Hallam and Marlena had decided that they’d be going to look for another boat to get across the river. I didn’t think this was a good idea. I wasn’t crazy about my dreams, and I didn’t always know what they meant, but I was pretty sure that the dream I’d had last night was warning me that Jason intended to capture Hallam and Marlena and torture them. What the raining honey, cloud face of Sutherland, and baby had to do with anything I didn’t know. Possibly they were just things my subconscious was trying to work out. My dreams were confusing at best, but I had a feeling about this.
Hallam and Marlena grilled me about everything that happened in the dream and concluded that since it contained so many weird and irrelevant things, they shouldn’t take it seriously.
I tried a different tactic. Why were they the ones who were going to find the boat? Hallam was the person in charge of the team. If he left, we would all be bereft of leadership.
Hallam explained that he wasn’t going to send any of the people who’d been captured by Jason out alone again. He didn’t think it was fair to them after their ordeal, and he didn’t think they’d be able to do the job quite as well, because they might be overly cautious. He didn’t want to send people who hadn’t been captured by Jason because there were reasons they hadn’t been part of scouting parties in the first place. It could only be him and Marlena, in other words. They were going. As for who would be in charge, he was leaving me in charge, but I had express directions not to do anything crazy like go after those nut jobs Kieran wanted to go after.
I volunteered Kieran and myself to go after the boat instead. I thought that made more sense.
Marlena wasn’t into that. I demanded to know why, and Hallam was a little curious too. Marlena got kind of quiet, and asked me if I’d had a chance to take the test we’d talked about.
Hallam wanted to know what test.
I got mad. I told her that yes, I’d taken the pregnancy test, and yes, it was positive, but that was no reason to keep Kieran and I from going after the boat.
Hallam freaked out. He was unintelligible for several seconds, just stringing together swears. His face got really, really red. Finally, all he could yell at me was, “How could you be so stupid, Azazel? How could you be so stupid?”
I tried to tell him that I’d been as careful as was possible these days. It wasn’t like I could pop into a pharmacy and get my birth control prescription refilled. It had been an accident, the way these things usually were, and I wasn’t any happier about it than he was.
It didn’t matter, though. Hallam wasn’t about to let “a pregnant lady” put herself in that much danger. I needed to sit tight until he and Marlena got back and then hightail my butt back to D.C., where they would hopefully assign me someplace less dangerous.
There wasn’t anything else I could say. I begged them to be careful. I begged them to watch out for Jason or Jason’s people. I made them promise to be back by a certain day or we’d go looking for them. They agreed.
Later that morning, they left.
Kieran wasn’t speaking to me. He was really pissed off about not getting revenge for his family and my not wanting to have a baby. I kind of thought he was being stupid about it, but telling him that didn’t seem to make him any less angry with me.
I was in charge, so I considered ordering him to get over it. I decided that wouldn’t work either.
Instead, I just kind of moped around. I didn’t offer to help with food preparation, which I probably should have done. I sat on the steps in front of the church, staring at the empty road, the trees and their new leaves, and the abandoned buildings of Columbus. I sat there for hours. I tried not to think. I’d been over and over everything in my head so many times, there wasn’t much point in going through it again.
There was a baby. Damn it.
Sometimes it seemed like there was no end of people who needed my protection. With my powers, I felt that responsibility keenly. Personally, there was Chance, Hallam, Marlena, and now Kieran. I used to feel like I had to take care of Jason. I didn’t have to protect him from danger, because he was pretty good at doing that himself, but he was always getting himself into trouble, and I had to comfort him and be there for him. Overall, it just felt exhausting. I had to make sure people were safe all the time. And here I was, with some other little being growing inside me, some other being that I’d have to keep safe.
So, who was it that took care of me, huh?
Certainly wasn’t going to be a baby, that was for sure. I wasn’t an idiot. I knew that babies were tons of work, and that they didn’t love you back. You loved them and they took, took, took. And since you loved them, you didn’t mind that they took everything away from you. Hell, you liked it.
I was going to be a terrible mother.
Maybe I could just have the baby and pawn it off on Kieran. He wanted the baby so bad, he could have it.
But I knew that wasn’t going to work, either. If I was going to have this baby, I’d want it when all was said and done. You didn’t carry a little being around inside you for nine months, and not want to hold it when you were done. Your body released all these weird bonding hormones and stuff, and it was only natural to want to take care of it. And beyond all that biology, I knew that I kind of wanted the baby anyway. I wouldn’t have chosen to become pregnant, but if I was, I’d do the best I could. It would turn out okay.
