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Last night, the channel was full of starfish

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For the first week, Jack elects not to acknowledge reality. The fate hanging over him, not only to create a child with Lucinda but then hand it over to Silas, is too cruel to entertain. Lucinda asks him what’s happening, what’s wrong, a thousand times or more, even after he shouts at her. She tried to comfort him, stroking his hair or tempting him with food. Sometimes she cries. Not once does she blame him for her own imprisonment. She has all the brains and adoration of a kitten that has somehow imprinted on him, and he can no more crush her than he could a helpless furball. 

For another week he schemes. He tries in vain to slip notes out, to beg or trick a cell phone from a guard or Thomasina, to use Lucinda as his transport. The walls remain gilded but secure, a true fortress. He grows increasingly frustrated, then frightened. They install a wrought iron gate on the other side of the wide windows that overlook the city, blocking even that most final escape.

The third week, he watches Lucinda sleep and he fingers his tie, imagines wrapping it around her pale throat. He wonders who they would replace her with, how many women they would let him murder before putting him down. They could take his seed, of course, without his consent. There are drugs for anything.  

The fourth week he cries, and he even lets Lucinda cradle him in her lap and fret over him. She loses some of her timidity after that.

“Would it be so bad?” she asks, and for the first time he answers her honestly.


On the fifth week, he locks the door into the bathroom and manages to break the mirror. His hand shakes though, when he tries to raise the shard to his throat. Do it, he tells himself. Do it, faggot. Do it, soldier. Do it —

Lucinda opens the door and lets out a shriek. “Your hand!” she cries, and takes the mirror from him, grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his bleeding palm. 

“How did you get in here?” he asks her, and she frowns at him. 

“I just opened the door,” she says, and peers into his eyes. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

When Lucinda has returned to her reading, Jack runs his fingers over the unbroken lock. It works perfectly well now, and Jack’s mouth trembles before he swallows away the emotion. He isn’t sure what to make of God’s only touch on his life being to spare it for further torment. 

Thomasina notices the towel on his hand and orders it cleaned and bandaged properly. Her deep eyes look even more sorrowful than normal, and she bends enough to press a hand to his shoulder when she leaves the room that evening, but she still locks him in, like every day.  

The sixth week begins, and Jack lays on his back, staring dry-eyed at the ceiling. He feels completely empty. He knows he cannot do Silas’ bidding, and he knows his own desires, for Joseph or the crown, were misguided. He asks for the first time without anger a simple, honest question: What do you want?

On the fortieth day, he wakes up just as dawn is breaking, and he knows. Lucinda lays still sleeping on the bed, her breathing deep and even. When he walks to the door, the knob turns under his hand. He feels almost lightheaded with purpose, and he cuts down back stairwells and pushes into the secret passageways without speaking. He doesn’t need miracles now; he would know these passages blind and Silas, trusting in Jack’s prison, had not set guards on them. He exits the passage into the woods outside Shiloh. There are no butterflies, no signs and wonders.

For the first time, Jack sees it not as abandonment, but trust. He points himself toward the border and starts walking.

Michelle’s prison has no bars. She has a garden in which to walk, and all the nicest food she desires, and books, music, and movies, though newspapers and television are forbidden. The only shackle is the baby growing inside her, but it is effective. She submits to countless exams and tests and the hands of a dozen strangers. Some of them are even kind to her, but she cannot quite forgive them for participating in the charade of respect. 

The worst of it is that Michelle isn’t sure she would run if she could. She isn’t sure if she wants David to come for her or stay far away. She thinks she would know if something had happened to him, but maybe that is vain hope, and maybe he is already dead. Perhaps Rose is right, and this is indeed the safest place for her and her unborn child. She listens at keyholes for rumors of civil war, but she knows that secret stabbings, exile and poison, are just as likely to resolve the battle between her father, her brother, her uncle. Her husband. Either way, she hears nothing useful. 

And besides, she is not in Gilboa anymore, and she is not sure that any of her servants and jailkeepers even care about the political squabbles of a country across the sea.

Michelle sets off into the garden. They say the exercise is good for her, and the walls retreat a little when she is outdoors. As she walks, she fingers the bare spot where her ring used to sit, and she tries, as she does every day, to keep her thoughts from flying apart entirely.

When her brother steps through the trees and into her path, the sight of a familiar face sends a rush of affection coursing through her, and she almost steps toward him. Then her memories catch up with her, and she steps back swiftly. She opens her mouth, but she’s not sure if she should scream for help or not. She hates, all over again, her utter lack of actionable intelligence. 

