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He knew when Sullivan came for him. He knew what he was going to see. But he still couldn't believe how bad it was, anymore than he could believe what Ages had been saying. Jenner couldn't be so mad, so lost...

Except he was. He was, and he was attacking Mrs. Brisby, and that was something Justin could not allow. He'd scrambled up to them as quickly as he could, snatching up a stick along the way - and he put himself in between them, tried to talk to him as Mrs. Brisby fell back. So they were both of them enveloped in that strange red light, but Justin didn't realize at first where it was coming from. So warm, and bright, and for a moment Justin only saw the light reflected in Jenner's eyes. As it faded, those eyes did also. They were paler than before, as if something had gone out of Jenner and into that light.

Or maybe that something had been gone a long time, and it was only now that Justin could truly see the lack. Even as he tried to defend himself from Jenner's attacks, his mind wandered. Driven by strain and confusion and loss, unsettled by the shock of losing Nicodemus. The labs flooded his mind for an instant, distracting him with memories of being full of pain and confusion, of communicating only through touch. It was all they had at first, the simplest of emotions, curling up together to shelter each other from the pain. This wasn't -

New pain, the sharpness of a cut in his right arm. He looked up at Jenner, aware that the whirl of emotions and memories passing through his mind wasn't quite like anything he'd felt before. As if some part of him knew what was coming, and was seeking to draw close every warm memory he had. Helping each other along in that desperate flight from N.I.M.H. His own misgivings at the way they kept stealing, and the way he'd let himself be lulled into it because Jenner was so damn clever. Always, always so clever and smooth tongued -

Damnit! The bastard was after Mrs. Brisby again, and that stupid red stone! He struggled up and charged him, used his momentum to knock Jenner away. Then Sullivan was there again - had he been following them? Could Justin honestly say through the swirl of confusion in his own mind that he knew where anyone was at the moment? Sullivan had his sword. He couldn't say anything for a moment. Couldn't do anything but stare in shock as Jenner turned on Sullivan and cut him down. The blow was strong enough to send the smaller rat sliding through the mud and away from them.

He was glad he couldn't see his eyes; he couldn't bear any more lifeless eyes like... like Nicodemus.

He saw Jenner coming towards him, taking the jump from the mud with a fearfully casual grace. He was ignoring Mrs. Brisby this time, and that meant... he really was going to kill him - and he'd. He didn't know if he was trying to shield himself from what he knew Jenner would do, or if he was steeling himself to do the same. But he forced the words out, the horrible suspicion that had blossomed in his mind as he saw Jenner strike poor Sullivan down. He killed so casually, and only because Sullivan had gotten in his way. Like he`d gotten in the way, protecting her. "It was you." He ducked the next blow, shielding himself for a moment behind a bit of rock. "You did it, you killed Nicodemus. That was no accident."

He met Jenner's eyes over their crossed blades, and knew he could not do the same.

***
"Yes. I killed him." The fool was looking at him like he hadn't seen it coming. Although given some of the things he'd overheard Justin talking about with that idiot Ages, he might not. Self deluding philanthropists, the both of them. All that struggle, all those weeks of hardship that might've been al their lifetimes for all that they knew, and now that they'd built all the security and comfort they'd ever need, they had planned to throw it all away. He blocked blow after blow, marveling at how easy it was to drive Justin back. He was fighting now, but not to survive.

Not the way they'd fought, getting out of N.I.M.H. Not so hard as they had worked, to get what they needed from the humans. Digging and scraping and stealing and struggling, all that work for nothing? Didn't he even understand what Nicodemus had planned, what he had been trying to do to them? That he'd meant to try and destroy their home! All that struggle, only to step aside when the humans pressed in on them, to let the humans take their home from them the way they'd taken away their old lives.

Even now, he wasn't truly fighting. It was more like Justin was trying to drive him back. Didn't he see he was going to die, this way?

The fool could join his precious Nicodemus, then. How could so many of the survivors of those wretched labs be so weak? They had so much, they were safe and that fool Nicodemus - "He wanted to destroy everything!"

He followed Justin into the mud, determined to finish him. If they couldn`t all survive, some of them and something would. He would get that stone, and he would be the leader of the Rats, and never hear any of this self-destructive nonsense again. "I've learned this much - take what you can, when you can."

Justin pushed himself up, and there was finally a snarl on that face that might match his own. "Then you've learned nothing." In an instant he was up, and now he was fighting, using that fragment of a table from Brisby's house to knock him away. Then he moves forward, not to block but to strike, straight and hard.

For a minute, in the shock, he thinks that he is dead. That somehow Justin found the ruthless to kill him. Then he heard the other rat's voice, through the faint haze of the pain. "Friends. Tonight we journey to Thorn Valley. We leave no tracks. No evidence that the Rats of N.I.M.H ever existed. Come."

The surge of hatred, hearing Justin puppet Nicodemus's words, is too much. He pushed himself up, raising the sword above his head, determined to take him by surprise, cutting him down in a leap - and it becomes a fall, down into the mud, and the pain and the dark both rise to consume him.