For title, disclaimer, etc., see Chapter 1

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Krit pushed the front door of the small one-bedroom house open, kicking his shoes off and balancing two bags of groceries.

"Hello!" he called, heading into the kitchen and putting the bags down on the counter. He started putting things away and shouted, "Jondy?" There was no answer; a chill ran up his spine suddenly and he hurried out of the kitchen and toward the staircase, the groceries forgotten.

"Jondy!" he called again, grabbing the banister and mounting the stairs. He froze at the top as he stepped down onto something wet and sticky. He lifted his foot and looked down and his sock; the white cotton was stained red on the heel. "Jondy!" he yelled once more, throwing the door of the bathroom open. It was empty but there was a few drops of blood on the white countertop. He hurried to her bedroom and his breath caught in his throat as he saw her, laying on the queen-sized bed with her back to him. He nearly collapsed as he reached out and grabbed her shoulder, turning her toward him. Her eyes snapped open and he jumped slightly.

"Krit?" she asked when he sank to his knees beside the bed and dropped his head into his hands, taking deep breaths. She slipped off the bed and knelt in front of him, reaching out. "Krit?"

"Jondy..." He looked at her, at her hand on his, where a bandage was wrapped around her thumb and wrist, slightly stained with blood. "God, Jondy." He took a deep, wavering breath. "Oh, God." She followed his gaze with confusion and then realized what he was thinking.

"No," she said, squeezed his hand. Her eyes were shining with tears and there was a smile on her face. "No, Krit." She wiped a tear from her face and hugged him. "I was cutting vegetables. The knife slipped. It was stupid, I wasn't paying attention. I hit a vein, so it bled a lot. I came upstairs to clean up. I was tired afterward, so I took a nap. I'm sorry." He let out a stressful laugh and ran his hands through his hair, staring at her with a devastated grin on his face. Jondy was fascinated; she hadn't thought there was such a thing as a devastated grin. But before she could think about that for too long, he threw his arms around her and breathed a deep sigh of relief into her hair. She clutched him tightly, felt happy tears stinging her eyes as she realized how much he loved her. She felt so safe in his embrace, until he let go of her and stood, pulling her up with him and sitting them on the bed, looking at her with a serious expression on his face. She frowned, glanced away.

"Jondy, look at me," he said firmly; she looked, touched his face.

"Your eyes are so dark." She'd been doing that a lot lately, saying whatever came into her mind no matter how inappropriate. At first it had started simply as fun for her, but later it became about trying to get Krit to react. His reactions made her smile sometimes, and she desperately wanted to smile because it happened so seldom now.

"You're worrying me," he told her, ignoring her comment, disappointing her. "You're sleeping all the time, I hear you crying the nights you are awake, and you won't listen to what I'm saying."

"I listen," she muttered. "You said look at me and I did. Stop getting mad."

"I'm not mad," he snapped, then exhaled heavily. He met her pained eyes. "I'm sorry. Look, this is just... you're just acting so... weird."

"Weird," she repeated flatly. "Weak," she inferred. "I'm a bad soldier." Her voice dripped with sarcasm.

"What?" Krit looked both surprised and annoyed; his reaction pleased her. "No, dammit, you're putting words in my mouth." He took a breath. "Jondy, I told you that Zane is alive, why aren't you-" Her face suddenly twisted into a grimace of pain and she wrestled away from him.

"Stop it," she hissed, trying to get off the bed. "You're not helping."

"I'm telling you the truth, why won't you listen?" he snapped, grabbing her and pulling her back up by her shoulders. He wanted to shake some sense into her but he managed to restrain himself. She was staring at him with wide blue eyes gathering tears. She glanced away and mumbled something.

"What?" he asked, frustrated. He tightened his grip on her shoulders when she tried to pull away again; a tear slipped down her cheek.

"But I believed him." Her voice was a whisper; Krit paused.

"You believed him," he repeated, not understanding.

"I believed him." She was crying now. "He's dead, Zack said so, and I believed him."

"Zack's a liar." The words hung in the air, cold and sad and so un-Krit-like. Dangerous, too, if Zack had been there. Jondy was too upset to be delighted a the uncharacteristic reaction that normally would have fascinated her.

"But I would know if he were alive," she insisted painfully. She fell out of Krit's loosened hands and sank down on to the bed, tears staining her cheeks though she didn't notice. He slowly reached out and touched her hair.

"You're in love with him?"

"I don't know," she whispered. "Maybe. It doesn't matter anymore."

"Jondy!" he leaned down, forced her to look at him. "He's alive, I told you that."

"But I believed Zack! Don't you see? If he was alive I should know! You're lying, you're just trying to make me feel better, but it's not helping! Don't lie!" She started sobbing. "Don't lie to me!"

"Jondy, it's okay..." He stroked her cheek but she lunged away from him, off the bed and to the window, hugging her arms around her thin shoulders. "Syl's supposed to call," he told her gently. "Zane's in California where she's living, so she's going to find him. We're supposed to meet them later." Silence.

"Zack wouldn't let-"

"Screw Zack," Krit cut her off. Jondy laughed, loud and wild and with the tears slipping down her face as she did it. He gazed at her sadly.

"I'm scared," he admitted.

"Don't worry, baby brother." She was trying to get a rise out of him again, he could tell. It seemed to be her defence mechanism, making him angry or frustrated, pushing him away by trying to shock him.

"I'm older than you," he told her calmly, fighting his annoyed reaction.

"Tinga's dead." The comment was out of nowhere and painful but he was used to that by now.

"I know."

"Do you think she was in pain?" Her eyes were getting that wild glint in them that always worried him.

"Don't," he said firmly. The glint fell away slightly.

"I love you," she told him, almost sad.

"Jondy? Did you hear what I said about Syl?"

"Don't be angry, Krit." He could hear the gentleness of the child she used to be in her voice, and that gave him hope.

"I'm not angry."

"You never are." She sounded frustrated; she threw up her hands in annoyance and paced.

"Jondy," he said, softly. "Jondy, I love you, too."

"I know." She started sobbing again. He stared at her for a long moment.

"Don't cry," he said finally, gently. She suddenly became very calm though the tears were still flowing steadily.

"I'm not, I'm smiling," she answered. He gazed at her as she cried, stifled a sigh.

"You are?" he asked finally. She resisted the urge to wipe the dampness from her cheeks and instead wrapped her arms around herself, shrugged.