Jack watches her with wide eyes, but he doesn’t lift a hand toward her, and she swallows her initial cry. She has no news but she thinks, after everything, she still knows Jack. 

“What are you doing here?” she hisses. “Is Silas —”

“He doesn’t know I’m here,” Jack promises, voice low and quick. “William either. No one does. Michelle — I’m sorry.” His voice cracks, and she holds herself back from going to him. When he cries, he is ten all over again, skinned knees from trying to beat her in jumping from stone column to column out in the garden at Shiloh. But he isn’t ten anymore.

“You pointed a gun at me,” she accuses. “You conspired against our father, your king.”

“He is not my king,” Jack spits. “And he’s not yours either. God’s done with him, Michelle. You know who should be king.” Michelle holds his eyes for a long moment, then surprises herself. 

“I know. It still feels wrong. Family against family? Why would God do this?”

“I don’t know what God wants,” Jack says honestly. “I know that Silas is a monster, and David is —” Jack stops himself. “He’s the only king I want to serve.” And now he does reach out for her, and she lets him take her hand. “I can get you out. I don’t know where he is, but I’m going to find him.”

Michelle takes a quick breath. She hates this house of strangers, and she wants nothing more than to let her brother lead her away to David, toward home. But she knows there’s a war coming, knows the journey will be long and arduous, and she still trusts that this fortress of Rose’s doing, not Silas’, is the safest place for her to be.

“I can’t,” she admits. At Jack’s incredulous look, she pulls his hand toward her stomach. “There’s something you should know.” 

Jack skirts Gath troops, avoids busy towns. He grows a beard, and has enough presence of mind to laugh at himself every morning in the mirror — mornings that he has a mirror. Mostly he sleeps in the woods, and feels more at peace than he has since he joined the army. He had strangely been at home there, for what seemed like the first time since he was a small child. Silas was nothing if not a good tactician, and under his direction Jack had joined as an enlisted man, lowest of the low, granted no special privileges. There had been ribbing, of course, but when Jack fell down and no one came running to help, when he puked on his morning run and didn’t ask for a break, it was his fellow soldiers who extended a hand, dragged him back to his feet, and kept going. Jack was better with a map than most, a good shot but not the best, and of course he had all the best stories. For the first time, no one expected anything special from him, and he relished the freedom. 

And if he still had to hide something of himself, it mattered less there. He was already divorced from his family, from the rest of his life — what was one more piece? It was almost a relief to forget it, not because he had to, but because other things took precedence. And when he did remember, well. He wasn’t the only queer hiding in the army. His secret was well-kept, but not only to himself. It was a relief to share the secret with others hiding just as much as him. 

So he throws himself now back into his training, evades enemy troops, creates well fortified shelters for sleeping. He had, oddly, trained for exactly this eventuality, traipsing through Gath territory unseen. It goes better than training exercises, because this time he is truly unsuspected. His hiding is not the challenge. Finding David is the challenge. 

David has all the training Jack does. He is on his own, laying low in a country three times Gilboa’s size, and Jack can’t even ask questions without revealing them both. It should be impossible.

Jack finds him within a week. 

He turns down a grimy city street in the middle of the capital and there is David, crouched on the sidewalk, back to the wall of the building behind him, a paper cup resting by his feet with a few small coins inside. He has grown out his beard as well, and he wears a knit cap that covers most of his golden hair. He stares at the ground in front of him. Jack digs out his last bill, a much creased twenty, and tucks it into the cup. David glances up in surprise, his eyes as sharp as the rest of his appearance is unkempt. 

Then he tilts his head back, eyes widening in recognition. “Oh,” he says. “It’s you.” If anything, he seems less surprised than Jack feels. He glances up and down the street and then rises to his feet, turning down the next alley. “Come on.”

Jack follows him for a few blocks, cutting through alleys and across streets. They don’t hurry, and they don’t speak, heads down. Finally David pulls open a heavy door in a back alley, and Jack follows him inside. He looks around. 

“Where are we?”

David shrugs. “Church basement. We’ll be safe here.” 

Jack has no doubt. He studies David’s clothes, his face, unsure where to begin. It is shockingly good to see David again. He is filthy and ragged, and after the weeks of being shackled to Lucinda, he is the most beautiful thing Jack has ever seen. 

