Thirty-Six (Final Chapter)

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"Agent Aria Lewis has completed active service.

All records of Initiative group 002 should be stored in the [REDACTED]."

-Jackson Leonger, a note to his assistant.

After presenting my final decision to Leonger, I headed back up to the main house. The place was almost empty these days—most times the next incoming Initiative group was down in the Tunnels training. They'd even picked out their bedrooms down there. Which was fine with me. I wasn't quite ready to see someone else in Marlee's room yet.

My feet took me upstairs towards Eva's room. The door was open and soft rock music cascaded into the hallway.

"You going to stand there all day?" Eva asked when she saw me in the doorway.

She had her closet draped out on her bed and now studiously packed and tucked the items into a compact maroon suitcase. The rest of the room was bare—the remaining knick-knacks all little things to be sorted into the box at the end of the bed. Things like necklaces and headphones and, oddly, a worn pizza delivery brochure.

I scratched under my cast with one finger and crossed my arms, leaning against the doorframe. "I might," I said, "will it annoy you?"

Eva's long dark hair was tucked into a haphazard bun. Tendrils of escaping hair framed her face. She curled one behind her ear. "Your breathing annoys me."

In any other instance, at any other time, I'd have been pissed at the comment. But I'd learned, especially over the past couple of days, a grouchy Eva was normal. That didn't mean she didn't like you—she was just grumpy. It was the only way she knew how to be. Even when she was sad.

Even when she mourned the loss of one of her teammates.

"Not sure we talked about this yet," I drawled, "but now it's just you and me. Guess that means we get to be friends."

She raised a brow...and continued packing her clothes.

"Don't get too excited."

"I don't know what you think is going on here," she told me, "but it isn't that."

""That"?" I snorted, "You mean bonding?"

She curled her lip in distaste. I couldn't help the laugh that burst out of me. "I promise it'll get easier," Of its own accord, my brain thought of Marlee's room a few feet down the hallway and all the items recently packed away. "It'll get easier," I repeated, softer.

Eva worked her jaw, tucked another navy t-shirt into her bag. "Yeah, well, I don't need any sappy postcards from you."

"I don't do postcards," I said, "but Wes does. He might send you one...or ten. And hey, I hope you don't mind if I sign them too."

Then the craziest thing happened. Eva smiled. Hardly more than a quirk of her lips, but it was a smile.

"When does your ride get here?"

She zipped up the suitcase and set it next to the box at the end of the bed. "In an hour."

An hour, then she'd be off to Daria Lake and the training facility there. After the mess of the Musetunes Festival, Leonger offered her a position at a small government-run academy right off the lake that specialized in helping young Aces learn their abilities. Leonger decided she'd make a great mentor and teacher there, especially for those who's abilities were a bitch to control. With such a strong physical ability herself, the government requested she finish out the remainder of her contract training others on a one-on-one basis.

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