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Series 11 Episode 1
"Onwards and Upwards"

Working the last shift was always the biggest slog for Barney. It was the deadest part of the day – nobody needed their laptop fixed at nine o’clock in the evening, yet for some reason, there was still two of them keeping the deserted repair shop open for another hour. It was a waste of time, and the money wasn’t nearly good enough to justify it.

The last customer had arrived at least an hour ago, and time seemed to be dragging, so Barney had to make his own entertainment. The beauty of working in a repair shop meant it was easy to look busy – nobody immediately assumed that he’d be playing Candy Crush on one of the laptops, so he could easily get away with it. In fact, it was fool proof; only one other person knew the truth, and Barney’s colleague Charlie was equally as guilty.

Outside of work, Charlie wasn’t the type of person Barney usually kept company with. Barney was clean-shaven and prided himself on being smooth faced. Charlie, however, was something of a hippie, with a colourful sunshine bandana being the only thing taming his unevenly shaped dreadlocks that grew halfway down his back. At work, however, they made an excellent team. Neither of them really wanted to be there, but experience in the world of technology was vital, and the pool of jobs in Crystalshaw was limited.

“I’m finally catching you up,” Charlie remarked, completing another level with ease.

“Not for long,” Barney defended, “Once I figure this level out, I’ll be flying ahead again.”

“Oh, you really think you’re all that, don’t you?” Charlie taunted.

“Because I am, duh,” Barney chuckled smugly. He had nothing to prove.

“Okay, let’s put it to a real test,” Charlie smirked excitedly, “Why don’t you take a trip into the basement?”

Barney’s arrogance quickly faded. The boss never showed their face – Barney didn’t even know their name, Charlie had conducted his interview as shop manager and the boss was nothing more than a mysterious entity as far as either of them knew, but they had just one rule: never go in the basement. It was non-negotiable, and as explicit as instructions went, “You know the boss doesn’t allow us down there.”

“Oh, if you’re too chicken,” Charlie teased, disregarding the rules. Barney was torn. The instructions were clear, but realistically, who was going to know? It wasn’t like anyone was going to be watching the CCTV of the shop like a Big Brother live feed, and Charlie was the only witness. His back was covered.

“Mission accepted,” Barney regained some of his bravado, not allowing Charlie to take an easy win. The basement door was, bafflingly, left unlocked – a strange move when it was supposed to be so closely guarded. Barney’s curiosity had never been stronger.

As he moved towards the door, Barney’s stomach began performing somersaults, tying itself in more and more knots as if it were keen to replicate Charlie’s hair. He wasn’t sure why – it couldn’t have been anything that exciting, but in the three months he’d worked there, nobody had dared step foot inside. Whatever it was had to be at least vaguely interesting, right?

Stepping through the creaky wooden door, Barney’s mind was immediately blown by what he could see. His mind went into overdrive. He panicked. Never had he seen something so horrifying, so grotesque, so… he didn’t even know. All he knew was that he needed to get out, and not just from the basement, or even the shop.

He needed to get out from Crystalshaw itself.

Panic over. Dylan had no need to stress any longer. Just minutes before the deadline, the article had been submitted. Finally, Dylan could calm himself down. His typically prompt and efficient style had been railroaded by a surprising number of social occasions distracting him over the prior two weeks, but nevertheless, the article was in on time. That was what mattered, and he was damn proud of it too.

Now, Dylan could finally wash up the growing collection of mugs coating the coffee table. His entire day had been spent typing an article about college life and autism, all from his own experience, and it was just the type of article he’d been wanting to write for years. Irritatingly, the timing couldn’t have been worse, and he’d have preferred not to type it up on such little sleep.

Thankfully, the kitchen was just a few metres away from the sofa. Their pad was small but delightfully cosy, and besides, the size wasn’t important when it had everything they needed. It was a small flat as part of a new housing development in Crystalshaw, and a lot of saving up meant they had finally secured a place of their own just a few months back.

“Ah, finally a clean house,” Harry smiled in his usual playful manner. He’d spent much of the day in their bedroom rehearsing for his next gig. He wasn’t a famous musician by any means, but he played occasionally at the local bar – it got him his share of the rent, at least, and he rarely looked happier than when he was on stage.

“Says the person who hasn’t showered today,” Dylan mocked with just as cheeky a grin.

“Hey, I showered before bed, stop your criticising,” Harry defended humorously as he fell into his usual end of the sofa, “Did you submit that article?”