“Is Michelle safe?” David asks, and Jack’s mouth twists. 

“Yes,” he admits. “But that’s actually not the most important thing you could ask about her.” 

“Tell me,” David urges. 

Jack raises his eyebrows. “You’re going to be a father.” 

David’s face lights up, and then he looks bewildered. “But, Silas would never let...” he frowns. “It’s mine?”

Jack punches him in the shoulder. “Don’t insult your own intelligence. You two are ridiculous about each other, of course it’s yours.” Jack relays the details of her exile and then waves his hand. “Pretend I passed on all kinds of sappy nonsense. And I left her a cell phone. You can even call her.”

David shakes his head, clearly dazed. “I’m just not sure what to do. I was waiting,” he continues. “I didn’t know what for. I think it was you. How did you find me?”

Jack smiles thinly. “Either blind luck or the hand of God.”

David’s laugh lights up the basement. “Well either way I’m glad you’re here.” 

Jack’s smile fades. “David, I wronged you.”

David shrugs. “You didn’t.” 

“I wanted the crown for myself. After God and Samuels told me it wasn’t mine.” 

“You defended me,” David points out. “You saved me from Silas. And you knew Silas’ nature before I did. You took action against an unjust king. That was brave.” 

“I was stupid and self-serving.” 

“You learned better.” 

“You’re a trusting idiot,” Jack snaps, temper fraying, and David laughs and reaches out, grabbing Jack in a tight hug. 

“I missed you.” 

They set up a camp just across the border, away from the cities or towns where one of them might pass unnoticed, but never both. For a week, they fortify a shelter, secure food and water. They could live a long time like this, and there are moments, staring out at the quiet woods, that Jack thinks it might almost be nice. He could walk away from it all, leave all the political machinations to someone who still wants them.

But most of the time he is bored out of mind. 

Jack is a city boy, and the quiet irks him in ways it never seems to bother David. They pass the time trading army stories, mostly, and Jack softens after the first few nights to tell him stories of Michelle as a young girl, selecting only the most embarrassing and defaming tales. David doesn’t need to hear any more good things about Jack’s saint of a sister. He needs to hear about the time Michelle threw up in the lap of the Queen of Misrain when she was seven years old. David laughs until he cries and Jack smiles, mission accomplished.  

“We have to go back,” David says on a different night and Jack watches him, expectant. David looks pained. They’ve been grabbing newspapers when they can, searching scraps of cell phone signals to tap back into civilization, and Silas has not been merciful in the aftermath of Jack’s attempted coup. “But I need a plan. I don’t know what I’m doing,” David says, frustrated. “He doesn’t really speak, just…” He tells Jack about the crown of butterflies. Jack snorts. “What?”

“You’re telling me God literally crowned you with the butterflies, and you didn’t know? Did you ever think He speaks perfectly plainly and you’re just an idiot?”

David scowls and smiles at the same time. “I knew it meant something. I had just gotten to Shiloh. Silas was honoring me. The prince was suddenly my friend. The princess actually smiled at me. It just seemed like confirmation, like I was where I was supposed to be.” 

Jack thinks about complaining that he wasn’t David’s friend, then. That he was using David, just as Silas had been using him. But he looks at David’s relaxed sprawl by the fire, and he lets it go. 

Jack is in town buying supplies, a hat pulled low over his eyes. He gets a coffee and a paper, because he misses good coffee, dammit, and because they can’t afford to be ill-informed. When he shakes open the news, a pamphlet falls out from between the pages, clearly tucked inside after printing.

It recounts the military actions Jack knew not to ask about growing up, the assassinations and executions that accompanied Silas’ rise to power, and closes with the picture of David in front of the tank. Jack shakes his head and tosses his coffee, heading back to camp.

He brandishes it in David’s face, and he frowns, reading it. “I don’t understand.” Jack almost hits him with the paper.

“Michelle,” he growls. “It reeks of her. She’d love a grassroots uprising for you. She’s probably dreamed of this like other girls dream about ponies. This is not,” he adds, “what I intended when I gave her that stupid phone.”

David looks up, grinning. “You thought it’d be all sappy love calls?”

Jack admits, in retrospect, if not to David, that he had not thought this through.

Michelle doesn’t stop with one letter, of course. That wasn’t even her first. But she keeps writing, all the things Jack had known about Silas, things Jack hadn’t thought Michelle had known, things Jack himself had never heard but can’t disbelieve.

