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"You have no idea what you're talking about!" James screamed clear across the room. She felt the glass in Daniel's study tremor.
"You're out of line," The warning was clear in Daniel's tone to everyone but James.
"Where is that line?" James pushed, seventeen years of all aggression. "Huh? Is it at the beginning of Oakhurst? The border of town? Or the driveway of the house?" His words couldn't be more vicious if he tried. He stepped towards his father, nearly fully grown, now, he was almost his exact likeness, down to the exact shade of dark blonde hair, down to the stubborn streak.
"Watch yourself," Daniel warned like he could almost hear James's thoughts.
"Your fears are not mine," James hisses, only a step away from his father. "I won't be trapped here."
"James," Zane says, standing just behind him, calm to James's aggression, both seventeen, both terrified of what they were supposed to become.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, tired of this same song they'd been singing for nearly a month now. Like the peace that normally breezed through Hawthorne House had reached the end of its tether, that seventeen years had to be repaid in a single winter.
"Stay out of this, Zane," Their father warned, not unkindly, not dangerously, but warned all the same.
And it incensed James. "Yeah, two voices of reason are harder to block out than just one," He spits, "Or is it that you would actually listen to him?"
And that breaks the glass. Rebecca pushes off the couch she was sitting on, forces herself in the small space between them both Daniel and James had begun to close, over a head shorter than both of them, and she turns to James.
"He taught you to reason," She whispers, low and soft, because James was her brother still. "Don't be cruel to someone that has only showed you kindness," Because Daniel had taught her to reason, too.
But James's face twists, cruel and snarling, "Sure, little sister, maybe you should speak to him, he'll listen to you," He rasps, because Zane almost heard his thoughts before he'd spoken, and wrapped his arms around James from behind, pulling him back against him.
"Enough," Zane murmurs, close to James' ear, but they're pressed so close together, they all hear. "For today, James, that's enough."
And like Zane had pulled on puppet strings and loosed them, James sinks into himself, and pushes Zane off him with the last bit of his strength. They listen to James half run out of Hawthorne House. And they all flinch when the door bangs.
The driveway to the House was paved as little as possible, the stone laid so delicately it was like they crafted themselves from the ground. The rain soaked trees, autumn colours on the leaves, trying to hold the scents in place for as long as they could. Until the frost came.
Hawthorne House was old trees and aged stone, it was set right against the edge of Oakhurst Woods, the forest wrapping around the back of the imposing House, and when the mist passed through it clung to everything. And this she loved.
The Town was hundreds of years old.
There was a Bistro in the centre of the town, a library that was about the same size as the one at Hawthorne House, a flower shop with a flighty owner that was always about to close down, an apothecary that never had, a bed and breakfast in a House almost as old as Hawthorne, and an artesian store, Ink, Book & Candle, that sold all three things the name suggested in astounding quantities, and was her absolutely favourite place in the entire town, just after Hawthorne House.
And Hawthorne House was one of the oldest in the town. The kind of old ones, built with stone on the outside to withstand centuries, where the kitchen had ornate fixings, old ovens, where the glass was stained in patterns, where the sides of the houses curved around the edges, creating alcoves, where the walls were hung with mirrors and paintings and carved through with niches. And the mailbox outside resembled an ornate birdcage and locked with a skeleton key.
"I'm going to lock up," Daniel says eventually. Its an hour later than he normally would walk, checking all the gates and doors, making sure everything was locked up for the night.
Elizabeth shoots him the ghost of a smile, folding her piano closed. Its part of the tradition. Daniel walks around and locks up, Elizabeth plays at the piano. It marks her night, and she knows it like she knows the sun sets.
"Walk with me, changeling?" Daniel asked, calling her by Elizabeth's nickname, and it makes her fold.
Its colder, with James still not back. But they walk around the House, anyway, through the path that winds from the driveway, to the backyard, past the stables, the cobblestoned pathway lighted on either side by lampposts, her fingers trailing along the ornate metal as they pass it, and they end at Jargon's enclosure, larger than the stables that housed five horses, the Jaguar was beyond competition Daniel's favourite.
"What happened to him?" Rebecca whispered, lightly touching the animal's fur as it came up to them.
She'd asked this same question often, and Daniel always told her the same story, again and again, even now, almost a full decade later after she'd heard it, he told it to her again. She asked when she needed solace, when he did.
"He was hunted," Daniel answered, the animal encircling both of them, not as heart-stopping to her anymore as it had been the first time. "He survived, but just barely." He murmured into her mess of curls, pulling her against him.
"So he can't ever go back?" Rebecca asked.
Daniel shook his head, "He wouldn't be safe there."
They had become friends, over the years, her and the jaguar, Jargon.
"Born in captivity he hadn't grown to fear humans properly," Daniel loosens his hold of her, and turns to the jaguar as he spoke. "He'd been raised to be hunted, but he'd been strong, and resilient, and survived the attempt."
She knew the story so well she could recite it half asleep. But sometimes Daniel would bend to the animal, slowly, and it would come to him, and she would think the animal answered Daniel the way Elizabeth did, with all of him.
They had become friends, Jargon and her, but she was nothing to this wild creature, compared to her brother.
James that was all wildfire, took to the Jaguar like he took to everything else. With reckless ease, with tempestuous abandon. And Jargon had taken to him just the same.
Daniel came, every night, as he walked around Hawthorne House, making sure everything was locked and closed properly, to the Jaguar he couldn't let go. He came tonight, because James still hadn't come back.
"He'll come back to you," Rebecca murmurs, and she isn't sure who she's telling, but Daniel moves closer to the animal, and it to him, and they're both looking for someone else.