Silas’ arm. The older boy looked down at Silas, his expression serious over his usual amused smirk.
"You were not supposed to hear any of that," he said, his tone full of rapprochement. His expression softened at Silas’ wince of guilt, "But I am glad that you did. Were you looking for me?"
Silas flushes and nods, running a nervous hand through his hair. "Yeah, I didn't- I mean, I don't usually. . .I just-." All tongue-tied again, he eventually manages to just ask a second time, "Dylan, what's going on? What might happen to Jo? Why wouldn't you be able to go in houses made in the 80's?"
Dylan closes his eyes for a moment; when he opens them he catches Silas's own eyes and asks earnestly, "Do you believe in destiny, Silas Walsh? In second chances?"
"I-I've never really thought about it. Second chances, sure. People should have more than one chance to get things right. Who's perfect the first time?" He shrugged, a teen with so stable and positive a childhood that 'unforgivable' was mostly a dusty intellectual concept than a thing ever experienced. "Destiny? I don't know. Seems like you don't have a choice in things, that way. I think. . ." he shrugged again, ". . . if there's destiny, I think we choose it as we go along."
Dylan weighs Silas's words and nods, stepping back from him. "I can't tell you everything Silas, it is not mine to tell but I want you to believe this: We are your friends and none of us would ever harm you or any of the rest of them,” he said with a wave towards the slumber party inside. “Jo has that box y'all found in her room. It is very dangerous and as long as she is exposed to it she is in danger. I need to get that box and put it someplace safe. Contained."
Silas frowned again, looking lost and confused. "Were you waiting for us? At the cabin?"
"Yes, I was," Dylan admits with a slight nod of his head.
Silas’ expression flickered through a number of emotions, finally settling on hurt as he tried to swallow down his feelings enough to talk. "Is that what this has all been about? Getting that box and finding that cave? Did one of you take that book from Roach?" His mind was swimming around, thoughts and questions making him incautious in his words with Dylan. ‘This’ though, it didn't sound like he meant the sleepover or the conversation he'd overheard.
Dylan's mouth dropped open in shock; he stepped forward and placed his hands on Silas's arms and caught the younger boy’s eyes again. The electric shock through Silas didn’t bother him nearly as much as Dylan’s nearly panicked expression, "What did you mean, did we take the book? It isn't in the Box?"
"Roach said someone snatched it from her after the lightning struck the altar thing and the tunnel collapsed. She wanted to look for it, but we were all worried that more of the place might collapse since the storm was. . ." Silas trailed off, feeling like maybe they'd all done something wrong and Roach had been right all along. "If she just dropped it, it might still be up there. Under the skulls and stuff."
Dylan closed his eyes again and took his hands from Silas. "The book isn't in the Box. . . none of you have it? It has been out there for a whole month," he seemed to be rambling, trying to process that.
Silas stepped forward, his first impulse always towards compassion, and put a hand on Dylan's chest. For the first time his mind registered that that shock of electric ice might not just be an effect of his attraction to the other boy, but he shoved the thought away for the moment. "Hey, we can go look for it. It probably is just buried back in that cave. We can go back there." His free hand grabbed Dylan's and squeezed gently, trying to soothe and encourage the pretty boy. "We'll figure it out."
"You don't understand. I knew you had been to the cabin, that’s why I was there." He continued holding Silas's hand with his fingers intertwined, but after a moment he raised their clasped fingers and stared at them as his brow furrowed. He shook his head as if clearing cobwebs from his mind. "I didn't know about. . . about y'all going to that place until I saw the Box when y'all came back."
"We found a map. Under the boards in the old shed at my family's cabin up off Youngcane Creek. There was. . ." Silas searched for the right words, knowing full well that he was probably going to get yelled at by the others for spilling everything, but at this point it wasn't like Dylan didn't know things anyways. "Skulls. Pointing the way along the cliff and then this weird tunnel with this glyph on the wall leading into the big cave. We found all sorts of weird stuff in there. The box, too. Roach pried it open and pulled the book out. Made some cracks about the Necrowhatever. The book about making zombies, I think?”
He shrugged, clearly not an expert in Lovecraftian inventions. “Hannah kinda freaked out and then the storm rolled over and the altar got struck by lightning. The whole cliff was shaking and the tunnel collapsed. We had to play ant colony just to get up and tie a rope for people to climb up and out."
The teen squeezed Dylan's hand and said softly, "I know you said that part of this story isn't yours to tell, but. . .if this stuff is dangerous, if it's puttin' us all in danger, then knowing what's goin' on is part of bein'. . . friends. I can tell you, Roach ain't gonna let things just lie, that ain't her."
Silas shook his head, still trying to read Dylan's expression and trying to put things together in a shape that made sense in his head. "And if you steal that box away from Jo, all the rest of them are just gonna jump in as well. Back to the cave, back to tryin' ta figure it all out instead of forgettin' it because we got chores and school and all sorts of other things. Quinn taught me, just by bein' her in her horse-crazy kind of way, that keepin' people safe sometimes means lettin' them decide how much danger to put themselves in. Otherwise they'll just climb up on a wild horse because no one ever really told 'em why they shouldn't."
Dylan's eyes shifted from their clasped hands to Silas's face and back the whole time Silas was speaking, trying to pay attention to his words but clearly distracted. When Silas fell silent, Dylan took a deep breath and looked around the porch and down the drive, taking in the trees swaying in the gentle summer breeze. When he came back to the teen in front of him, he reached up with his free hand and gently touched Sila's cheek - almost, but not quite, a caress. "Did you feel anything?"
Silas shook his head, determined not to just lean into Dylan's hand. "You mean that tingling icy feel? No, not right now. I didn't. . .realize- I thought-" he sighed and blushed, giving Dylan an embarrassed look. "I'm kind of an idiot, aren't I?"
