The screen door creaked open as Alek stepped out onto the porch. It only took a moment to spot Nic leaning against the railing. He was staring out at the clearing that they used for a training floor. The teen approached him slowly, his bare feet silent on the wood planks. He stood beside his leader for a time, arms crossed over his chest. Finally the older boy spoke.
"Marquez is dead. She couldn't have done this."
"Suppose she is alive."
The Brit pressed his lips in a thin line, not answering.
"She may not have died in that fire. Perhaps she escaped as you, Jasper, and Ary did."
"You think Marquez faked her death?" Nic asked in a low voice.
"It is possible. wewe have done it, Aryess did, twice, I might add."
Both were quiet for a minute.
"Alek," Nic alisema quietly. The other boy detected an emotion in his voice he'd never heard before: sorrow. "You would do anything to keep Tara safe, right?"
"I am here, are I not?" Alek asked in response.
"And what would wewe give to see her again?"
"Anything," he answered automatically. A thought suddenly registered in his mind. "You loved her. Marquez, I mean."
"And it hurts wewe to know she's been alive these last four years," he continued, "never once making contact with you."
"Her death was the only one beside my mother's I ever mourned," Nic spoke quietly without looking away from the clearing. "My father went MIA three months before I was born. My step-father was an abusive, drunk lowlife. Killing him set me free."
Alek waited patiently for him to go on.
"The Pack taught us not to get attached, that any we loved could be use against us."
"Why?" the Russian's curiosity forced him to ask. "Why did they care?"
"The Pack wasn't just a refuge where we learned to fight. They were training us."
"To do what?"
"Assassinate. They were training us as future recruits for the Light."
"So if Marquez is alive..."
"She could have easily carried out the assassination of Richi's friends," Nic finished.
Once again, silence settled between the boys while this information was processed.
"Does Aryess know about this? Does Jasper?" the younger said.
"Jazz, yes. The kid, no. She thought the Pack was a type of hero team, like your Justice League. And that was what they wanted us to believe. Very few would jiunge if they knew what it meant for their futures. But the Pack also didn't know who Aryess is, what she is. The daughter of a well known deceased assassin, thought to have died with none but the son they had in their possession to carry on the legacy."
"You mean Declan."
Nic nodded. "Yes. But Alek," he looked at his companion with a grave expression, "you can't tell Ary about any of this."
"She isn't ready."
"For what?" Alek asked. "The truth? She's going to find out eventually."
"Did wewe accept the mission?"
"Pardon?" Alek said, confused kwa the change of subject.
"The mission. To track Marquez and Maddex."
"Yes, but how did wewe know I offered our services-"
"Better get some rest," Nic said, walking back into th beach, pwani house. "We have assassins to find starting in the morning."
Alek sighed, knowing the little emotion Nic had showed was over, locked away back in the box he normally had locked so tight.
"And Thirteen." Alek looked back at Nic, who had reappeared in the doorway. "We only get one chance at a perfect girl. And when she comes around, don't let her go without a fight."