One Struck

Gwen Evans is looking forward to summer - until she finds the One Direction, England's top-selling band, hiding in her barn. Now, she has to deal with rock star egos, an unwanted admirer, and the dark force that sent them into hiding in the first place.

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5. the voice

For Gwen, the next two days were the most drawn out, torturous, and down right mind numbing hours of her entire existence.
The moment that Sydney had started setting up sleeping bags in the basement and assigning the One Direction toothbrushes, Gwen had realized that not only was her sister more deranged than she had ever imagined, but, most depressingly, that despite her vehement protests, the One Direction weren't planning on clearing out anytime soon.
And so, her fight mechanism having failed dismally, Gwen had had to settle for the much-less-appealing flight response. Feeling utterly powerless and frustrated, she had fled to her bedroom, locked the door and landed a nice right hook squarely in the center of her pillow with a disturbingly demonic scowl on her face.
The following forty-eight hours were a blur of restless pacing, fruitless plotting, and a slow-building ravenous hunger that was the result of surviving off of a tiny stash of lollipops and chocolate bars that she had discovered in the back of her closet. This resulted in alternating sugar highs and lows, and an increasingly unstable Gwen who was beginning to go stir-crazy by the time Thursday evening rolled around. Grimy from not having showered in two days, dying for a proper meal and slightly insane from staring at the same surroundings day after day, she was beginning to lose it. Sydney hadn't even bothered to check up on her, and it scared the living daylights out of Gwen to imagine what havoc her sister was allowing the One Direction to wreak on their house. The phone had rung a couple of times – presumably Max and Sue checking in to make sure everything was fine. Whatever Sydney was telling them though, it must have been convincing, because Mr. and Mrs. Evans clearly hadn't seen fit to return home as of yet.
Now, as Gwen looked out the window and saw that the sun had almost fully set, she felt her stomach rumble with such force that it actually made her feel ill. Groaning, she dragged her lifeless body across the room and pulled the lid off of her dwindling box of sweets, staring longingly at the single Kit-Kat remaining at the bottom. Her stomach roared again, and she bit her lip. If she ate it, she would be forced to venture downstairs to find provisions, and that involved possibly bumping into the plague that had taken over her house. But she was starving…
All logic thrown to the wayside, Gwen's hand snatched up the chocolate bar of its own accord and she wasted no time in ripping the wrapper off and devouring it in an animalistic fashion. She licked the wrapping furiously, not wanting to waste a single scrap, and then chucked it into the bin beside her dresser, where it fluttered to rest between the remains of several lollipops.
With a guttural sound resembling a grunt, Gwen flopped backward onto her bed in a heap. The food was gone. Max and Sue were gone. Her entire bloody summer had evaporated into thin air as if by the flick of some evil wand, leaving her stranded in the middle of what could only be described as a particularly hellish nightmare. Somehow, she had been reduced to a half-starved, constantly pajama-clad hermit who hadn't washed her hair in over three days. She was a prisoner in her own bedroom, for heaven's sake. It might have been laughable, had it not made her want to cry.
Gwen must have fallen asleep then, because the next thing she knew, it was pitch black all around her and she had a horrible knot in her back. Deliriously, she sat up and put a hand to her head, as though to steady it, before turning in a reflex reaction toward the digital clock on her nightstand. Her eyes were met with a blurry patch of red light, and she blinked a few times, willing something coherent to emerge from the haze. Several unproductive seconds later, she gave up and shifted her gaze to where the moon was shining faintly through her gauzy curtains and spilling onto a little patch of carpet.
It was at that moment, as she squinted into the darkness, that a strange melody met her ears. Unexpectedly soft and gentle, it sounded as though it was coming from… a guitar. Gwen perked her ears and traced the source of the music to the register in the floor beside her desk. Half-asleep, she stumbled out of bed and dropped onto her hands and knees, crawling across the carpet and leaning over the vent to listen.
The music itself was a simple tune that was hauntingly beautiful, plucked out by practiced fingers on the strings of a guitar. Gwen felt her ear gravitating further toward the metal grating, eager to hear more, when suddenly, a smooth voice harmonized softly with the instrument. It was difficult to distinguish lyrics, but Gwen's brain decided right then and there that it had never heard a more beautiful piece of music…
And then she bolted upright in sudden realization.
