I tried not to convey my panic as I surveyed Sutherland, my tied up brother and friends, and his armed guards. This whole plan had hinged on my being able to take Sutherland out. What did we do now? If Jason and I got our armies to fight Sutherland’s, he’d kill Marlena, Hallam, and Chance.
If we stood by and did nothing, Sutherland would have won his first battle in taking over the whole country.
I looked at Jason, whose face was stone. No help there.
I didn’t want to sacrifice Chance in order to save the rest of the country. He was my little brother, and I didn’t have any family left besides him. Everyone was dead. If I let Chance die, I’d be all alone. How would I live with myself if I did that?
I couldn’t do that. I looked down at him. His eyes were wide and glassy. He looked terrified. He looked sick, possibly feverish. Oh God. My little brother. I couldn’t help him. I was going to—
Wait, what was I thinking?
I reached into the minds of the soldiers Sutherland had with him and forced them to point their guns at Sutherland. Well. I forced all except one. The one who had a gun against Chance’s head. He must not have had an impressionable mind either, wouldn’t you know it.
It all happened extremely fast. They fired on Sutherland, under my influence.
Sutherland hit the ground, evading their bullets.
Kieran darted forward and grabbed Hallam and Marlena. He yanked them to their feet.
Sutherland tangled his arms in the legs of one of his soldiers and the soldier went down.
Jason dove for Chance.
The soldier covering Chance shot Jason. Jason swore.
I made my men shoot again at Sutherland. Sutherland rolled out of the way.
Kieran dragged Hallam and Marlena away. The three scrambled across the cemetery.
Jason was bleeding, but recovering fast. He drew his gun.
Sutherland wrenched a gun away from the soldier he’d tripped. He shot that soldier in the head.
The soldiers I was controlling fired again. One shot grazed Sutherland’s cheekbone and blood spattered onto the grass.
Jason aimed his gun.
A soldier shot Chance in the head.
Sutherland shot the soldiers I was controlling.
I didn’t move for several seconds. I looked at the bodies on the grass. The soldiers. And Chance. My Chance.
Then I wrested Jason’s gun out of his hand and shot the soldier who’d shot Chance. I shot him in the forehead. I shot him in the stomach. I shot him in the chest. I shot him in the mouth. I shot him and shot him and shot him.
Jason pulled me away. “Stop, Azazel. He’s dead,” he was saying. “Stop. He’s dead.”
I turned on Jason, rage coursing through my veins. “Chance.”
There he was. Dead on the grass, blood spurting out of his forehead, his eyes still wide open.
But I had forgotten about Sutherland, and now he had his gun to my head. “Deal breaker,” rasped Sutherland.
I didn’t care at that moment. I really didn’t care. “You killed my brother,” I spat at him. “And right now, your entire army is coming for you .”
I wasn’t lying. I didn’t know how many minds it was. Thousands. But I’d filled them all with my rage for Sutherland, and I’d let them all know where he was. And now they were changing course, and they were all marching toward Sutherland. When they got to him, I would make them rip him into little pieces.
“That’s supposed to keep me from shooting you in the head?” Sutherland said. He cocked his gun. There was blood trickling down his face from the place where the bullet had grazed him.
“Don’t shoot her,” Jason said. “She’ll back off.”
“I most certainly will not,” I snarled.
Suddenly, I felt the minds wrenched away from me. Jason. He was focusing them all someplace else, and not on killing Sutherland.
“Their minds aren’t on you anymore,” said Jason. “Lower the gun.”
Sutherland didn’t listen. “I knew you’d be easy to control if I was going to kill her,” he said. “You were always too soft when it came to her, Jason. She’s your weakness.”
“Okay,” said Jason. “Sure, fine. I’m weak. But put the gun down.”
Sutherland jammed the gun against my cheek. I glared at him.
“Turn around, Azazel,” said Sutherland.
“Fuck you,” I said.
“Turn her around,” Sutherland said to Jason. “And I’ll let you say goodbye to her before I shoot her.”
Jason took me by the shoulders and turned me so that my back was to Sutherland. He mouthed to me, I have an idea .
I’d had an idea too. It was to make Sutherland’s army kill him. I’d really liked that idea.
“Good,” said Sutherland. “Now say goodbye.”
Jason kissed me.
I struggled in his arms, against his tongue that was pushing into my mouth. I pushed ineffectually at his shoulders. I suppose I should have been worrying that Sutherland was going to shoot me. I should have been thinking about how to stop him. But right then, not much mattered. Chance was dead. I was alone. I didn’t care about anything. I could die. Fine.
But I didn’t want my last kiss on earth to be with Jason. I hated Jason.
“Don’t fight me,” Jason said against my mouth. “It’s not going to work if you fight.”
