Annika pulled Kathryn aside. "They're behaving really well, considering they're hungry, but I still want you out of the way. Don't think I didn't see you grimace and touched your forehead several times on the way back." She motioned for the people getting in one of the six lines for food and water.
Kathryn sighed. "You're far too observant."
"Occupational hazard." Checking the time on her self-rewinding watch, Annika noticed that it was time again for Kathryn to make a call. "We need to step further away. I'll block the view for the others, so you can call."
"Oh, already? Okay. Thanks."
They walked far enough away from the passengers for them not to hear them. Dialing the same number as before, Kathryn rubbed her neck. "Hi, Barbara. My hourly call again."
Annika listened to Kathryn's part of the conversation and every now and then, she turned her head to make sure nobody was heading toward them. She saw Miranda and Andy glancing very quickly at them. Good, the less attention she and Kathryn attracted, the better.
Kathryn hadn't given any details apart from "very soon" when she hung up with Barbara the first time. Her tears had started Annika, but now Kathryn's eyes were dry and their usual calm blue-gray hue when lit by the moonlight.
"An aircraft carrier? You serious?" Kathryn looked up at Annika, wide-eyed. "All right. Barbara, you can clearly move mountains." Chuckling, but sounding more fatigued than amused, Kathryn said goodbye to the CEO on the other end.
"They're sending an aircraft carrier?" Annika frowned. That would take longer than they had supplies for, surely?
"Not sending one, per se, but one is heading this way and will be in range to send helicopters for the most vulnerable among us. They're part of an exercise that just took place in Japan and on their way back to the US. The other ships in the convoy will send out rescue boats when they're in range to do so. They expect to be close enough within eighteen hours. Tomorrow afternoon or there about." Kathryn threw her arms around Annika's neck and hugged her. "Oh, damn. Tomorrow, everyone will go home."
"Yes." Annika's heart hammered in her chest as she pulled Kathryn even closer. She pressed her lips against Kathryn's hair.
Kathryn grew still in Annika's arms and certain that she'd overstepped, Annika attempted to pull back.
"Annika?" Kathryn slid one hand along Annika's jawline and down the side of her neck. "I know the timing is insanely wrong, but will I be able to see you when we get back home? I'd rather not just see you at work every few weeks, or months, or so."
Annika smiled. "Yes. I'd like that. Especially since I quit my job before we took off from Tokyo." Then she faltered some. What if they weren't talking about the same thing? What if Kathryn meant they should hang like friends, meet for lunch, and, god forbid, go shopping together? Annika big her lip and had no idea what to say to figure it out.
"You did? Why? I mean, that's your business of course." Kathryn smoothed down Annika's shirt collar. "I'm just interested in everything about you, that's all."
"I have been headhunted by several security companies over the last year and I think it's the right time to make a change." Annika kept her hands loosely around Kathryn's shoulders.
"Um. Any of them keep you in California? Even in San Francisco?" It was sweet to see how casual Kathryn tried to sound, when her intense gaze spoke differently.
"Three of them. Interestingly enough, they're the ones with the most alluring offers. Best pay too. Not to sound greedy, but that matters."
"Sure does." Kathryn seemed to sigh in relief. "You wouldn't mind if we saw a lot of each other, then? Unless you fear you may get bored after a while." Looking up at Annika through her eyelashes, Kathryn smiled crookedly.
"Never bored with you. And no, I wouldn't mind seeing you often. I just, um, can we be more specific, Kathryn?" Annika cleared her throat.
"Specific?" Kathryn blinked. "I feel we're not talking about the same thing, or are we?"
Digging for courage, Annika knew it was better to know now if she was totally misconstruing Kathryn's attention, rather than when they reached the US. "I'm talking about going on dates, seeing each other in a romantic context."
Kathryn practically fell back into Annika's arms. "Oh, thank god. I was starting to think I couldn't read people at all anymore and that you were going to tell me I should join your knitting circle, or something."
