That's why Burnish has been so attentive. I should have known a Messenger caring for my feelings was up to some larger picture of pay back. I use my well-bred manners and say it's nice to meet this man before my hostile tone kicks in. "Well, I don't know how much he can help you now," I say. "My parents are being held for questioning by the Columbine guards. I can't even see them."

"I am so soddy to hear thees," Papa says in a quaint accent. "Please can I help?"

"I'm not sure what anyone can do." I feel like crying. The whole situation makes me want to rant: my saving an outlaw baby that got Mom and Dad in trouble; Cord's own terrible secret of keeping his grandmother alive illegally; the exhaustion from my meet; and the whole drama over whether Lemon will live or die. Honestly I can't take on another project right now.

"Actually, Fuchsia can help." Burnish says to both of us. "I don't know if you understand how powerful Lemon's family is."

"Lemon?" What's she got to do with this? "Sure they are. But I don't see wh-"

"Papa was the messenger who sealed the kiss between her parents, before he was found without papers and deported as an example. He knows everything about the family."

Papa pipes up. "Jes, her grandfather, thee second oldest member of thee Grove, ees also thee judge who will decide jour parent's fate. After they are questioned for a second offense, that ees thee protocol."

"A second offense? No, this is their first." And it was actually my fault entirely, I don't add.

"Older people remember eet well. Jour parents helped a Toadflax escape once before; that's why thee guards were so suspicious. They've been watching jour home closely for as long as jou've been alive."

Okay, now that would have been good to know before I made my traitor's suicide pact with Cord.

Papa's begun pacing the courtyard and his old, clipped wings buzz like he wants to fly instead. "Lemon also needs a donor, someone who ees not from her tribe."

I see where he's going with this. Messengers are full of information, even if they can't use their wings and have to answer to Tribesmen.

Burnish adds, "Someone from a tribe that has repellent properties like yours but not poisonous properties like Del."

I hate needles. I know that's a selfish thought, but it's the first one that pops into my head. I couldn't; I'd faint before they got me strapped in to the machine. I wouldn't do that for a real friend, let alone Lemon.

Burnish sees me hesitate and cranks up the sales pitch. "It's painless, I've heard. They drug you. You'd be made a heroine by the end of the day just for the announcement. Your parents would be freed of all charges."

He gets right in my face with those big bulbous eyes. "Del would be remorseful to the point of life-long unrequited love, my dear." He's hit his mark and knows it.

Like the watery shouts of the other team's families echoing in the bleachers, I won't let him distract me. "But what you really care about is saving Papa. How can I trust you're not using me?"

"Would I have brought a Grove High student here without authorization if I didn't have faith in our friendship?"

Papa looks so sad. "I am dying," he says. "I want to leeve where there ees water and freesh air one more time before I go."

How can I argue with that?

I give them some time alone before we head back. We'll miss curfew if we don't hurry, so after a sun-set snack with rationed water from his disgusting bike bottle, Burnish and I hitch a ride on the commuter bus and zoom back up the mountain. The bus is mostly empty but we don't speak.

I zone out the window as the desert rushes by in a blur of twilight silhouettes. It was the same, this journey with Dad and my class. He never told me how deep he was in the saving others game. My memory of the little girl we gave water to flashes in the window reflection. I had been hesitant to get close to her, and instead hid behind my dad. But someone else in our class had been brave.

Lemon approached the girl like we were on the playground instead of inside a hard-pack yard surrounded by barbed wire. Soon they were skipping and laughing together, hand in hand. Why couldn't I have been that generous?

We get off with his bike at Magenta's door as promised, but somewhere along the journey I've made up my mind. "Take me to the hospital," I direct.

"As you wish, my dear, dear Fuchsia," he says, and his tear-brimming smile is genuine.


A/N: Don't you hate it when other people think they know more about your family than you do? Fuchsia's making one big sacrifice, but is she motivated by her heart or her guilt?

This chapter is dedicated to @Carpe_Diem321 whose work, Fractus, shares poetic wisdom and comfort for those struggling with the weight of the world. I'm so inspired by this work. Also, this writer knows Latin better than a botanist!

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