Sally's head ached. The sunlight coming in through the top window didn't help either. She winced, squeezed her eyes shut against the light and sat up.
She nearly fell back down again as the chains around her wrists pulled tight. She opened her eyes and tried to blink away the foggy cloud that seemed determined to settle in her brain. She wasn't in her cage.
Oh Christ, she wasn't in her cage.
She tried to get up again, forgetting the chains around her wrist, and dropped back down. Just before she tried again, Sally realised she was still wearing the pajamas she had changed into the previous night. She examined them as best she could, confused as to how she was still wearing them. Then she saw the blood down the front of them and she shuddered. She hoped that was hers.
Taking greater care, she shifted around onto her knees and looked around. She was still in the cottage. Her gaze fell on the smashed up remains of her cage.
That's not good, she grimaced again as her head throbbed. She'd had this feeling before, just after she had…
Sally felt sick as she realised the feeling was the after effects of the tranquilliser. She had, mercifully, only been subject to it once before. Had she gotten out? Had she hurt anyone?
"You're awake", Marie stepped in from the front room, "I was worried that Darrell may have been overcautious with the dose and I would have to explain another absence".
"What happened?", Sally asked as the older woman knelt down and undid the chains around her wrists. She shook her arms as soon as she was free of the restraint and side-eyed the single metal hook jammed into the ground which had held her chains in place. If the cage hadn't held her, she didn't know how that was supposed to.
"Not a long term solution, but I was banking on you being out for the count. We will need to make alternative arrangements for the next two nights though", Marie had obviously caught her looking and guessed where her mind had gone.
Sally's legs felt wobbly as she got to her feet and she only got as far as the table in the front room before she had to sit down at one of the chairs.
"It seems she may have been a little over enthusiastic", Marie mused as she made Sally and herself a cup of tea.
"I've got an awful headache", Sally groaned, and then she remembered her earlier fear, "How did I get out? Did I hurt anyone?"
Marie put both cups down on the table and sat down next to Sally,
"We're not altogether sure how you got out", Marie said, "though you didn't fully transform which has reignited Alicia's interest in studying the literature of the supernatural. She rather thinks you might be handy on a full moon if you can control yourself".
Sally made a dismissive noise at that, though she shouldn't be surprised by Alicia's reaction reaction.
"I don't remember much", Sally took a sip of her tea, "whose is this?". She gestured to her front and the blood. Marie's calm response had gone most of the way towards reassuring her that she couldn't have done anything too serious.
"Some might be yours but given the damage you did to him, I would surmise most of it belongs to that young man from the wolf pack. Mark, I believe his name is", Marie said.
Sally wasn't sure if she had heard the words correctly and she looked down herself again. She went to ask one question, then paused and tried again before finally settling on,
So Marie told her all the pieces of the previous night they had managed to put together, up to the point where they had chained her to the floor, Alicia had returned to school to be checked over by Matron, and Rupert had driven Darrell out to Marie and Harriet's home.
If Sally's head had hurt before, it seemed like it was only worse now with all this extra information.
"But Da- everyone else is okay?", Sally asked, leaning on her hand, she would have to force herself to eat something before she could take tablets. Marie smiled conspiratorially at her, no doubt at her slip,
"Rupert is fine, Alicia is exhausted and a bit bruised but she will recover, and Darrell will be okay with time I think", Marie said, "she was quite… unsettled and it was causing some difficulties. She certainly couldn't go into class today. Do you feel up to class?"
Sally nodded, her healing power was doing its job and she could already feel the effects of the tranquilliser starting to fade.
"I've brought your clothes down, they're in the back room. Rupert will have to see if the cage can be salvaged", Marie mused. Sally got up and headed to the back room to get changed when she thought of something Marie hadn't explained,
"What happened to Mark and the others?"
"You had them choose between a Tibetan monastery and being handed over to the council?", Alicia asked.
After Matron was finished with her, she had gone to find Rupert. Their cover story for her not being in the dorms last night of having hurt her ankle was going to hold up nicely with the bruises she had. She had found Rupert checking for any other evidence of what had happened the previous night on the walk between the cottage and school.
