Shannon closed his eyes and moved one foot in front of the other. He sucked in a sharp breath, letting it crawl inside of him twisting him up painfully. He looked down at Jared's wilting body, telling himself that everything would be fine if he just worked over his fears. He knelt down beside Jared and lightly placed his hand on his back.
"Jared...." He whispered, his voice broken as he tried to find some strength to go on. "Jared, I'm sorry..."
Jared was bent over, his head buried in his hands as tears ran rapidly from his eyes. He tried to block out the world from around him. He tried to make the pain filling him disappear. He wanted to be left alone, he wanted the darkness to consume him until he was left as nothing but a quivering and numb mess. He wouldn't mind forgetting again. He welcomes the thought of returning to that state he had tried so hard to rid himself of. He craved the darkness he had lost, the way he had no recollection of anything at all. If he could he would make this ache disappear, make the torment let him live in a sort of peace. Would he ever find it? Would it ever be his?
"Jared...?" Shannon braved calling out his name again, shakily trying to get his attention. What happened once he did look at him? What would happen once those blue eyes met his with all the hate in the world? Could he survive that? Was that something he could actually live with?
Jared did lift his gaze but he never once brought his eyes down to Shannon. He slowly lifted himself from his knees and turned his eyes back to the chest. He could see a bit of Hannah's hair sticking out of the white bag she was in. He could see her face, that dead and beautiful face, every time he blinked. He wanted to breathe but he felt suffocated, he felt drained of the ability to just live.
"Jared, don't do this...please." Shannon pleaded, his eyes wide and hopeless. He knew what would happen, he knew this would happen. "Look at me."
"For what?" Jared questioned.
"Jared!" It was Emma's voice that shouted from below the attic. Worry and fear clouded his words.
Jared turned down to the shaky stairs he had climbed to get up here. When were the reminders going to disappear? When was he going to be able to forget? How could he forget when they were both surrounding him, bringing with them the hundreds of memories that accompanied his pain?
"I can't do this..." He whispered as he tried so hard to come up with a way to put an end to this, to all of it.
The stairs creaked by one pair of footsteps and then another. The thought of looking into both Audrey's and Emma's eyes overwhelmed him, struck him painfully. He was already having a hard time standing here with Shannon but the pressure that would come with their presence was too much for him. The darkness was coming, it was getting thick, he could feel it.
Finally Emma stood before him, her eyes wide and pleading. "Jared, you have to listen to me! Please?"
Jared blankly stared at her, his own eyes matching the panic in hers. But his stemmed from having to deal with this full on, of having to live with this truth that he had always feared. Had it always been there? Small and barely alive? The thought and knowledge that Shannon and Emma had done something as terrible as this? How could he have even suspected this?
"Listen to what? That you killed her?! That you did all of this for me? How was it for me?" He shouted, his tears building with the rage that sat alongside it. He could sense the stiffness in the air, the tight agony that held them all in its grip.
"You were sucked in by her! She became your whole life!"
"She was my whole life! I loved her!" His words cracked. How could he claim that when he had rendered himself incapable of helping her by trying to take his own life? How could he say that when he hadn't been able to remember a single thing about her?
"You didn't see what we all did." She defended herself with a lift of her chin. She wasn't remorseful for what she had done. She was just desperate to have him forgive her and let them all carry on the way they always had.
"And this is better, is it? This endless cycle of suffering? Is this the life you wanted for me?"
They all stared at him, as fragile as he was. He looked almost crazed in the buttoned up coat that hung on his body. His eyes were bloodshot, he was so damned tired. What kind of man had he become?
"We can all put it behind us! We can make sure it just disappears! You forgot once you can forget again." She approached him with a bravery that shocked even him.
He stood there unmoving, his eyes watching her with an unflinching anger. "And then what, Emma? What would happen then? What did you have planned?"
Emma's eyes passed between Jared and Shannon. She wasn't sure what to say. She remembered the reasons she had given to Shannon for having him help her with getting rid of Hannah but she also knew the truth. She looked up at Jared and tried to see the man she had always wanted but was he even still there? He seemed entirely lost from being that person he used to be. That pained her, agonized her. Had she really caused something as serious as that?
"I didn't have anything planned..." She replied, arrogantly it seemed. She lifted one of her hands and pushed some of the hair off his forehead.
He almost took a step back but he didn't, instead he took hold of that hand and forced it away. She looked wounded at his harshness and yet he didn't stop there. He brought his hands to her shoulders, his grip tight and making her uncomfortable. He lifted them higher, to her throat, pressing harshly causing her to let out a stifled cry.
"Kill her!" Audrey ordered, her eyes aflame with the feeling of vengeance.
Jared didn't hear anybody, he didn't even see Emma standing there in front of him, struggling against his hands. All he saw was a blinding pain that wouldn't release him. He needed it all to go away, needed the nagging wounds to set him free. He faintly heard her gasps, felt her hands clawing at him but none of it pieced together. She went down beneath him, weakly resisting his assault. He could feel her wilting beneath him before he was pulled away from her, his hands on fire in front of him.
"Jared stop!" Shannon yelled down at him.
Jared looked to where Emma was laying in a fit of coughing and weak crying.
"I can't do this..." Jared whispered again, collapsing his head to his hands as he compacted himself against a dark wall. Dry cries came from his throat, echoing in the near empty attic.
Audrey scrambled towards him, ignoring Shannon when he told her to stop. She knelt down in front of Jared, her hands soft as they pulled his hands from his face. She smiled at him, assurance in her eyes.
"I can't do this...." He shook his head, much too drained to do anything but sit there and waste away. Everything was a disaster around him, everything was dead.
"You have to...they have to pay." She whispered, lightly touching her fingers across the sweat glistening above his brow. "Both of them."
Jared lifted his eyes to them, his lips slightly parted to let out hoarse breaths. Shannon had helped Emma to her feet and she weakly rested against him but both their gazes were resting on him. Were they waiting to see what he was going to do? Were they afraid as they watched him?