Annika laughed, and she couldn't remember when she did that last, even before the plane went down. "My hobby has very little to do with knitting. I'm more into horseback riding."
Kathryn began laughing too. "I used to do that a lot, but I rarely have time to go to the farm these days. I'll make sure we do that."
"You have a farm?" Annika kept her arm around Kathryn's shoulders and pulled her along toward the others. She would've loved to stay over here by Kathryn a lot longer, but she could feel them both getting cold. Chuck and the preppers had stoked the fires and people were starting to settle down with their new food. And she wanted Kathryn off her feet.
"No, but my sister does. She's a painter and also keeps horses and other animals at her farm. My mother lives there as well, in a separate house. I usually stay in one of the small cabins my sister built to rent out if she needs extra income. These days she doesn't, but she lends it to people in need of a change of pace." Kathryn kept her arm around Annika's waist. She stopped and refused to walk any closer to the others when Annika pulled at her. "No, wait. Once I get over there, I'm going to have to talk to both crewmembers and passengers. Now that I have a reasonable timeline, it's time to fill them in. That means having to blow the whistle on having a satellite phone."
"But I'll help—"
"I know. I know. That's not what I meant to say." Kathryn looked down at her feet and kicked the sand. Then she met Annika's gaze. "I just thought I'd ask for a kiss, our first, before potential mayhem ensues—mmm…"
Annika didn't remember leaning in, but there she was, kissing Kathryn…and nearly losing all cohesion in her knees. Kathryn moaned and tipped her head back, holding on hard to Annika as she parted her lips. Annika responded to the obvious invite and slipped her tongue into Kathryn's mouth, touching its counterpart. Fire rose from her stomach up her chest, igniting every cell in her body it passed. Not to mentioned everywhere Kathryn's hands touched as they roamed Annika's back and arms.
Sliding her lips along Kathryn's cheek, in under her ear, and down her neck, Annika knew she had to try and stop this from going to far as they were well within sight of the others, but it was so damn hard to let go.
"Annika, you're killing me." Kathryn moaned. "We better get a grip…oh, sweet lord…or I may end up embarrassing us." She gripped Annika's collar with both hands. "Please, help me get my brain back to functional?"
"You're saying that as if you expect mine is." Annika stepped back, barely, and took Kathryn's hand in hers. "All right. Are we presentable?"
"Not sure about me, but you look amazing." Kathryn ran her tongue along her lower lip.
"And you are not helping. You look fine. We're all a bit tousled, so who cares" Annika shrugged.
They commenced walking toward the camp. As they approached, Andy looked at them and smiled broadly. "More people around here are into hand-holding, Miranda."
Miranda raised an eyebrow and shook her head at Andy. "Silly girl." She was indeed holding Andy's hand where they sat. "Serena and Emily are fetching food for the seven of us once the passengers and the rest of the crew has had their share."
"That's nice of them." Kathryn kept standing. "I'll join you again in a little bit. I have an announcement to make after discussing it with Chuck."
"No, wait." Annika hoped she could get through to Kathryn. "Let everyone eat, including yourself, and then you can tell everyone. They'll be full, you'll get a little bit of rest, and the results will show it."
"What results?" Miranda straightened.
"Don't worry. It's good news." Kathryn glanced over at the people closest to them, but they were happily chatting while eating and didn't seem to pay attention to the captain and her group. "We have a timeline and I promise I'll tell you soon, but apparently I must eat as well."
Miranda nodded and relaxed next to Andy again. "All right. I trust you."
Annika was glad to see that Kathryn sat down and when Emily came over and handed them food and water, Annika felt she could finally let the nervous energy from the entire day seep out. She opened a protein bar and bit into it without hesitation. The two girls in the shelter hated them with a passion, but to her it was the best meal she'd had in ages.
Annika felt Kathryn flinch and that's when she realized that the woman she had fallen for already knew.
