Chapter Ten: You Think You've Got It Sorted?

I couldn't put anybody else off any longer. Slowly, on autopilot, I shifted away from the note that seemed to mock me and got dressed, putting on my sloppy jeans and a hoody, putting the hood up even though I was still inside.

I applied some make-up though. It seemed wrong not too. Hannah had been wearing make-up when she died. Did I want to replicate Hannah's death with my own?

I stared at my face in the mirror. My dark hair was wild and barely tamed, surrounding my pale face like a cloud. My eyes stared back at me, huge in my face and rimmed with dark lashes. The eyes blinked at me. And my lips. I'd put blood red lipstick on them. They stood out. I'd made sure everything stood out.

I told Jack I wasn't feeling well enough to go shopping and he'd frowned, but after this morning had accepted the excuse for truth. Emma came up to check on me, frowning worriedly until I passed on a list with a couple of Christmas presents I'd like her to get for me and then passing her a wad of cash.

"Don't go wild." I warned her, but my voice lacked any conviction and it was flat.

Max came up to check on me but I'd given him a wan smile and told him I was fine, I was just thinking of some excuses so I wouldn't have to go shopping. He too excepted this for truth and informed me that since he was going to be spending Christmas with my family, he was going over to his today so they could exchange presents and catch-up.

I didn't berate him about not telling me sooner, I just told him to have a nice time and that he didn't have to hurry home.

He smiled thankfully at me and left as well.

Mum stayed in the house all day, waiting for Aunt Selene. So did I.

I studied my lecture notes, even though I seemed to know in the back of my mind that I wouldn't ever need the information ever again after I talked with Selene. I was so sure I was going to die after that meeting. But for some odd reason, the thought of my own death didn't frighten me as much as it had when I was younger. In fact, I only hoped that she would tell me the whole story, about why she killed her own husband and daughter. About what I had to do with it.

~0~

I sat at my laptop and wrote goodbye letters to everybody. To Marta, I wished her a long and happy life and hoped that she got the grades she needed to succeed in life. To mum I told her that it was my own decision to go confront Selene on my own and that she should never blame herself. To Emma I ordered her to live the life I never had. I ordered her to go to wild parties, have fun with boys, study hard and look after herself. I apologized for not being the role model I should've been.

To Jack I thanked him for taking care of me, but told him that the final battle I had was mine to fight alone. He may have been fighting my battles for me for a long time, but this one was something only I could win. I hoped he'd forgive me for being so stupid and I hoped that he'd live happily once I was gone, free from all of this madness. I said nothing about Aunt Selene. What would I have said if I had?

To Max?

I sat in front of my laptop for a long time, staring at the flashing screen that only had Dear Max written on it. What would I say to him? I wrote a few sentences, but deleted them all. Finally, I came up with the perfect words. My stomach tightened as I wrote them, because I knew that perhaps that morning was the last time I would ever see him. I felt like I was as good as dead.

I love you.

I told all of them it wasn't there fault, because I knew they would be too stupid to realize that on their own. I then saved all the documents in the folder If I Am Dead.

~0~

At around six o'clock mum got a call from her friends. They ordered her to come out and have a drink with them since she was stuck in the house with only me for company. I persuaded her to go, telling her I'd be fine without her. I gave her an extra large hug before she left and, surprised, she barely wrapped her arms around me.

"You always were a rubbish hugger." I mumbled into her hair, breathing in her smell for a few more seconds then was strictly necessary before stepping back. "I love you. Have a good time tonight."

Mum arched one elegant eyebrow at me and gave me a puzzled look.

"What was that for?"

"For being my mum." I replied to her simply.

She left soon after that, and I was alone in the house.

I went up to my room and locked the bedroom door, locking the windows and drawing the blinds before sitting down on my pristinely made bed covers with a heavy sigh. I stared at the phone in my hand. The ridges of it cut deeply into my palm, and I thought it was going to draw blood.

