Up in the hills. Secluded. A great place when you want to get away from the world; when you're feeling contemplative of the universe.
I knew this was where my brother was going. When we were both young, our parents took us out here on camping trips. These trips were few and far in between, but were among the most treasured of my childhood memories. Camp fires, mountain hikes, way up where you could see everything for miles.
And when Steve was old enough to drive, and was going through the beginning of his rebel stage, he took me out with his friends to this place. Well, I made him, more like, by threatening to tell mom and dad. But we both knew I would never risk that. The fun we had with his older friends. He was there to protect me from his drunken friends. I remember that he decked his best friend because he "hit on me" after one too many beers. I always have appreciated his protection. I always thought he was so strong.
But there is a time when even the strongest break into pieces.
My brother needed me now, I knew it well as we trudged up the winding trail that led to the cabin my brother built when he moved out. This was his getaway, his place of solace. As far as I knew, only I and a few knew of its existence.
"How long till we get there?" Dani asked from behind me. We were all panting from the hike.
It had been an hour's drive to here, and we had to leave the car down at the false dead-end branching off from a hardly used gravel road. It was a hard place to find, and I'd had to point it out to Jagan, and even then we had to turn around because we'd passed it up.
"Not much longer," I said, turning around to look at her sweaty face, farther down the steep hill than I was. I followed the recent tracks in the dirt from Crow's feet. His cycle had been left down behind a bush near where the car was now.
"Man, I never would have pinned Crow as the woodsy type," I heard Jagan say.
"There's a lot about him that even I don't know, guys. He's not all he appears to be. There is so much more. I just wish..." My voice trailed off. There's just so much going on under the surface of Steve. He had never been used to baring his soul, and that talk that Jagan forced on him only showed him more that he might need such a thing. He's not invincible. As much as he would like to believe-- or as much as I have always thought he was.
Oh, God, I was so worried about him. It seemed that Jagan knew what was running through my mind. His arm was around me the instant we topped the sharp up-hill ridge we'd been struggling against for the last ten minutes.
In the distance, nearly hidden among the trees, and beholding a breathtaking view, was the cabin. It was modest on the outside, but it betrayed what lay inside.
We barely had started toward the cabin when my brother burst out of the front door, a shotgun in his hands. He started toward us without pausing.
"Get out of here!" He yelled.
"Steve!" I yelled. "What the he--"
He cocked the gun. "I'm telling you one last time, you b*st*ards, get out of here or I'll blow your asses away!"