Then it came to me. Our theory that kissing made people do what we wanted them to. It had confused the Sons, brought Jason back to life, and made the Sons commit suicide. I opened my mouth to Jason, and I felt like I’d been kicked into warp speed, stars streaming past me so fast I could hardly breathe.
I was everywhere at once, inside the minds of each and every person on earth. I could feel them all and control them all, for good or evil, destruction or creation. It was too easy then. I could break the flimsy bit of resistance that Sutherland had in his mind. There was no reason not to. And likewise, there was no reason to make him die in such a messy way by making him shoot himself. It was easy to find the parts of the body that were keeping him alive and convince them just to stop. Shut down his brain. Stop his heart from beating.
Sutherland fell to the ground behind us. He was a bag of bones. His gun discharged when it hit the ground.
Jason and I kept kissing.
We worked together like one being. Our power spread out into the armies that were gathered to fight. We could push our army against Sutherland’s army, annihilate them. But that suddenly seemed like too much effort for something that was now so simple. We could brush the minds of each of the soldiers in Sutherland’s army. If we wanted, we could switch all of them off, kill them like we’d killed Sutherland. Or we could just scramble their minds, like we’d done so long ago in the church in Shiloh to a group of the Sons. Back then, our power hadn’t been so all-encompassing, and we hadn’t understood it the way we did now. The easiest thing to do though, was the least intrusive. We just made them stop. They all lay their weapons down, sat down on the ground, and we made each and every one of them think of home.
There would be no battle. There would be no struggle. Everything would be done simply. There would be Jason and me and our bodies and our lips, and we could make the world over into a beautiful place, where no one ever wanted to hurt anyone else. Paradise.
Our kiss grew fiercer as we envisioned it. Our power reached out with hungry fingers, touching the minds of the planet, pulling them up into it, gathering them to us. They were ours to manipulate. Ours to use. Soon—
But there was a closer mind. A familiar one. We probed it. It stood outside us. It hurt. We wanted to turn off the hurt.
No. We were divided. I wanted to turn off the hurt. Jason wanted to snuff it out. He thought the mind was a barrier between us, a divisive force and he wanted to kill it the way we’d killed Sutherland.
I broke away from Jason, shoving him away from me with all the strength in my body.
Searing pain shot through me, as if I’d just cut off half of my limbs. And all the power and connection I’d just felt, my ability to see the world and manipulate everyone’s mind and change everything, shut off, like I’d just blown a breaker in my brain.
I screamed, clutching my temples. Jason was yelling too.
I opened my eyes. Jason and I were both sprawled on the grass of the cemetery, both holding our heads because they hurt.
Kieran was standing next to us. He looked stricken and sad. “You were kissing him,” he said.
“We had to,” I said. The pain was fading. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again. It was a little better.
“Why did you push me away?” Jason asked, agony in his voice. “Couldn’t you see what we were doing? Couldn’t you see what we’re capable of?”
“You wanted to kill Kieran,” I said.
Jason got to his feet, wincing. “He’s in the way, Azazel. You belong with me.”
“Even if that were true,” I said, “it wouldn’t mean you could kill him.”
“What do they matter, really?” Jason asked me. He walked closer, his eyes bright. “You must have felt it. Compared to us, they’re nothing. They’re like flies, easy to brush away, easy to kill. Who cares if one of them dies?”
I did know what he meant. Two seconds ago, with that heady, beautiful power rushing through me, it was difficult to distinguish one person from another. They had seemed insignificant, like insects or pests. But I’d wanted to help people. I still wanted to help people. “I care,” I said. “I don’t want to hurt people anymore. I’m sick of hurting people.”
“But that’s what we could do,” said Jason. “You saw it. A world without pain. We wouldn’t let them hurt each other.”
I shook my head. “No, we shouldn’t do that,” I said.
“It’s wrong. People need to be able to make their own decisions. We can’t just control them.”
“We do that all the time. Every time we use our magic. We just did.”
“But that was different,” I said. It was, wasn’t it?
“No it wasn’t,” said Jason. “It’s who we are, Azazel. We are meant for something huge and exciting and important. We are meant to change the world. Join me. Kiss me again. With you by my side, I can—”
“No,” I said. I looked at Kieran, who still looked sad, but now also confused. “No.” I reached out for Kieran, and he slowly put his hand in mine.
“Fuck you,” said Jason. “I’ll make you change your mind. I’ll take everything away from you. Every one. You’ll have no choice.”
“Jason,” I said. “Please stop—”
“You’re mine,” Jason said. “You’ll always be mine. And if I have to kill every last person that tries to convince you otherwise, so help me, I will.”
Jason’s guards appeared suddenly, sprinting into the cemetery with their guns drawn. They were aiming at Kieran.