Andy stood next to Miranda as the helicopter with the last senior citizens left the beach. Further out, toward the horizon, they saw the outline of the aircraft carrier. "Can you believe it? We're getting rescued and it makes me look at this place in a whole new light."
Miranda turned toward her. "What do you mean?"
"It's a beautiful island and with a stunning view of this sunset. I knew that all along, of course, but it's as if knowing we're going home lets me truly see it."
"I understand. As a vacation spot, it could have been lovely, but with the Komodo dragons and the lack of sustenance, I don't think I'll try this resort again." Miranda wrapped her arms around Andy's waist. "I can't wait to call the girls when we are aboard any of the ships."
Andy's heart ached at the longing in Miranda's voice. "I know. It won't be long. Oh…look!" Andy pointed at the ocean where she saw smaller boats approach the island. "They've launched some smaller boats."
"Yes!" Miranda placed hand over her mouth, giving a muted sob. Turning her head over her shoulder, she spoke to Nigel who stood a few feet behind them. "See?"
"I do see, Miranda." Nigel's voice was husky with emotions.
"As do we," Emily said. She walked up next to Andy, together with Serena. "We're going home."
"Yes, we are." Andy felt tears trickle down her cheeks. She gazed down at Miranda, feeling her tremble. They were going home and that was a blessing. Still, what would happen when they were back in New York? When Miranda was back with her children, at her job, and…was Andy going to slip into her role as second assistant—and remain there? What if she was a constant reminder of Miranda fearing she'd never see her girls again? Miranda was infamous for her ostrich technique when it came to unpleasant things. She had been known to duck and dodge.
Three speedy inflatable boats came closer and soon twelve soldiers jumped off and pulled them up. By then, Kathryn and Annika had returned from the helicopter landing site further up the beach and greeted the man who was clearly in charge.
"I'm Commander Travis of the USS Voyager," he said, saluting Kathryn.
"Captain Kathryn Janeway. This is my first officer, Chuck Taylor." She pointed at Chuck and then introduced Annika and Monica. "We're very glad to see you, Commander."
"You've been the focus of a lot of attention in your absence, crew and passengers alike." Commander Travis nodded to the crowd behind Kathryn. "But we can fill you in on all of that later. We're going to get you over to the ships. How many are left after the first helicopters took off?"
"They airlifted thirty-four people, most of the senior citizens and two different families with young children. There are two-hundred and thirty-six souls on this beach."
Travis turned to the man next to him. "Good thing that British helicopter ship is about to catch up. It will take too long to take everyone over in these boats." Turning back to Kathryn, he explained further. "The HMS Silver is a helicopter carrier that holds six Westland Merlins. They'll be able to get you to the other ships and you won't have to send the passengers over that reef we just crossed. It sure packed a wallop and I can't imagine how you got everyone across it on the slides."
"As you say, story time will be later," Kathryn said. "How many can go in each helicopter?"
"Forty," Travis said.
Kathryn motioned her crew closer and included Annika. "Divide the passengers into groups of no more than forty. Make sure families or friends stay together." She turned back to Travis and Andy could tell Kathryn was tenser than ever. Perhaps she feared something would go awry at the last moment? "Commander," Kathryn continued, "unless my math fails me, that means you can get us off this island in one go if they get all their birds in the air."
"That's exactly my recommendation, but ultimately it's up to the British captain." Travis lifted a radio to his lips after moving a bit away from them.
"Helicopter?" Miranda was pale despite the warm glow of the setting sun. "I'm not sure I like the sound of that."
"You would like crossing the reef again even less. I still shudder at how drenched and cold we were the last time." Nigel placed a hand on Miranda and Andy's shoulders. "It's a very short trip, Miranda. It'll be over in minutes."
"All right." Miranda patted his hand. "Are you going to be annoyingly right in the future as well?"
"Why change now?" Nigel said, beaming at her, which rendered him a withering glance, but also another pat on his hand.
Travis came back, and a smile transformed his bearded face. "Captain Montgomery has already set things in motion and the first helicopter will be in the air in minutes. They can use the same landing site as the ones from my ship."
