Unexpected Ties

Ready Or Not

Dreams.

If he ever had them, he almost never remembered them upon waking up. There had only been a few instances in his entire life where he'd had a dream and remembered it. This was one of those few times.

It had started almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. He found himself in his bed, as if he'd woken up in the middle of the night. It seemed to real to be a dream, until he realized what had woken him.

Light from outside his bedroom window danced off of ocean blue eyes. Golden waves framed the face of the girl who stood over him. She looked panicked, an emotion he'd never seen on her in real life. Half the time she seemed to not have emotions. That was when he should have realized it was a dream.

"Lucas," she said. He wasn't used to her referring to him by his actual name. "Lucas, get up." there was a panicked edge to her voice. "I have to show you something."

He should have known it was a dream when he slid out of bed and stood up, only taking a few steps before the scene around him changed from the comfort of his bedroom to a dark alley. It was the middle of the night, and a dark heap lay in the back, at the foot of a building.

"Over there."

Lucas turned to see Maya next to him with tears streaming down her face. She was pointing to the heap. He felt himself compelled to move forward and look at it.

It wasn't a heap. It was a human, a teenage girl with long, wavy chocolate brown hair that was covering her face. She was laying in a pool of dark red liquid- blood. Lucas moved her hair, and his heart stopped.

He should have known it was a dream when he saw her face. But he didn't. The thought didn't even cross his mind.

The light had died from Riley's chocolate brown eyes. Her last moments of terror were frozen on her face. Grief tumbled over him, and he pulled her into a hug, caressing her face. Her skin was cold, her body lifeless. Tears began streaming down his face. The as fast as he wiped them away, more replaced them.

She was dead.

"No... no... NOO!" he screamed, his voice echoing through the alley. He set her down gently on the ground and roared into the night. "WHO DID THIS?!"

A movement in the back of the alley caught his attention. The dark figure of a man stepped into his sight. The man's ocean blue eyes mirrored those of the blonde teenage girl behind Lucas, but with a hint of insanity glinting in the moonlight as the moon moved from behind a cloud and revealed the last person the grief-stricken boy wanted to see.

"Lucas..." the smell of alcohol in his father's breath was almost as overwhelming as the grief that had overcome him. "I told you that you would regret your decision one day..." his words were slurred, and he raised a shaky hand to reveal the killing machine in it.

A gun.

Lucas narrowed his eyes. "Y-you.." he whispered shakily, his eyes wide. "It was you!"

He should have known it was a dream when Daniel didn't respond with words. Instead, he raised the gun, his finger on the trigger.

Lucas's eyes widened. He closed his eyes, his will to live long since gone. The gunshot rang out, but he didn't feel anything. Was this what it felt like?

No.

The yelp of pain he'd heard wasn't his.

He opened his eyes just in time to see that the shot wasn't aimed at him. Instead, it was at the girl behind him. The world seemed to move in slow motion as he leaned forward, catching Maya before she fell to the ground. Thick red blood stained her shirt where the bullet had struck her. She looked up at him with a heartbreakingly-calm look on her face.

"Ranger... Riick.." she breathed softly. She coughed and put her arms around his neck. He could feel the wet tears streaming down her cheeks as she buried her face into his shoulder. "It h-hurts..."

"No-no, Maya," tears streamed down Lucas's face. "It's okay, city girl. You're gonna be okay."

But even he didn't believe himself. But seemed to put a smile on Maya's face. She closed her eyes, mumbling something like "Riley, I'm coming." Her grip on his neck tightened, then loosened. She coughed once, blood trickling out of her mouth. She exhaled her last breath And then she was still.

That's when he realized it was a dream.

His head shot up from his pillow. Tears streamed down his face as he glanced around. He was in an unfamiliar room, dressed in a hospital gown with a nurse standing nearby.

"Oh, you're awake?" she asked in an annoyingly cheerful voice. "Is everything okay? How do you feel?" the barrage of questions came so fast that Lucas's groggy mind could barely keep up. In all honesty, he felt terrible, both physically and emotionally, but he wasn't going to tell this nurse that. He had one thing on his mind, one name, one person.

