J.A. didn't know where she was going or what she was planning to do there. All she knew was that she was moving, and fast, to keep her mind off things. She'd accepted that the infection would eventually kill her a long time ago, and she'd accepted that by taking the place of others she was doing the right thing. Why was she questioning both of those now? No, she wasn't, she was moving. Right.
The passage went behind all the cells, so J.A. pretty much had her pick of roommates, but they either looked too intimidating or too nice, someone she might talk to, might end up telling her secrets, like Avalyn and Raeza. She wouldn't do that again. It hurt, more than the scars, to see their reactions.
She found a cell that was empty, but it shouldn't have been. That didn't matter to her, though, and she drifted off into a dreamless sleep for the first time in a while. She woke when she felt eyes on her, and as she was about to scream, a hand covered her mouth.
"Tell me who you are," the man demanded. "How did you get in here? Who do you work for?"
J.A. considered for a moment, then stayed quiet, even when the hand moved. There was nothing this man could do to her that wasn't already happening or going to happen. "I don't even care anymore," she muttered. "Just get it over with."
The man pulled out a knife, and it started towards her. She closed her eyes as it reflected the glint from the nearest lantern onto her face. There was nothing, then the slight rustle and scrape of a knife going back into its sheath.
J.A squinted, trying to make out the man's face.
"It's really you," he said. "I thought you were dead."
"I could say the same about you., Seth" She didn't look him in the eye, didn't want to remind him of how it had been her fault, how she'd been too slow.
"The energy beam you saw..." Seth began, but J.A. interrupted him.
"It disintegrated you; you can't be standing there; I'm asleep," she decided, and pinched herself hard. "Just stop this! You're a dream! Just--"
Seth leaned over and gently touched her face. "I'm real, Jule. It didn't disintegrate me, it turned me into a blade of grass. And it wore off."
She still didn't believe it, couldn't believe it, it wasn't real, she was was hallucinating.
"When I returned to the Sanctuary, they said you were dead. They said Mevolent had killed you, so I...I just went to his castle and tried to attack him. I'm not sure what I was expecting, them to just let me in? I didn't even get to see him, didn't get to punch him in the nose."
Seth's face hardened for a moment, and J.A. inched away slightly. "How long have you been here?"
His face cleared once more, and he thought for a moment. "I think it's been two. You're covered in scars; they tortured you."
J.A. didn't look him in the eye, but he realized it anyway. "Please, don't. Don't give up yourself just because someone else is in danger, Jule. You're not worth any less than they are. And you're with more to me." And with that, he lifted her from the ground and into a hug. She winced as the pressure on her arm changed, but she couldn't tell him, not yet.
((A/N: I cried writing this chapter, cried. For goodness sake! You all better like it. :-P You don't have to cry, though. I know what's coming next, I think, and you don't. [evil laugh]))