That voice… It was him. Suddenly, she was wide awake. It was as though a switch in her head had been flicked; her lips curled into a tight frown, her hands bunched up into fists and she rose to her feet, irritated beyond belief. Furtively, her eyes shifted sideways toward the door, and she made a split second decision.
Less than a minute later, she had chucked on a sweater, thrown her dirty hair into a semi-presentable ponytail and was flinging open the door to her bedroom. In her attempt to navigate the moonlit hallway, she stubbed her toe on a skirting board and almost tumbled down the staircase, but she managed to right herself just in time. Hissing in agony, she took hold of the banister and clung to it firmly for the remainder of her descent.
And then, as she padded across the linoleum of the kitchen floor, Gwen realized that the music was no longer audible, and wondered if perhaps she had simply imagined it. This theory was flushed down the toilet, however, when she pulled open the door to the basement and the soft melody greeted her ears once again. Gritting her teeth and fighting the urge to growl, she surged onward, descending the wooden staircase as silently as possible.
For a moment, her hand fumbled to find the light switch at the bottom, but not a moment later, it connected with the little plastic lever and the room was suddenly propelled into blinding clarity.
The music stopped.
Four lumpy, snoring masses were vaguely noted beneath squashy purple sleeping bags on the carpet, but Gwen's eyes merely skimmed over them on their journey toward the fourth occupant of the room.
Harry was sitting on the far side of the basement, right beside the register in the wall, with his back pressed up against the plaster and his hands frozen over the strings of a guitar. He squinted into the sudden burst of light, hair sticking up all over the place, and raised a hand in front of his face as though to block out the intensity of the glow. Gwen noted his bare arm, realizing with a jolt that he was only wearing a pair of track pants, and she had to restrain her eyes from roving his (admittedly very toned) body. Inexplicably blushing, she opened her mouth to speak, but Harry beat her to it.
"Sorry… were you asleep?"
Blinking at the blatant stupidity of this statement, Gwen raised her eyebrows. "No, of course I wasn't asleep," she bit out sarcastically. "Who sleeps at three in the morning?"
"Sorry," Harry said again, and he seemed to come to his senses fully. He lowered his hand from in front of his eyes and let it rest on the neck of his guitar. "That's not – I meant to say sorry, if I woke you." He paused, perhaps expecting Gwen to say something.
She didn't.
Clearing his throat, Harry continued, now sounding slightly unsure: "I woke up with this song in my head – well, more of an idea, really. I thought I was being quiet enough that no one would hear. Sorry," he added again.
Gwen bit back a snort. "Next time," she began, her voice acidly cutting. "You might want to consider someplace that's not, you know, right next to the register."
Neck reddening, Harry twisted around to examine the vent and realized his mistake. As he turned back to face Gwen, however, his mood seemed to shift. "Why do you always do that?" he asked plainly, looking slightly affronted.
"Do what?"
"I don’t know, turn everything into a row," Harry returned. "I don't think I've ever heard you say something nice; you argue about everything."
Gwen's jaw dropped. She felt totally insulted, violated. "I do not!" she managed to protest, despite her shock.
In response, Harry merely cocked his head. "You realize you're just proving my point, right?"
"I am not!"
He raised his eyebrows in an infuriatingly knowing smirk, and Gwen felt like smacking him.
"I'm not arguing! I'm expressing my opinion in a loud voice," she insisted angrily.
And it must have been fairly loud, for at that moment, there was the unmistakable sound of a shifting sleeping bag and one of the lumps on the floor began to stir.
"What’s going on?" Zayn stuck his head up groggily, his eyes squinty and confused. Upon catching sight of Gwen, his lips formed a sort of dopey smile. "Oh, hey Quinn," he greeted her casually. "Haven't seen you in a while… Twiggie said you'd run off to join the circus or something or other…" Trailing off nonsensically, he let out a monstrous yawn.
Gwen scowled. It might have emerged from Zany’s groggy mutterings, but it seemed exactly the sort of story Sydney would make up about her "freak" sister. Get Gwen out of the picture, and absolutely nothing stood in her way of her playing hostess to One Direction.
Crossing her arms, Gwen turned back to Harry; his eyes were fixed on her, his mouth set in a calculating, half-amused expression, awaiting her response to Zany’s irksome rant. For some reason, this caused Gwen's temper to short circuit and she snapped.
"What're you looking at?" she barked at him.
Harry drew back a little in shock. "Nothing!" he insisted, putting his hands up in front of him.
Gwen raised her eyebrows, unimpressed. "No, really, Styles—say it. If you think you know me so well."
Harry looked sheepish. "Well, it's just... I could tell you were about to explode."
"Oh really?" she snapped, and her fists clenched so tightly that her nails began to cut into her palms. "Well, could you tell that I was about to do this? EVERYBODY OUT!"