“With minutes to spare,” Dylan answered, squirting some washing up liquid into the sink, “I swear, last night almost screwed me over. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into another round.”

“Babe, it was our anniversary, you’re meant to go a little wild,” Harry reminded, “And four years with you is something that’s definitely worth celebrating in my eyes.”

“Same,” Dylan smiled, carefully stacking the clean mugs upside down on the draining board, “Four years with you, I mean, not me.” They both chuckled. Harry had arrived in Dylan’s life at a time when romance had firmly taken a backseat. He’d been single for three years, and a few dates aside, he was happy with that. After all, nothing could quite compete.

That was, until he met Harry. He was kind, a good listener, funny, and seriously good looking, with wavy brown hair that languished down to his nipples, eyes that were colour-coordinated with his locks, and a body to die for, thanks to spending much more time at the gym than Dylan did. After everything that had happened, Harry was exactly what Dylan needed, and he was so happy they were building a life together.

“Did anything come in the post?” Dylan queried, knowing he was expecting one thing in particular.

“None, sorry,” Harry tapped the sofa, inviting Dylan over, “I’m sure it’ll arrive in the next few days.” Of course, Harry knew exactly what Dylan was anticipating.

“I hope so,” Dylan obliged, cuddling up to Harry like the perfect lock and key, “He’s never usually late.”

“I’m sure Jono has a good reason,” Harry soothed, “Not that I’ve met the guy. He could be a complete dick for all I know.” Dylan picked up a cushion and playfully hit Harry on the head. Of course, Harry knew the full story about Jono, from how brightly their love burned to how suddenly it crashed down. He was remarkably understanding whenever Dylan stressed about the absence of a postcard from the guy who was still technically his husband. It was beyond complex, and Harry was far more sympathetic than he needed to be, “Joke, I promise.”

“Good,” Dylan enjoyed his mini-victory, “Okay, I should get ready. Need to wear something nicer than pyjamas for your gig.”

“Dylan, you could come wearing trash bags and you’d still be the hottest guy in the room,” Harry smiled, “You invited the pack, right?”

“Yeah, they’re all coming, apart from Lily who’s visiting Jono. Jeremy and Felix got back last night so they’ll be there, and Freddie and Sammi are bringing Jonah for the first time, so it’ll be a good night,” Dylan replied. The pack had never been tighter – all of them had pursued their individual careers, but Crystalshaw never changed – they were always needed.

“Awesome. I should probably get down there for soundcheck, but don’t be long, okay?” Harry urged, planting a kiss on Dylan’s lips. Dylan felt so comfortable, and after feeling like his future had drained away for good, Harry had been the perfect opportunity to refocus.

No matter how hard he tried, Jono just couldn’t find the right words. He’d been sat trying to write his postcard to Dylan for an hour, but he just didn’t know what to say. Words were meant to be his speciality – as a journalist, they were literally his craft – so why couldn’t be pick the right ones?

Whenever they were together in person, Jono never once felt pressure to find the right words. Conversation always flowed naturally from one thing into the next, but one postcard every three months just wasn’t the same, especially when Jono had little to report.

There was no question that Jono felt delighted for everything Dylan had achieved. From finding a new man in Harry, to succeeding as a freelance journalist, and now moving into his own flat as outlined in his newest postcard. He’d made the last seven years count in every possible way, and Jono was undeniably proud. He wanted nothing more than to see Dylan succeed.

All of that, however, made Jono feel slightly inadequate. Sure, he had graduated college in London with a first, and worked his way up as an investigative journalist, but little else felt like it had changed. Jono was still flat sharing with Akshay, George’s friend from when he studied in London. Akshay was nice and made for a good flatmate, but they had little in common, and Jono had only kept in touch with a couple of people from college, so London wasn’t quite the social experience it had cracked up to be.

“Hey, Jono,” Akshay knocked on the bedroom door. They each had their own bedrooms with an en suite, but the living area and kitchen were shared. It was a sizeable enough flat, and Jono didn’t need any more space – he had a bed and a desk of his own, and with most of his possessions stored back at his parents’ house, that was enough, “Your visitor is here.” Instantly, Jono’s mood lifted. This was a long overdue visit from one of Jono’s favourite people. The person he’d trusted the most, for the longest time.