Curious as to where exactly the Weres had gone, she'd promptly quizzed Rupert.
"We didn't know what else to do with them, quite frankly", Rupert said, "the Council have hired guns guarding them in the basement of the farmhouse, and we have warned them that one young man got away".
"Wouldn't the council want to just kill them all?", Alicia asked, kicking the grass at her feet as they walked. She would have to go back up to school soon for breakfast. She wondered if Sally had regained consciousness.
"Usually but Marie couldn't bring herself to send them all off to the Council without the option of redemption I suppose", Rupert finished his sweep and nodded for them to go back to school, "she has a friend who works with Werewolves on developing control. He is very interested in the events that took place last night so agreed to send someone to meet with any of the pack who chose to redeem themselves".
"I wouldn't have trusted most of them with the chance to do this again", Alicia admitted.
"Me neither quite frankly", Rupert said, "but Marie believes many people can be turned around".
"Last night it was easy to think of them as just monsters", Alicia said, "it wasn't until we chained up Sally again that I remembered they're people most of the time…", she sighed, "did anyone choose the Council? Seems rather like choosing a death penalty".
"Not as such, but that leader and the young woman declined the trip to Tibet", Rupert said, "so the Council have already extracted them. I suspect they're dead by now".
Alicia shuddered at the words and said her goodbyes to Rupert, branching off and heading towards the breakfast hall. Sally was already there, nursing what looked like a terrible headache.
"We had to resort to Lethe's Bramble?", Alicia asked. Sally shook her head.
"We're just going to say we were both up early with Darrell", Sally mumbled, "Marie wants to avoid any more memory tampering".
"It's not completely untrue…", Alicia said, thinking of how out of her depth she had felt when Marie had asked her to stay with Darrell while Rupert went to get the car and Marie called Harriet.
The stress of what had happened was more difficult for Darrell than Alicia could have imagined. She had become almost frantic in her chatter about supernatural things which Alicia couldn't link together, it was like Darrell's brain was running too quickly. That, the furious pacing around the room and the frustration at not being able to make sense of her own thought process was so uncharacteristic of her friend that Alicia had been forced to concede to herself that she had no idea how or even if she was supposed to help.
She hadn't really thought properly about how she might have to. In the end all she had been able to do was watch her friend and offer the occasional comment.
"Last night was difficult for her", Alicia said instead, "Will you go out and see her?"
"It depends how today goes", Sally said and then the first form came into the dinner hall and they changed topics.
Lessons that day dragged on for what seemed an eternity. It was awfully difficult to concentrate on Maths or French when you hadn't slept and had bruises in places that made any position you sat in painful. And as for History, well it was simply impossible to not start thinking about all the parts which had been left out or altered.
Alicia could barely manage to eat any lunch either and warded off concerns from both her classmates and Mamzelle Dupont. She had received equal parts mocking and sympathy for her injuries, blaming them on a tumble down the stairs rather than a werewolf.
When lessons finally ended for the day, the rest of the form went up to the common room, the weather really was too dreadful for any of them to consider going outside. Marie pulled the two of them to one side just after class and asked if Sally minded going out to see Darrell for a few hours.
"Are you feeling better?", Alicia asked as she accompanied Sally to wait in the entrance hall of Malory Towers.
Sally nodded but she did look rather unsettled still. It was the tranquillisers apparently, they left you feeling like you were in a sort of half-drugged state for the next day.
"Where are we putting you tonight, do you know?", Alicia asked. Sally grimaced as she sat down to wait on the bench.
"The basement of the farmhouse, Rupert doesn't think the cage can be fixed for a good while", she replied, "but the form will think I'm staying over with Darrell".
She cradled her head in her hands and Alicia patted her on the shoulder, part in sympathy and part just because Sally would think she was being sarcastic and that amused her. Sure enough, Sally shot her a suspicious look.
Alicia just laughed.
"I was worried I'd hurt her this morning, when I woke up", Sally admitted after silence had hung between them for a minute or so, "he said I would, that I should stay away from her".