Before long there are copycats. Jack can tell from the gossip and the pundits (who in Gath are allowed to acknowledge the pamphlets’ existence) that most people think it is one person behind all of them. Jack can tell the difference. He can read his own betrayal mirrored in Michelle’s letters. There are others as incisive, better researched in some cases, but none with her anger.

Michelle keeps writing, and people begin talking. They hadn’t ever quite stopped talking about Jack’s failed coup, Silas’ premature death notice, his restoration by David’s hand. There were already rumors. Michelle merely fanned the flames.

“He knows where you are,” Jack growls into the phone after a particularly nasty letter came through the paper, appearing simultaneously across the internet. “This is dangerous, Michelle. You don’t have just yourself to think of.”

“He doesn’t know where I am,” Michelle tells him somberly. “I think she made sure of that. And do you really think they’d believe me capable of it all anyway?” Her voice is bitter. “You escaped your prison. This is the only thing I can do, Jack. This phone is my only connection to the outside world, to people who know me. I’m going crazy in here.” She takes a quick breath, and continues quickly. “Don’t tell David that. He’ll worry.”

David is on the other side of their small camp, carefully mending a tear in his jacket. He can fix anything, Jack sometimes thinks, and he blows out a breath. “Yeah,” he promises her. “You’re fine.”

A week after that, it’s David who goes off to pick up supplies, and he comes back with three men in tow. They had recognized him, which terrifies Jack, except that they’d convinced him they wanted to be part of his army.

“We don’t have an army,” Jack reminds him through gritted teeth.

David just looks at him, and Jack relents. Their camp grows.

The soldiers — because that is what they are, by intent if not profession in all case — trickle in over the next few weeks. They come singly, or in pairs and small groups. They speak of wanting to serve David the king. They eye Jack with some suspicion. They are adept at finding David, finding men who have already joined, occasionally finding the camp itself, to all appearances by blind luck, though Jack doesn’t believe in luck anymore. By contrast, Silas’ army, which must surely be searching for them even now, never comes close. 

“They have a lot of trust in us,” David worries one night before laying down for bed. He and Jack share a tent these days in the center of camp, which has grown beyond logic for a hidden band, but remains undiscovered.

“They have a lot of trust in you,” Jack corrects, not looking up. He’s fiddling with a busted radio, because the cell signals are shit out here, and they can’t stay as in the dark as they have been. “As they should.” 

David frowns at him, sitting down on his bedroll with his hands dangling between his knees. “Why? All they know are the stories,” he says, frustrated. “I stopped a tank. They don’t know me.”

“They know plenty,” Jack dismisses him. It takes two seconds in a room with David to see him for who he is. He’s the only one who doesn’t understand that.

“Okay,” David laughs a little. “I don’t know me,” he confesses, and Jack looks up.

“I never wanted to be king,” he points out, a little wild around the edges, and Jack sees this is what this conversation is actually about. “I just wanted to be a good soldier, a good servant. I’m a farmer kid, not a king.”

Jack sets aside the radio. “First off, Silas was just a soldier when he started. Second, none of this,” he waves his hand, “is about what we want. I know that better than anyone,” he promises. “I wanted a lot of things I shouldn’t.”

“What, the crown?”

“Among other things.” Jack turns away again, readying his side of the tent for sleep, putting away his tools for tomorrow and turning down lights. “I’m working on it. But I do understand. It’s hard to stop being what you are.”

“So what if we don’t?” David suggests.

Jack laughs, an unamused sound. “I’m a prince who God made it clear will never be king. The people I loved, I’ve let down or betrayed. What about that is worth keeping?”

“That’s not all you are,” David insists, but Jack doesn’t look at him.

“It’s fine,” he says.

It isn’t, not really. There’s a hollow feeling inside where he’s been carving out pieces of himself. He isn’t sure what to fill it with. He doesn’t think he can go on like this indefinitely, but he isn’t sure what else to do. He has faith in David and not much else these days. Certainly not himself. But it’s a new thing, serving someone other than himself, loving someone and trying not to want them, and he’s still unpacking how it all works.

He can still feel David’s eyes on him. “David,” he tries again, and this time he turns, wiping his face, too, clean of all the things that war inside of him.

David is standing very close to him. Jack hadn’t heard him get up. “You’re a good person, Jack,” he says.

Jack is opening his mouth to point out how very completely obviously untrue of a statement that is when David leans forward and kisses him, and Jack shoves him away in horror.

