20 HOURS 07 MINUTES LATER- (Next Chap. 9802 word count)

I was shaking in fury, barely able to contain the rage that is boiling under my skin. There's a mixture of disgust and self-pity biting sitting their fuelling my fire. I try to think about some way that I could justify what I've just done but nothing comes to mind. It had been so primitive and instinctual that before I could think twice or stop it had already happened. The worst part was that I had just left, like a coward, and now I can barely look anyone in the eye. Let alone the person I did it for who has gone on a witch hunt for the person that could do such a thing, that could hurt someone she had cared about enough not to want them dead. I hadn't known! If I could do it all over I would but what I have done is irreversible and all I can do now is run, run from the truth that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It's unbecoming but I feel the guilt form into the tears I shouldn't cry and the pity I don't deserve.

"Jay? What are you doing hiding away in here" She startles me out of my reverie with her tentative but hollow voice. Hollow ever since I had unwittingly killed her used to be best friend for what I thought was Ebony's protection; the excuse I had been using until she had told about her previous midnight visit and how she had straightened things out. Being around her makes me want to run, to hide, every so often to tell her what I did and then let her kill me. I look up at her standing, swaying a little and staring at me blankly.

"Oh, I'm uh" I breathe out deeply "I'm uh just looking for you, you've been so upset lately I was going to try and cheer you up. Maybe you should stay here, with me, tonight." I pat the space on the bed beside me and wait for her to sit down before I wrap my arms around hers filling a chill run through my fingers at her cold shoulders. I rub my hands over them trying to bring some warmth.

"Are you okay?" I query "You're cold to the bone" She shivers as I try and warm her up some more and with a little sniffle she leans her head on my shoulder.

"I went out there, to go and uh bury her," her voices wavers "but the body is gone Jay, they probably just dumped her somewhere. Out on a street." She makes my heart almost shatter as I watch the tears begin to fall steadily down her cheeks. "She's out there in the cold, I thought I would have a look try and give her the dignity she didn't get in her death"

These are the moments when I want to tell the truth, when I want to give her the closure she deserves and the honesty that the late Hazel would have gotten in the old days when there were cops, trials and prison for guilty people like me. I don't let the truth come out though because Ebony means to much and there was so much I gave up already just to be with her and if it ends now then Hazels' death would be more pointless than it already is. No, I need to keep this relationship and nurture it; if not for themselves then for the girl who was sacrificed for it to be. Rationalising is one of my strong points but even as I think it I know it's twisted. It's the only thing I've got so I decide to run with it in order to be able to sleep at night. For now.

"I love you" I say out of the blue. I think that I let a little more of the hurt show in my voice but it seems to calm her down more as though it reassures her that someone else cares. She pulls her head away from my shoulder and begins to smile, though only a little it's the better the moping she has done continuously for the past couple of hours. I lean down to kiss her to bring her closer to me. There is a rush from the kiss that leads to hunger I can feel running through my veins. I kiss down her neck and wait for a sign, a code word, anything really to indicate that she is feeling the same lust.

"I don't want to be alone anymore" she whispers and there is my sign. I push all the depressing emotion from the past day and give in to the warmth I feel from Ebony selfishly. Guilt can wait until tomorrow.

20 HOURS 47 MINUTES

The little room I am in now is a lot less pristine than the ones I'm used to from the Technos' but I am glad to be breathing the air of this one than none at all. At least for a few moments, I am sure I was dead because my parents were standing there with my grandparents smiling and telling me that it's okay to take their hand and walk with them. I had almost done it when a sudden yanking feeling tugged me back into reality and I took my first ragged breath courtesy of the lungs of a complete stranger but I was grateful all the same. He was kind, the guy who had saved my life, calls himself Slade. After what had happened in her final moments in the Techno holding cell with Jay I was feeling more than fragile, but Slade had hushed my protests as he began picking up my broken body and injecting me with something to numb the pain and put me to sleep.

Now I'm here, still trembling over the whole episode but I have a new friend in Slade I guess but I can't get what happened in that cell out of my head. One thing is for sure, Jay is a psychotic attempted killer that will one day get his karma. I've been sitting here thinking about how to exact revenge but it doesn't seem to come because that fear from those final minutes makes me want to run and hide in a hole and never see the light of society again. So, still undecided as to whether I will be the one exacting the revenge.

