Nine stops screwing with his new gloves and gets serious for a moment, looking at Marina. ‘I’d like that,’ he says.

‘Ready?’ I ask Marina.

She nods and uses her telekinesis to float her Chest into the Skimmer’s entrance. ‘Be safe, all of you.’

One by one, Marina hugs the boys, and I do the same. Sam is last for me, and when he wraps me up in a big hug, I get the same feeling that I did before when we were all assembled in the Mogadorian tunnels, that everyone is watching us and tittering about how precious we are. I bristle a little bit, but before I know it the hug has lasted way longer than the others’, and our friends have drifted a few steps away as if to let us have a discreet moment.

‘Six –,’ Sam says quietly against my ear, and I pull back enough to look at him, cutting him off.

‘Don’t make this weird, Sam,’ I whisper, and tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear, glancing surreptitiously towards the others.

So, we spent last night together. Maybe that wasn’t the wisest move on my part. I love Sam, in my way, and I don’t want to string him along or hurt his feelings. I’m just still not sold on having any kind of relationship until this is all over, especially with how stupid and complicated things got with John after just some flirting. But, after everything that happened in Florida, I needed something good for a change – something warm and safe and approaching normal – and that was Sam. I thought he understood that I didn’t want to get into some dopey John/Sarah-style, star-crossed-lovers thing with him. But here we are, having a moment, and blunt as I’m trying to be, I’m not exactly pulling away either.

‘I’m not making it anything,’ Sam says, screwing up his face at me. ‘I just – I don’t get why you didn’t want me coming with you.’

‘You’ll do more good here, with your dad,’ I tell him. ‘And you’ll need to keep John and Nine in line.’

‘The last time I went on a mission with John, he left me inside a mountain,’ Sam says, not buying it. ‘Come on, Six. What is it really?’

I sigh, simultaneously wanting to strangle him and kiss him. For a second, I’m not sure which instinct will win out. I want something more with Sam, I think. Eventually. I just don’t want to think about it right now. Last night was one thing, but now I’m back to fighting a war.

‘I don’t want the distraction, Sam. All right?’

‘Oh,’ he says, looking like I’ve just murdered his pride. ‘You mean, like you’d have to keep saving me from Mogs or stop me from stepping on some ancient Mayan spike trap or whatever. Because I thought we were past that. I can handle myself, Six. And I only accidentally shot you that one time in practice and –’

I kiss him. Mostly just to shut him up and illustrate my point, but also because I just can’t help myself. I hear Nine make an oohing noise off to the side and make a mental note to destroy him the next chance I get.

‘That’s the distraction I’m talking about,’ I say quietly, my face still close to his.

Sam is blushing again, and his mouth is still working like he wants to say something more. He’s probably trying to come up with some smooth way to say good-bye, but I’m sick of these drawn-out moments, so I take one last look at his sweet, dumbstruck face and turn away. A few seconds later, I’m strapped into the Skimmer’s seat next to Adam, ignoring the raised eyebrow and smirk Marina’s fixing me with.

‘Shall we?’ Adam asks.

We nod and Adam throws some switches, handling the Skimmer’s controls with much more confidence than I did. As we slowly rise up, I look out the window to see Sam and the others below, waving good-bye to us. I wonder if my life will ever be without these moments – the painful good-byes before we all go off to risk our lives. John always talks about how much he can’t wait for some boring normal life, but would I be happy like that? We gain altitude, trees zipping by beneath us, and I think about Sam. If it wasn’t for this war, the constant chaos, we’d have never even gotten together. What would it be like for us without the looming threat of Mogadorian destruction?

I’d like to find out.


Nine leans across me so that he can get a good look at Sam, saying to him in a stage whisper, ‘All right, dude. What’s the deal with you and Six?’

Sam pointedly looks out the window of the van. ‘What? Nothing.’

‘Psshh,’ Nine snorts. ‘Come on, man. It’s like a four-hour drive to New York. You gotta give up some details.’

In front of us, in the passenger seat, Agent Walker clears her throat.

‘Fascinating as I find the sex lives of teenage boys, maybe we could use this time to go over our operational parameters,’ she says dryly.

‘Agreed,’ I say, shoving Nine back in his seat so he can’t leer at Sam anymore. ‘We need to focus on the mission.’

Nine frowns at me. ‘All right, John. I’m gonna focus my ass off for the rest of this car ride.’


Sam flashes me a grateful smile and I nod. Part of me really does think we should be thinking about the impossible odds we’re facing, but another part of me just doesn’t want to hear any details about Sam and Six. I’m happy for them, I guess. Glad they could find some comfort together. But I can’t get over the feeling that Sam is going to end up with his heart broken. I remember my vision of the future, the way Sam screamed right before the Mogadorians executed Six. Maybe that’s why I get the sinking feeling this is going to end badly.