Dylan smiled, "No, Silas, you arn't an idiot. You’re wonderful. An’ your right." He lets their hands drop but doesn’t let go as he turns slightly to look back at the hose where their friends are, "We should tell them, or at least let Evelyn know so she can."
"Well," Silas said as his heart leapt a little in his chest at facing the house and probably getting an earful from the others. He held on to Dylan's hand like a lifeline, leaning into him a little as he gathered the courage and will to go back inside. "I'm guessin' she's gonna win best story of the night, then."
"Why don't you tell the first one, Roach? Or Evelyn?" Silas suggested with a grin. He set his empty cup down and stood up, brushing invisible lint off his pants. "I need to use the restroom first, though. Maybe we all take turns? I don't know that many spooky stories that aren't like Boy Scout campfire stories, but I'll try to come up with something."
With that and a lazy salute to Roach as encouragement to get the stories started (and understanding that he was likely to get pranked when he came back because he was leaving the room and that was just Roach), he made his way out through the parlor doors and deeper into the house.
Silas grinned at Hank. "Alone can be fine, but life's better with friends. It's been a few years since we've done a sleepover anywhere but the cabin. I wonder if our parents will start getting weird about things now that we're in high school? I hope not." The Walsh boy looked happier than he had in months - thought right after the prank at the cabin had been a pretty good time, too.
"Oh, Hank, think you'll be able to get your hands on some good fireworks again this year? Those ones you found last year were awesome! The little tank thing? And the one that was like five different fireworks that went off at different times once they got up in the air?" Silas' favorite fireworks were the parachute ones; he liked running around trying to find out where the little guy eventually landed like a miniature scavenger hunt under the lights of the rest of the fireworks. And Hank always found the best fireworks and seemed to be able to get them for half the price of anyone else. "With the Clairburns inviting everyone for a barbecue we should put on a show once it gets dark, as a thank you." And because fireworks are awesome, Silas left unsaid by clearly meant.
Silas had smiled at the offer, surprised at a girl who had just met them inviting mostly unknown boys to spend the night at her house. "I'll ask my parents," he said, glancing at Quinn and frowning at her refusal. "There's evening chores to do with the horses, too. I didn't help out this morning, so I can't skip those." Maybe I can convince Quinn to come back.
"Are you sure Mr. Clairburn will be okay with all of us staying the night?" he asked Evelyn.
Silas shuddered. Roach had gotten them to watch Mad Max at the cabin shortly after it came out - one of his cousins had sprung for a projector and screen for the living room. The sad part was, controlling for it being high school and open violence wasn't allowed outside the football field, Roach wasn't really all that off. Especially if you were weird or different in any way. He leaned into Dylan without realizing it, his own fears and insecurities about the coming school year spiking hard.
"Yeah," he said, swallowing hard and trying to rally with something silly. "Thunderdome being code for the cafeteria. The food is worth it, but the obstacle course to get there is rough."
Silas had given Dylan is happy-puppy smile when that deepened into a flush at the other boy's wicked smile and the rush of his brief brush. It was almost enough for him to miss Quinn eating her other foot in the space of ten minutes. This was a record for the horse-crazy girl and Silas was starting to wonder if there wasn't something going on with Quinn.
"I'd take her up on that," Silas said when his wits returned to him. "Her family are the best horse trainers in the area. Just make sure you pack for the day - they do endurance training with their horses." He looked between Evelyn and Dylan, "In fact, maybe we could do a camp out come October? Most of the bugs have died down by then but the weather's still decent. We could do a ride and camp overnight on a weekend. Have a bonfire, all that."
"You'd crush them and there's at least one you should," Silas said, his temper flaring a little at the memory of his friend being hurt by a jerk. He flushed at the intensity of his words but just shrugged when people looked at him. "What? He totally deserves it. And Jo can bench press any one of us. If they're going to make fun of her, let them get some of their own back. She could just sit on one of them at the start of school. We'll put a jar in front of her, make it fundraising for horse rescues. I bet we'd have a full jar before morning bell rang."
Clearly he'd thought a little too much about this over the summer.
He glanced behind him, noting Dylan still didn't have a plate of food. Stepping to the side, he motioned the older boy towards the slices. The unwritten rule of teenage boys and pizza: if you don't get grub earlier on, expect to find a different dinner.
Silas needed no more encouragement: the appetite of teenage boys was both legendary and in no way overstated. He helped pass out plates and then found slices of pizza - supreme - to claim for his own.
"This is great. Much better than the last time we ordered pizza," Silas said. Then winced when he realized he'd just sorta referenced something they'd all agreed not to talk about. Trying to cover and sort of change subjects, he quickly added, "Thanks, Miss Evelyn. This was really nice of you. How are you liking Blairsville so far?"
Silas had gone bright pink, dropping his head into his hands at Roach's reassurances. He shook his head at her question. "No clue-"
He stood politely when the striking red-head made her way in. It was half proper Southern politeness and part chance to not have to think about 'Silan' or 'Dylas'. He smiled and held out a friendly hand to her, "Nice to meet you, Miss Evelyn. I'm Silas Walsh. Welcome to Blairsville and Walsh Road."
"Y'all have a mighty fine place, Evelyn," Jordan added. "And you lot fixed it up all nice and proper so fast after it being left alone for so many years."
The big blonde couldn't help but glance down towards the cat, though the table was in the way. She was definitely a dog person, and Banner wasn't allowed around the table when they were eating. Jordan supposed the cat might sense that or just smell Banner on her.
Jordan put the cat out of her mind and gave Evelyn a shy, subdued smile. "You play the piano real well."