Sitting around Boomtown with nothing to do was getting on Mordecai's nerves. The only way he could keep tabs on everything was to leave his Echo on and listen in.

His heart leapt in his chest when he heard one of the Twins was dead, then sank once more when he saw the telecast of Lilith, Tannis, and the young girl Ava getting crushed beneath Tyreen's cascade of boulders. He didn't hesitate to grab his rifle and leap over the rocky edge towards the nearest Fast Travel. He wasn't going to let this happen again. He couldn't.

The other Team B members were hot on his trail too, yelling his name, begging for him to come back so that they could formulate a plan on what to do next. What he had to do, he yelled back, was rescue the remaining members of their team.

He couldn't go through this again. He couldn't because he knew what he would resort to in order to cope with the pain, and he didn't want to fall down that hole again. He'd worked much too hard to get to this point.

Then he heard her voice, clear as a bell. The hunter almost collapsed to his knees right there in the middle of the road, tears brimming at the corners of his eyes.

"They're okay," he whispered to Tina and Brick when they finally caught up to him.

"What?" one of them asked. He couldn't tell which from the ringing in his ears.

"They're alright."

"Course they're alright, Mordy-man. It's homegirl we're talking about here."

Mordecai didn't want to remind her of how flippant she was being, that she'd done this before to cover up her hurt. It wouldn't achieve anything and it certainly wouldn't make him feel better. Whatever she did to keep her sanity about her. Him? He wasn't going to stop worrying until this was all over.

"We're gonna go dark for a while. We're heading to Nekrotafeyo."

"Excuse me, what? I'm goin' with you." Mordecai would have grabbed Lilith by the shoulders and given her a good shaking if she was standing in front of him right now.

"No, I need you there. I need you and your team on Pandora when things start to go down. In case-"

"Don't you say it, Lil. In case nothing. You and the others are going to get your asses back here so we can finish this. Together."

Lilith huffed an airy laugh over the Echo. He couldn't tell if she was amused or scared shitless. Probably both.

"Yeah, you're right. We started this mess to begin with, right? Might as well end it, too."

Scratch that: if Lilith was here, he would have given her a hug.

The whole damn planet started to shake as the moon continued to draw closer. B-Team decided it would be better to move to Roland's Rest so that they would have a better chance of making a move once Lilith got back. Mordecai sat on the roof of what served as Vaughn's headquarters, staring up at the great glowing Elpis, as if it were casting judgment upon them all. His back was turned to Roland's statue; he didn't need his stern stare weighing down on him either.

An explosion of purple light down in the valley stole his attention away, and the beam pulling on the moon faded. Mordecai held his breath, counted slowly in his mind as he waited for the planet's crust beneath him to start crumbling away. It felt like everything was spinning around him.

Brick was the first to throw his hands into the air and yell in triumph. Everyone else in Roland's Rest began to follow suit until there was nothing but the din and the quake of their voices reverberating in Mordecai's chest.

At what cost , he kept asking himself. There was always a price, always had been a price from the losses in their wake. Success didn't always amount to winning.

"Lil...?" he whispered into the Echo. He had to know.

"It's done, Mordy."

He couldn't help but laugh. It had been a long time since he'd heard relief in her voice, and even longer since she'd called him that. It convinced him that everything was going to be okay. There would be drinks, a huge party for the next few days, picking up the pieces of the things that still needed fixing... but at least they were going to do it together. They could worry about the "after that" once they had a good long rest.

"I just need you to take care of the rest for me."

The sudden yo-yoing of his emotions gripped at his chest. Made it hard to breathe. A pinpoint of red appeared from behind the craggy silhouette of the distant cliffs and he knew, he just knew , that they were paying another price.

"Lilith! Lilith! " He screamed into his Echo, and the celebrations around him fell into gasped silence. The red mote flared with fiery wings as it soared higher and higher into the air.

Before he knew what he was doing, he was running again with nothing but the Echo clenched painfully in his fist. His chest hurt in more ways than one.

"Lil, what are you doing? C'mon, don't do this. You don't have to do this!"

Static filled the Echo now as she got further and further away, to the edges of the atmosphere.

"I've always been running, Mordecai. Running from what I am. From responsibility. It's about time I stood up for the people I care about. Roland would've-"

"No, you shut up . What happened to him wasn't your fault, it wasn't anyone's fault! We can figure out another way, if you get your ass back down here."

"Thanks, Mordy, for standing up for me. I-... ...nd Ellie wanted m-... okay?"

"What? Say again."

"St-... ... pleas-... ... ... ...na and Br-... ... ... ... ...ve you g-..."

"Lil, you're break-"

A flash of fiery light filled the sky, etching a glorious image into Elpis' surface. A phoenix, a hawk of fire, with a crown atop its head and glowing as bright as daylight.

The Echo fell into the sand, forgotten and empty. Mordecai followed soon after. A choking sob caught the back of his throat, stole his air and the rest of his senses as tears pooled up behind his goggles. Aged as his hands were and he was still completely powerless to keep his friends safe. One by one, taken from him like a chain of falling dominoes. And no matter what he did to keep the next one safe, it would topple over just like the one before.

He pulled his goggles off his face and threw them as hard as he could, screamed as loud as he could until his throat was raw and aching, until his voice began to fail. And even still, he continued to scream at the sky, at the bird of fire burned into the moon, wishing that somehow, it could have been him instead.