Through Grass, Grown Tall


Hunter sighed and rolled onto her side, looking out the window on the other side of Chase’s room. The sky was letting little light pour in as it was only three in the morning and she hadn’t slept for more than five minutes. Between Chase’s loud snores and her racing mind she had let the thought of sleep run from her wishes hours ago.

Jenny and John Sr. had taken the weekend off, going to Flagstaff for a small vacation. It was only two days, but John had insisted, and even Hunter could see that Jenny was losing her mind. After Jenny had taken leave from her career, Chase became her new one. Chase’s most recent relapse had been by far the worst—at one point the doctors had given him merely months to live, but as always, he proved them wrong. Chase refused to die—and that was a quality Hunter admired about him. When everything told him no, he still said yes.

Even though his health was getting better, it wasn’t easy convincing Jenny to take a small break. She had called four times by noon just simply checking in. Nana O’Callaghan had stopped by three times, always bringing them a new snack, causing none of them to really complain, and John was instructed to take care of Chase during the night.

Hunter loved Jenny, hell, she was the single person who knew her best in many ways. When her mother had died Jenny and Rosa were all that she really had, but the fact that Jenny believed an empty house for a weekend wouldn’t include the boys throwing a party, made her laugh at the woman’s faith. Maybe she knew Chase would probably just take advantage of the house to have his girlfriend over, but she should have known her eldest son better. Sometimes it was like she didn’t really know John at all.

The party had just been a small kickback so that the boy’s (meaning her) wouldn’t have too much to clean up the next morning. Most of their friends had passed out downstairs drunk at about two, but one boy had snuck away with a girl at about one o’clock, and his looming absence was what Hunter figured still had her awake.

Hunter rolled back to Chase, giggling at loud snores that escaped his thin, parted lips. His long eyelashes hid his green eyes and his cheeks were a small tint of red from the alcohol he had drank earlier. Alcohol probably wasn’t good for his health—and Chase knew this—but he still refused to not live his life. Besides, two shots and the boy was drunk. He didn’t drink often enough these days to create a tolerance.

Hunter carefully crawled out of the bed, pausing as she stood until her head stopped spinning. She had taken far too many ‘te-kill-ya’ shots with Eric. He may have been her best friend, but Jose Cuervo was not. She found an oversized t-shirt from the floor and slipped it over her body before quietly stumbling downstairs.

She laughed at her friends who were all passed out on various parts of furniture, including the coffee table in the center of the room where Garrett was lying, a bong still clenched in his hand.

She chuckled and made her way into the kitchen, picking up red solo cups and throwing them into a trash bag. She cleaned the entire kitchen quietly while trying to keep her mind from anything besides what John was doing right now. She sighed, grabbed a bottle of water and sat on a counter top, staring at her masterpiece.

Hunter listened to the front door opening, unsure of whether someone was entering or leaving to make the drunken walk of shame home. She took a deep breath as John stumbled into the kitchen and threw his keys on the counter without evening noticing her presence. He looked like a mess; his hair was disheveled, his eyes were a glassy red—no doubt still high from hours before, and his clothes were wrinkled.

He jumped as he noticed her presence, looking at her and giving an exasperated sigh. “Fuck, Hunter you scared the shit out of me,” John chuckled, running a hand through his messy hair. “Why are you still up? It’s what…?” He glanced down at his wrist. “Fuck, it’s four…”

Hunter stared at him silently, trying to contain her emotions. She hated that he wasn’t here at night. And she hated even more that he was with her. “Where have you been?” She asked simply, although she already knew. The sick part of her mind still wanted to hear him say it.

John rolled his eyes and walked to the pantry pulling out a bag of barbeque chips and a bottle of water. He opened the bag and began to eat silently, chasing the salty carbs down. He was silent for a few moments, ignoring her question before finally acknowledging her silence. “Oh, that was a serious question? I thought it was rhetorical considering you were staring rays of fucking fire into the back of my head as you watched me leave,” he said, his mouth full.

She grimaced at his drunkenly bad manners, glaring at him again. “It’s fucked up of you to play with Shay’s emotions like that. She’s my best friend. You know how she feels about you. It’s rude,” she replied, shrugging nonchalantly.