"We used the slides to shield us from the sand," Annika said, returning from the group she put together. "Will we be able to do this now as well. The sand on the beach is very fine and we're concerned about everyone's eyes."
"Yes, that should work. I'll have my men be in charge of that as they will return with me on the RIBs."
"RIBs?" Miranda murmured.
"Rigid Inflatable Boats," Kathryn said. "Sounds doable, Commander."
Travis nodded briskly and walked over to his soldiers. Andy saw that four of them were women, and one in each boat held an automatic rifle of some kind. What had they thought they find?
"All the groups are sorted, Kathryn," Chuck said from behind.
"You saved spots for us—"
"—in the last group. Yes."
"I'm in that group too, right?" Annika asked sternly.
Kathryn opened her mouth, perhaps to object, Andy thought, but instead nodded. "Of course."
"Thought so." Annika merely nodded.
"Which group are we in?" Serena asked.
"Group three." Monica came over to them. "I've placed the rest in your group over there by the fire as it's getting cold. Group four to six are also there, but on different sides."
"Better show the soldiers where to place the slides so the fires don't go out and we all get sandblasted." Annika strode over to Travis and Andy saw her point in the direction of the fires. The commander nodded and motioned for his subordinates to follow him.
Andy began walking toward the area where group three sat next to the fire. She placed Miranda in front of her, set on keeping the woman she loved warm and shielded from the sand that might still reach them.
A distant, fluttering sound made everyone look out over the water. The first helicopter was on its way. As it approached them, it reminded Andy of a large bird of prey where it flew fairly close to the water. Behind it, the colored the waves golden and Andy thought it had to be one of the most beautiful sunsets she'd ever seen.
"Andrea," Miranda leaned back and murmured in her ear. "No matter where we end up on the ship, I want you near me."
Caught in sudden deja vue, remembering how Miranda had said something similar before they boarded the plane in Tokyo, Andy gasped. "Yes. Absolutely. Yes."
"Promise me." The intensity in Miranda's voice made Andy hold her closer.
"I promise." As Miranda's head was still leaning against Andy's shoulder, her face turned toward her, it was as easy as it was natural to seal the promise with a kiss.
"Mom!" The twins spoke in chorus as they so often did, making Miranda sob mutedly. Their sweet voices, sounding so relieved, so cheerful, for the most part, also had an undertone of stress that didn't elude her. Pressing her fist against her mouth, she inhaled sharply through her nose while trying to find her bearings.
"Yes, I'm here and I'm fine. We're all unharmed." Miranda forced her voice to sound steady and reassuring.
"The others from Runway too? Andy?"
Andy? "Yes, Andrea's doing well."
"She promised to look after you." Cassidy sighed. "We trust her with you, mom."
Miranda couldn't get words out at first. "Um. Trust her with me? What do you mean, Bobbsey?"
"Ah, you know. We know dad was never good for you. Stephen was a disaster. So we trust Andy to know what's best." Caroline spoke curtly. "You don't always do, mom."
Out of the mouth of babes… "We're going to have to talk about that when I get home, my darlings. No matter what, Andrea has made sure I was safe and taken care of so, yes, your trust in her was not misplaced." Glancing over her shoulder, Miranda saw the long line of people needing to use the ship's phones. "We're going to be home in about four days."
"Four days?!" the girls groaned. "That's like, forever."
"Yes, it sure seems that way," Miranda said softly, "but I know you're safe with you father and you know I'm safe too. With Andrea."
Miranda sent them kisses over the phone and then reluctantly handed the phone over to a couple waiting behind her. She had gotten in line to use the phone as soon as they had been allowed into the bowels of the aircraft carrier, while Andrea made sure they had somewhere to sleep. When Miranda asked if Andrea didn't want to call anyone, like her parents, she had become concerned when the young woman only shook her head with a sad expression in her eyes.