“Where’s the party at?” Lily beamed as she slid past Akshay and straight into Jono’s arms. He wrapped her in the tightest hug; it had been far too long since they were last together. After all, Jono wasn’t prepared to risk going anywhere near Crystalshaw, so Lily had to come to him, and it was dependent entirely on her work schedule. Freelance photography wasn’t easy to plan around.

“It’s so good to see you,” Jono smiled, sitting back on his desk chair while Lily collapsed onto the bed, “How was the flight?”

“On time, for a change,” Lily relaxed, laying her suitcase down on its back, “I see it’s that time again,” She pointed to the postcard lying flat on the desk, “I can take it back if it’s easier, it’ll probably be quicker, and cheaper.”

“I’ll need to actually write it first,” Jono sighed, “I’ve got nothing to say. Dylan’s doing so well, and I’m the same old, same old.”

“It’s not a competition,” Lily reminded, “He just wants to hear from you.”

“I guess I just feel a bit stagnant,” Jono admitted, “I’m twenty-six, I thought I’d be settling down now.”

“Like Dylan is,” Lily realised, “It’s okay to be jealous, you still love him, and he’s got someone else.” She always knew exactly how he felt.

“I’m sure Harry is great, everyone’s said he takes good care of Dylan, and I’m so happy he found someone who understands him, but god, I wish it was me,” Jono confessed. No matter how concrete the situation was, Jono couldn’t quite accept that things between him and Dylan were over forever.

“Okay, that’s it. We’re going out,” Lily decided, “You can choose, I don’t know my way around, but there needs to be boys. Cute ones, specifically. We’re finding you a boyfriend.”

“No, no,” Jono protested immediately.

“Yes, come on. Where’s that place with all the gay clubs? Soho? We’re hitting up Soho, little bro,” Lily stood up with a smug grin painted onto her face. She wasn’t going to back down, so Jono reluctantly grabbed his phone, wallet and keys. He didn’t feel as optimistic as his sister, but a little bit of attention from cute boys couldn’t have been bad, right?

Another day was nearing its close, and unusually, Yasmin couldn’t wait to get out of work. Overtime was her best friend on a normal day; she had work piling up, and there weren’t enough hours in the day to get through everything as thoroughly as she wanted to.

This was different though. For a change, Yasmin was finishing early. As adult life continued, plans with friends seemed to be few and far between, but Harry’s gigs were the perfect chance for a get-together with the people she cared most about. This time, work could take a back seat.

Yasmin felt exceptionally comfortable in her lab most of the time. It was a reasonable size, and everything was organised in just the way it needed to be. Her team were friendly, and though she was the newest person to join, it didn’t take her long to prove her worth.

Two timid knocks on her lab door sounded, followed by a sheepish Jeremy poking his head in. Much like Yasmin herself, he wore a plain white lab coat – stylish it wasn’t, but impeccable for sure. His thick mop of curls was tied back into an impressively neat bun, and he held a clipboard under his arm. Jeremy’s lab was the one opposite, which made it an even more welcoming place to work. Their line of work was different – Jeremy was a forensic scientist while Yasmin’s speciality was medicine – but their work overlapped occasionally.

“Sorry, are you busy?” Jeremy stood in the doorway as if he were afraid to come any closer. Of course, nobody was more welcome than him as far as Yasmin was concerned.

“Not at all, come in,” Yasmin invited, “Everything okay?”

“I’m not sure. I need your opinion on something,” Jeremy brought a sheet of paper towards her, “I was analysing a couple of samples from the murder scene downtown yesterday. This is from a strand of hair.” Jeremy handed the clipboard over with a printout attached, but Yasmin wasn’t sure what she was looking at. The picture made no sense to her.

“What is that?” Yasmin questioned, her brain baffled by the emptiness of the DNA analysis in front of her. There was absolutely nothing to examine.

“My thoughts exactly,” Jeremy continued, “We found a strand of hair, pulled from the root, which doesn’t have any DNA.”

“That’s impossible,” Yasmin was confused, “The follicle at the root should be rich in DNA. There must be some mistake.”

“That’s what I thought, so I checked, more than once, and I’m certain that it’s correct. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jeremy clarified, “It can’t be human or animal without DNA.”

“Not a bad discovery for someone so jet-lagged,” Yasmin changed the subject with a jokey grin. It was Jeremy’s first day back after his honeymoon with Felix, and though they hadn’t had much time to socialise that day, it was obvious they’d had a good time by the series of photos on Felix’s Instagram page.