The boy laughed, staring at her incredulously. “Oh, that’s why you’re mad? You suddenly care about her feelings?”

Hunter looked away from his heavy gaze, staring at the pool in the backyard. The water was so still that it looked like glass. It was so odd to her how inviting and serene things such as water could appear, but in one wrong moment those little, welcoming things could also kill you so easily.

“Why else would I be mad, John?” She sighed, looking back at him, becoming more frustrated as he smirked at her. It was the smirk he always wore when he knew he was going to win. He’d had it since she could remember.

The lanky boy started stumbling his way towards her, worrying her on the fact that he drove that evening, and stopped right in front of her. He placed his hands on either side of her thighs and smiled deviously. “I don’t know Hunter, why would you be mad?” He challenged. His grin widened as she narrowed her eyes in annoyance. She attempted to move away, but he pressed his body closer to hers, making it impossible for her to escape his body. “It couldn’t possibly be that I was with Shay all night instead of you could it? That you missed my attention…that you’re jealous?”

“I’m not jealous,” she mumbled softly, looking down at his dirty white tee, making a mental note to see that it saw more than just John’s floor, but also the laundry machine. She finally looked at him after a few seconds, biting down on her bottom lip to trying and hide a smile. She was annoyed, but she couldn’t truly be mad at him. Who was she to be mad, really? She was the one in a relationship after all. This must have been how John felt everyday of their…whatever it was.

John sighed, grinning at her defeat. “You’re cute when you think you’re mad at me, you know that?”

“I hate you,” she grumbled, nesting her face into her neck, smelling his familiar scent.

He hugged her back, pressing the heat of his body against her. “I know you do, baby,” he laughed. He held her tightly, kissing her hair softly. “For the record, nothing happened. She needed a ride home…”

“And you thought you were the safest to drive?” Hunter chuckled, shaking her head. He was still very drunk. They both were.

“You know I think I’m invincible,” John laughed. “She invited me in so we ate and watched The Office until she passed out. I did my best to not play with her feelings. She’s still my friend though. I’m going to hang out with her and you have to trust me that that’s all that’s happening.”

“I know,” she sighed. It really was completely fucked. She was here making John basically guarantee that he wouldn’t be with anyone else, while all the time dating his younger brother. She felt dirty—like she didn’t deserve any of it, and the truth was that she didn’t. She was an awful person for her actions, for the thoughts that always plagued her mind, but she was ultimately a monster for the relief she knew she would feel when only one of them was to remain. She loved Chase—but John was a promise that could be kept.

Hunter sighed and closed her eyes, breathing John in, knowing that his mind was racing with the same thoughts. It felt like they could never be truly happy; there was always an underlying guilt. They just had to continuously agree to ignore it. So, through secret kisses, silly jokes, and innocent actions of young love—they did.

“She wants me though,” John laughed, teasing Hunter.

She smiled, rolling her eyes. She bit her lip before pressing her lips to his neck softly, biting down after a series of small kisses. John’s breath caught and she giggled, causing goose bumps to rise on his arms. She pressed her tongue against his skin, sucking gently, but rough enough to leave a mark. She grinned as she pulled away, batting her eyes innocently at the boy.

“That should keep her at bay for a while,” Hunter smirked, biting her lip.

John laughed and placed his hands under her thighs, roughly throwing her onto the tile of the kitchen. They knew they needed to be careful—their friends were passed out in the room next to them, but they had gotten so good the past few months at being silent. They had become a best-kept secret.

Their moans were quiet and they were lost in one another in a matter of seconds. John’s hands were working under her shorts when they jumped, hearing footsteps approaching from the next room. They separated quickly, sitting next to one another on the floor, pretending as if they were just having a conversation.

John placed his hand against his chest in relief when a small animal walked into the room. Hunter giggled as a small Maltese ran into the kitchen and happily jumped into her lap. “Tubby, you scared me,” she laughed, letting the dog lick her arm in love.

John sighed deeply and moved closer to her. Hunter smiled, remembering the day of John’s six birthday when he opened a small box and found the puppy. He had asked for a big dog like a German Shepard, or a Lab, but his mom had decided a Maltese could do less damage. He eventually got over it.

Hunter patted Tubby’s potbelly, the irony of his name always was always one of John’s early signs of humor. “We might have to get rid of him, you know,” he said simply, sadness in his voice.