"I'll shoot them some texts and an email when a computer is free. They know I'm all right as the airline called my friend Doug and he knows to inform them." Andrea tugged at her fingers, smiling too broadly. "We're not on the best of turns, but perhaps this will be a wakeup call for them. And, no, I'm not punishing them—I just can't deal with the same ol', same ol', right now."
"I see," Miranda had answered, even if she didn't. So, Andrea had had a falling out with her parents? Andrea? This far too kind and caring woman whom Miranda feared would get trampled and hurt just because she was so warmhearted. No doubt the fault lay with her parents and perhaps it was about Andrea working at Runway, or for Miranda, or both? Instead of continuing her ivy league education and becoming a lawyer. Miranda had reread Andrea's CV only a short while ago and knew how brilliant she was.
Now, the brilliant girl stood at the far end of the long corridor, waiting patiently for Miranda. When she spotted her, Andrea lit up and raised her hand. As if Miranda wouldn't always know instinctively where Andrea was in any room, any place? She huffed to herself. She had from the start. As soon as she really saw Andrea, it was as if someone had attached a homing beacon to her second assistant, making sure Miranda had to look up and she'd be there. Like now.
As Miranda reached her, Andrea studied her closely. "How did it go? Were they okay? Did they cry? Did you?"
Miranda had to smile. "Well. Yes, Yes. And yes."
Andrea raised her eyebrow. "Oh. Oh! Okay, that was expected. A lot of tension being released. For all of you."
"According to my girls they made sure they could trust you with me." Miranda knew she was teasing, but she had to see Andrea's expression at the girls' statement. To her delight, Andrea blushed profusely. "I see."
"Hm. Well, they did say something like that before Tokyo. And stuff."
Miranda tilted her head. "Stuff? Well, I need to hear about that some more, but preferable not in the corridor. Have you any idea where we're supposed to go?"
"Yes. The crew is sharing each other's quarters until we reach California. We could choose between bunkbeds in a cabin with several beads, or…and I hope you think I made the right choice…a single bed cabin, but it has its own sink at least. The head is down the corridor, I'm afraid."
"After the makeshift place we had to use these last few days, any facility that actually flushes is to be preferred." Miranda let Andrea guide her to their quarters. "And as for having to share a bed, that's preferable when I share it with you."
Andrea whipped her head toward Miranda. "Yes? Really?"
"Really. Ah, is this it?" Miranda waited for Andrea to open the door to the quarters. It was cramped and only held a bed, a desk, and a chair, but it was indoors, had air condition, and, yes, a metal sink. Someone had put a set of simple toiletries and towels on the edge under the mirror, and on the chair sat two sets of clothes. Navy track suits.
"Did you arrange this?"
"Yes." Andrea nodded. "They had arranged piles for us to pick from. I figured we'd both want to shower and get out of these clothes."
"You figured correctly. I will however settle for washing at the sink tonight and have a proper shower tomorrow morning."
"Me too. I don't know about you but getting rescued made me more tired than being marooned." Andrea stepped closer. Hesitantly, she placed her arms around Miranda and pulled her close.
Not about to allow insecurity or misplaced caution to stop them from embracing the way she needed them to, Miranda tugged Andrea closer and captured her full lips with her own. Gently, she opened her mouth and ran her tongue along Andrea's lower lip. "Let me in, please, Andrea," she whispered against the dampness of Andrea's mouth. "Let me kiss you."
"Oh, god…" Andrea shoved her hands into Miranda's hair and tilted her head just so. Their tongues tangled, and they deepened the kiss, and Miranda knew, her emotions, with each caress.
Sliding her hands in under Andrea's shirt, she ran her fingertips greedily over the smooth skin, delighting in the sensation it created within her. Andrea groaned into Miranda's mouth, nipping at her lips only to seize them again.
"So, sharing a bed, are we? Just us. No passengers or crew." Andrea breathed the words against Miranda's neck. "Sure you know what you're getting yourself into?"