"You should be asleep; you have a bit of healing to do" a deep voice from the doorway chastises me. I don't need a light to know it's the good Samaritan Slade checking up. Ever since he bought me to his home, the town of Liberty he's been acting like he's the mayor of the place. He's been throwing his weight around to give me things of comfort or something that I ask for to show either he's a nice guy and who's in charge. My instincts tell me that I'm not leaving here anytime soon but unlike last time with the Technos I wouldn't mind being treated this way for a while. Slade comes down to my sit on bed.

"Just about to head to sleep until you showed up" I attempt to smile innocently "what are you doing here anyway."

His face falls into a more serious and dark expression and somewhat unreadable. When I stare a little more I notice he has dark rings around his eyes. I'm not really thinking so when out of curiosity I bring my hands up to touch them I am not planning ahead enough to guess how he would react. I bring my hands down from his face and trail down his shirt. He's wearing flimsy flannelette with cut off sleeves. I feel a tiny bit of courage make its way to my brain and now I am brave enough to make a move. I push his shirt back slightly and hesitantly but when I see his face I know he's read into what I am eluding to.

"You're weak and just back from the dead" he exasperates as I continue to slightly nudge away at his shirt "…but you are clouding my judgement" and with that he pulls my face up to his so that our lips meet. I feel secure as he holds me tight but not firm; as if I am a glass doll. It's been so long since I felt this happy that I start crying at the sheer bubbliness I feel from being cared for as he kisses the tears away. I hiccup from the mix of crying and breathlessness which makes him laugh in way that rumbles through his chest.

He lays down next me, holding me in his arms. I tell him that I won't be able to sleep because I've been having nightmares about the cell. So, in an effort to comfort he begins running his fingers through my hair and telling me a story about a boy who travelled the world trying to find the one place where happiness lives. I start to drift off when the boy gets to Paris and Slade knows, but he continues with story anyway telling it as if it were a memory and not some impromptu fiction. One of the last things I think before blacking out is as far as kidnappings' go I could be doing worse.

"…And that's where the little boy found true happiness" I hear him say through my subconscious and slowly but surely his head hits the pillow. The sound of his steady breathing is comfortable white noise that sends me back to sleep.

He looms over her, with any angry contortion of a face which is frozen in place. She pleads with him trying to explain the situation but to no avail. The boy's face is set and hushes her telling her that the damage has been done. He begins ranting and raving on how he is going to be losing his job. There is crack as he brings his fists down on the table making her jump.

"You've ruined my life!" he exclaims, running his hands over the table top gripping it on the edges.

She shakes her head and stares at him like a deer in headlights. It hadn't meant to get like this; it was just a guess she had made that had happened to be right. Words stumble out of her mouth as she tries to form some kind of explanation for what she had done. How could she have known that Ram would have taken anything she had said seriously. Ebony had taken her word for it, how come she hadn't told him about their conversation last night? She repeatedly says I'm sorry and shrinks away from his approaching figure.

"I'm sorry!" he spits "I'm sorry! You can't just apologise for that kind of thing. Ram. Will. Waste. Me. and Ebony for that matter. You've basically signed two people to their death!"

His voice reaches the point that he is shrieking in rage. He comes over to her and places his hand around her throat. Not squeezing but it's certainly threatening enough to make the girl tremble uncontrollably. Small bites of rage eat away at her as she thinks about how much he is overreacting. There are so many ways to hide an affair, killing the person who lucked into finding out about it is at the bottom of list of easy options. She tries to tell him this but he won't listen he's too busy yelling at her saying how everything is going wrong because of her.

"You've taken everything away from me!" he screams shaking his hands getting tighter and tighter.

Every breath gets harder and harder for her.

Breathing gets impossible.

Black dots come and sprinkle in and out of her vision.

One last time to attempt a breath.

Fading, fading.

I scream at the top of my lungs until there is no air left in them. Going for the second breath I try another scream when a hand cups over my mouth muffling any sound. Sssh, someone whispers in my ear as I hyperventilate into the hand. The memory slash dream is something I thought Slade had helped me avoid, but I guess not. Those last few moments had been the most terrifying points in my life, worse than the virus or maybe equal it's hard to tell.

