For pairings, rating, disclaimer, etc., please refer back to Chapter 1.


RELEGARE IRA, REPERIRE CARITAS

Zack slammed against the door to Jondy's room; it was locked. He slammed against it again with his shoulder, then kicked it in. Jondy was holding a gun on three men, four more lying on the ground around her. She whirled on her brothers, thinking they were more attackers, and one of the men jumped on her and wrestled the gun from her hand. Zack launched himself at him, and Zane and Jondy took down the other two. There was a crash and the stomping of feet as more men, about a dozen, entered the room, shooting staccato shots from their machine guns at the three X5s. Jondy and Zane dodged the blows and Zack ran around behind them and grabbed a gun up from one of them, shoving it into his back and pulling the trigger. Jondy and Zane had their hands full, and Zack held the gun out, trying to pick some of their attackers off. But his siblings were moving far too quickly and he didn't want to risk catching one of them with a stray bullet. He watched for a moment, impressed, as his brother and sister took out man after man until there were only two left standing. Jondy turned momentarily to Zack and her eyes widened at something just behind him.

Zack whirled, but too late as a body slammed into him, whacking the gun from his hands. It slid across the floor and out of his reach as the man choked him; Zack couldn't believe he'd let himself be cornered like that. He brought a leg up and kicked the guy hard, catching him off-guard for a moment, and deposited him on the floor. Another one attacked, and Zack dispatched that one as well, and the next, as his siblings did the same across the room. He liked being up against the wall like this; no one could sneak up behind him. He heard a yell of pain from across the room that sounded like Zane and glanced up worriedly; at that moment, one of the men rushed at him and shoved him against the wall, holding a handgun against his chest. He pulled the trigger, but Zack moved out of the way at lightening speed first, deflecting the man's hand and sending the bullet into his thigh instead. Zack grunted in pain and sank slowly to the floor, leaving a sickening trail of blood behind.

"Zack!" Jondy screamed, levelling her own gun to shoot at the two men surrounding her brother. She hit one in the chest and he went down, but his partner managed to land a shot of his own in Jondy's shoulder. Then he grabbed the heavy oak bookcase that was against the wall and tipped it onto Zack's crumpled form. Zane ran forward from the other direction and quickly took him out from behind with a chair. Jondy fell to the floor, clutching her shoulder, pain shooting up and down her arm. Zane dropped the chair he was holding and looked at his two siblings lying on the floor. He headed over to the fallen bookcase and shot Jondy a concerned look as he struggled with it.

"I'm fine, get Zack," she said quickly. Zane nodded and slowly eased the heavy piece of furniture off his brother, throwing it out of the way. What he saw made his heart stand still.

Zack lay on the floor, the clothes covering his leg soaked with dark blood, likewise his face a bloody mess, and his eyes closed. Zane knelt down, holding his breath and praying that his brother was only unconscious. He touched his neck and felt the lightest of pulses. Jondy joined him and gasped at what she saw, clapping a hand over her mouth.

"We have to call an ambulance," he said.

"Won't they expect us to go to a hospital?" Jondy asked; she didn't quite know what to do, just that she had to do it fast. Zane looked at her.

"You're in charge."

"I- what?"

"You're in charge Jondy. Second-in-command," he said. There was a tense silence for several seconds, then she swallowed hard and nodded, searching back to her Field Med training at Manticore.

"Put pressure on the wound," she said. Zane nodded, put his hands over Zack's leg; they immediately became red with blood.

"Looks like his femoral artery is severed," he said tensely, remembering back to his training as well. "He's bleeding pretty badly." Jondy made a decision.

"I'm calling an ambulance," she announced. Zane nodded, looking relieved. She turned and ran to the phone, keeping the gun with her in case there were any more people looking to attack them.

Zane watched Jondy pick the phone up, quickly dialling 911 and waiting impatiently for someone to answer. His hands slipped slightly on Zack's leg from all the blood, so he redoubled his effort and applied more pressure to the bullet-hole. He heard a groan from beside him and looked down at Zack. His eyes were open.

"Zack?" he asked; his brother's eyes struggled to focus, but failed.