She looked at him, gloom taking over her body. John didn’t even have to say why—she knew. Chase had been having a harder time breathing over the past few months and Tubby’s hair didn’t help in anyway. Hunter’s heart panged at the thought. This pup was just as much part of the family as John and Chase themselves. He was some of her best memories.

Hunter looked at the boy next to her. John was so young—but so old. He had given up so much of his life in order to love his brother, and although he had internal battles, he never said a word. He never complained to his family, all he did was help. He sacrificed so much of his life without asking for recognition.

John knew how to love.

Hunter interlaced her fingers with his, giving his knuckles a soft kiss. She looked at him, staring into his honest eyes. He smiled and kissed her lips. He still tasted like barbeque chips, but she kissed him back anyways. It was moments like this that she’d never forget. John looked at Tubby, then back to her with a serious look before speaking words that would stain her memory.

“I’ll never give you up.”


Hunter stared at the woman in front of her, keeping her lips tight in a straight line. The woman had wrinkles around her eyes, and her blonde hair needed a dye considering her grey roots were extremely apparent. She had red lipstick on the bottom of her front two teeth.

How much money did she get paid to look so cheap?

Hunter crossed her arms, glancing around the room. After she had been released from the hospital therapy was ‘recommended’ although it wasn’t really an option. They had told her that she needed to ‘find herself’ in the midst of the ‘dark’ that she felt.

She honestly felt like she was reading a bad self-help book.

“So, Hunter, how are you today?” Dr. Kerrigan looked at her from behind her black-rimmed glasses, observing her demeanor.

Honestly, she was tired. She was tired of being watched every second of the past two days. She was sick from all of the food Rosa had been preparing; it wasn’t that it wasn’t tasty, she just wasn’t used to having more than one meal a day. And since her morning run in with John her mind was tired from playing the scene over and over again in her head.

“Fine,” Hunter replied simply, looking out the window. Her tanned skin was aching to be out in the heat. All she wanted to honestly do right now was lay by her pool. Maybe she’d slip and drown in it.

“Mhmm,” Dr. Kerrigan said, making a note on her pad of paper. How could she be writing anything down? She’d literally said one word. “Well, I’m sure you know why you’re here.”

Weren’t doctors supposed to be nice? Beat about the bush…make you admit why you were there? Hunter scanned the room looking for a degree on the woman’s walls. All that she found was a large cross that matched one of the church down the street. Her father had offered to find her another therapist—specifically the one she had attended to when she was younger after her mother passed, but she refused. She couldn’t go back there.

“Why did they tell you I was here?” Hunter asked simply, wondering how much this doctor knew about her. The community she had grown up in was wealthy, and not very large. She was quite the talk of the town for a while and for some reason, Hunter couldn’t help but feel something familiar about this woman. She could sense a sort of judgment.

“You overdosed on MDMA, which incidentally was laced with Methamphetamine. Overdoses with a complicated past are in some cases…not highly unlikely of being a suicide attempt,” Dr. Kerrigan said simply, her words short and to the point.

A complicated past; what all did Dr. Kerrigan have in that file of hers? Hunter frowned and looked to the ground. It wouldn’t have been the first time her drugs had been laced. She was often buying from dealers she found on the streets of the cities she fled to. The chance came with the territory.

Hunter looked up to Dr. Kerrigan, a small smirk on her lips. “Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster?”

The doctor put her pencil down and sighed in frustration. Hunter could tell she didn’t want to be here, dealing with her games. She’d be easy to break; she’d be referred to someone new to play the same amusements with in no time. She had no interest in telling a stranger how she felt about life or why she didn’t deserve it. She didn’t need their help.

“I do not like to put stock in things that cannot be seen, Miss Champagne,” Dr. Kerrigan said simply, taking off her glasses and rubbing her temple. “To wonder such things is wasting time on real things that need figuring out…such as why people feel the need to take their own lives.”

“So do you not believe in love? You can’t necessarily see love. I can see that you’re not married though,” Hunter spoke, challenging the woman in the same condescending tone. She looked at her empty ring finger, something clicking in her mind. “Hold on, Renee Kerrigan? You used to be married to Sheldon Ritter. My dad handled his divorce to you.”