Selene's number was already typed in. All I had to do was press call.

I almost chickened out as I waited a few minutes. What if I was wrong again?

Before I knew it, the phone was pressed against my ear and the ringing tone was piercing the silence in my head.

It rang five times before going to voice mail.

"Hello, this is Selene, I'm not able to come to the phone right now but if you leave a message, and a telephone number, I will get back to you as soon as I can. Bye for now!"

I waited whilst the automated system told me the procedure of leaving a message before the beeping sound intoned.

I took a deep breath. This was it. Now or never.

"Hi, Selene, its Jo." I tried to make my voice sound even and cool. "I've just got your message. I think it's time we stopped playing games too. I'm tired. We need to talk. Call me when you get this."

I pressed the end call button before I lost my nerve. Groaning, I leaned back on my bed and stared up at the grey ceiling. Had I just sealed my fate?

My over active brain wouldn't let me fall asleep, so instead I just lay there with my hands clasped tightly over my stomach. I couldn't concentrate. I kept glancing at my phone and my laptop. Every little sound made me jump. Nobody else came home. By half ten it was still me. On my own. The only text I got that day was saying Jack had stopped off at the pub with some mates and Emma was having tea at a friends.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I was wound to tightly up. Like a cog. The night I was going to die. I could barely keep still. It was then that I admitted I was afraid, so damn afraid. It was like choking, being buried alive with my hands tied behind my back. It was like there was this big, black, dark vortex swirling on the inside of me and every time I focused on it my entire world went dark and I'd start to get sucked into a place where I knew I'd never escape.

My breathing was shallow and quick. I was cold all over but refused to move.

Finally, agitated, when I heard a noise as something down stairs shifted, a jumped tensely to my feet and went to grab a shower.

The water cascaded down my back, causing my curls to go straight. My head was held back.

I didn't want to die. I really didn't want to die.

All I had wanted was answers and I'd got them. Stupid me. Had I thought everything would be ok once I knew who had wrecked my life?

I got changed in the bathroom, pulling on my boots with the sudden resolve to go for a walk. The last walk I'd ever have.

Thump.

The noise was so soft I barely noticed it.

Thump. Shuffle.

But it was coming from the room next door.

Creak.

The room next door was my room.

Creak, shuffle.

Somebody was there.

Creak thump.

I could hear them as they shuffled around the room.

Thump creak.

Was it Max or Jack, come home? No, it wasn't. I was being stupid. Jack had said he wouldn't be home for a few hours and Max had said he'd be getting home really late and not to wait up for him.

Bang.

No. I knew exactly who it was.

I didn't want to leave. No. My hands were fisted. Knuckles white and straining. I didn't want to die. The vortex inside me was getting bigger. I grasped the metal support bar for support. It came away from its main frame. Didn't even squeak. It lay in my hands. Shiny. Murderous.

No, now was not my time. Surely not. But it was. The bar glinted at me.

I unlocked the bathroom door. Opened it wide. Walked out with the bar in my hand, supported over my shoulder.

My door was shut. I'd left it open.

I pushed the door open with the lightest of touches.

Creeeeak.

The light was off. My whole room was plunged into darkness. I hadn't turned the light off. I'd been too scared. I saw nothing. Heard nothing. But I knew she was in there. I clasped my bar tightly. It was shaking, vibrating against my shoulder.

Turn back now! My instincts screamed. She's going to kill you!

I nudged the door a bit further open with my foot. The creaky floorboards protested as I stood on them.

One foot in front of the other. I'd been doing it for most of my life now, but in that minute it was harder then ever before. It was protesting. Pleading. Telling me not to go in there.

Three steps in. The light reflecting off my bar was starting to dull. Still, nothing moved.

My hair was damp and stuck to the sweat that beaded at the back of my next.

Five steps. Still nothing.

I didn't want to breath or even make a sound. Was there still time to run?

Eight steps. I was almost to the other end of the room. No signs of life anywhere. Had I been mistaken? My trembling started to subside.

