ALTERNATE ENDING ONE

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"HOW..." MY VOICE WAS HOARSE AFTER DISUSE, and it took a couple clears to get my voice to sound right again. "...long was I out?"

"Six days."

Six days. That was more than enough time for Peter to forget and adjust to his new life, receive his praise for taking down a criminal, and then head to school and leave the past behind - he would know by now that I was gone, that was for sure. Would he care? I doubted it.

I licked at dry, bleeding lips and gestured towards the large box in the woman's hands. "What is that for?"

Inga just set it down, almost hesitantly, and knelt down to face me. "They're going to keep you...stable. Among other things."

Her words, while didn't allude to specifics, weren't hard to make sense of; they were meant to hold me still so that when the end came near, I didn't move. Death was always easiest when the victim didn't fight it, and the handcuffs would only help prove that theory correct.

I peeled off of the wall, grimacing as my back screamed with new pain, and set myself so that it wasn't hard for Inga to slide it onto my body. "This is it, then?"

She opened the box and pulled out the same cuffs I vaguely remembered from nights before; as the woman slid them onto my wrists, I took note of the blood that coated the metal, leaving a faint rusty smell that coated the inside of my nose. However, I still didn't resist, even when she put them a size too tight and they dug into my wrists; the pain barely matched the wounds shattering my broken heart.

"What happens to you?"

Inga glanced up at me, hooded eyes searching mine, the usually bright green now lifeless and dull. "I go back home."

Home; Russia, of course, that's what she meant, for there was no other 'true' home for girls and women like us. "Won't...won't you get in trouble? Punished?"

"I already was," she muttered, shutting down my other questions with a few short syllables. As she worked and I bit back my screams of pain, I took note of the scars that laced up her barely exposed back; while I could only see bits of the flesh, I could see that the wounds were done at many different times in her life; some, from the looks of it, barely a week old. "My crime wasn't as severe as yours, and my life meant more to them than yours. You are replaceable enough - hence why they sent a student, not an adult to go through the process much faster. I, however, have some value to them."

"Oh."

She pulled another thing from the chest, but this wasn't another form of torture, not of the physical sort. It was a small picture, and one I recognised well; it was Peter and me, frozen in a candid, sweet kiss, one that we thought was invisible to all but us in the dark gloom of New York. My hand itched to grab it, but in my handcuffs, I could only stare. It was almost torture and I wanted her to pull it away, but all I could do was stare at the perfectly unperfect moment that would never be experienced again. "Where...who took this?"

She frowned and spoke, and I blinked and realised that it was not a picture of us but her empty, lily-white palm offered to help me up. Surely, I was going mad.

"You did the right thing, Freya."

I lifted my gaze to meet her sad one, unsure what to say. "Pardon?"

"You did the right thing - the boy didn't deserve his fate that he could have been given. He will live a good life, too; he thankfully drank it and doesn't remember a thing."

My heart ached at her words, for though it was what I wanted and worked for, it still stung to know my life, my words, my feelings would end up meaning nothing to no one but myself. "Oh."

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