"Hey…hey calm down" Slade leaves one of his hands over my mouth and the other pinning my shoulder to the bed, "Remember where you are, okay? Remember you're in liberty. You're not anywhere near the city. You're safe"

My chest collapses' in relief as the more recent memories make their way back to the fore front of my mind. This leads me to recount the past night of er, kissing with Slade. I don't know why I did it, maybe out of gratitude or out of loneliness but it was surprisingly…nice. The awkward air around us leads me to believe that he's probably wondering what to do with the stuff that happened last night as well. Words are bit hard to form but I attempt to show that I didn't think it was a big deal.

"I don't regret kissing you last night"

He surprises and partly offends me by laughing "That? That was nothing. You must've been one sheltered kid to think that kissing someone is a big deal"

I stare at him incredulously; did he really just say that? Who the heck does he think he is saying it wasn't a big deal? It makes me question what kind of guy Slade really is; does he go sticking his tongue down other girls' throats just for the fun of it? I'm a little at the thought. He looks at me with a sly smile; acting as if he has caught me out of my fanatic crush. I roll my eyes, guys can be so arrogant. Give them some attention and their chests puff up like a balloon. Sighing heavily and looking at him, I try to convey how unimpressed I am. The awkward confusion is gone out of my system.

"Honestly, I had thought you were regretting it. Y'know what with the whole taking advantage of a girl pumped full of sedatives" I lie through my teeth.

"Uh, as I remember it YOU were the one making all the moves last night, not me" he puts his hands around his head and leans back to lie on the bed. I curse myself inwardly for being so aware of him breathing next me all the while angrily staring up at the ceiling.

"Whatever, it's over now anyway" I concede.

He laughs again with infuriating arrogance. All I want is to smack that smile right off his face but I make the excuse that my injuries are still to tender to risk it on some venting fit. The laughing fades out after a while and a more unsettling mood kicks in. Patterns on the ceiling play optical illusions dancing around as I try to ignore the obvious stare I am getting from Slade. Intuition tells me that he is probably going to ask the question I've been trying so hard to avoid. Now that he knew everything from my slurred explanation on what lead to me ending up dead and on the side of road it was the most likely thing that needed to be answered but not necessarily the one that had the easiest answer.

"Are you going back to the underground? To your sister?"

"The invasion would have meant that security protocol alpha became in place. The whole tribe is trained to be able to move from one section of the tunnels to the next. That place is a maze it would be impossible to find. It's designed that way."

I surprise both Slade and myself when I begin to cry out of sheer hopelessness. He pulls his hand out from under his head and wraps it around my shoulders. As my tears become a lot louder and uncontrollable he pulls me into his chest. It's like playing ping pong with this guy, one moment he is an insensitive and arrogant the next he is being caring. The erratic behaviour is not something I am used but I don't care. Something is better than nothing.

"You're okay, I'm sure that you'll be able to find them sometime collect some Intel look for recent disappearances and you'll get a general area" he says and I notice a hint of disdain. Does everyone in this above ground seem to hate the underground tribe?

My tears dry up, not by much, enough to stop the horrible choking noise. I pull away from him slightly, looking up at his dark eyes. His hand reaches out and his fingers begin to trace my jaw line. It's that same hazy courage that I felt last night that makes me inch closer to him. There's a moment when I feel like backing down and shrinking away because I know that this will only lead a lot more confusion later down the track. As soon as it's there it's gone because I am distracted by Slade running his fingers through my hair, ugh my kryptonite, it has to be the best feeling in the world. I wait for a little while before sitting up and swinging myself over his lap to face him. Little time passes before he grabs the top of my shoulders and brings me down to being inches from his lips. It's a game of chess now, whoever makes the next move is the one showing their cards, giving away their emotion. I refuse to be the instigator this time so I sit there waiting patiently.

"You're move" I breathe.

He groans in almost dismay but brings his lips up to meet mine. The three quarters of sleep last night has left me feeling a lot more rejuvenated. Unlike last night I wait for him to do all the queues.

"We better stop you know, we're kissing and you'll start regretting it" he whispers.

"Ssh, you're the one who guessed I was sheltered. I neither confirmed nor denied" I say between kisses.