Ten ste-

Creeeeak.

"Look behind you next time you're coming into a dark room."

As I spun around, the bedroom light switch was flicked. Click. Momentarily blinded, I could just about see the outline of Aunt Selene's body.

"Next time there is a murderer after me, I'll try and remember that."

She nodded. Her face was pale and withdrawn. Her blue eyes were bright and sparkled at me. Had that insane light always been there?

"You better, otherwise you'll have a very short future with The Company. I thought I raised you better then that." She tutted, shaking her head.

I gripped my bar tighter.

"You're insane." I informed her, shifting my weight from one foot to another uneasily. "Balmy. Completely nutty."

The insane light sharpened as the looked me up and down critically. I stopped moving. I did the same as she did.

The hand gun she held dangled seemingly lazily from her finger tips by her side. It was only her tensed posture that told me she was ready to fire it.

"Careful, young lady. Watch your mouth."

I was going to die. I couldn't bare to even look at her, knowing my murder weapon was in her hand.

"You killed Hannah."

It wasn't a question. She answered anyway.

"Yes."

"And your own husband."

"You figured it out then? Took you long enough."

I lowered my bar slowly. I now held it in both my hands, across from each other. I said nothing. I hoped she'd give me the information I wanted without me having to ask if I waited long enough.

I waited.

She sighed dramatically.

"Hannah was becoming a liability to the company. She was keeping you from me. And your uncle had discovered everything about the company. He wasn't taking it too well. He was being dramatic and you know how much I utterly hate dramatics. He was saying he was going to go to the police, so I sent Kelly in to...well, stop him. I told her by any means necessary."

She moved. I flinched. She stepped carefully over the carpet and around the things I had left on the floor.

We seemed to circle each other. She ended up on the other end of the room. I was on the opposite end.

She stared out of Hannah's window, seeming to be lost in thought.

"Do you remember where I took you when you were little, Jo?" She asked very suddenly.

I felt repulsed. The thought of her being left alone to care for a younger me was utterly horrific. I choked but said nothing.

She sighed, disappointed.

"Of course you don't. You were only tiny. A teeny, tiny dot but you were clever, Jo. I could see it."

She lent against the window sill, her arms supporting her long, willowy frame but her gun still close at hand.

"I took you down to my offices. I let you watch whilst I ordered people about and put together guns. Once you even saw me kill a man." A high pitched, hysterical laugh gurgled out of her thinning lips. Her skin flapped against her sharp facial bones as she did so. "You had nightmares for almost a year over that. I told your parents that you'd been watching a programme you shouldn't have been and then you had a nightmare. They believed me. And then, one day, you just stopped having nightmares. I think you must've blocked it out, being the clever little girl you were." She sighed dreamily. "Then, as you got older, I started to teach you the little parts of the gun. I showed you how to put it together on more then one occasion. Once upon a time you could do it. But it's been so long, Jo. I want to know you can do it again before I recruit you for the company."

She indicated to the bed, where I suspiciously followed her gaze. On my bed, a gleaming silver, metal brief case sat, opened, to reveal a hand gun and all its little parts. I didn't even know what the guns real name was. I didn't want to touch it. I thought I'd be sick.

"I can't put together a gun." I stuttered at her. "I don't know how to."

"Go on, I know you can."

I clutched my weapon tighter, my gaze fearful as I looked around.

"I really mean it! I have no idea how to put together a gun."

She lost her patience quickly. The gun was aimed at me before I could process a thought.

"DO IT!"

I jerked at her sudden raised voice. Dropped the bar. Scrambled towards the case. I knelt down in front of it, my hands either side of the cold metal, and just stared at the thing. It was disgusting. It was horrific. There was no way I was able to put this thing together.

I heard a soft click as the gun in Aunt Selene's hand was taken off safety.

"I'm still waiting." She singsonged.

I reached for the main frame of the gun, my hands trembling.