"Mark had no idea about you and Darrell, I don't know why you ever listened to him. He was just gambling on planting the seed of doubt and destroying you both in the process", Alicia said, "If you'd just talk to her and get those secrets out of your head", she tapped Sally on the side of the head and received a glare in response, "you'd see that."
Sally made a noncommittal noise, "I think telling her about what happened that night would be too much for her right now".
"And your other secret?", Alicia stretched her legs out and crossed them at the ankles, and before Sally could reply she added, " please don't lie to me and say you don't know what I mean. You didn't achieve the supernaturally improbable for my sake last night, I'm sure".
"Would you just leave it alone, Alicia?"
"Well just tell me I'm wrong. Tell me that it's all just friendship, nothing more and I'll not bring it up again", the challenge was petty and entirely immature but as Alicia watched the turmoil on Sally's face, she knew the other girl wouldn't deny it. After all, denying feelings that strong and the closeness of their bond, pretending it didn't exist just to save face with Alicia was a step too far for Sally.
"You have no right to make demands like that", Sally said instead.
"I suppose not", and Alicia did feel a twinge of guilt, though she brushed it away quickly, "She loves you, you know that right?"
"That doesn't mean she…", Sally glanced away and then stood up abruptly, "Marie's here".
Alicia got up as well and grabbed Sally's arm, making the other girl look at her, "We've seen what's out there Sally, more than most. It seems to me, if you've got someone that important to you, you should let them know".
"Perhaps I just want to keep my best friend in my life", Sally replied, she shook Alicia off and paused for a moment with her hand on the door handle, "it doesn't take all that much to break a friendship, not really".
With that, Sally was gone.
Her words though, they stayed with Alicia and try as she might, she couldn't shift them.
"Do you think I should have turned myself into the police?", Sally asked as Marie pulled up outside her house.
Marie took a long time before answering, "You never told me what you and Alicia did".
"You will have guessed, I presume", Sally kept her attention straight ahead.
"What do you think the police would do? There's no evidence of what you did", Marie said, "and what might happen come the next full moon with you in a jail cell?"
"The council?", Sally asked.
"Either wouldn't care or would simply kill you", Marie said, "You should do what you think is right. Personally, right now, we have more than enough dangers lurking beyond our understanding that I would advise your best means of atoning, if you will, for what you've done is to continue to help us fight whatever is coming next".
Sally didn't know what to say to that so she got out of the car and waited for Marie to follow her. Harriet opened the door and greeted them warmly.
"Darrell! Marie and Sally are here", Harriet called down the corridor and received a muffled 'Okay' in response.
"How is she?", Marie asked, putting her bag on the table and accepting the cup of tea Harriet handed her.
"As the day has gone by and we have stuck to her routine", Harriet nodded towards the schedule on the wall, "she has been better. She's still quite tightly wound though".
The sound of a door shutting hushed their discussion and Darrell emerged from the hallway.
"Marie and I need to head out for a while to get some bits and pieces from town before the shops close", Harriet said, "is there anything you need before we go?"
"No thank you, Miss Rutherford", Darrell said and Sally watched Marie's lips twitch with a barely contained smile.
"Okay, well we'll sit next door with our tea and leave you two to it", Harriet said and she followed Marie out of the room.
Darrell bobbed on the balls of her feet for a moment and looked over her schedule before she asked,
"Are you alright today?"
"A bit out of sorts but I'll be fine tomorrow", Sally assured, "were you hurt?"
"Just when I was shoved over, it wasn't as bad…", Darrell left the comparative empty and trailed off because there were too many things she could put in there, "I need to stick to this, do you mind?"
Darrell had pointed to the schedule and Sally shook her head, she walked over to stand beside Darrell and look it over.
"This helps?", Sally asked.
"I'm starting to think it's essential, for me at least", Darrell sighed and she nodded towards the back door. Sally followed her out to the greenhouse where Darrell began working on watering and clipping the plants.