“That is neither here nor there, Hunter. Now please, stay on topic.”

“He had an affair,” she continued, staring at the fuming woman, putting the pieces together. “That’s why…”

Dr. Kerrigan gazed at her in distaste. “I would have killed myself if I had done something as despicable as you as well,” the woman spoke, staring her straight in the eye. “Your affair was dreadful.”

“Is Sheldon still with the woman he cheated on you with?” Hunter asked simply, raising her eyebrows.

The doctor stood up and walked to her desk searching for a piece of paper. It was no doubt a referral. “No one is going to want to work with someone like you,” she said simply. “Some things can be fixed, but it takes a special kind of person to do acts that you have.”

She walked back over and threw a business card into Hunter’s lap with a new name on it. “Dr. Wahlberg can be your next victim.”

Hunter stood up and grabbed her purse. She looked back at the aged woman, feeling an odd sense of sadness for her. “I’m sure at some point he really did love you,” she said simply, honestly.

And with that, she left the office and walked outside. She sat on the hot curb, regretting wearing thigh-high socks in the middle of an Arizona summer. Her session had ended almost thirty minutes early and it would be a while before Maggie was there to pick her up. She pulled a cigarette out of her purse, glancing at her phone to see it was blank.

She normally wouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason today she was. After her conversation this morning with John she figured there would be something. Maybe an explanation for his actions, but it seemed that he was just as blank as she was.

She regretted her actions, the fact that she let him see her break down—he now knew how vulnerable she was. But for some reason, she wasn’t completely angry, and she expected she would have been. It was almost…nice for one second to feel understood. No one else had that privilege.

Not that she exactly considered it one.

It was just how weird to her how in a single moment when their lips touched that for a second she remembered why they did it; she remembered how easy it was to fall for him. But she still couldn’t help but to hate herself for it. She couldn’t help but to want to make herself hurt for every emotion she ever felt—as if in some way it could take back the pain she had caused Chase.

If anything that kiss was hurting her more than she already was. It just made her wonder so many things—there were so many questions she had for John. But, as they filled her mind all she could see was red. She was angry at him for all of it.

Maggie drove up to the clinic early, giving Hunter an expected look. Hunter tore herself from her thoughts and climbed into the cooled Hummer, relishing in the AC. “You’re early,” she commented, glancing at her stepmother.

“I received an email saying that Dr. Wahlberg would be your new doctor. I felt like you could be in use of some rescuing,” Maggie replied simply, pushing her designer sunglasses back over her eyes.

That was a popular theme today it seemed.

“Where’s Michael?” Hunter asked, looking out the window, trying to stop herself from glancing at her silent phone.

“Your father is working on a new case,” she replied, glancing over her shoulder and merging onto the highways. “I figured you and I could have a girl’s day—go shopping or something. We could go get our nails done like we used to.”

“I’m kind of tired,” Hunter responded, ignoring Maggie’s look of defeat, but noticing that she continued driving towards the mall anyways.

“Well, too bad because I already made an appointment,” the older woman said, trying her best to stay positive. She was tired. It was obvious by her demeanor. Hunter was sure that she wasn’t helping, but she couldn’t pretend that it was all okay—that she was okay. She didn’t know how to.

They pulled up the large mall that Hunter had spent a lot of her high school years at. She remembered how in middle school she and Shay would come here and feel so badass for being there without their parents. They would shop and sit around, waiting for older boys to come and hit on them. Sure, she was always basically with Chase but she had figured she could look and not touch. She learned that one the hard way.

Hunter listened to Maggie babble about celebrity and local gossip, nodding her head at the appropriate moments. She could genuinely care less who was dating and who had been divorced, or who was in what new film and such, but she responded to make Maggie feel more at ease. Maybe if she thought she was participating she would stop hovering over her every move.

Hunter put on a small grin throughout the day, nodding when appropriate. If she could just make it a few more hours she could do what her original plans were: lay in bed and hopefully have an aneurism or something.

She looked down at her manicured nails, ignoring the bags of clothes on the ground. Shopping for new clothes used to make her happy—the feeling of wearing a new outfit used to make her smile…the little thing used to matter.

How could she get that back?

“Hunter, what was the first thing you felt when your mother died?”