“I’m not,” he says quickly. “This would ruin everything.” He knows how it’s supposed to be, David and Michelle the new Rose and Silas, the example the country needs, God’s chosen leader. And he, the proverbial spanner in the works. He has always been a tool of destruction, but he was hoping, just this once, he might be used for good instead. “There’s a plan, David,” he points out, though he’s suddenly terrified what the plan might be. “This isn’t it.” Of that, he is sure. He’s been told enough times.

“I’m sorry,” David murmurs.

He backs away, and Jack turns from him, readying for bed, trying to figure out if he should leave before he causes more damage than aid.

“You’re wrong,” David offers once they’re lying in the darkness. Jack pretends not to hear him.

David’s support snowballs. They send a few men out for food and instead they return with invitations, whole towns falling in line behind David.

The first time it happens, David locks eyes with Jack, who shrugs, equally surprised but committed to whatever unfolds. “It’s what we need,” he points out, and though David still frets over the end game, he agrees, and they move into a hotel, the owner declaring himself for David and housing his literal army.

Still they meet no resistance, and what they had taken as a blessing starts to feel increasingly suspect. They almost learn their lesson too late.

David is showering one morning, and while there are guards scattered through the hotel they use as a base, posting a man inside the bathroom had seemed paranoid. They catch him as he is coming out of the shower, naked and unarmed, and the guards find the door locked when they hear the first scuffle.

By the time Jack comes charging through the hall, the radio alerting him to trouble, it’s over. David is standing over two felled assassins, clutching a towel around his waist and waving off the hovering guards.

“I’m fine,” he keeps saying, and then he catches Jack’s wild eyes and repeats even more firmly, “I’m fine.”

Jack nods, and tries to slow his breathing from panicked to normal. The problem with serving someone else is that everything he has now resides in David. He isn’t sure he likes the feeling.

He shepherds David back to his room himself, not trusting anyone in the immediate aftermath. David is mostly unharmed, though he has a few nicks where they’d caught him, knives being their weapon of choice. Jack calls for a first aid kit and then locks the door again, sealing himself in with David until his heart stops racing, at least.

He’s wrapping up David’s hand, which has the deepest slice by far, when David starts laughing, though it’s clearly the adrenaline wearing off and making him crazy. Jack’s been there plenty of times. David is still only wearing a towel, and from the way he’s plucking at it, this seems to be the funniest part of the event to him.

“Yeah, you’re a regular riot act,” Jack tells him, and releases his own tension by pulling David’s head toward him, kissing him on top of his head, pulling David’s body into his in a tight hug and finally feeling his heart stop pounding in quite so terrified a rhythm.

To Jack’s pride, the story of the assassination attempt spreads like wildfire. Troops appear at the edge of town. When David goes out with his men and calls to Silas’ troops, they drop their weapons. David was one of them. Silas is nothing to them. David hands their weapons back, and they stay.

Jack is reading David the latest tabloid story about how they are hunting each other across the wilds of the icy northern tundra and David is laughing. “We ride a very special breed of pony,” Jack teases him. “They have pictures. Would you like to see?” 

“Of us?”

“Of course.” Jack holds out the paper, the finest of its kind, and proof, in its own odd way, that at least the world isn’t entirely composed of Silas’ army and David’s. “You know, we didn’t even make the front page this week. Michelle cuckolded you with an alien.” 

David’s grin fades, his face growing worried. “Do you think they know something?” 

Jack stares at him, and then whacks him with the paper, still outstretched in his hand. “With an alien, David! They don’t know shit.” 

David grins. Jack has noticed his language slipping. It’s a kind of code switching he’d learned early on, and Jack knows he is one person around his fellow soldiers, another walking the palace halls. Silas had done it too, never lost a gift for being as eloquent with a soldier’s vocabulary as he was with the flowery language of speeches. He always thought it was a conscious choice with Silas, but then again, Jack does it without thinking.

It is only David who is always, eternally one person, and he seems to find the different versions of Jack vastly amusing.

He deflects Jack’s paper attack, pinning his arm lightly to his side, and holds it there. Jack leans in without thinking, David’s face open and asking, and then he stops, turning his face away.

“David, we can’t. What about Michelle?” he tries, and David smiles.

“I still love Michelle. We talked about this. It’s all right.”

“You two talk about me.” Jack’s voice is flat, disbelieving, and David only smiles more broadly.

“You two don’t talk about me?”

He is, in fact, most of what they talk about, and Jack stalls.