"Jean would be overjoyed, someone finally got you interested in gardening", Sally said and it brought a smile to Darrell's face. Then quiet fell back between them and Sally found herself pottering about just for something to do.
"Sally…", there was that tone, the one that said Darrell was about to ask a difficult question, "Why didn't I die the night the Conduit was destroyed?"
"Why do you ask?", Sally stalled, pleased that the words weren't too strangled.
"You couldn't have killed the Conduit without killing me", Darrell replied, "all of the literature is clear on that".
"Why are you still torturing yourself reading that sort of thing?", Sally had made the mistake of moving to the back of the greenhouse and now she couldn't get out of the small structure without going right past Darrell.
"I need answers. It helps me know what's real and what's…that I'm not imagining things", Darrell gathered the clippings so far and put them in a compost bin behind her.
Sally tried to think of a way to bypass Darrell's question but she just couldn't think of anything that would satisfy her friend's need for information. In the time it took her to do that, Darrell stepped closer to her and stopped her from fiddling with the plant she was using as a distraction.
"Is whatever you're hiding, the reason you stopped calling me and the reason you fell in with them ?", Darrell asked. Her hands felt cool in Sally's and Sally brushed her fingers against Darrell's absentmindedly.
"I found a way to save you, and I made Alicia go along with it", Sally whispered, not able to look at Darrell in case her friend saw the evil of what she had done, "but it wasn't a choice a good person would have made".
"Will you tell me?", Darrell asked.
Sally swallowed the lump in her throat, "I don't think it's a burden you need today".
"Don't I get to make that decision?", Darrell asked.
She was right, of course. Darrell could make her own decisions, wasn't that what she had done all this time? Guiding her treatment, her recovery, standing up for what she wanted. It didn't seem right for Sally to deny her that.
"You're right", she said, "Do you want me to tell you?"
Darrell considered Sally's words for a long time and then, to Sally's surprise, she shook her head,
"Not right now. Will you tell me when I'm ready to hear it?".
"I will", Sally said.
Darrell gently put her hand beneath Sally's chin and tilted her face up. Anything that Sally had been about to say immediately went out of her head. She found herself both wanting to look away to avoid Darrell's intense gaze and to just let herself have this moment. She may never have another.
"Life isn't as simple as good and evil, you know that", Darrell said, "I'm sure you did the best you could with the circumstances you were in".
Sally wished that could be true, but part of her still dreaded saying the actual words to Darrell, whether it was in a few days or a few weeks. Because her friend, though hardly without her own flaws, was good and tried her hardest to stay far on that side of the good and evil divide. Sally couldn't ever make the same claim, not now.
"Do you want to help me cook?", Darrell changed the subject abruptly and stepped back. Sally immediately missed the warmth of her touch.
Then Darrell's hand dropped to take hers and the warmth moved there instead. Sally looked down at their hands and for one wild moment, thought about taking Alicia's advice.
Of course, it didn't become more than a thought, but Sally smiled all the same as Darrell led her back to the house.
Marie was absolutely going to kill her. Or at the very least, Alicia would never hear the end of this. Which should be a perfect reason not to do it but Alicia had made up her mind and consequences would be dealt with.
She waited until Winnie and the others started to walk off and then she stepped in and grabbed Betty's arm to stop her following them.
"What do you want?", Betty asked, pulling her arm away.
"I need to talk to you", Alicia said.
"Oh, so we can talk on your schedule, now you've decided you have time for me", Betty shook her head, "I don't think so". She turned and started to walk away.
"I need to tell you something, explain everything that had been happening", Alicia called after her, "But I really need you to come with me because you won't believe me unless I show you".
Betty stopped walking and turned around, "Do you know how ridiculous you sound? It's like you're touched in the head".
The words made Alicia squirm. They were the same nasty undercurrents that had wormed their way around school about Darrell and hearing them and the prejudice they enforced made her feel sick. She had never expected her friend to be the one repeating them.
"Let me show you, and if you never want to speak to me again then I'll understand", Alicia said. They stood in silence for a few moments before Betty took a few steps closer.
"This better be worth my while".