Hunter stopped dead in her thought as the words fell from Maggie’s lips, hanging as lifeless as her mother in the air. “Excuse me?”

Maggie looked at her simply, repeating the question. She wasn’t frowning, she wasn’t dancing on eggshells…she was being sincere.

“I…just, empty, I guess,” she said, licking her lips that were drying from the Arizona sun. “Like, everything just felt…fake. Nothing felt real anymore—nothing. My stomach…it fell like it was going to explode, my mind was blank, my hands were shaking…nothing was…nothing was real.”

Hunter stared at her hands, ignoring the way that her hands were still shaking. She remembered where she was when she found out—flashbulb memories. She was playing on the swings with John and Chase at the park. They were running around laughing. Mrs. O’Callaghan was watching them—a large smile on her face. Then suddenly, as Rosa appeared out of nowhere (which was weird because it was technically her day off), Jenny’s smile turned down, and her face became red…tears poured out of her eyes.

And Hunter, she just knew. She was young—too young, but something was wrong.

Her mom was walking across the street when the car came—and it left just as quickly. No one was ever found. No one was ever charged. But everyone had changed.

Maggie placed her hand over Hunter’s, calming it. “That’s how I felt when I had the call the other day…saying you were in the hospital.”

Hunter stared at the floor, ignoring the emotions running through her veins. She was so tired of letting everyone down—hurting everyone; it was getting exhausting.

“I know that I’m not your mother,” Maggie said softly. “But, Hunter—I love you so much, a-and seeing you like this, it’s hard. I just—I want you to know that I’m here for you…I’d do anything to help.”

Hunter smiled meekly, slowly squeezing her hand. No words needed to be said. Everyone was ready for her to get better, and she hoped she could.


Hunter let her hair blow in the wind as her feet raised in the air, her head close to the ground. She let the swing take her back and forth, back and forth. The air was hot and was blowing up the bottom of her short dress. She smiled as she came to a stop, just looking out over the park.

There was a small boy playing with his brother in the sand, slowly taking the grains and pouring it over his younger siblings head, causing the boy to giggle. She got off the swings a few moments later, mindlessly letting her legs drag her down the street.

She was only at the park at Maggie’s recommendation that she continue to get out of the house—that fresh air and freedom could be the ultimate healer. It really sounded like dumb self-help book advice but the less she had to see everyone meant less small talk. And, the more she could be away from her dad the better.

Michael had barely spoken to her since he had gotten back from his honeymoon. Maggie had tried to talk him into trying to help Hunter, but Hunter could hear his no even if she wasn’t present.

He wanted nothing to do with her anymore.

Hunter stared up at the house she had been wandering to, not surprised at the people drunkenly flowing in and out of it. It seemed this house had always been packed—she was surprised however, at how many of the faces she knew. It seemed that everyone she went to high school with was still partying at Eric Halvorsen’s house.

She walked in the door in a daze, ignoring the people around her. No one stared at her, or whispered—they were too drunk or stoned to care. It was nice.

Hunter stalked around silently, keeping her eyes peeled for certain people. The people she used to call her friends. She was nervous; how would they react? What if John was here? What would people say? She paused in a corner, covering her face with shaky hands. What the fuck was she thinking? What was she doing there? How did she think this would bring anything good?


She turned swiftly from the voice, leaving Kennedy Brock standing behind her in shock. She nearly ran into the kitchen, hiding her face behind her hair, and poured herself a cup of Jack, the Coke held. She swallowed the drink quickly, ignoring the burn that was dripping down her chest and into her stomach. Her legs felt tingly and her face was already heating up. She poured herself another, then another.

After hiding in the kitchen with her head down for long enough to feel confident, she put the now clear bottle down, and stumbled toward the backyard. She pulled a cigarette out of her purse, stealing a light from a stranger. She glided down the back steps and into the grass, smiling at the familiarity around her—she had grown up here. There were so many memories.

“What are you doing here?”

Hunter flicked her cigarette nervously before letting smoke fill her lungs once again. She stared down at her boots, becoming aware of how hard her legs were trembling. She had alcohol, she had cigarettes, now she just wanted a fix. “I didn’t realize it was invite only,” she replied, keeping her back to him.

Eric sighed and she could feel him moving closer to her. “Why are you here?”

