He turned away, noticing a flicker of fireflies in the bushes beyond the porch rail. They came earlier every year, some said as a harbinger of the changing climate, a reminder of the great forces that truly controlled the world, making everything else seem insignificant and small.

He sighed, hating to admit that sometimes he was too small. “I can save the world countless times. Why can’t I save him?” He shrugged heavily. “There’s nothing I can do.”

She found his hands and held them between her palms. “You’re an ass, Gray.”

“I never denied that,” he said, discovering a small smile.

“There is always something you can do. You’re already doing it. You can love him, remember for him, live for him, care for him, fight for him. You show that love with every hard decision you make . . . that’s what you can do. It’s not nothing.”

He remained silent.

There was one other thing he could do—but for that, he needed a moment of privacy.

“I get it, Seichan.” He shifted her hands back to her. “Go on. I’ll be right behind you.”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, then more deeply on the lips. “Don’t leave me waiting.”

Never.

As she headed down the steps toward the driveway, he entered the house and nodded to the night nurse on the sofa. “Going to go check on him before I go.”

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“I think he’s already asleep,” she said.

Good.

He climbed the stairs and crossed down the hall to his father’s bedroom. The door was partly ajar, so he quietly entered and moved to his bedside.

From a pocket, he slipped out a vial and a syringe.

Days ago, he had made an inquiry with Dr. Kendall Hess about the counteragent to Cutter Elwes’s threat. He had heard Hess believed the drug might help improve other neurological impairments. Gray made his case to Hess directly, and a sample was sent overnight to his address.

He filled the syringe now.

Once, what seemed like decades ago, he had been offered a similar choice, something that might help his father’s Alzheimer’s. He ended up pouring it down the drain, believing he had to learn to accept the inevitable, not to fight what couldn’t be fought.

He lifted the syringe, pushing a bead to the tip of the needle.

Screw that.

Seichan’s words echoed to him.

. . . fight for him . . .

He leaned over his father, jabbed the needle into his arm, and pushed the plunger home. He yanked the syringe back before his father’s lids could flutter open. When he did wake, those eyes got wide upon seeing his son looming over him.

“Gray, what’re you doing?”

Fighting for you . . .

He leaned down and kissed his father on the crown of his head.

“Just came up to say good night.”

EPILOGUE

ARBOREAL

The pack moves slowly through the jungle, lumbering in line, their numbers much smaller since starting this long trek. Echoes of fire, rock, and ruin follow them. They remember digging with their strong claws, discovering older tunnels that led them into this endless forest, freed at last. They remember blood and death. They remember betrayal and pain. They remember the blue spark and the sting of steel.

Their memories are long.

Their hatred even longer.

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