“He’s supposed to be good,” he points out to Michelle that night, because David always hands him the phone when he and Michelle are done talking, and because apparently this is a point of open discussion. “God chose him. He can’t want this.”

She considerers for a moment, forcing Jack to listen to the silence over the line. “Did you ever consider that God chose him, and he is good, and it’s not up to you to dictate morality?”

Jack seethes. “I’m not dictating anything. Believe me when I say I’ve been sent enough messages about what God considers acceptable, and it’s not fucking men.”

“Maybe you’re listening to the wrong messages,” she suggests, and then continues before he can argue. “I pledged my life,” she reminds him. “I said I wouldn’t be with anyone because God saved my life, but sometimes children get better and sometimes they don’t.” Her voice is troubled. “I think sometimes Silas heard God speaking when it was just noise.”

Jack hands the phone back to David that night without speaking, goes to bed still listening to Michelle’s words in his head.

The next day he waits until he finds David alone, and he steps purposefully close, twisting his hands in the front of David’s shirt. “I thought everything I wanted was wrong. But now I want you to be king. Maybe this is okay, too.”

David kisses him, and there’s no lightning or dead butterflies, and Jack decides not to take it as any kind of a sign at all.

When they get to the palace, the gates swing open for them, the guards nodding their heads as David passes through. The inner doors open as well. Rose is waiting for them. 

“He will kill you,” she says coldly, to both of them, but her eyes are mostly on Jack. 

David lowers his gun but Jack keeps his trained squarely on his mother’s chest. “No, he won’t. God’s on our side.” 

David, because he has no sense of humor, takes this in earnest, face not even flickering. But Rose, for all her faults, sometimes still knows him with a mother’s infuriating accuracy, and her face twists in anger. David looks to Jack, leaving the decision in his hands. 

“Lock her away,” Jack says. “Keep her safe.” If nothing else, Michelle will want to have her say. 

They prowl through the halls. David’s men, well used to him by this point, shadow him but do not try to lead. The halls are eerily quiet. The few people they do pass put their hands up, backing into walls and knocking over priceless art.

“It’s too easy,” David mutters. “A trap? God’s work?”

“If Silas had been a good man, he’d have had more people loyal to him.”

There’s a flicker of an approving smile on the side of David’s face. Jack breaks away, splitting apart to cover more ground.

Silas is waiting for them in the assembly room. Jack gets there first, opening the door and scanning the room. Silas sits his office chair like a throne, as always. Shiloh sprawls out behind him, the skies above cloudless and blue. Jack swings his weapon up, calling out without letting Silas out of his sight. “David! In here!” 

“Ah. So you don’t have the balls to do it yourself.” Jack narrows his eyes. His gun doesn’t waver. “After everything, and you still can’t pull the trigger,” Silas taunts softly. 

Jack hears the scuffle of feet behind him, and he knows without turning that David is there. “You’re not mine to kill,” Jack tells him. “Not my father, not my king. Why would I waste the bullet?”

Silas’ eyes narrow, and he turns to David, a solid presence over Jack’s shoulder. “And you? Will you bring about a new reign of peace and prosperity in your mercy? Spare me your wrath and lock me away? Our dungeons are deep, I won’t escape. But I will be your dark conscience. You forget, David.” He taps his temple. “This has all happened before. I know how it ends.”

“I’m not you,” David says simply. “That’s the difference.” From over his shoulder, Jack hears David disengage the safety on his weapon, and Jack drops to one knee.

“No,” Silas snarls. “I will go when God commands it, and not a second sooner.”

“Maybe that was your problem,” David says.

Silas rises from his seat, and David shoots him cleanly through the head. When Jack leans over to check him, he looks like every other body he’s ever seen — surprised.

He doesn’t realize he’s crying until David wraps his arms around him, pressing his lips to Jack’s forehead.

Michelle arrives the next day, heavy and round and fit to burst, and David rushes to embrace her. She grabs Jack almost as tightly when David releases her. “You’re okay?” David asks, and she laughs, though with the tears in her eyes it could almost be mistaken for a sob.

“Popping any day now, but yes, I am. Are you okay?”

David looks overwhelmed and happy and more than a little terrified, and he sees the same feelings echoed in Michelle’s face, realizes he must show the same.

“Yes,” David says, and grabs both their hands, raising them and kissing their fingers together. “I am now.”

And Jack is as surprised as anyone to find that he agrees.