“I hope the bags under my eyes aren’t that obvious,” Jeremy chuckled, “Staying awake at Harry’s gig won’t be easy.”

“The tan disguises the bags,” Yasmin reassured playfully, “Besides, you’ve got to stay awake. It’s a big night.”

“Wait, you mean…Harrison’s coming?” Jeremy looked gobsmacked. He was the only one Yasmin had told about her dating app success. She’d been talking to Harrison for a month, and they hadn’t yet met, but what better opportunity than at a gig where her friends were mere metres away if she needed them?

“Our first date,” Yasmin continued, “He’s been super sweet, I really want it to go well.” Seeing her friends getting married and committing to relationships was difficult when none of that luck seemed to be going her way. She’d dated a few guys, but none were worth the time she spent on them for one reason or another. This time, things felt different. Finally, a dating app hadn’t let her down, or so she hoped. It was a big night ahead.

“You’ll ace it,” Jeremy encouraged.

“Thanks,” Yasmin blushed, “Hey, mind if I analyse the sample myself tomorrow? I’m intrigued.”

“Sure,” Jeremy accepted, “Knock yourself out. I’ll see you tonight, I’ve got some paperwork I need to do before I leave. There’s a megaphone in the cupboard to wake me up in twenty minutes.” Yasmin chuckled. A lot was running through her mind, but Jeremy was the calming influence she needed. Next stop: conquering the night ahead.

Panting like mad, his lungs desperate to be topped up with oxygen, Oscar felt exhilarated. He was simultaneously riding the insane high side-by-side with Brett, who was similarly breathless. After such an intense period, all Oscar wanted to do was lie beside the person he held dearest.

After all, things couldn’t have been better with Brett. Since graduating college, they had moved in to a small flat on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t huge, but it was home, and as long as they were together, Oscar couldn’t complain.

The rent didn’t cost much, either, and with Brett being one of the most hotly-tipped basketball players in California, their wage allowed for a lot of disposable income for their side project: activism. There was nothing Brett valued more than their voice, and defending the rights of the LGBTQ+ community was at the forefront of their priorities. Oscar admired it, and he wished he could take part in it more often, but the long hours at the local newspaper didn’t leave much wiggle room. As keen as he was to be a journalist, it wasn’t exactly his dream job, especially when most of the big stories in Crystalshaw couldn’t exactly be reported in the paper.

“I swear you get better and better every single time,” Brett commented. Their curls were messy from where Oscar’s hands had ruffled them up, much like Oscar’s own untamed mop. They looked so perfect, even with a red, sweaty face that Oscar undoubtedly shared. Brett truly was perfect.

“I don’t want to move,” Oscar basked in the joy of the moment.

“Me neither,” Brett concurred, “But I’m going to have to love you and leave you. The protest starts in an hour, and I need to be there early.”

“The café again?” Oscar queried.

“Yup, they’re putting their foot down. It’s not even about firing their transphobic employee, as good as that would be. It’s about the lack of policy against hate speech. It goes beyond just LGBTQ+,” Brett explained. Their passion was unparalleled.

“They’ll see sense when it affects their profits,” Oscar sighed. The world was so narrow-minded.

“Exactly,” Brett concurred, grabbing their pink, sleeveless top and purple skirt, “And this time, subtlety isn’t on the table.”

“Like it ever is,” Oscar smiled. Nothing made him prouder than seeing Brett be their authentic self.

“Too right,” Brett chuckled, “Okay, I need to go. See you at the gig babe.” Brett planted a kiss on Oscar’s lips before sadly slipping out of the bedroom. Oscar rolled over, cosying up in bed. He didn’t feel the need to move just yet – why would he waste the chance to relax on his day off?

“Looks like we’ve got the house to ourselves,” came another voice from the bedroom door. Oscar lazily looked round, moving as few muscles as he could. There stood Cody, wearing nothing but a red dressing gown that merged with his bouncy curls, “I think we should make the most of it.”

“I…I just…” Oscar mulled, still tired. His head was telling him he couldn’t muster the energy, but his body was saying something else, “Get over here.” Cody didn’t need any more persuasion. In an instant, he climbed onto the bed and immediately closed his lips in on Oscar’s.

This wasn’t the first time Oscar had experienced it back-to-back, though. Despite how well things had been going with Brett, Oscar couldn’t deny his feelings for Cody, too. He’d worked so hard to improve himself, and though it had been a bumpy road and he was no angel, he’d proved he could be trusted on multiple occasions. Not to mention how, above all else, Cody cared so deeply for Oscar.

