My special thanks to Taylor who inspired me to pick this back up again - and finish it :) Love ya! Now here is the grand finale... In all honesty it kind of ended slow, but I know I have to finish this. Enjoy ^^

Epilogue

Three days had passed since the great prison break, and they had been an eventful three days indeed. At first, they weren't sure what to do with the shadow children and rebels, but that problem was quickly resolved. Harlow's School for Girls was quickly turned into a refuge for third children.

The rebels were currently running the facility. With a little (a lot) instruction from Luke, they learned how to grow their own food for the new refuge, and the rescued shadow children were showing some promise in that field - if they could gather the courage to go outside, that was. All together, it was a good, promising set up, and the mission was a success.

"I personally think we did awesome," Mark declared smugly, taking a swig from his tea to punctuate the point. Everyone who had participated in the mission were currently residing in Mr. Hendricks' living room where they were eating, drinking, and simply enjoying each others' company. It had been a hard few days, and they each knew that they were luck to be alive.

"Yes, you kids did a very good job," Mr. Hendricks agreed from his wheel chair in the corner, smiling contently.

"Even if it was looking a little iffy there for awhile," Nina laughed, and everyone else joined in enthusiastically, each thinking of a different disaster from the mission.

Emeary and Layla met each others' eyes from across the room, grinning.

Matthias, Emeary, and Percy were all sitting together on the love seat. Since the piece of furniture was only meant for two people, Emeary had to scoot quite closely to Matthias to make room for the other boy. Neither particularly minded. Luke, Nina, Trey, and Layla were sitting on the couch, all squashed up together. Smits, Joel, John, and Alia were all sitting on the floor in the center, basking in the glow of their victory in a way only the young and innocent can.

"However, it may have happened, it all ended well," Mrs. Talbot said fondly, passing around cups of hot chocolate and cookies to the children and adults.

Emeary glanced over to Matthias. She certainly thought it had ended well. Though she couldn't deny the pain of missing her brother, Neil, Emeary was glad she had left her modest home. She had left to make a difference, and she had. Yes, it was a small one, but it wasn't over yet. …and she was going to be by Matthias's side the whole way.

Luke reached out and subtlety took Nina's hand. When she gave him startled look, he only smiled. "We may not survive the next one," he whispered, and Nina smiled back. She squeezed a little tighter.

Mark was sitting in a kitchen chair all alone, but he didn't necessarily feel alone. He was surrounded by close friends after all, but there was something else, too. His thoughts kept wandering to that girl…Melina…

We'll meet again someday, but for now, my place is here.

That's what she had told him. He didn't know how much of those words she went or even in what sense she had met them. The words could just have easily meant I'll put you behind bars someday, but Mark didn't think that's what it was.

I need some time to think things through.

Mark decided he'd give her that time, and he was confident in what her final conclusions would be. She had a good heart. Behind the Population Police uniform, she had a good heart.

"So who's ready for the next mission?" Nedley joked and gained a cacophony of groans and laughter in return.

Layla was unusually quiet this evening as she rested on the couch. It wasn't that she was sad - just thoughtful. It was only another mission. True, it had been successful unlike many she had been on, but she felt different somehow. Like she had come home with something in her heart that hadn't been there before. The feeling was foreign, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Layla glanced over at Trey who was sitting snugly beside her and at Emeary on the loveseat. She was beginning to think it might have something to do with the two of them. Strange…one nearly drove her crazy and the other was as awkward as a newborn colt.

Funny how friendship works.

Later that night, Emeary snuck away from the crowd and slipped outside. She enjoyed the warm cheeriness inside the house, but she longed for the cool serenity of moonlight. She looked up into the sky at the millions of stars twinkling above her.

She felt…free.

True, she wasn't technically free. She was still a third child, and she still had to hide, but that seemed insignificant compared to this. It was like the invisible bonds that had bound her in her heart for so long had finally dissolved.

Imprisoned no more.

"It's a pretty night," someone said from behind her.

Emeary whirled around and smiled when she saw who had spoken. "Hello, Matthias. Fancy meeting you out here," she greeted.

A wry grin played on Matthias's lips as he joined Emeary at her side. "What are you thinking about?"

Emeary looked up at the glowing moon. "…life," she answered vaguely. "I'm starting to like mine - even if I've probably shortened it considerably," she added, chuckling a little.

"Not if I have anything to do with it," Matthias countered lightly, but there was a serious glint in his dark eyes.

Emeary looked up into Matthias's face. "We fight until the end," she promised. "Side by side. For freedom."

Matthias leaned in closer to Emeary until she could feel his breath hot on her cheek. "For freedom," he repeated. And kissed her.

The End