"What the hell happened?" he asked weakly. "Are you and Jondy okay?"

"We're fine," Zane assured him. He nodded, then brought a hand up to clutch his head, wincing as waves of pain hit him from the movement. He looked like he was about to pass out.

"They'll be back," he forced out.

"It's okay, we're leaving," Jondy said, rejoining them and sitting down next to Zack. "I called an ambulance." Zack's eyes widened.

"That's exactly what they want us to do!" He shook his head at her and cried out in pain again.

"Stop moving," Zane told him worriedly. "Just lie still, let us deal with this."

"You called an ambulance?" Zack asked. Jondy nodded. "Then they know where I am. Go, leave a gun with me and go right now, before White's men come back."

"No, Zack, we're going with you to the hospital," Jondy protested; Zane nodded his agreement.

"Look in my jacket- there are two addresses in there. I've already set up apartments for you on the east and west coasts. It's all ready, all you have to do is go." Jondy looked away; so, he was intending to split them up. Somewhere in the back of her mind she'd hoped that he would understand. "Just take them," Zack continued in a strained voice. He was forcing himself to stay conscious. "Take them and get the hell out of here. Now."

"I won't," Jondy told him. Zane sat there and didn't say anything either way; he was following Jondy's lead. She was in charge and it scared her. Zack looked like he wanted to throw something but he was too weak to do it.

"This is not a discussion," he bit out. "I'm giving you an order, Jondy." Her eyes blurred with tears and she touched a hand to her brother's clammy forehead. Zane looked down at his own hands, covered in Zack's blood. He'd lost so much... where the hell was that ambulance?

"I'm sorry, Zack," Jondy said. "I'm going to have to disobey that order." Zack stared at her, and she saw countless emotions playing through his eyes: disappointment, frustration, sadness, panic, love... then his eyes hardened into rage. He opened his mouth to say something, but the pain hit him again and he cried out.

"Stay still!" Zane said, alarmed. Zack's teeth started chattering dangerously and his body shook slightly. Jondy swallowed hard.

"Please don't tell me you're having a seizure now," she said. Zack fixed his eyes on her with some difficulty.

"No, I'm going into shock," he said, struggling not to pass out as his entire body shivered, the movements likely causing a lot of pain. Jondy hurried over to one of the beds and grabbed a blanket, putting it over Zack's body, and used the chair Zane had hit one of the men with to prop Zack's legs up. She did it as gently as possible; still, though, he cried out in pain and a few tears slipped down his cheeks. Where is that ambulance? she wondered in desperation. It seems like we've been waiting hours! Zack's breathing became slightly laboured and he swallowed a few times, looking nauseous.

"I'm thirsty," he said.

"I'll get you some water." Jondy started to slowly rise to her feet.

"Okay, just hurry up about it!" Zack was anxious; he closed his eyes briefly. His skin was cold, pale, almost bluish. "Sorry," he said. She ran into the bathroom, poured a glass of water, sat back down beside him. Zack lifted his head slightly to drink some, but had to drop it back down to the floor almost immediately as he very nearly passed out from the pain that single movement caused. Jondy looked worriedly at Zane, who was keeping his hand over the wound as blood continued to pour out of it, feeling useless. A moment later, he heard sirens approaching from a distance. Jondy and Zack also heard, and Jondy breathed a long sigh of relief.


"We're got a gunshot would to the leg, heavy bleeding. Looks like the femoral artery's been severed," one of the three paramedics surrounding Zack yelled as he was pushed on a wheeled bed through the emergency room corridors. "What's his pressure?" he barked. Zack's eyes were opening and closing as he drifted in and out of consciousness.

"BP's 60 and falling," another one answered. "We're going to need some blood. Get on the phone with the donor bank." She turned to Jondy and Zane. "Do you know his type?"

"It's mine," Jondy said immediately. The doctor looked relieved. She nodded at a nurse next to the bed.

"Set her up. We're going to need at least three units." She looked back down at Zack. "Blood pressure's still falling, let's get him to the OR now." Jondy and Zane hurried along beside the bed, worry etched into their features. They saw a pair of doors stating NO ENTRY BEYOND THIS POINT up ahead. Jondy started to slow down.