Of course, everything that happened between them was above board – polyamory suited Oscar, and Brett was open-minded and supportive, particularly in the knowledge that they were always each other’s number ones. That wasn’t to say it wasn’t awkward, though, with Cody staying in the spare room. The atmosphere was impenetrable between Oscar’s two lovers at times.

Regardless, Oscar loved the feel of his body pushed up against Cody’s. The energy was different to Brett’s, but still so electric and exhilarating. It wasn’t the smoothest of arrangements, but Oscar made it work. It was the best of both worlds.

There was no sugar-coating it – Jonah’s day had taken a turn for the worst. What started as a fun, light-hearted morning had resulted in a meeting with the guidance counsellor as well as his guardians. Where was everyone’s sense of humour?

Jonah’s peers had scarpered before they could get caught, which meant he had to take the brunt of the consequences. After all, he wasn’t going to grass them up, but he’d definitely be having words that evening.

It could have been worse, though. The guidance counsellor was Keisha, who he’d known for years. Of course, in school, she was Miss Starbright, but a meeting with a teacher who spent many a night getting drunk with Sammi at their house? That couldn’t have been too bad, right? Keisha’s face said otherwise, though. She looked serious and stern – this wasn’t the Keisha he was used to. She looked so disappointed.

“I’m sorry to call you both in like this,” Keisha began. Freddie and Sammi were sat either side of Jono. For Sammi, she hadn’t needed to come far – her classroom was just down the hall – but this was Freddie’s last day off before his new job started. He wasn’t going to be pleased, “You’re lucky this isn’t with Mrs. Harding. I had to convince her that a meeting with the principal wasn’t necessary and that I had it under control.”

“We appreciate it,” Sammi nodded, “What the hell were you thinking, Jonah?”

“It was only meant to be a bit of fun,” Jonah defended.

“Fun? You’re not here to have fun,” Freddie sighed, “Riding bikes around the canteen isn’t going to help your grades.”

“I’m dropping history as soon as I can, it’s dull and pointless,” Jonah protested.

“That’s not the point,” Sammi replied. She was the calmest of the three, and according to Jonah’s peers, she was just the same in class, too. English with Mrs. Ruben was everyone’s favourite lesson, not that Jonah had ever been put in one of her classes, “You’re lucky you’re not being suspended.”

“It was a damn close call, too,” Keisha added, “Mrs. Harding suggested a compromise. Jonah, you’ll be having weekly meetings with me to discuss your behaviour and grades. We all want you to succeed.”

Jonah sighed. He had no choice in the matter, so there was no point debating – even if everything was being blown out of proportion.

“Don’t think you’re coming to the gig tonight,” Freddie scolded. That was the last thing Jonah needed: losing the one thing that he’d been looking forward to all week.

“Freddie, please,” Jonah groaned.

“No,” Freddie remained firm, “You can stay at home and catch up on the work you missed.” Jonah was fed up. He was usually close to his brother, but when it came to school, he was a boring disciplinarian.

Thankfully, Jonah already had a plan forming in his head. He wasn’t succumbing to boredom that night.

It had been far too long since Lily was in a club. She barely had the time to spare with the amount of travelling she did. A night out to let her hair down was exactly what the doctor ordered, and she knew she’d enjoy every second of it.

After all, being a photographer was surprisingly exhausting. It looked like the most tranquil job on the planet, and at times, it was. Local work meant a couple of hours out of the house followed by a cosy evening at home editing and selecting the best shots. However, Lily’s reach was global, and the travel was exhausting, so when a day off arrived, it was spent fixing jet lag instead of partying. She wasn’t sure how she ever had enough energy to host so many parties as a teenager.

Despite that, some parts of Lily never changed. Quickly, she had found herself in the middle of the dancefloor as if she were the main attraction every single night. The music had a strong beat, and that was all she needed with a little alcohol already in her system.

Disappointingly, Lily’s master plan didn’t seem to be working. Her view was somewhat obscured by her fellow dancers, but she could just about see Jono sat at a table by himself, staring down at his phone. It broke her heart to see him continually looking so sad. It had been the same ever since he moved to London, as if he’d left a part of himself behind in Crystalshaw. In a way, he sort-of did, and Lily hated to see it. He deserved the world. She wanted nothing more than to find a solution to their issue of two alphas in the same pack, but seven years of looking had been wholly unsuccessful. Hopes were low to non-existent.

