Chapter 35

"Why does he call you a different name?"

"Who?"

"Pierce. He calls you something else, instead of Ryan."

"Oh, that? It's a nickname. It means `kid'. It's just what he's
always called me."

"He's kind of scary."

"I thought so too at first, but he's a sweetheart. He just worries
about me a lot, that's all. His mom booked when he was little; his
dad died years ago. He doesn't have any siblings. We were good for
each other, I think. I needed someone to help me cope with what had
happened; he needed someone who was willing to stick around."

"Danielle and I were like that; good for each other. Well, she was
good for me. I don't know how good I was for her."

"What was she like?"

"Danielle was…she was amazing. She was funny and unpredictable, and
very straightforward. And no matter what I did, or how obnoxious I
was, she always kept right on loving me. At least until…"

"Until what?"

"The night before she died we'd gotten into a fight. My son had been
acting up at school and I decided to teach him a lesson. I took him
into the SCH and pretended that I was throwing him out of the Hive."

"Jesus, Kit!"

"I know, I know. He freaked out, and told Danielle everything when
she got home. She went through the roof. I got nasty with her and
went to work. I never saw her again."

"I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

"I know I messed up, Ryan. But I wanted to make it right. It was too
late to save Danielle, but I thought…I can at least find my kids. I
can at least do that much. It's not too late to make it all up to
them. But I couldn't even do that right."

"Kit, don't. Don't do that to yourself. There's still Pierce and
Patrick. And Val. Do you think, knowing what he knows, Val is going
to let that SOB keep control of your kids? And this is my flesh and
blood too we're talking about. That's going to mean something to
Pierce, especially with me gone. I believe in them, and so should
you."

"God, you always did know how to make me feel better."


"Do you remember when we were little? We used to sit in the dark like
this and tell stories. Yours were so much better than mine; it was
like you could see into this other world, and you could describe it
to me so beautifully. It used to make me angry, you know. That no one
else ever bothered to look hard enough to see what an amazing guy you
were."

Silence.

"Have you really been happy out here, Ryan? I mean, truly happy?"

"Yes. I've had a good life. I've got a mate who loves me, friends, a
job I'm good at. I've got no complaints."

"But you do without so much. How can you live like that? I mean, I
understand it for people like Pierce; people that were born without.
But you were used to so much better than this. Don't you miss it at
all?"

"Some things. At first all the time. But there's so many good things
out here that you don't have in the Hive. Like the ocean. Every year
Pierce and I go out of town to this festival, and then afterward we
go to the ocean for a few days. We camp out on the beach, swim in the
water, watch shooting stars. You'd have to be there to understand
what it's like, but there's nothing in the Hive that even comes
close."

"Danielle always wanted to see the ocean. She talked about it all the
time. She wanted to ride a horse on the beach. I don't know why, but
it was this dream of hers. Melissa's the same way. She's crazy about
horses. I used to stop at this toystore on the way home from work
sometimes and buy them for her, and we'd play together."

"What about Jeremy?"

"It was harder with him. Maybe because he was my first kid and I
didn't know what to do with him, but…he always seemed to be asking me
a question I didn't know how to answer. He used to go out of his way
to provoke me, see what I'd do. He was so angry sometimes. He'd hold
it all inside as much as he could and then he'd just explode. He
wasn't like that with Danielle. He definitely wasn't like that with
Val. He just didn't like me, and I guess I never tried to figure out
why, or how to change that. I never took the time."

"I don't know what kind of father I would have been. Pierce was
really close to his dad, so he has some idea of how to do it right.
But let's face it; our father wasn't exactly the greatest role-model.
I want to be more than just some faceless person living in the same
house. I wanted Jesse to know that I loved him, that I'd be there for
him, that he could come to me with anything. That no matter what he
did, I'd never stop loving him. I wanted to be the kind of dad who'd
go out and make mud-pies and sand-castles with him, and catch
lightning bugs, and send him to his room if he got smart with me. I
wanted that so bad, that chance."