"We'll be here when you wake up, Zack," she told him. His eyes struggled to focus on her.

"No, Jondy," he managed. They pushed him through the door. "Get out of here!" he called with a terribly strained voice as he was wheeled down the hall. "Get the hell out of New Mexico right now!" Jondy and Zane stood stiffly in the corridor as the doors slapped shut behind him. Slowly, she turned to her brother; he was gazing sadly at her, waiting expectantly.

"I'm not leaving," she said firmly, walking past him and sinking down into one of the uncomfortable hard plastic waiting room chairs. He sat next to her, nodded. The nurse came and asked Jondy some quick questions, then finally hooked her up to an IV so she could take her blood into the OR for Zack. Jondy sat there with Zane for what seemed like days but was really hours, waiting. Every so often Zane would fall asleep, and every so often Jondy would start crying. She couldn't lose Zack now; not when she'd just found him again. And she didn't want to lose Zane either; she just wished her big brother just understand that...


That's a beautiful drawing, Brin.
What do you see?
We didn't go to the High Place tonight.
Come play with us!
Go to bed, Ben.
Yours is nicer than mine.
Put him in solitary.
I heard the nurses talking about souls again today.
Don't worry.
It's in the genes.
They'll take him to the Bad Place and drink his blood.
We're good soldiers.


A red balloon, the murmurs in the night of sisters who never slept, a breeze through the forest outside Manticore, Zane's cheerful grin, a child laughing, I love you, Zack.


We can't let them see her like this.
If this was a real mission you'd be court-marshalled and discharged for what you just did!
We're not little anymore.
I saw Jack... Ben was right. He was in the Bad Place.
There is no 'I' in team.
I'll protect you. You don't have to worry.
They're scary.
Only the best soldiers get to go to the Good Place.
You know what happened to Jack.
What do you have to say for yourself, soldier?
Do you ever think about the Blue Lady?
I'll take care of you, Maxie.


Bright lights, the staccato sounds of machine guns, Jack shaking on the floor, the patter of rain on a window, the nomlies in the basement, dogs barking, Tell us a story, Ben.


That was a mistake, you know.
Where's Eva?
That's not the point, Tinga.
You're a good brother, Zack.
I shouldn't have given her that order. She wasn't ready.
You? You're Zack? Why didn't you tell me?
It's my responsibility to look after all of them.
Is she still sensitive?
It's better this way.


The screen flashing DUTY, Eva falling dead to the floor, the darkness of the solitary confinement box, the windows crashing as they ran away, I won't let anyone hurt you, Maxie.


For the record, I don't like this.
Is it because I haven't been a good little soldier and followed orders?
I died for you!
We're together right now; that's all that matters.
I was the only one who knew!
Show me your barcode.
Zack, don't go, please.
How can you love him and not me?
I'm not going to let them do to Tinga what they did to Brin.
We're here, baby sister.
Zack, it's me. It's Max.
How could I forget... a single thing about you?
Tinga's dead.
Zack, you came for me.
We can't stay together, Max.
Even I have my moments of weakness.
I don't want to die. Please... don't let me die.
X5-599, I've got a heart for you.
I'm so sorry.


Slowly, Zack's eyes fluttered open and he focussed on the hospital room around him. His eyes narrowed; he had to get out of here, and fast. They would have certainly tested his blood, maybe even seen his barcode. This was enemy territory for sure, and he had to leave as soon as possible. But there was just one problem: Zack was extremely weak, and if he got up and started moving around he would likely rip the stitches that had just been put into him. Slowly, testing to make sure the pain wasn't blinding when he did it, Zack turned his head to examine the rest of his surroundings. His mouth almost dropped open in fury as he saw Zane sitting in a chair next to his bed, fast asleep.

"Hey!" he yelled, startling his brother awake, who smiled at him and leaned forward. Oh well, Zack thought, half angry and half touched, though he would never admit it. At least Jondy had the sense to get herself out of here. He looked at Zane. "What the hell do you think-"

"Zack, you're awake," Jondy's happy voice came from the doorway. Zack gaped at her disbelievingly as she crossed to Zane's side of the bed.