She turned her face from his as he stood next to her, his chest nearly resting against her arm. “I figured you deserved a reply to your, oh so sincere, voicemail.”

He groaned, and ran a hand through his messy hair. “Hunter—

Hunter turned and faced him, looking at him with anger flowing through her veins. “This isn’t a fucking ‘show’ Eric. How dare you say that to me? You think I tried to kill myself for your sympathy? For John’s? No. I fucking tried to kill myself because it’d be easier to be dead than to remember that I have a life while he doesn’t. It would be so much easier for everyone if I wasn’t here and you know that! That’s why I left. It wasn’t because I was looking for sympathy or because I was scared of everyone. I left because it was easier to be someone I wasn’t—living in another world, than to pass Chase’s house everyday and remember that I tore a family apart. I left so you all could be okay. I tried to die…so that you all could be okay…”

She didn’t realize she was crying until she could taste the salt from her tears dripping onto her tongue. She was shaking hard as sobs racked through her bones. Eric’s hand extended but she blocked him. “Don’t touch me!” she screamed, her breaths becoming exasperated as she saw stranger’s eyes on the two. “I’m not real,” she breathed, her bones becoming weak. “This…this isn’t real. None of it is…it can’t…”

Hunter stumbled away from Eric, pushing through into the house, ignoring the shouts that were following her. They were all there. Eric, Kennedy, Jared, Justin. Everyone she had known forever—there they were. And here she was—itching her arms, falling into a person they had never seen before.

Hunter fell up the steps, crawling towards the attic. Everyone knew what happened in the attic. She kept walking, her eyes staring intently at a door that would leave to oblivion. She reached out for the handle—it all felt like slow motion. Just as she was going to turn the knob, she felt arms wrap themselves around her body, and pull her away. She was thrown over a shoulder, and her head was spinning as she was carried out of the house.

She was thrown into the passenger seat of a familiar truck, and she immediately shut her eyes as her ears rang with the slamming of his door. He started the engine in silence. They drove down the street rapidly, the only contact being a glare she gave him before she stuck her head out the window and began throwing up.

John drove to her house, scooped her up in his arms, and carried her silently to her room. She was angry—angry that he had taken her from the party, angry that he was judging her, and angry that she still wanted him there.

He sat Hunter down on her feet as they got into her room, the only light coming from the window. She wasn’t aware of how drunk she was until she felt herself topple over, and his arms wrap themselves back around her.

John got her to bed and undressed her quietly, not hiding his lustful eyes on her body. He buried her in her fluffy sheets, and she stared up at him shyly. He began to walk away, before she grabbed his hand and pulled him down into her bed.

“What, Hunter?” John asked, sighing.

She frowned, “Are you mad at me?”

“You’re…you’re drunk,” he frowned. “I can’t stay…we…that would be inappropriate.”

She was being so soft, and with this haze over her mind she almost felt as if none of it had ever happened. It almost felt like Chase was still there and she and John were still speaking in secrets.

She wasn’t mad, she wasn’t hurt…she was just--she was in love.

And she was drunk.

“I just…I want you here,” she whispered into the darkness, letting her vulnerability show. “John—

“Hunter, I—I don’t know.”

“Stay,” she said, pleading almost. She watched as he reluctantly lay next to her, sinking into the sheets she’d had since high school. This bed knew more than most. She smiled weakly, her head spinning from the alcohol. She looked at him, staring deeply into his eyes. Those eyes—those eyes that loved her.

“Stop drinking,” John whispered, his voice cracking. He stared at her sadly, running a hand over her hair. It wasn’t sexual, just comforting, and begging. “I need you to get better,” he murmured. “I need you to be better for me. I don’t want you gone…I need you here.”

Hunter closed her eyes and relaxed into his body, pulling him close to her body. She sighed into him, knowing this was wrong. But maybe that’s why she was so comfortable, they had always been wrong. “I need your help,” she sighed, kissing his chest sweetly. “I need you.”

And with no response, they fell into a familiar sort of peace that she was sure wouldn’t exist in the morning.
♠ ♠ ♠

This took far too long. I was in the process of moving and working fifty hours a week. Please forgive me all. Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts. More Hunter/John action. Tell me how you feel about them.