Riley.

"Where's... Riley?" he asked, surprising himself with the weakness and hoarseness of his voice. The contents of his dream were slipping away from him, but all he could think about was the cheerful brunette. He had to see her, had to know if she was okay.

The nurse looked at him. "She's out in the waiting room, now how are you feeling?"

"I'm fine!" Lucas snapped at her, more aware than ever of the throbbing pain in his shoulder. "I... I need to see Riley and Maya."

The woman backed away, holding her hands up defensively. "Alright, alright, fine, I'll go get her."

As soon as the nurse was gone, Lucas sighed, sitting up and reaching for the remote with what little strength he had. He turned on the TV in front of him, a news report flashing onto the screen that made him sick.

"Daniel Clutterbucket is dangerous and needs to be apprehended as soon as possible. If you have any information regarding Clutterbucket's location, call-"

He turned off the TV, unable to watch anymore. By some odd stroke of luck, the door creaked open and the one person he wanted to see peered in.

"Riley?" he breathed, staring into her deep brown, pain-filled eyes. He could see her right arm, her dominant arm, wrapped in a bright pink cast and held steady by a sling. He grit his teeth. Daniel had done this.

"Lucas, you're alright!" the fifteen year old girl practically flew into the room, wrapping him in an awkward, left-handed hug. There were fresh tears brimming in her eyes, and she buried her into his shoulder. "Everyone was so worried..."

Lucas gave her his best attempt at a smile, pulling her into a hug and ignoring the searing pain in his shoulder, giving off a soft hiss as the only way of showing his agony. "Of course I'm okay, Riley... This is nothing new, really..." as bad as it was, it was the truth. Daniel had been terrible to him since he was a kid. This was just the only time he'd gone to the hospital over it.

And it might be the time that Daniel finally got caught. But maybe that was hoping a little too much..

"I was really scared," the pain in Riley's voice hurt him more than the physical pain. "I thought Daniel was going to... was gonna.."

"Shh..." Lucas soothed gently, holding her close to him. His stomach lurched, and memories of his dream surged through his mind: the gunshots, Riley's lifeless body in his arms, the murderous look in his father's icy blue eyes. It all seemed too real to be a dream... Shut up! She's okay.. They both are. "The police are after him.. He can't hurt us anymore."

"I know," Riley said softly, her voice weak and pitiful. "I'm just.. A little shaken up, that's all..."

Lucas did not know how to reply, but he could not even begin to blame her for being so shaken up. He was used to this kind of abuse, he'd endured it for years. She hadn't. She had a wonderful family. It was only natural for her to be shaken up about it. He just hated seeing her like this.

"What you did was pretty brave, Riley," he did his best to distract the distraught girl from thinking about the bad stuff. She stared at him with widened chocolate brown eyes, and his heart pounded.

"Really?" Riley's cheeks turned a faint shade of red. "I didn't even think: I just knew I had to get Maya away from him no matter what, or how scary or painful it was..." her eyes clouded with thought, and she sniffled, burying her face into his chest.

Lucas stroked her back soothingly. "It's okay, Riley, really. He didn't harm a hair on her head, thanks to you..."

"But he nearly bashed in yours, thanks to me!"

"Don't say that," Lucas told her. "Trust me, Riley... If you had interfered with my fight... You wouldn't have had a chance." he sighed. "None of that matters now. Everyone's okay now. Daniel won't hurt you anymore. I won't let him, not over my dead body."

That's the only thing I'm afraid of, a little voice in the back of his head piped up, but he told it to shut up, and it obeyed. But one look into Riley's chocolate brown eyes and he knew she shared his fears.

Sleep with one eye open, the voice spoke up again, echoing through his mind. He's coming back, and it will be up to you to protect both Riley and Maya...

Am I ready to carry such a burden?

One look at Riley's face- her sad brown eyes, her messy brown hair, the frown that should have been upside down- gave him the exact answer he needed.

It doesn't matter whether I'm ready or not. It's like hide-and-seek.

And ready or not, here he comes.


To Be Continued...

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