"I told you to get the hell out of New Mexico," he growled.

"Court-marshal me," she said humourlessly, then smiled slightly, dropping into a chair beside Zane. "Besides, you should be thanking me. That's my blood you got in there." She gestured to bag of blood on the IV stand next to his bed. "I actually slept for a couple of hours last night after they took a few units."

"She did," Zane agreed. "It was weird. Jondy... quiet." She prodded him in the ribs.

"How's your shoulder?" Zack asked her.

"It's fine, they cleaned me all up."

"What time is it?" he asked.

"4:00," Zane said, smiling. "Almost dinner time." Jondy rolled her eyes at him but Zane ignored her and continued, "You've been here all night." Zack sighed tensely.

"Look, you know White's men are going to come looking for us here. I'm surprised they haven't already." Zack slowly pushed himself to a sitting position and waited for the sense of vertigo to go away. It took a long time. "And I'm sure those doctors must have tested my blood, and yours Jondy, if you donated to me. We have to leave, now."

"Hold on, Zack, you're in no condition to be moving around," Zane said, pushing him back against the bed. Zack glared at him but relented, lying there for a few moments, fighting down nausea.

"I hate hospitals, I hate doctors, and I hate that you didn't listen to me," he ground out. His brother and sister smiled at him.

"We know," Jondy said, annoying him.

"This is what we're going to do," Zack told them. "We're going to wait a few hours, until I can stand up, and then we're going to split up." He pointed at Jondy. "You're going to go to Pennsylvania." He looked at Zane. "And you're going to go to California. End of discussion, no objections, that's it. Got it?"

"Got it," Zane said softly. Jondy stifled a sigh.

"What's the harm in-"

"I don't want to have this conversation, Jondy," Zack cut her off.

"But what's the harm-" she tried again.

"The harm is that White has now tried to kill you several times, you let your guard down, he put listening devices in your house and you didn't even know it, and Zane led them to the motel. The harm is that you're still in very real danger and you won't even follow my orders anymore. That's the harm, Jondy!" She looked away from him, tears blurring her eyes at his harsh words. Zane sighed deeply.

"Don't be so cold, man," he said to Zack. His brother glared at him.

"This isn't about being warm and fuzzy, this is about safety. Your safety. You've already disobeyed my orders twice today. You'd better listen this time if you know what's good for you."

"Is that a threat?" Jondy asked icily. Zack glared at her, said nothing. Zane touched his sister's shoulder.

"Come on, let's go get something to eat." Jondy stood and followed Zane to the door, not taking her eyes off Zack. She glanced outside before leaving the room, seeing a window-washing crew tending to the windows of the neighbouring building. Her eyes narrowed in confusion and she stopped Zane as she saw one of the crew ignoring the windows and doing something with his hands on the platform. What's he doing? she wondered suspiciously. Jondy zoomed in on them with her heightened vision, and her eyes suddenly widened as she saw him stand up, holding a bomb detonation device. Her heart caught in her throat.

"Zack, the crew outside!" she yelled, more calmly than she felt. He snapped his head to look at them, fighting off dizziness as he did so. He saw what she saw and sprung into action, throwing his blankets off and pulling the needle out of his arm, abandoning the hospital bed and hurrying over to them, adrenaline keeping him on his feet. Zane supported Zack out of the room as Jondy grabbed his clothes from the beside cupboard. Then she turned and ran lightening-quick from the room to join her brothers, just before it exploded. They used the panic and distraction of the other people on the floor to jump unnoticed into an elevator. Zack pulled on his clothes as they descended to the first floor, wincing at almost every movement but not complaining. It was lucky X5s had a high tolerance for pain, or they might not have been able to get out of there in time.

By the time the doors parted, Zack looked like a regular person and not a patient; they exited the elevator and headed for the front, but halted suddenly as they saw a military blockade set up around the hospital. Zack's eyes narrowed as he led them quickly into an inner, windowless room and shut the door. The first floor had been evacuated; it was deserted.

