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Cover by cupidsbow

It wasn't surprise that made John freeze beneath the thatched eaves of an Athosian hut, half-in and half-out of a swatch of moonshadow, both moons waxing bright and high overhead in the mid-summer night sky. It was more like shock; the inevitable kind of shock that follows sticking a fork into a power socket.

Before him in the silver-lit clearing was Jinto, wearing a dark, messy wig, a home-spun jacket with a scavenged Atlantis patch on the shoulder, and a carved wooden gun tied to his leg.

In itself, that wasn't shocking so much as weird, although recognising Jinto's partner in crime was weirder.

The other boy's jacket was not so well made: the patch on the shoulder a carefully sketched leaf, coloured with red dye, and sewn on a little crooked. In the boy's left hand was a square plastic box stuck all over with pictures and writing cut from candy wrappers, and it did actually look a lot like Rodney's scanner.

"Rodney," Jinto whispered, kneeling next to a pile of battered sticks covered in a blonde wig: clearly a dead Wraith. "We did it, Rodney." He sounded happy, dazed, his voice trembling with it.

Pretend-Rodney said nothing in reply. He was kneeling in front of Jinto, mouth pressing tentative kisses to the side of Jinto's neck and across his downy cheek, free hand clutching the sleeve of Jinto's jacket as though afraid he might leave, slip away into the night.

John silently eased back, back, back, away from the clearing, away from the hut, away from the village, away into the forest.

After a long time, when he had gone far and the only voices he could hear were the calling nightbirds, he stood, silent and still between the trees. Slowly, he unclenched his fists, let his throat unlock, ignored the too-fast rush of his blood: a-live, a-live, a-live.

All around him, the leaf-filtered moonlight cast the world in double-edged shadows.