"Tell me about Hannah."

The cold metal felt heavy in my hand. I was hoping I could distract her enough until somebody came home. I wasn't going to put together the gun whilst she was talking.

She sighed.

"I loved her. But she was being stupid."

I flinched.

"I asked her as her boss, time and time again to hand you over. She was becoming a nucience. She wouldn't give you too me. She was making bargains and deals with other people in my company, high up people, to try and keep you 'safe'."

Hannah did that for me?

"I couldn't understand it. You two had never seemed to get on well, but she seemed willing to lay down her life for you. She was starting to build an army against me. In my own company people were starting to go to her side. They were disobeying my orders if she so much as asked them too. It was driving me mental."

I heard a crick as Selene moved her neck from side to side. The gun was still trained on my head. Then, suddenly, I looked at my hand. And the case. Then my hand again.

Selene let out a cooing noise.

"I knew you'd remember how to do it, my clever little girl!"

In my hand was a fully loaded Colt Anaconda in 45LC with a 6 inch barrel.

Please don't ask me how I know that.

I turned with it hanging from my fingers, my entire body shaking. I raised it to show Selene, who's eyes gleamed even brighter.

"Good girl." She whispered. "Give it here, come on." She lowered her own gun to extend one talon like hand, beckoning for it urgently. "Hurry up, give it here."

I almost flung it onto her hand, not trusting myself to speak. I was a murderer. I'd put together that gun without even thinking about it.

She turned around, admiring it with her back too me for which I was glad. She was cackling over it and raving.

I turned my head to one side so I wouldn't even have to see her back.

Then, a glint caught me. A very slight, muffled vibration. My phone.

She was still cackling over the murder weapon, so I shuffled as close as I dared to the phone and then reached for it, hiding it behind my back just in case she did see it when she turned back. I then tried to tap my way over the phone, tapping 999 and then pressing what I thought was the call button though I couldn't be sure until I felt the vibrating in my hands and knew it was calling, stupidly realizing that I could ask for the police and just hoping the person at the other end of the line would hear it and call for the police.

I reached back again and replaced it on my bedside, just as Selene swung around again. Her eyes were glassy and lit up. She didn't even notice that I'd moved.

"I am so proud of you. You remembered after all this time. Quickly now, lets leave and get out of here!"

I glanced at the phone and realized that sentence would not show how much help I was in need of.

"Aunt Selene, please, just pass me the guns." I asked her quietly.

Her eyes sharpened.

"What? Why? I need them to make sure you don't do anything."

I looked up at her and turned my head a fraction to look at the phone.

"I won't do anything, Aunt Selene, just give me the guns." I begged.

Her face was turning a dull red.

"Josephine Kennedy, how dare you order me around?!" She shrieked and I almost laughed as I realized she'd given them my name. She'd given the police my name.

"I'm sorry." I hung my head, a small glimmer of hope starting to blossom in the pit of my stomach. "Will you tell me more about Hannah?"

She seemed to think about it before shrugging.

"Alright then. As I said, it was driving me mental. She was trying to take over my company, my own daughter. So, I started to ask around. I sent her little messages. I started to kill off, one by one, her little spies until she began suspecting what I was doing.

Then, we booked that holiday. I thought all my Christmas's had come at once. I would have you and Hannah there, together, with no way to get out. I had my secretary calling her day after day and I started to pretend to arrange a meeting with her."

She looked sharply at me.

"I was there when they killed her, you know. And I cried all the way through it. She sounded so young when she knew it was me. She called out to me, did you know that? She begged me to stop. She'd had no idea that I was the one behind all of this. She asked me why I was doing this, as if she didn't know. But do you know what her last words were?"

Selene stuck her face right into mine, spittle flying from her mouth.

"Well?" She roared. "Do you?!"

I shook my head, tears flying everywhere. When had I started crying.

"No, no, I don't know!" I wailed.

Her voice suddenly dropped. There was silence everywhere.

