Chase remembers it a week after running away. He berates himself for not thinking it earlier, but he’ll blame it on the stress. After the bus station, where they found out they were framed for murder by the police, they managed to get their hands on a van. They slept on it for a few days. But they knew they couldn’t continue like that. Which is when Chase finally remembered he knew a place they could stay in.
Chase was staring at Gert calming Molly down when he remembered the hostel he found in one of the times he just needed to get out of the house
avoiding his dad. He came back many times over the years, especially when his dad was in one of his moods. Then he entered high school and decided it was time to let things go, so he stopped going.
“Why didn’t you said anything days ago?” Gert says, as soon as he tells the group about the place. He shrugs.
“I didn’t remember it until now,” he admits.
Gert rolls her eyes, muttering something about him being an idiot.
“Well let’s check it out then,” Karolina says.
The hostel is an abandoned mansion. And it’s underground, so even though it looks old and not as safe as it should, Alex approves of it immediately. The place needs work, but Karolina is already thinking of ways to improve the place. The hostel has enough rooms so that each of them can have one.
“I can’t believe you hid this from us for a week,” Alex says while the six of them stand in the middle of the hallway where the rooms are. His tone is not accusatory, just tired.
“It is clearly too much to ask of him to remember useful stuff,” Gert mutters. Chase knows she’s been struggling with her anxiety, so he takes all the insults she throws his way. Now that they have a place to stay, he can focus on finding a way to get her meds.
“Alright, so who’s getting what room?” Nico asks.
Gert tunes out of the conversation then. She keeps eyeing the place, thinking of all the things that could go wrong. The building is old and she isn’t sure what would happen if another earthquake happens. They will probably die crushed in the building and no one will ever find their bodies. Old Lace senses her anxiety and gets closer to her.
“Can I get the master bedroom?” asks Molly, as soon as they step into the room. She’s excited that they will finally get to sleep in a bed.
Gert takes in the room. It is pretty huge and even has its own bathroom. It definitely is a place for a couple and Nico and Karolina should get to enjoy that.
“I think we should leave that room to Nico and Karolina,” Gert says, sending them a smirk. Karolina blushes while Nico just rolls her eyes, crossing her arms.
Alex, who’s deep in thought, offers another solution.
“Actually, Gert, I think you should have it. You need the extra space for Old Lace,” he reasons.
“No, it’s fine. Molly can have it,” Gert says immediately, trying to offer a smile. She can’t stop thinking about how flimsy the walls look. They won’t survive an earthquake, she thinks.
“I agree with Alex, Gert. You take this room,” Chase adds.
“Well nobody asked you, jockstrap,” she snaps.
Molly tries to suppress a laugh at seeing Chase’s kicked puppy face appear.
“I’m just saying it makes sense for you to have the bigger room, so that you and Old Lace can be comfortable,” he insists. And Molly wishes her sister would stop self-sabotaging herself.
“Can’t you just shut up for a minute?” she snaps. “You couldn’t even think of this place until now. I just want you to leave me alone!”
Chase’s face falls. He nods once more before leaving the room. He knows she’s going through a hard time and wants to avoid any confrontation.
It’s much later, when everyone it’s in their new rooms – Karolina and Molly end up convincing Gert that it was okay for her to take the room. Molly is across the hall from her; Alex in the one next to Molly. Chase snubbed the room next to Gert’s. Nico and Karolina in the room next to his – although officially, Karolina’s room is the one across the hall from Nico’s. But everyone knows the truth.
Chase is tired. He’s happy they get to sleep on actual beds, but he can’t help but feel guilty about having taking so long in thinking about this place. A voice in his head that sounds a lot like his dad tells him that of course he couldn’t do something as simple as remembering a place. He can’t even take care of them with something as simple as that. So Chase is tired, but his body doesn’t want to go to sleep. He moves around the bed trying to force himself to sleep. He’s about to fall asleep when he hears a soft knock on his door.
Chase gets up groggily wearing shorts and a T-shirt and opens the door to find Gert on the other side. She fidgets with the hem of her (
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs, not meeting his eyes. Chase stares at her, still a little confused and surprised to see her there.
“What are you sorry for?”
“For snapping at you earlier,” she whispers. Chase thinks she looks adorable. “I just- I-”
“Hey, I get it, alright?” he assures her, stopping himself from hugging her. They still haven’t talked about what happened at the dance. At least properly talked about it.
