Chapter 13: The End?

The deck was almost silent. Only the quiet weeps of families coming back together could be heard. The passengers and crew who had been lucky enough to find them were slowly emerging from their hiding places. The Russo siblings held each other in a tight hug while London's friends gathered around her to comfort her. Cody Martin forgot about his pain, happy to be reunited with one of his closest friends. She hugged him despite his blood soaked shirt.

After several minutes had passed, Zack, Cody, London, and Bailey approached the Russos.

"I don't know how to thank you," London sobbed.

"Don't worry about it," Max said. "I did what I had to do."

"You saved me," London said. "Anything you want, it's yours. I owe you."

"I don't want anything except to know that you're okay," Max said.

"I will be," the heiress replied. "Thanks to you."

"Are you okay?" Justin said, turning the group's attention to Cody.

"I'm sure I'll be fine," Cody said. "I'm pretty sure it's broken and it hurts… a LOT… but it's not the MOST painful thing I've had happen. Zack broke my leg once." He tried to force a chuckle to lighten the mood, but it didn't really work.

"Here," Max stepped forward raising his hand over Cody's face causing the blonde teen to flinch. "Let me try something. Don't move." Cody hesitated as Max closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment and the rest of the group looked on in wonder. Suddenly, a bright flash shot between Max's hand and Cody's face, knocking the youngest Martin off his feet. Zack and Bailey reacted quickly enough to catch him before he landed flat on the ground and lifted him back up. Cody staggered, dazed for a moment before becoming reoriented.

"Baby, are you okay?" Bailey exclaimed.

"I… I'm fine…" Cody said, wearily. "The pain… it's… gone."

"You can HEAL people?" Zack asked in disbelief.

"I guess so…" Max said, seeming just as surprised that it worked as the others.

Other passengers began to take notice of Max and the others and were beginning to gather around. Justin tapped his younger brother on the shoulder. "Max… I think we need to get out of here. We don't need this attention."

"But he's a hero," Alex protested. "He should get recognition for what he's done here. Bask in the glory."

"A true hero doesn't do good things for recognition or glory, Alex," Justin retorted. "We need to get home to see mom and dad. Max needs to rest."

Alex could see that there was no arguing her older brother's point and just nodded in defeat.

"You guys are leaving?" London asked.

"We need to get home to our parents. They need to know we're alright," Justin said.

"Thank you guys… for everything. For coming here. For saving us," Bailey said.

"Can we keep in touch?" Cody asked.

"We'll be in touch," Justin said. "I promise."

The two sides took turns hugging and when Max reached Cody, he stuck out his hand to shake. Cody took the invitation. While their hands were clasped, Max leaned in and whispered in Cody's ear, "A message. From a friend." As he let go of Cody's hand, Max slipped a folded piece of paper into it and gave his friend a nod. Then, the Russos ducked into an empty hallway as far away from the crowd as they could get. Cody, Zack, Bailey, and London followed.

"Thank you guys again," Zack said. "We won't forget this."

Max and Justin gave reassuring nods and half smiles as all three Russos took hands.

"This isn't goodbye," Justin said. With a bright flash, he, along with his little brother and sister, disappeared.

The rest of the evening was a somber one for everyone on board. Families were called. Tears were shed. The United States military sent a ship to escort the SS Tipton to the nearest port. Zack and Cody's mother would be waiting for them there, having been flown in on a private plane from the US. The twins had said goodnight to their friends a few hours earlier and Cody worked out a deal with Marcus to trade bunks for the night so that he could be with his brother. As Zack lay awake thinking about the night's events, he looked over at his brother in the other bed. Cody had come into the cabin and fallen asleep almost immediately. The first time Zack could remember that happening in a long time. Even more surprising, Cody had not woken up from any nightmares. While he pondered his brother's emotional state, there came a knock at the door. Zack slowly rose from the bed. His hair was a mess and he was dressed only in pajama bottoms and socks, but he approached the door anyway and looked through the peep hole. No one was there. Irritated, he turned and started back toward the bed. When he did, there came another knock. This time, Zack spun around and flung the door open so that the person on the other side couldn't get away. In the hallway stood a man Zack didn't recognize. An older gentleman dressed in all black, a stark contrast to his bright white hair. He held a cane with a golden skull for the handle that had red jewels for eyes and he smiled as Zack stepped forward. There was something off about the man, and Zack got chill bumps just looking at him.

"Hello, Zack Martin," the man said, his voice unnaturally deep and almost other worldly in Zack's ears.

"Do I know you?" Zack asked.

"You know OF me," the man said with an evil grin.

"Okay…" Zack said hesitantly.

"My name is Mephisto," the man said. "I'm here to collect on our deal."

(Author's note: There you have it. The end of this story. FINALLY. It has been a VERY long time since I started it. I've gotten two jobs since then, my current one keeping me increasingly busy. I've always wanted to come back to this story and finish it. I'm disappointed that it took this long, but here it is. At this point, I feel like I am probably done with writing. No surprise to some of you considering how long it took me to finish this story, but now I feel I can retire with nothing hanging over my head. No unfinished business. Thanks to all of my fans who have stuck with me over the years and my peers for their support and award recognition. I wrote these stories you guys just as much as for myself. Thank you.)