"Jo." She whispered, and the light suddenly went out of her eyes. "She said Jo. At the end of her life, she said your name."

I snapped.

With a yell, I launched myself at her and shoved her to the ground. The guns rolled to the side and one of them fired a shot right through my bedroom door. I was busy, straddling Selene as I kept her pinned down. She was gnashing her teeth and screaming like a banshee, her eyes wide and crazed. She bucked underneath me and I grabbed her clawing hands, pinning them above her head as I tried to avoid her kicking legs. I let out an 'Oof' sound as her knees hit me in the lower back and I was sent sprawling out on top of her face, my grip on her wrists now completely gone.

She bucked and sprung to her feet like some kind of ninja and for the first time that night I remembered, I mean properly remembered, that she was the head of a Criminal Organization.

Oh shit.

She came after me with some kind of battle cry and sprung on me but I rolled away, reaching for the Colt Anaconda.

"No!" She yelled and I found a foot standing with all her weight on my wrist.

I let out a yell of pain and jerked it back from underneath her, staring at her with a great big amount of fear, cradling my wrist against my chest.

She was breathing heavily, panting almost, but the light was back in her eye.

"I thought you'd be a great addition to my company." She panted. "And now I know you will. Give up this stupid fight now, Jo, and come with me. This is not worth loosing your life over."

The gun was just on the other side of her foot. If I shoved her, I could get it. But she didn't look like she'd be moving any time soon.

I looked up into her eyes and tensed all my muscles.

"Yes." I told her simply. "Yes, it is."

I kept up onto my feet and went for her again, grasping her hair and tugging at her, clawing at her face and trying to move her away from the guns. She in turn clawed at me and made howling noises. She kicked my feet out from under me and I went spinning to the ground.

Both our eyes landed on the guns, then we looked at each other. Time stood still. Then, we were crawling after them, both of us after the same guns.

I got to the Colt Anaconda and aimed it at her, my back against the cold wall. I clicked it off safety as she aimed the other gun at me.

We both just stared at each other.

Selene's face was starting to bruise and red welts were coming up on her face. My wrist throbbed and was already about to swell and my entire body ached. I couldn't cry.

My eyes widened at her, taking in her every tiniest movement as I slowly pushed myself to my feet, the gun still trained on her. Then, I was on my feet, my back still to the wall, my gun trained on her forehead.

I was shaking. She wasn't. Steady as a rock, her own gun was trained on my head and her finger was tensed on the trigger.

But she looked scared.

"You're not going to kill me, Jo."

She didn't seem certain.

"I'd say you won't kill me, but we both know that you would."

My breathing was heavy and I had to focus to keep on breathing, otherwise I knew I would just stop.

"We've come full circle, Selene. Only this time you're going to kill me, not Hannah."

Selene stiffened.

"I didn't want it to be like this." She told me and tears started rolling down her cheeks. "I really didn't. You're stronger then Hannah. So much stronger. You're not even begging for your life."

I shook my head and my hair went everywhere.

"No, I'm not stronger then Hannah." I told her, and for once the jealousy and bitterness that would've once come with that sentence didn't arrive. "Hannah was stronger then me. She protected our family from you for almost eleven years. And then in her last moments she showed everybody how much she really loved us all, even you."

"I loved her too." Selene spat out, but her eyes were wide and filled with horror, as if she'd only just realized that she didn't.

"No, you didn't. You loved what she represented for you. And that was strength and power. When she stopped representing that, you stopped caring for her."

My voice cracked on the last part. I thought of Hannah's face, and the jealousy and bitterness that had surrounded my thoughts of her for my entire life time. She hadn't deserved that. She had died to protect me. What would she say now if she saw me?