Maybe if I went and said something like that to Kieran, he’d snap out of whatever funk he was in. I stood up, ready to try to reconcile, when I heard the sound of a car motor.
What? There were never any cars. Most people hadn’t been able to figure out how to get gasoline out of the ground without electric pumps. And a lot of the gasoline had been taken and stockpiled by the government. So why was I hearing a car?
The sound got louder, and then an old gray Volkswagen bus chugged around a bend in the road and pulled up to the church. Who was this?
The side door slid open and inside, I saw a man sitting in a wheelchair.
I rushed forward. Chance was holding a remote which controlled an electric ramp. It was lowering him and his wheelchair to the ground.
“Chance,” I said.
He grinned at me. “Pretty sweet, right? Someone converted this thing into a wheelchair accessible vehicle.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
Chance wheeled himself off the ramp and hit a button on the remote. Everything folded back up on itself, going back into the interior of the bus. He wheeled himself around to the back of the bus. “The best part,” he said, “is that I can work on the engine myself.” He pulled open a hatch on the back of the bus. “See. The engine’s right here in the back. I can sit in my chair and fiddle with it when stuff breaks.” He beamed at me.
“What are you doing here?” I repeated. “You’re supposed to be in D.C. You’re supposed to be safe.”
“I’m glad to see you too, sis,” he said.
“Chance!” Had my brother always been this annoying?
“D.C. was boring,” he said. “I’m missing all the action there.”
“You should be missing the action,” I said. “I want you out of the action. You’re…handicapped for God’s sake.”‘
“We prefer wheely people these days, actually,” he said, wheeling past me to look at the church. “I heard Hallam and Marlena were here too. I came to see you guys. I think I can help.” He looked at me. “You know, with Jason.”
I clenched my teeth. “You never have to see him again. I made sure of that.”
“Are Hallam and Marlena here?” Chance asked.
“You missed them. They’re away, looking for a boat.”
Chance shrugged. “Cool. I’ll see them when they get back.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll get back in your little magic bus and drive back to D.C.”
“Geez, Zaza, come on.”
“Zaza?” said Kieran. He was standing at the door to the church, hands in pockets. “Now why didn’t I think to use that nickname for you?”
I glared at Kieran. “No one calls me that except Chance,” I said. It always made me think of my family, and most of my memories of my family were pretty unpleasant.
“Hi!” said Chance, waving. “I’m Azazel’s brother, Chance. I’m here to help with Jason.”
Kieran raised his eyebrows.
Good. Kieran was on my side, at least.
“No, wait,” said Chance. “I know I’m in a wheelchair. I’m not going to fight him. I’m going to talk to him.”
“Chance, we’ve all talked to him. He’s completely gone off the deep end,” I said.
“But, Zaza, he’s like this because of me. I know you don’t forgive him, but I do. I don’t mind, really. I mean, I was pissed for a while, but now, I just think—”
“You’re not talking to him,” I said.
Chance started around me and began to wheel himself up the ramp outside the church.
“Chance you can’t stay here,” I said.
“I drove all this way, and you’re not going to offer me dinner?” he said. “I think mom taught you better manners than that.”
I groaned. This was a disaster.
Once Chance reached Kieran at the church door, they shook hands. I tromped up after Chance. Kieran put his arm around me. “Zaza,” he said, “you didn’t tell me you had a brother.”
“Please don’t call me that, Kieran.” I rolled my eyes.
We all entered the sanctuary. Chance looked around. “This is cool,” he said. “I can sleep here on the pews. It will be much easier than trying to get out of the chair and onto the ground.” He turned back to Kieran and I. “You two look chummy,” said Chance.
“Yeah, well, I’m having his baby,” I said.
“Really?” said Chance.
“She’s always full of surprises, isn’t she?” Kieran said.
They laughed, like they were old friends. Wonderful. Perfect.
“I wish you’d told me you had a new boyfriend,” said Chance. “I really think I should know about these things, being your brother. I mean, it’s great, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad you moved on, but—”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I said. “We’re just having a baby. Okay?”
Chance put up his hands. “Okay,” he said.
I crossed my arms over my chest.
“So, about me talking to Jason,” said Chance.
“Jesus Christ, no!” I said. “What if he decides to finish the job?”
“Finish the job?” said Kieran.
“Why do you think Chance is in a wheelchair?” I said.
“I think it was an accident, really,” said Chance.
“Yeah,” I said. “He accidentally shot you and severed your spinal cord. Sure.”
“Jason shot your brother?” Kieran asked.
“Why do you think we broke up?” I snarled.