At the sheer volume of her shout, Liam and Louis sat bolt upright and Niall began groping for an imaginary alarm clock, whining: "Five more minutes…"
Zayn and Harry both looked stupefied. "What?" they exclaimed in unison.
"You heard me," Gwen spat. "I'm sick of you lot hanging about and mucking everything up. Bloody hell – this is my house, too, and I've had enough!"
Harry gaped at her. "You want us to just… leave? Now?"
"Yes," Gwen cried. "Is there a problem with that?"
Zayn raised his hand. "Err… how about it's the middle of the bloody night!"
"Well you should have thought of that before you invited yourselves inside and started loafing about…"
"Loafing about?" Harry wore an expression of absolute incredulity as he rose to his feet. "Listen, I know this isn't exactly an ideal situation for you, but we just need a bit of time to –"
"Oh, stuff it, Styles." Gwen held up a hand to silence him. "I've already heard all this – We're on the run! We can't be found! Well, if you're not going to at least give me a decent explanation then I'm sorry, but I don't believe it!"
Her outburst was met with total silence. Harry was frozen with his mouth hanging wide open and his eyes narrowed in anger. There was something else there, too, and though it took Gwen a moment to recognize it, she eventually saw the emotion in his tense face: hurt. He shook his head slowly and then turned his back.
"Fine." His voice was horribly quiet. He glanced over to the other One Direction, who had been looking on in apprehension, and jerked his thumb toward the stairs. "You heard her, let's get going." With purposeful motions, he set his guitar back into its case closed the latch before slinging the strap over his bare shoulder.
A moment later, as though accepting their fate, the others began to stir. Zayn pushed off his sleeping bag with a glare and began shaking Niall, who was still partially asleep. Louis stood up and mumble look what did Harry. Beside them, Liam stood up and immediately staggered, grabbing onto the edge of the coffee table for support. Gwen almost failed to suppress a gasp when she saw the dark circles under his eyes and the pale, sickly hue of his skin – he looked quite unwell.
Harry, with an air of concern, reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder to steady him. "You alright, mate?" he asked in a low voice.
Liam, who was bent over, gave a response that Gwen couldn't make out. Shaking his head slightly, he straightened up.
Suddenly, Gwen felt awful. "Wait," she burst out, and Harry graced her with a cool glance. Strangely, she faltered: "I'm – I'm sorry," she said. "Really, you're welcome to stay in the barn, if you want. And there are plenty of hotels in town – I'm sure they'd be more than willing to take you. I can draw you a map if you'd –"
"We'll be fine." Harry's voice was curt. "Thanks, anyway, for your hospitality and all that." He turned to face the others. "Come on."
Niall grabbed his guitar with an easy display of strength and they began to trudge toward the staircase in nothing but the assortment of sweats and T-shirts that Sydney had taken from Max's wardrobe. It was then that Gwen noted Harry' bare back once more, and felt an odd sense of foreboding in the pit of her stomach.
"Wait!" she called out again, and then bit her lip. All five boys spun around to face her, but it was Harry who she addressed. "I just… You should at least have a jacket or something. Err… Here." Awkwardly, she pulled the oversized grey hoodie that she had been wearing over her head and tossed it to him.
Eyebrows disappearing into the strands of dark hair covering his forehead, Harry caught it in one hand. "Thanks," he said, looking vaguely taken aback.
Gwen could only watch in silence as they proceeded up the staircase with sloppy, heavy footsteps.
"Bloody mental, that one," she heard Zayn mutter a few seconds later, just as he opened the door. "Where's Twiggie when you need her?"
And then they exited the basement, letting the door fall shut, and that was the last that Gwen heard of them.
A few minutes later, she traipsed back up the two flights of stairs and wandered into her bedroom. A pair of bright green eyes pierced her through the darkness, and she started when she perceived Copper perched on the windowsill. Silently, she padded over to his dark outline, reaching out a hand absently to stroke the shiny fur on his back. The cat gave her a sharp glance and then gazed out the window. Following his line of sight, Gwen felt her hand go slack mid-stroke. Four silhouettes were distinctly visible trudging toward the back of the yard with defeated slumps to their posture. There was no energy in their step, no conversation occurring among them; they looked like dead men walking.
Feeling the guilty sensation begin to re-emerge, Gwen glanced at Copper. He was staring at her with a very pointed, very critical gaze.
"Oh, don't look at me like that!" Gwen hissed. Pulling the curtains shut, she tried to ignore the awful feeling gnawing away at her insides and flopped back into bed.
Sleep would not come easily that night.

 

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