"What do we do?" Zane asked. Zack made several hand signals, instructing them to split up. Zane would head east, Jondy west, and Zack would go south. They were to call him once they were safe and then they could head to the coasts. Zane looked terribly saddened at this, but didn't protest. Jondy stared at Zack as he gave his orders, tears threatening.


Jondy sat next to Max behind the log in the forest outside Manticore. Before them, Zack was pairing her siblings off and sending them in different directions and out of her life forever. She watched them run off into the dark forest, one after the other, but she was happy that Zack let her stay with Max, her closest sister... Then Max fell through the ice, and Jondy was all alone. For twelve years, she never saw any of the others who escaped that night. She still didn't know where most of them were, or if they were alive. And Max... Zack had split them all up. Max had objected; if only Jondy had too, then maybe things would have been different.


Jondy swallowed hard as Zack turned to her.

"I didn't see them," he said softly. "I owe you one, Jondy."

"Then I'm calling in the debt," she said immediately. "Let us stay together."

Zack heaved a breath, shook his head.

"No, it's too dangerous. That's non-negotiable, Jondy."

"Can't you understand?" she whispered bitterly.

"Jondy, that isn't the point," he ground out. "Look, I know what's best for you, okay?"

"How the hell do you figure that? You haven't seen me in ten years, Zack!"

"I know what's best for you!" he repeated in a yell, infuriated at having his authority challenged. "We move out, now."

"No." Jondy crossed her arms over her chest angrily. "I'm not splitting up again."

"We don't have time for this!"

"Then you'd better listen to me, Zack!"

"Look," he tried to appease her. "I promise that when we get out of here I'll let you two see each other, just to say goodbye. Okay?" The words had come out before he'd realized what he was going to say. Jondy considered this for a moment; if he let them see each other one more time, then she could try again to convince him not to split them up... she looked at him with slight suspicion, surprised that he would make such a promise.

"You swear?" she asked; Zack wished he could take it back, but he never took his word back. And he knew what that meant, what he would have to do now. He stifled a sigh.

"I said it, didn't I?" he said heavily.

"That's good enough for me," Zane said. After a moment, Jondy nodded her agreement.

"Okay," Zack said. Finally. "You know what to do. Let's move out." He shot Jondy a brief look of concern; she would be going out the most dangerous way, something she knew Zack would have liked to have done. But he was too badly injured; he'd never make it. Jondy nodded at him in reassurance, and they exited the little room, her two brothers splitting up without a word and heading in opposite directions. Jondy took a breath as she watched them disappear, and then headed for the door that would take her out into the crossfire.

She crept through a side alley and stopped at the first vehicle she saw, picking the lock and sliding across into the driver's seat. The military blockade was across the street, and a few of the men were standing around, talking and joking amongst themselves. Jondy rolled her eyes, leaned down so she couldn't be seen and started to hot-wire it. After a few moments, it started. She rose in her seat, smiling, but her smile fell away when she glanced out the window to make sure she hadn't been seen and found herself looking straight at the end of a sem-automatic machine gun. The man holding it tapped it against the glass.

"Get out of the car," he said slowly. Heart racing, Jondy unlocked the door, seeing two men standing behind the first one, also with machine guns trained on her. Surely more would be there soon; she had only once chance to gain the upper hand. She started to slowly open the door, then slammed it into the first man, catching him off-guard and pushing him backward into the men behind him. Jondy kicked him in the head before he could regain his feet, and grabbed his gun, holding it on the other two. They backed away slightly, but more men came around from the other side of her and made a half-circle in front of her. Two dozen little pinpoints of red lit up her forehead and chest. She froze for a moment, then brought the gun up a half-inch. They immediately began firing, but she was faster; she launched herself into the air, dodging their shots, and let off some fire in a wide arc of her own, felling several of them. They regrouped, firing again, and she ran at them lightening-quick, kicking several of them as she continued to shoot. Her gun made clicking sounds, out of bullets, so she hit one of the upside the head with it. She glanced around; twenty-five men laid on the ground around her, some dead, some injured, some scared. Jondy smiled, satisfied, and backed away toward the alley for a smooth escape. But she suddenly picked up a short series of clicks from behind her as many guns were readied, and she froze.

