Aden was quiet for a long time. "How many Arrows do you think Ming had killed?"
"Too many." In doing what he'd done, Ming had broken the cardinal rule of Arrows - it was the integrity of the Net, of Silence, that was of prime importance. Everything else, every other concern, was secondary. If getting rid of other Arrows had furthered that aim, the Arrows would've followed Ming to their graves. But Ming had done it for power. And lost his hold on the entire Squad.
Lucas knew Dev had made his decision when the other man came out of Katya's room that night. The Shine director's face was haggard, his eyes blank with loss. "One more night," he said, almost to himself. "Tomorrow morning . . ."
Knowing no words would ever be enough, Lucas watched silently as Sascha walked across the room to touch her hand to Dev's heart.
The man stood there like stone, and eventually, Sascha turned away, tears streaking down her face. "He won't let me help him," she said, tumbling into Lucas's arms.
"Some pain a man needs to feel." He dropped a kiss on top of her hair, understanding Dev in a way not many men could. He'd almost lost Sascha once, would carry the terror of those moments in his heart forever.
Dev was still standing in place when Keenan and Noor ran past, laughing. Lucas saw them go into Katya's room and was about to call them back when Dev shook his head. "Let them be. Katya would've loved seeing Noor this way." Seeming to shake himself out of his shocked state, the other man looked around the room. "Is Connor here?"
"Outside with Dorian. Ashaya and your grandmother are making sandwiches in the kitchen. Your grandfather's in the office."
Nodding, Dev turned left, undoubtedly heading to talk to the doctor who would tomorrow note Katya's official time of death. "Is this better, kitten?" he asked the woman in his arms. "That Dev has the chance to say good-bye?"
Sascha shook her head. "His heart is shattered, Lucas - I have a feeling Dev will never truly recover." Her voice broke.
"Shh." But Lucas, too, had to swallow a knot in his throat.
Dev came in from talking to Connor, wanting only to crawl into bed beside Katya and feel her heart beat for one last night. But when he entered the bedroom, what he saw made him come to a standstill in the doorway.
Noor lay curled up beside Katya, one tiny hand on Katya's chest. Keenan lay on the other side, his hand over Noor's.
"Dev, have you seen - " Ashaya came to a stop beside him. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'll get Dorian to help carry them out."
"No," Dev found himself saying. "They're just doing what the cats do - trying to heal her with touch because she's hurting."
Ashaya put her fingers on his arm. "They're too little to understand that she can't be fixed."
"I think," he said, "she'd have liked to know she spent her last night surrounded by hope."
"I know you want to lie with her," Ashaya began.
"I won't sleep." He needed to watch her as long as possible.
And he did. Taking a seat on the bottom of the bed, one foot on the sheets, the other flat on the floor, he watched her as twilight turned to midnight, then slowly to the darkest hour of night, when everything seemed to go silent. Sometime after three a.m., he was distracted by a kind of ache in his head. . . no, that wasn't right, it didn't hurt - it was more like a shift inside his skull, not uncomfortable, just different. Frowning, he checked his psychic shields. Holding.
Keeping his eye on Katya on the physical plane, he stepped out into the ShadowNet to check for outside interference - he'd allow nothing and no one to cause her any more pain. He didn't see it at first. But the longer he stared at the flicker of Katya's mind, the more he became convinced that he wasn't imagining it. Her flame was getting stronger.
Heart in his throat, he dropped back down to the physical plane and tried to find any indication that he wasn't simply creating phantom images, wasn't simply going mad with grief. But she still slept as peaceful and motionless as always, two little hands on her body. On her skin. Why hadn't he noticed that before? Both Keenan and Noor had moved their hands . . . to either side of Katya's head.
Half certain he was losing his sanity, Dev forced himself to remain on the physical plane for an entire two hours. Only then did he allow himself to open his psychic eye. "Dear God." It was a whisper full of wonder.
Terrified any disturbance would destroy the miracle, he stayed in place for the next four hours, making sure no one came into the bedroom. When Noor and Keenan finally woke, within seconds of each other, he looked into their groggy little faces and barely kept himself from crushing them close. "Good morning."
"Morning," Noor mumbled, rubbing at her eyes. "Want Tally."
Keenan reached over to pat her arm, moving as if his limbs were too heavy to lift. "Tally's at home, but I'm here."
A little smile. Yawning, Noor got up and crawled around the bed to Dev's side, exhaustion in every line of her body. "Pancakes?" she said hopefully as he cuddled her as hard as he dared.
"Pancakes," he whispered in a voice that threatened to shake, raising his hand to muss Keenan's hair when the boy came over to lean against his knee.
While his grandparents and Sascha distracted the kids with pancakes, Connor and Ashaya began to check Katya over using the equipment Connor had in his mobile kit. Dev could tell both doctor and M-Psy were leery of his hope, that they were doing it only to humor him, but he didn't give a damn. And when Ashaya's mouth dropped open and Connor began to swear under his breath, he didn't allow himself to collapse in relief.