"No, but I know this to be true," Miranda answered huskily. "I don't think I can be without you, here in these quarters, or back home on Manhattan. Do you think you can see yourself get into that?" She pulled back some, looked up into Andrea's warm, brown eyes.
There it was. Andrea's amazing, broad smile. However weirdly Miranda had put her question, clearly, she had gotten it right.
"Yes, I can. Very vividly." Andrea beamed. "Now I have another question."
"Do go on." Miranda deliberately pursed her lips, but Andrea just laughed.
"Will you wash my back if I do the same for you?" She looked over at the sink.
Miranda tugged Andrea closer again, hugging her tight. "Deal."
Kathryn and Chuck stood in the captain's office next to Commander Travis. Having briefed the aircraft carrier's captain about a few more details about ditching the plane and how they had survived as well as they had on the island, she was exhausted.
"If you don't hit the rack, Captain," the captain said, "I think your air marshal will commit a felony with me as the victim for keeping you here too long."
"I'm fine, sir." Kathryn squared her shoulders. She was not the captain of this vessel, but she was still responsible for her crew and passengers. "I can't settle down before I know everyone else of my people are having their needs met."
"Do come in, Marshal," the captain said and waved Annika in. "I think you've been briefed outside of my crew's efforts?"
"Yes, sir. Kathryn, everyone has a bed to sleep in. Some share quarters and beds, but they've been offered food, clothes, toiletries, calls home, and so on. I think you need to stand down, at least for tonight. I have everything we need here." Annika held up a large paper bag.
Kathryn sighed when she saw Chuck nod emphatically. "All right. I will." Turning back to captain, she thanked him warmly.
"I'm bunking with the CAG. You will have my quarters," Travis said. "Perhaps you can share with a crewmember or your air marshal?"
"That's very generous." Kathryn almost claimed that any rack would do, but the idea of sharing with Annika, of having her close when potential nightmares hit, was too good to pass up on. "Thank you."
Travis summoned a crewman and put her in charge of showing Kathryn and Annika to his quarters. Fortunately, it wasn't far, as the ship was huge. They passed a mess hall where crewmen on a break sat with coffee, no doubt to remain awake. When Kathryn passed them, she smiled politely as she heard someone whisper "that's Janeway, the captain."
Suddenly a young sailor flew up on his seat. "Oh, captain, my captain," he said, saluting. The woman next to him only took a moment to repeat his gesture and then the room roared as at least fifty sailors were applauding and stomping while standing on their seats.
"What the hell…?" Kathryn stared at them and then looked over at Chuck and Annika who merely smiled back at her.
"Please." Kathryn swallowed hard. She raised her hands, palms forward. "Don't. Please, sit down."
The applause still went on and only when others joined from the door, did the crewmen step down. Kathryn looked over toward the corridor they came from and saw the captain, Travis, and a man Kathryn thought might be the CAG, having joined in the clapping.
"Thank you," Kathryn said. "And thank you for what you're doing for my passengers and crew."
The crewmen had settled down now that the officers were present. "Ma'am, we only got the chance to do anything for them because you did the right thing first." The young woman closest to Kathryn smiled. "So thank you."
Kathryn kept it together until she and Annika was safe in Travis's quarters. There she fell back at the closed door and felt tears begin to run. Annika was there immediately, pulling her into her arms. "You did it. We did it."
"Yes. We did." Clinging to the woman that had come to mean so much to her, hell, who was she kidding, Annika meant everything. Kathryn cupped the stunning face before her and kissed her gently. "You're amazing. You helped me through this more than anyone else."
"I had no choice," Annika said calmly.
"What do you mean?" Kathryn blinked.
"Turns out I want a lot of things when it comes to you, so whatever I could do to help you, protect you, and support you, I tried to do. I had to be part of trying to get us rehydrated, fed, and home, because I need the chance with you." Annika colored faintly.
"Oh, thank god. I'm not sure what I feared you'd say, but that was better."
"A lot better?" Now Annika's smile blinded Kathryn.