Jondy turned slowly, dreading what she would see. Seven men looked back at her, weapons drawn. She was out of bullets. Jondy turned slowly; there were eight closing in on her from the other side now. Little red points of imminent death lighted her entire body. She dropped her useless weapon to the ground and slowly raised her hands into the air. One of the men smirked at her.

"No use surrendering," he said in a cruel voice. "We don't want you alive." Jondy wracked her brain, tried to think of a way of escape, something to help herself. But the only thought that came to her mind was that she'd never been so frightened in her entire life, and she wished she'd gotten to see Max just one more time.


Zane looked at his watch, wondering where Zack was and just hoping he was okay. It had been three hours since Zane had lost White's men and called the contact number, asking his brother to meet him at a Chinese teahouse near the Arizona state line. He'd been sipping tea for almost that entire time, and the servers were starting to look at him strangely. Zane could care less; all he wanted was to see his brother and sister walk through the door. A moment later, he got his wish. Or, at least, half of it. Zack; alone. He stood slowly.

Zack had driven across the city to see Zane as fast as possible, his heart heavy, and had stopped the car he'd stolen at the hospital by the Chinese teahouse Zane had asked him to, parking it just before the checkpoint to leave the state. He'd gotten out slowly and walked over to the little teahouse, the pleasant aroma hitting him as he stepped inside. He'd surveyed the interior and located the table he was looking for across the room, and had saw Zane quickly stand up, dread in his eyes.

Zack walked over and dropped into the chair across from him. Zane watched him expectantly, waiting; slowly, Zack shook his head. His little brother looked horrified, and Zack thought for a moment that Zane might throw up. But instead, a few tears slipped down the young man's cheeks, though he didn't seem to notice. He ran his hands slowly through his red hair disbelievingly as he looked at Zack, waiting for him to say that it was all a cruel joke. But Zack looked dead serious, pained. Zane's hands were shaking.

"It's not safe here," Zack told him gently, pushing a slip of paper across the table to him. Zane picked it up and stared at the address of the apartment Zack had set up for him in Long Beach, California. "You should move out now. Take my car, it's just outside."

"How-" Zane searched his brother's face for the answers he already knew but didn't want to. He tried again. "How did..." Zane swallowed hard as Zack looked away.

"I'm sorry," he said, his voice barely there. He couldn't meet his little brother's eyes. Through tears, Zane nodded disbelievingly and got slowly to his feet, dropping a few bills automatically on the table. Zack stood up as well and pulled his shocked brother into his arms. He could feel Zane's shoulders shaking slightly with suppressed sobs.

"I'm sorry," Zack said again, holding his brother tightly, trying unsuccessfully to swallow the lump in his throat. He released Zane after a few moments and gazed at his brother sadly. Please understand, he willed him silently. But Zane only gazed at him through his tears, his dark eyes anguished, and slowly turned back to the table.

He picked up his jacket and pulled it on robotlike, not really thinking about his actions. Zack followed him out of the teahouse and, with a weak smile that didn't meet his eyes, his little brother climbed into Zack's car and started it, heading for the checkpoint that would take him out of New Mexico. Please understand, he thought again as he watched the car drive out of sight. It was the only way it could have happened. Then he shoved his hands into his pockets heavily and headed in the other direction. The sky was pitch-black, cold. How appropriate, Zack thought bitterly as he walked along. After almost an hour, he wiped the tears that had fallen from his eyes and entered a little restaurant-come-café, gazing around it hollowly, emotionlessly, not knowing if he could do this.

Suddenly, someone grabbed his arm. He whirled, ready to strike whoever it was, but Jondy just looked up at him with concern. She was expectant, saddened, afraid. Her face was bruised from the fight with White's men, which she would never had escaped from if he hadn't shown up just in time. Zack closed his eyes briefly at the thought; he'd come so close to losing another sibling... but this time he'd managed to avert the terrible event. This time.

