XIII: To Face a Thousand Liars

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J O H N

The Wolves Den
Whitetail Mountains
Two Days Ago

What time was it? Midnight?

John impatiently peeked at the clock after his last round of pacing. The last meal he had was hours ago, scraps from the militia dining hall scraped and mashed together was served to him on a chipped plate and dirty silverware. Normally John would tip his nose up at something like that, but he wasn't about to turn down the only means of sustenance.

When the door to the common area opened, he barely turned his head. It was probably Tammy or Wheaty anyway, maybe even Jess, to come in and give him what they thought was a nice round of Hope County hospitality.

Hell, even Boshaw was preferred over them.

"Someone's... here to see you."

"Joseph?!" John leapt from the couch and made a dash toward his brother, causing the guard to flinch.

Eli held his hand out and pressed into John's chest to stop him dead in his tracks. "You have five minutes. No more, no less. Starting now." He jutted his head in the direction of the door, signaling Sharky and his other guard to leave the room. Cold eyes locked with Joseph's before they acknowledged each other with a silent nod before he made his exit.

John breathed out. He didn't care that Eli tried to intervene—it was brief enough—he had Joseph here and it was both relieving and terrifying at the same time. "My God..."

"I'm so glad you're alive, brother." Joseph grasped the back of his brother's head, soft fingers tangling in the dark and curly locks that had grown out for some time now.

John closed his eyes as he clung to his older brother, his forehead placed against his, a feeling he didn't know he needed until it happened. He sighed. "I'm so sorry,"

"Stop that now." Joseph whispered.

"But if you're here—" John cut himself off. His wide gaze found his brothers as he pulled away, still grasping at his arms.

Solemnly, Joseph nodded.

John couldn't breathe. His head suddenly throbbed in pain, trickling down through his body as his nerves tingled with anxiety. His voice was barely a whisper. "No..."

"I have no confirmation of what might have happened but after you called, I heard from Her."

John pulled away from Joseph and ran his hand through his greasy hair, exasperated. "And?"

Joseph shook his head.

"Fuck..." More and more bad news kept pouring in and he struggled making any sense of it, even if it was fairly clear what sort of horrific picture Joseph was painting. He turned away, leaving his back to his brother, regardless of the ache that struck him. He wanted nothing more than to be with his family, but he was at a loss. Grief-stricken. He felt ill.

"John—I've come here because... you know I-I have to stay this course. After I return you to the sanctuary—"

"No."

"You must be with Faith. Ana, Seed Ranch—everything is under siege, nowhere is safe—"

"Ana..." A desperate whisper left John's lips, the name of his lover. If Joseph made mention of her it only meant bad news, yet again. A sign of weakness was crying—but since it was just him and his brother, John let loose a flurry of emotions he would otherwise keep hidden away to uphold the façade of his burden, to be strong for his brothers. He slowly turned to face his older brother. "Joseph what about her? Wh-what are you saying?"

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