"I wanted a second chance. But you're right. I know Val won't let
them down."

"Why haven't we run out of air yet?"

"I don't know. Really tired though. Can't be much longer."

"Go to sleep. I love you, little brother. Always have."

"You too. I just…I forgot for a while, that's all."

Scrape.

"Did you hear something?"

Scrape.

"Yeah. Sounds like more rocks settling. Maybe we're going to get
crushed to death before we run out of air."

"RYAN! RYAN, CAN YOU HEAR ME?"

"I heard that!"

"PIERCE! WE'RE IN HERE!"

"JUST HOLD ON! WE'RE DIGGING AS FAST AS WE CAN, KID!"

"Tell him we're nearly out of air!"

"No, because then he'll panic. TAKE YOUR TIME, PIERCE! WE'RE FINE!"

"CAN YOU DIG FROM YOUR END?"

"THERE'S NO PLACE TO PUT THE ROCKS! AND IT'S UNSTABLE! WE WERE AFRAID
TO TRY! BE CAREFUL!"

"How did he know we were here?"

"Who cares? We're getting out of here!"

Closer scraping, and then light. Flickering and faint, but enough to
make both brothers cry out and cover their eyes. The fresh air made
them choke, clinging to each other. Without warning the rock wall in
front of them was ripped away completely, and Ryan was nearly crushed
to death a second time that day. Pierce had yanked him out into the
open area, and was holding on for dear life.

Still gasping, Kit accepted Patrick's hand, allowing the smaller man
to pull him out next to his brother.

"Thanks. I owe you." Kit managed to speak at last, giving Patrick a
half-smile.

"Not at all." Patrick smiled back. "Favors are nothing between
family; don't you know that?"

Kit looked over to where Pierce and Ryan were still clinging to each
other. They were both filthy; covered in grime and dust, and Pierce
was soaking wet on top of it. However, it was painfully obviously
that not all the water on his face was from the rain. It surprised
him; the Terv would have been the last person he'd ever expect to see
cry, but he was sobbing now, rubbing his cheek against the top of
Ryan's head. Kit couldn't understand what Ryan was saying to him; he
was speaking very softly in Terv, and showing no signs that he ever
intended to let his mate go.

"Did you know?" Kit wondered. "Did you know what would happen?"

Patrick nodded. "I knew. I also knew you and he would both be
unharmed, or I would have never allowed it."

"So why did you?" Kit couldn't help but be angry.

"First of all, you wouldn't have believed a word I said. Second of
all, you needed to see for yourself just how far Uncle Lawrence would
go."

"Will I get my children back?" Kit asked.

"That I don't know. There are several things than can happen."
Patrick closed his eyes for a moment. "I know this, however. Lawrence
has underestimated your son. Because Jeremy looks so much like you,
Lawrence thinks he can control him, manipulate him. After all, he's
only five. But he doesn't know him. Any more than he ever really knew
you."

"Kit?" Ryan was asking now, crawling over to him. "Are you okay? God,
you're a mess."

"I'm fine." Kit shook himself, and glanced back toward what was
almost his tomb. "I want out of here, though. Can we just get out of
here?"

Ryan nodded. "Come on. He stood up in the narrow space and
stretched. "Patrick?"

The man didn't respond.

"Cripes." Ryan knelt back down. "Patrick, can you hear me?"

The man's eyes met his for a second, unfocused and blank.

"What's the matter with him?" Kit asked, worried.

"Patrick. Come on. We need you." Ryan whispered. "Don't leave us
again."

"Cold." Patrick replied in an odd voice. "So cold."

The cave was actually stifling, but Ryan put his arm around the older
man gently. "We'll be warm when we get out of here."

"I'm afraid." Patrick shook himself. "I'm so scared. Where are you?"

"I'm here." Ryan promised. "I'm right here."