They stare at each other in silence. Chase wishes he could be brave enough to tell her how important she is to him, how he wants to give her the world, tell her that he will protect her and Molly and everyone else, no matter what.
“I’ll go back to my room before Old Lace starts making noise and wakes everyone up,” Gert says, wishing she could tell him that she didn’t mean when she said their hook up was a one-time thing.
“Ok,” he whispers, a little disappointed.
“Goodnight, Chase,” she says quietly, heading for her room.
Chase wishes her a goodnight and closes his door. He curses himself for not being brave enough to confess his feelings for Gert.
Chase jolts awake, breathing heavily. He takes a moment to realize it was just a dream. A nightmare, more than a dream. Or is it? The hostel is too quiet, and he needs to make sure it was actually a dream. So he hastily gets up and heads to Gert’s room. He stops himself outside her door, trying to calm his breath. He knocks softly, but insistently, and waits for a few minutes before opening the door. He just wants to see for himself that she’s okay.
He looks at Old Lace, who acknowledges Chase, but realizes he’s not a threat so she stays put. Gert wakes up groggily.
“Chase, what are you doing here?” she asks, rubbing her eyes. She was about to fall asleep.
“I-” he is not so sure how to respond to that.
Gert notices the fear in his eyes and pats the spot next to her in the bed. He takes her up on her offer, hopping on the bed and sitting next to her.
“What happened?” she asks.
“I- I just needed to see you were OK,” he admits, softly. “I had a nightmare. He was hurting you, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I just-”
He starts breathing heavily again, the memories of the nightmare too real. Gert takes his hands in hers. She turns his head to make him look at her.
“Hey, Chase, breathe, okay?” she whispers. “I’m fine, we’re all fine.”
Chase buries his face in her neck, hugging her tightly. Gert doesn’t let go. She adjusts in the bed, and they end up lying down, Chase still hugging her. And both of them are too tired to overthink the situation.
“I won’t let my father ever get near you,” Chase whispers when both of them are relaxed and about to fall asleep. “I promise.”
When Chase wakes up the next day, the first thing he notices is Gert still wrapped in his arms. He nuzzles her neck, taking her in. Gert slowly wakes up, and for a split second tenses, before relaxing in Chase’s arms. She knows she can’t let this be a thing, but she can enjoy it for a few more minutes. Old Lace breaks the mood when she growls.
“She’s hungry,” Gert explains just as her own stomach rumbles.
Chase laughs. “Looks like she’s not the only one.”
Gert elbows him while he laughs. He tightens her hold on her. Old Lace growls again, and Gert sighs.
“Alright, alright, I’m going,” she says, disentangling herself from Chase and putting her glasses on.
Chase stares at her as she gets up and puts some shoes on.
“Chase, stop,” Gert says.
“Sorry,” he says, offering her a small smile. “And thank you,” he adds. “For letting me crash here last night.”
“Of course. Our situation isn’t ideal, I’m sure we all have nightmares. I’m glad I could help,”
“Right,” he says.
Gert gives him one last look before leaving the room, Old Lace behind her. Chase lies back down in the bed, staring at the ceiling. It’s been a while since he’s felt so at peace, and he wants to prolong that feeling for a little longer. Of course, he was naive to think that would last.
The door opens abruptly and Karolina barges into the room.
“Hey Gert, Alex is thinking on getting some groceries and he wants to-” Karolina stops when she sees Chase, who sits abruptly when the door opens. “You’re not Gert,” she says.
“Yeah, she’s feeding Old Lace,” he explains, scratching the back of his neck.
Karolina smirks at him. “I understand now why you were so adamant on Gert taking this room,” she teases him.
“Shut up, Karolina,” he says, finally pulling the covers off him and getting up. He figures he should go do something productive, like making the place more livable.
Karolina is about to leave when he talks.
“Can you not tell anyone about this?” he asks. “Gert and I haven’t really talked about it and I don’t want to make her uncomfortable,” he tells her.
Karolina nods. “Of course, Chase, although you guys should really talk,”
“I know,” Chase admits, defeatedly.
“I hope you know that whatever is going on between you guys, we’re gonna support it. You both deserve some happiness, especially in the middle of this mess,” she says, her face softening at the end.
Chase nods, leaving Gert’s room and heading to his own to change his clothes. Karolina was right, he knew that he and Gert needed to talk. Eventually. But first, they needed to work on fixing the hostel, and maybe thinking on a long-term plan.