"What are you going to do when you've killed me, Selene? How will you explain it? How will you cover it up? What will you do when I'm dead? Move onto Jack, or Emma? Maybe even Max? No." I shook my head. "I can't let you do that. I don't know if Hannah would've killed you had she got the chance. I'd like to think she would have. But you didn't give her that choice. But now you've given it to me. And I've made mine." I met her eyes squarely on and her hands started shaking just as badly as mine. "If I die tonight, you die as well."

"NO!" The agonized cry was ripped from the older woman. "I won't die tonight! You will! You. Will! Don't tell me what I will do!"
She fired the gun. Once, twice, three times.

I jerked to the side, the bullets narrowly missing me and going straight through the wall behind me.

This was it. This was my time.

She was firing more bullets at me now, and I managed to dodge every single one of them, unable to believe what was happening. There was no time to think, no time to act.

The films are dead on, as it happens. The bullets really did go in slow motion around me as I dodged and weaved between them, the gun still trembling in my sweaty grasp.

Selene's face was tear streaked and she was still crying even as she shot at me. Bang, bang, bang.

She ran out of bullets abruptly, and I was amazed I'd managed to dodge every single one.

She looked panicked for a moment, before she looked towards the metal case and saw some more bullets there. She must've thought I wouldn't shoot, because she reached for them.

Bang.

She fell as I shot her in the foot. I'd been aiming for her kneecap, but at least that got her to the ground. The bullets were in her hand and she quickly loaded them. But before she could aim her gun, I had it trained on her forehead. And this time, I wasn't shaking.

"You killed Hannah." My voice broke and my vision turned blurry but my aim didn't falter. "You tore this family apart with all the things you've done. And I've had to try and put it back together, treating the symptoms and not the source. Well, not anymore."

I shook the gun at her.

"Please, don't hurt me!"

She was trembling, shaking, her eyes wide and hysterical as she looked at me.

"I'm sorry! I'll put everything right, I promise! Please, just don't hurt me!"

Suddenly, I was reminded of the time when I was about eight that Aunt Selene had sat me on her kitchen counter and let me lick the bowel that we'd been making chocolate cake in.

I got chocolate everywhere, all over my face, in my hair, over the counter and my clothes and all over Selene. And she'd started crying.

"Don't worry, Aunt Selene." I'd told her, a bit unnerved to see this scary adult crying. "I'll clear it up for you. I'll make it all better."

I jerked myself out of my memory. I looked down at the hopelessly frail and thin looking Aunt Selene I'd once known.

"Can you bring Hannah back to life?" I asked her steadily.

The tears ran faster down her face. She shook her head.

"Can you bring everybody you killed and ordered to be killed back to life?"

Again with the shake of her head.

I drew back the trigger.

"Then I'm sorry, Aunt Selene. I can't clear this mess up for you."

Bang.

~0~

I'm not sure how long after I'd collapsed that I heard the police sirens wailing into the driveway. I didn't hear the front door being broken down and I don't remember when the police came into my room.

I don't remember when Max, Jack, Mum and Emma arrived either. I don't remember being moved into Max's lap, nor when mum draped a blanket over my shoulders and smoothed my hair back.

All I can remember is Aunt Selene's crumpled body, lying there, her head bathed in a pool of blood. She didn't move, so neither did I. People tried to talk to me, but their voices were fuzzy, like a radio that wasn't properly tuned in, so I didn't listen to them.

Jack was kneeling by his mothers body, tears running down his face and his agonized yells and distraught cries made me look at him as well. He was an orphan now. His father and sister were gone, murdered by his own mother, and now his mother was gone, murdered by his cousin.

I was a murderer.

"You're not." Max whispered fiercely into my ear. "You are not a murderer, Jo. The police heard everything. It was self defense."

"I'm a murderer." I repeated, over and over again.

Everybody was crying. They usually do on an occasion like this. The police took me down to the station to get my official statement. I told them everything I remembered with this blank, emotionless voice and I was very soon sent back with Max to collect my stuff. We were going to stay in a hotel that night and then Max had suggested going back up to Edinburgh the next day.

