The cord was around the baby’s neck, but the professor cut it, and a second later, the baby turned from blue to pink. He was still silent, but the professor no longer looked alarmed. “There,” he said with satisfaction. “Good boy. He’s fine,” he said to Naomi.
“Why isn’t he crying?” David asked warily.
The professor cleaned him off a bit with a towel, looking relaxed. “What reason does he have to cry?”
“I thought that was normal? That babies cry when they’re born,” David said.
“Some do, yes,” he said, and handed the child to Naomi, who watched him raptly. “He’s scrappy,” she said with a smile on her lips as she cradled him in her arms. The infant’s eyes were open and eerily alert. “My little hero.”
She was a fierce girl, ferocious, even, but at that moment, she looked completely at peace.
But David was still unsettled. “Is there something wrong with him?” He looked at the baby with suspicion.
“No,” the professor said. “Everything is right.”
“What’s his name?” I asked Naomi.
She looked at the baby, then at David. “Noah,” she said, her eyebrows raised as if daring her husband to challenge her. Wisely, he didn’t.
I looked at the little shell of the newborn’s ear, the soft, perfect skin on his cheeks, the tiny fingers on the hand that would one day extinguish my life, and I said, “Good choice.”
I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TIME to scream before I noticed that Noah was still standing. The gun had jammed, or something. I didn’t know and did not care.
Noah was staring at nothing. He was blank, expressionless, stunned, motionless. The gun was still at his head. His father didn’t even react.
I was going to have to fix this. I was the only one who could. I said Noah’s name and he looked at me as if I’d spoken to him for the first time in history, as if he had no idea who I was.
“Give me the gun.”
He didn’t. But he did lower his hand, and then he spoke as if we were alone.
“Let’s go look for your brother.” He took my hand in his free one.
“There’s no time,” I said calmly.
“We can torture my father until he tells us.” I thought I caught David rolling his eyes in disgust. He was clearly not threatened.
“Uh, guys?” Jamie’s voice. We both blinked, confused, until we remembered the laptop. Jamie had seen everything. “As much as I’d like to watch that, I think—I think you should be quick,” he said diplomatically. But I knew what he was thinking.
Noah acted as if he hadn’t heard him. “We should start looking.” He tugged at my limp arm. My fingers were dead weight in his. I wasn’t going to follow him. There was no point. And parts of my legs were still numb anyway. I wouldn’t get very far, even if David and Jude let me.
“I can’t walk,” I said.
“Then I’ll carry you.”
Noah still didn’t get it. “We’re never going to find him before—before—” I couldn’t say the word.
“Not if we don’t try.”
I forced myself to remember that for Noah, Horizons seemed like yesterday. He didn’t know what had happened since.
I’d woken up strapped to the table like an animal, but I wasn’t one. I’d done things—things I regretted and things I didn’t. I was too old to blame them on being young. My family had been too good to me for me to blame it on them. I’d made my choices by myself. Some of them had been wrong, but they were my choices. I owned them. No one else.
Noah’s father knew he would never be able to convince Noah to kill me. This display was for me, so that I could prove to Noah why I should die. No one else could do that for me.
I didn’t want to die, but maybe I should. Maybe the world would be a better place if I did.
“No,” Noah said, in response to the question I hadn’t asked out loud. I wondered for a moment if he could somehow hear my thoughts, but then I realized that he didn’t have to; he could read my face.
“I can’t let Daniel go,” I said, fighting vainly to stay calm. “I can’t let what happened to me happen to Joseph. They’ve done nothing, nothing wrong. I’ve done everything wrong.”
“You haven’t been here.” I could tell that my words stung him. “You haven’t seen—” I tipped my head in the direction of the pictures of Dr. Kells and Wayne and Mr. Ernst. “Your father isn’t lying. I did those things. All of them.”
“I’m sure they deserved it,” Noah said, a tiny smile lifting the corner of his mouth. I couldn’t smile back.
David Shaw was sick and awful, but he was right about me too. Nothing good would ever come from me. Nothing ever did. But Daniel, Joseph—they were different. They would do good. They were good. And I could save them.
All I had to give was my life. My life for my brother’s. It would be worth it. It could never not be worth it.
Leaving Miami with Jamie and Stella had felt like good-bye. It felt like good-bye because it was good-bye. Something in me had always known it.
I pulled myself up onto my elbows—my feet still felt numb—and reached for Noah’s hand, the one with the gun in it. It had jammed once, for Noah, but I knew it wouldn’t for me.
A shiver rolled through him when my skin met his. He looked like he might be sick.
“Please,” I whispered. “Please.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking me.”
“Yes, I do. Come closer.”
He held the gun limply, so I lifted the barrel of it for him and pressed it against my forehead. We were beaten, and I was decided.
“Do it,” I said softly.
He was tortured, and I hated to be the one to torture him. I hated that it had to be him, that he had to watch me die and live with the guilt for the rest of his life. I hated that just as my hope of finding him had been rewarded, I was being forced to throw it into the fire, and myself along with it. I hated leaving my family. I hated leaving him.
“Mara,” he whispered. His finger was on the trigger. He was shaking.
“I’m begging you. I don’t want to be this person.” It wasn’t true, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was what Noah needed to hear. “This is my choice. Help me.”
His eyebrows drew together, and for a fraction of a second, I thought he would do it.