Feeling her phone vibrating incessantly, Lily slid to the side of the dancefloor. She was sure it was going to be George checking up on her; he always liked to make sure she’d landed safely, and it was super cute. She knew she could rely on him to take good care of her.

Strangely, though, it wasn’t George calling. Three words flashed up on the screen: “Mom.” Something wasn’t right – her mum never called her, not unless there was an emergency.

“Hi mom, is everything okay?” Lily shouted over the noise from the club.

“Lily, it’s your dad,” Helen sounded tearful on the other end of the line. Lily rarely heard her mum cry. Now, she was worried, “He’s in hospital. He had a heart attack this afternoon. It’s not looking good.”

Lily’s stomach sank. She didn’t know what to say. She’d been gut-punched in the worst way. It had only been a day since she’d seen her dad, and he seemed just fine. They were planning to fly over to see Jono in a couple of months; he was going to be gutted. She needed to break the news to her brother, but the distance was going to hurt more than ever.

“I’m so gutted I can’t make it,” Josh mentioned, the backdrop of a stunning New York skyscraper almost distracting Dylan from what he was saying, “Tell Harry to come on tour, I need everyone here to see how good my sort-of brother-in-law is.”

“Try explaining that one,” Dylan laughed, trying to keep his phone still so he didn’t ruin the videocall, “Come and see my married brother’s boyfriend.”

“Things will get interesting on the occasion that Harry proposes,” Josh chuckled.

“I’ve not thought about that too much,” Dylan shrugged, “Harry knows the situation. It’s a pretty unique one to be in.”

“Fair,” Josh accepted, “Hey, I really need to go, I need to be on the subway within three minutes or I’ll be late for my date night with Sarah, you know what she’s like. Tell Harry I said good luck and give Libby a big kiss from me.”

“Will do,” Dylan smiled, “Say hi to Sarah for me. See you soon.” Josh vanished off his phone screen. Dylan missed having his brother around, but at least he was only a phone call away, and it was so satisfying to see him settled with a job and girlfriend of his own. He’d never seemed so happy.

With their catch-up complete, Dylan refocused on the night ahead. The gig was minutes from starting, and Harry was making the final preparations with his guitar on the tiny excuse for a stage. It was completely obvious that the bar didn’t usually provide much in the way of live music, but Dylan enjoyed the intimate feel of the venue.

“How do I look? I feel like I’ve just ran a marathon,” Harry was starting to seem nervous. He always felt the nerves before a show, even though over half of the crowd were his friends.

“You look amazing,” Dylan reassured. It was the complete truth – Harry looked drop-dead gorgeous all the time, even with a bedhead first thing in the morning. Dylan was awestruck by how he managed to be so perfect.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Harry blushed, “Hey, your mom’s here. Go say hi.”

“Break a leg,” Dylan nodded, not needing to be asked twice. He swerved through the tables, smiling at various members of the pack before reaching Caroline and Ed by the entrance. As always, Ed was calm and composed, but Caroline looked knackered, as if she hadn’t slept in days.

“Hey, you made it,” Dylan beamed. As much as he’d always appreciated his mum, leaving home had really taught him just how much he valued everything she did for him, single-handedly for many years too.

“Gemma said she’d babysit Libby until we’re home, first time we’ve had a night out in ages,” Caroline replied, relieved. Libby was seven now, and she had more energy than any of them could keep up with. Having a little sister had been the craziest learning curve for Dylan. She had the purest soul, and Dylan knew he would do everything in his power to protect her.

“Good evening,” Harry began, the chatter of the crowd immediately dying down. Dylan took a seat with Freddie, Sammi and George at the front, just next to Yasmin’s table; she looked pleasingly cosy with her date, a tall jock-type lad who Dylan certainly saw the appeal for. Nevertheless, Dylan didn’t get distracted. He focused on Harry, whose nerves he could feel brushing against his skin. He had no need to worry when he was obviously going to smash it.

Confusingly, as the crowd silenced, Dylan’s ears focused on another sound. A gentle ticking sound, like an old clock. Dylan scanned the room, but there didn’t seem to be any clocks displayed, and the sound was far too close for comfort.

“Can you hear that?” Dylan whispered to Freddie.

“The clock?” Freddie replied, knowing exactly what Dylan meant.

“I don’t think it’s a clock,” Dylan shuddered, “I think it’s a bomb. We need to get out. Now.”

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