"Like night and day." Kathryn rose on her toes and pressed her lips against Annika's again. "And just so you know, I'm going to love getting to truly know you. I feel I know the most important things about you, because you're wonderful, brave, and amazing. But I want to know much, much more."
"As do I." Annika buried her face into Kathryn's hair. "Mind sharing the bed much?" she chuckled.
"Oh, god. Look at all that space." Kathryn regarded Travis's bed. "I think I may just crowd you anyway, despite how huge it seems after sleeping under the slides with all those people."
"Being crowded by you has to be the best news I've heard since I stepped aboard this ship," Annika said. "I've gotten very fond of having you close when we sleep."
Smiling, Kathryn found herself wrapped up in the safety of Annika's arms. "What do you say we brush our teeth and fall into bed? It's either that or I'm going to fall asleep where I stand."
They did just that. Brushed their teeth, which Kathryn found to be close to a religious experience, and then removed all their clothes and climbed into bed. Kathryn wondered if she shouldn't be at least a little self-conscious about their state of undress, but she couldn't muster the energy. When Annika pulled her into her arms, Kathryn closed her eyes and buried her face Annika's long, alabaster neck.
As she let the unfamiliar sounds of the ship lull her to sleep, she thought of the family in the shelter inside the rock. Chris had explained enough for Kathryn to understand how imperative it was she never let anyone know about their presence at the location. She and Annika had looked for the opening in the jungle when they went to hide the cart near it but hadn't been able to find it. Somehow, the family had managed to mask it, which was reassuring.
Closing her eyes, Kathryn let sleep claim her, safe in the knowledge that Annika would be there if she woke from a nightmare. Should the same thing happen to Annika, Kathryn vowed to hold the woman she'd come to care so deeply for, and not let go.
"They're gone." Glenn came and sat down at the dining table where the grandparents were playing bridge. "You were right. Helicopters picked them up last night."
"Thank god." Chris sighed and stretched. "I'm glad we could help them without getting compromised."
"I'm glad they're save too, but we're going to have to take some measures, honey." Glenn could tell that their parents were listening but left it to him and Chris to decide.
"Yes, I know. Still, we couldn't let our safety outweigh the needs of so many, Glenn. That's not us."
"Wrong." Glenn poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos. "That's who we weren't. We can't reason like that anymore, or we'll undo all the planning."
"Aw, come on," Chris said, poking him in the chest. "You're all talk. You'd never let innocent people, children, die to keep yourself save."
"No. Perhaps not. But to keep our children safe. So would you." Glenn rubbed the back of his neck. "Damn. I never should have gone into business with that man, nor turned state evidence. If I had looked the other way, you'd be running your charity, I'd be head deep in my business, and the kids would be able to be with their friends. And we wouldn't have uprooted your siblings."
"But you did. And you had to. A lot worse could have happened to a god knows how many people if you hadn't. So that's why I know you're full of it, babe." Chris caressed his cheek in a gesture so loving and familiar, Glenn closed his eyes at the emotions that filled him. "We had the power to do this. The money. The resources. We could've gone into witness protection, but instead we did this on our terms. Nobody can track us here. Even if they can, Annika falling into the elevator shaft was a good thing as it allowed us to keep that from happening ever again."
"She's right, Glenn," Chris's brother Mike said as he came over to join them. "We're together. And you and I made it much harder for anyone to spot the tracks leading here. Another oversight we're lucky they showed us, albeit inadvertently."
"And besides. His time's up any day, son," Glenn's father said. "Once they have him behind bars where he belongs, we can choose freely what to do. Return to our old lives, or start fresh as new people, somewhere else."
Glenn regarded them and knew he was a lucky guy to have their unwavering support. Perhaps they were right. Maybe he was a selfless guy who willingly helped the strangers that had been marooned on their island.
Either way, his dad was right. It wouldn't be too long now before the man who was to blame for all of this, paid the price for his crimes, and then they'd be free.