"Have to hide. Can't let them find me."

"Patrick, where are you?" Ryan asked.

"I can't say. I'm hiding." His voice was nearly sing-song. "No little
horses here."

"Come on." Pierce said gruffly. "We can't stay here all night. Let's
get him home."

He helped Patrick stand and put his arm around his waist, guiding him
forward. "And you," He reached out for Ryan's hand. "scared the HELL
out of me."

"I know. But believe me, it wasn't my intention." Ryan was carrying
the lantern. "What happened at the Tribune?"

"We talked to Adele." Pierce explained, as they made their way up the
slope, Kit trailing behind. "And I thought it was odd when we were
leaving that Patrick wanted that lantern. He told me that we had to
make a detour first. Wouldn't tell me why." He glared at Patrick, who
was humming now to himself. "So we get here, and go down the cave,
and all I see is this rock wall. He starts digging and tells me to do
the same. I asked him why. He says that because you and your brother
are trapped on the other side and don't have much air left. He was
very calm. I, on the other hand…" Ryan noticed for the first time
that his hands were torn and bloody. "It was like…" He stopped.

"Like before." Ryan agreed. "I thought of that too. You're pretty
good at this saving me thing. I may have to keep you around."

Pierce stopped walking and kissed him hard. "You better."

They were still speaking in Terv, their heads close together, and Kit
tried to bite back his wave of jealousy. As if sensing it, Ryan
glanced backward at him and smiled a little, extending his free hand.
With a moment of hesitation, Kit took it.

Pierce looked at him in surprise and Kit shrugged. "We talked." He
said simply.

Ryan laughed, and released Kit's hand, and then smacked him lightly
on the head. "He's stopped being such an ass." He explained in Hiver
to Pierce.

"Sorry for the things I said." Kit forced himself to say to Pierce,
staring at the shadows on the wall instead. "And thank you."

"For what?" Pierce asked, guiding back Patrick, who had started to
wander off.

"For taking care of him. For keeping him alive. For loving him."

"Loving him not hard. Other two…" Pierce sighed. "full days work." He
winked at Ryan and then his eyes flickered on Kit. "Your kids…
whatever you need, I do. No matter what."

"You know I've got your back, little brother. We'll find them."

And in spite of the danger they were still in, in spite of the odds
they faced, Kit began to hope.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

They'd taken him down for most testing.

Night or day, he didn't know which one it was and didn't care. When
they left him alone, he slept curled up in the middle of the cot in
his cell, dreaming of things they couldn't touch. When he was awake,
the nightmares began.

His arms were dotted with holes where they'd drawn blood. So much
blood that he didn't cry any more when they took it, just looked at
them blankly. He tried not to show them how much it hurt. He ate
whatever they gave him, no matter how much he detested it, because
they'd starved him before and he didn't know when they might decide
to do it again.

He refused to speak with them, because the only thing he wanted to
know was where they were keeping his sister, and they refused to
say. "Safe." They told him. "She's safe."

But he knew they lied. He could feel it, sense it. He could almost
taste her fear, hear her crying for him. That was why he didn't cry
during the tests any more; he knew that whatever they were doing to
Melissa had to hurt a lot more.

His father was dead. They'd told him that. He tried to feel nothing,
his heart still reeling from knowing that he'd never see his mother
again. Yet his father's loss had stung as well, surprising him.
Since, according to them, they were here with his father's
permission. His father had told them they could do whatever they
wanted to him and Melissa. With their mother gone, Daddy hadn't
wanted to have to worry about raising children. He didn't know if he
believed them or not.

But on this night, as they guided him down the long hallway, barefoot
and wearing nothing but a pair of small blue shorts and a thin cotton
shirt, he was angry. He didn't let it show. He was docile, doing
whatever they asked, but inside he was seething. No one was going to
come help him. No one was going to come save him and Melissa.

He'd have to do it himself.