Emma had asked if she could come with us, and Max had told her that she could come as long as mum came with us. They were all in mine and Max's hotel room when we had this conversation.

I sat, cross legged, on the double bed, my hoody still covering my body and a blanket still wrapped around me.

Jack sat on the single bed opposite the bed I sat on. He stared at me and I stared at him. We hadn't discussed who would sleep on that single bed yet. I was waiting for Jack's accusing voice and the look of hatred in his eyes.

I said nothing to anybody unless I was spoken to. I was waiting for the condemnation and accusation to come to their eyes.

None came, and the first words that came out of Jack's mouth caused me to cry.

"She tried to kill you." He said blankly, looking at me to accept or deny the statement.

I nodded and bit my lip.

"And she'd ordered Hannah to be killed. And my dad." Tears rolled down Jack's cheeks faster then mine and my mum went to him, wrapping him up in her arms and rocking him as he wailed and sobbed and shouted and rages and cried his heart out.

Max wrapped his arms around me and drew me back against his chest. We both watched as Emma joined mum and Jack and tried to comfort him too.

Finally, Jack looked up at me, his eyes all red and puffy.

"You killed my mum."

I nodded again. I wasn't going to try and tell him that it was an accident, because it wasn't.

He opened his mouth to say something and I flinched away from him.

"I don't blame you, Jo." He told me, and his eyes got really intense.

I blinked across at him.

"You don't?" My voice was weak and frail.

"No. it was self-defence. She was no longer my mum by the time she died. She hasn't been my mum since Hannah died. Not really. I thought it was just because I wasn't Hannah, but it wasn't that at all. She'd just gone crazy. And I'm glad you put her out of her misery. The old mum, the mum I once knew, would've been thankful that you did that."

I didn't mention that throughout his entire life his mum had been the leader of a criminal organization.

I just nodded and accepted his forgiveness with a tiny sob before I launched myself at him and wrapped my arms around his neck, sobbing into his body as he sobbed into mine.

"Mummy, mummy..." He wept, over and over again as I held him and mumbled nonsense as I too cried.

Emma, Mum and Max left us alone and we fell asleep, wrapped in each others arms.

When I woke up, Jack was still holding onto me tightly and Max was sound asleep in the single bed. He'd moved us to be in the double bed because he knew we had to be together. We could only comfort each other then.

But I needed Max as well. I tried to sit up, my blotchy eyes refusing to adjust to the darkness as Jack held me even tighter, as if he loosened his hold, even a bit, I would slip away.

I could've cried in thanks that he didn't condemn me for what I had done, and that he had seen it for what it was, which was self defense, and had even thanked me for it. I was happy beyond belief that he still loved me.

I called to Max softly and he stirred in his sleep, one eye opening as he tried to wake himself up. When he saw that it was me that was calling him he rushed over and smoothed back my hair, asking if I was alright and checking if I was alright.

He ran his hands over my swollen, sprained wrist (Which the doctors had checked out earlier that night) and raised it to kiss it softly.

"I'm so proud of you, my brave girl." he murmured softly.

Jack stirred and pulled me closer to him.

I settled down in the bed and looked at Max pleadingly.

"Stay with us, tonight, Max. Please. I need my boys."

I gulped, swallowing hard as I realized Max might not feel comfortable enough to do that. Did he blame me too?

But instead, he gave me that half little smile of his and slipped into bed beside me.

"I love you, you know." He muttered into my hair as he wrapped her arms around me, making it so I was sandwiched between my two boys.

I snuggled deeper into the circle of protection that they offered.

"I love you too. I love both of you so much." I whispered, closing my eyes and starting to fall asleep.

Just before my eyes shut, Hannah appeared to me with a little half smile on her face and her hip cocked.

"So, you think you've got it all sorted, do you?" She winked at me before her face softened. Her entire body started to fade away. "Thank you, Jo, for helping me."

I smiled at her vanishing figure.

"Any time. Love you Hannah."

And she was gone.