Zack felt Jondy touch his arm, her blue eyes waiting in fear as she pulled him back to the present. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head slowly, his heart breaking as he saw the shock and anguish pass through her eyes. He wanted this to stop; he didn't know if he could take it again. Please, Jondy, he begged her wordlessly. Please don't make me force you.

"No." Jondy took a step back from him as though he'd struck her, shaking her head. Tears blurred her vision; she repeated in a shaky whisper, "No, you're wrong."

"I'm sorry, Jondy," he said softly.

"I want to see him." She was sobbing now; her hands were shaking.

"White's men were already there." She fell back against the wall. He reached out but she slapped his hand away angrily.

"Jondy-"

"No!" She stared at him; he looked away from her, a few tears slipping down his own cheeks. She hugged him. "Zane..." she whispered through her sobs. "No, Zack please." People looked at them curiously from their tables but Zack glared at them.

"I'm sorry," he repeated in a whisper, holding her tightly. "I'm so sorry."

"Maybe if I had listened to you, then this wouldn't have..." Jondy shook her head at herself. "God, I was so stupid."

"No, it's not your fault," he told her firmly, making her look at him. "Don't ever think that."

"It's not your fault either," she managed to whisper. You're a good brother, Zack, her little-girl voice came back to him. It's not your fault. He shook it away.

"No," Zack said, his voice dripping with bitterness. "Of course not." He pointed to the parking lot outside. "Now get a car and go to Pennsylvania." She nodded slowly, but he took no pleasure in her compliance. She hugged him again, sobbing slightly into his shoulder. He didn't want to let her go. Jondy, my baby sister, please understand... You wouldn't listen. She released him, gazed up at him, her face the same as it was when she was a child but her blue eyes so troubled now. She'd seen so much, gone through so much... and I didn't save you. Ten years. God, he'd left this way too long. What was wrong with him? But now he had saved her, only she would hate him if she knew how... Zack shook the thoughts away, touched her shoulder and fought back tears.

"Go," he said firmly, his voice shaking slightly. "Just go." She nodded slowly, turned, and walked away into the starless night. He watched her go, wishing it could have gone another way. But everything he did in his life was for them, and he knew that no decision was without consequences; if the consequences of this decision had to be lifelong guilt for him, he'd take it. They were safe, and that was what mattered. Safety was top priority, he knew that. But the look in Jondy and Zane's eyes... well, he just wished that for once it could be easier on all of them. Just once, that it didn't have to be so hard to do the right thing, what was best for them.

And sometimes, though Zack hated to admit it, he wondered if maybe Tinga had been right about what she'd said on the road into Canada that night... When they'd escaped, he'd paired them all off, sent them off into the world, just hoping that they would be okay until he could find them again, and he was the only one without a partner. He was alone, so he could save them, fend off the guards until the bitter end without putting anyone else at risk. And then, when he'd finally found them again, he split them all up, telling himself it was a tactical decision. But now, for the first time in his life, he wondered if maybe there had been another reason for it, too.


"And then you'll leave..." Tinga's pained words came back to him. She turned in the car to gaze at him as snow started to fall outside the windows. "Right?" Zack gripped the steering wheel hard and continued up the Canadian highway.

"That's right."

"And I'll be alone."

"It's better this way."

"For who?" she asked angrily. "You?"


Zack looked up to where Jondy had stood moments before, then turned away heavily. Please understand, he thought again. It was the only way it could have happened... He hesitated. A tiny voice asked him, But then why did doing it feel so wrong? Zack stopped walking and looked up at the starless sky, but it held no answers for him; he felt himself shiver slightly though it wasn't very cold. Like the night of the escape, he was alone. They all were. And now, twelve years later, he wondered for the first time what good being alone had done any of them, and who his decision had really been best for.


Author's Note: I hope you didn't see the Jondy being alive thing coming... if you did then I suck at twists, sorry, but I tried my best! Hopefully it was sad even if you did see it coming. I was sad when I wrote it. Poor Zack... he just doesn't get it. :)

Author's Note #2: There is a sequel up to this now if you're interested. Just click on my name and it's called "Ante Officium." Thank you for reading and please review if you liked it! :)