It was his breathing that woke me, short and uneven.

He was nowhere near me, but it echoed in my head, and I knew. It was just that prickling, that icy irritation in my chest.

Gryphon.

It was cold in Thaniel's room, in his bed, my breath made steam clouds, and I could smell him on the scarce and ratty sheets.

Smell his skin.

So I left him, slipped form beneath his heavy unmoving form to drift out of the darkness of his room and flutter down the hallway to mine, dressing for once, as myself, and nobody else.

Jeans, ratty, boycut, tight on the hips and loose on the legs, sandals with thatch-weaved soles, my multicoloured toes peeking out from beneath the ravaged cuffs, a button-up famer's shirt that must have belonged to Gryphon, and a bra. Black. Laced, covered.

It was me and a leather back-pack and the open road. My thumb piercing the shine of car headlights.

As I waited, unacustomed to the unforgiving cold of night and shied away from the darkness off the brush along the highway.

Eventually, a woman stopped. She was only a couple years older than I.

She had messy dirty blonde hair and green eyes. A touque. She said she was coming from a farm. She was bringing her mother apples. Fresh, unwaxed, unsterilized. Wormy sometimes. Fresh and sweet and real often.

Her name, she said, was Ingrid. She lived in her purple Volkswagon Camper Van. And she was a vegan, a feminist, an environmentalist. As well as a humanitarian.

She smiled a lot and her eyes were bright. She told me a lot, but only because I asked her, otherwise she was quietly warm. She didn't drink, or smoke ; her body was a temple. And she had just recently lost her virginity to a quiet boy in her media arts class.

He had longish brown hair, she said, and his name was Theo. She probably wouldn't ever see him again outside of class, but it didn't worry her. She wasn't particularly attached to him.

She wanted to travel anyways, leave the country.

She parked outside the hospital, after telling me that I could come back and stay in her van overnight if I needed to.

I emerged again an hour later. A soft smile on my lips.

Gryphon was alive.

And he never wanted to see me again.

I went to the payphone and inserted a 1979 quarter. I dialed the number to Thaniel's room, then hung up before it could ring, reinserting the quarter and dialing Zakei's number instead.

Sergio answered the phone.

« Hello ? » his voice was low and sleepy.

I smiled because I felt love for him, at that moment, deep and pure, as though he were my brother.

« Gryphon killed my dad. My dad shot him and though he was dead, and Gryphon pulled a knife on him and hacked him up. »

There was a long silence on the other end, then a slow inhale. « How's Gryphon ? »

« alive. » my voice sounded hollow and empty.

« Good, good. » there didn't appear to be anythinng else for him to say.

« I'm not coming back, Sergio. » I whispered.

There was that silence again. The phone shook in my hands, and I squeezed it so hard my knuckles went white.

« You're leaving us behind. »

« No. I'm climbing out of the hole. I'm leaving my life behind. »

« It's the same thing- » he started.

« It isn't ! Fuck, Sergio, I can't be good anymore. I'm not coming back. Tell them I killed myself or something. I don't have parents, I don't have a brother, I don't have anything anymore.» my voice grew quieter and quieter as I spoke. « You can leave too, Sergio. Trust me on this, it doesn't take much effort to leave everything behind. »

« Yes, it does. » he paused to do something that sounded greatly like thumping his head againts the wall, « I can't leave Zakei behind. I love him. »

I laughed then, my voice swirling hoarsely into the mouth-piece. « Like he loves you. »

I hung up.

Thaniel stirred and woke. Sammy's disappearance was a relief. Because it meant he didn't have to say good bye.

Sergio hung up the phone and turned to stare at Zakei. He left the sculptor alone in the bathtub, his pale skin wrinkling from the moisture, to go back to his room and paint a girl for the very last time.

Zakei spoke of and heard nothing.

Whilst stories began to end, his continued on.

A/N – NO, babes ! 'Tis not the end of 'Shattered'…. It's the almost-end. It was really quick I know, but there will be a good, thick, long expressive chapter next, then an epilogue, then a sequel revolving around Zakei. So stay tuned ! And review ! No, really, review, it's important. Except if you are this chick :

omg, could you BE hiding more hidden lust? havn't you ever heard of spellcheck? and one more thing before i go blow my brains out...WHO THE HELL CARES WHAT KIND OF TOOTHPASTE THE GUY USES?this is the worst shit that you've put on this site, and I must say, IT IS SO FREAKING MESSED UP. what is with all this crap? its like a frekaing soap, like whats going to happen next, the lez is going 2 get married 2 the druggie? I don't know who you play in this, but i don't really care. YOU ARE SICK.

My answer:

alicia joel : not only are you beingn fretfully inconsiderate by making me rid this incessant whiny drivel, but you are also very obviously and inescapably stupid. What hidden lust ? You mean my character's hidden lust ? The hidden lust that isn't quite as hidden as it may seem, considering the many activities she has engaged in with said characters you may be implying she (or I) have hidden lust for, activities of which you are given apt warning in the SUMMARY ! READ IT ! Also, the toothpaste thing is a part of my writing style, so put that on your to'do list sweetheart, Here, I'll spell it out for you - « don't expect other people to word things exactly like you and the way you want to ». As for it being messed up, if you have an issue, don't read it, as opposed to reading through the entire thing and then proceeding to go conservative psycho-bitch on me for it. Next, there are no lesbians or druggies in my stories, seeing as I'm not particularly fond of writing about either, and I don't play anyone in this story, babe, that why it's in FICTION. Last but not least, this sick person would appreciate it deeply if you would keep your unkind thoughts to yourself. Not only are they tedious and tiresome to read, but they reflect only your narrowminded and ranty opinions, which become rather ridiculous in the way of the fact that I WARNED YOU ABOUT THE STORY IN THE FUDGING SUMMARY, so until you find another selfish and close-mided way to amuse yourself further, I advise you to crawl into a corner and engage in a intensely titillating game of hide and go fuck yourself.

gonnabefamous : Yeah, we know he isn't a murderer, don't worry, more details and clearing up of Gryphon's predicament in the next chapter.

Faded Ink : I'm so glad you liked the cahpter, 'cuz, personally, when I read over it, I felt like maybe I'd done a crap job.

Jessica Turner : I know, things have been crazy, and are getting crazier, sry ! I feel adahmed ! I do ! I do ! Thanks for ze compliments !!! :)

WarriorHeart : He has killed his father… HOORAH !

triggertorn : Actually, well, Gryphon IS a murderer. He's the only guy that killed a guy… sorry… and yes, um, he'll get over sammy… eventually…

lspeakl : yeah, the wet dream, me thinks was bad, but if you liked it, i like the fact that you liked it. And, don't you be worrying now, I will soon be starting another sotry positively FILLED with wild Zakeiness, so stay tuned. Yes, speak, Gryphon lives… And the dad's murder was not written about… if I'm int he mood, I MAY provide flashbacks… but only if I'm in the mood.

bitterfly : I'm so glad you liked it. And yes, I would have liked to end it at chapter sixteen, but that would, in fact, cause many angry flames from my reader peoplez. I'm glad you think it's deep ! I personally think most people read it for the fucking, but, there it is ! OMG ! You calle dme a beautiful writer ! Dude ! That was so ncie ! Okay, I totally dub you beautiful reviewer ! Thnx, so much !