Cory gasped and fell to the ground, clutching his stomach. He glared up at the warrior above him.

"That was a cheap shot," he accused in Trigedasleng.

"Your enemies will not fight fairly, little Wanheda," Zach mocked, "especially not the Queen."

The former Azgeda Prince and King offered the young man a hand, but Cory disregarded the gesture and stood. He reset his stance and swung his sword in a wide arc and held it in a ready position.

Zach smirked and rolled his shoulders. He charged and Cory sidestepped easily, avoiding the move and deflected the attack that followed, but only barely.

Cory stumbled, but gathered his footing.

"Pay attention," Adina chastised, watching them with a critical eye. The fierce warrior stood a few meters away, monitoring Cory's training session.

Alicia noted the difference in Cory's skills, remembering the grueling hours spent perfecting physical and mental prowess. The boy had not been infected and she hoped he would never have to undergo the process. She recalled the pain of recovery, and was thankful she was delirious for much of the initial healing process while she fought for her life.

Elyza had taken on the job of preparing the young boy for battle and leadership as he had before under her tutelage. His training was a combination of old and new practices. Elyza was easier on him than Alicia had been as Heda. Times were different then, but after the infection, it was a familiar routine of survival. Imminent death from all sides was a constant reminder of how precious life was and how important it was to not only survive, but also live. And that was what Elyza had begun to develop in Arkadia.

"His defenses are poor," she noted to Dichen, her friend and former mentor.

"As are yours, second," the woman emphasized with a punch to the left shoulder. "Your woman shall be upset that you are unable to defend yourself."

Alicia winced, rubbing at the healed bite. She sported her own set of bruises and scrapes from an earlier sparring session. Dichen was correct; her reflexes were slower than her usual standard. Elyza was constantly hovering over her, especially because of her medical background. Part of Alicia enjoyed the attention, but she also disliked the worry she caused Elyza.

"Good enough to take you down," Alicia arched an eyebrow, glancing at the scrape along Dichen's chin.

"You were lucky," she ignored Alicia's taunting gaze.

A gunshot reverberated in the distance and she froze, listening for any other sound. Soon after, wisps of smoke rose in the distance and she stared at it passively. Chris was dead; his body was burning. She wondered idly how her family was managing.

"You are absent from your people," Dichen noted, observing her.

"You are my people," Alicia responded, looking into her eyes. She meant no disrespect to the people she had forged such strong relations with, but times were different now, she was different.

"I paid my respects to his memory earlier. I did not wish to make them uncomfortable as they mourned. Elyza is with them." She was grateful to her for being present. Travis was her main concern; it was his son and last remaining hold to the world.

"They will recover and accept things as they are or they will leave. Would you let them leave, or would you go with them?" Dichen queried waiting for her response.

"This is my home, you are my people. They are smart; they won't put themselves in unnecessary danger. And if they leave, I will do all that I can for them, but this is where I am needed."

Dichen searched her face, looking for any sign of hesitation or weakness. Finding only truth in her gaze, she nodded solemnly.

"And I will be at your side," Dichen swore. "Both of you," she amended, referring to Elyza. "Your partner is strong, you chose well." The admission was said with obvious reluctance and beguiling respect.

Alicia threw her head back and laughed.


A few days after Chris was released to his final resting place, Alicia approached Elyza with a request.

"I would like to see the one who slew me."

Elyza sucked in a breath, pausing over the map she had been researching.

"Why?" she asked returning to her work casually. Alicia could tell from the tension in Elyza's shoulders that she was uncomfortable with the request. "You don't need my permission to do anything."

"No," Alicia agreed, "but I respect your guidance."

Elyza sighed and stood up moving the map aside.

"Why do you want to see him? How did you even know he was here?"

"I have seen him already," she revealed. "I saw him when I first came here. He was unwell and seeking penance."

"Yes," Elyza admitted slowly. "He's been seeking my forgiveness for some time."

"You have not given it to him." Alicia observed with a note of curiosity.

It was one of the things that had plagued her mind in the evenings when she couldn't sleep. How had Elyza crossed his path, and why had she kept him imprisoned after all of this time?

"No," she admitted softly not meeting Alicia's green eyes. "I couldn't, not without you."

Elyza sighed and glanced up briefly and leaned against the table they had been strategizing over not moments before. "I'm not sure if I can forgive him." She hissed obviously hurting. "He ruined everything, but everything was already fucked up without him."

She ran a hand through her hair in frustration. "He wasn't the only guilty party I found and captured," she disclosed unapologetically. "I didn't want them to get hurt…just go away. I can't kill them, I wanted to, believe me, but I couldn't. God, you must think I'm so pathetic."

Alicia stepped forward and grasped Elyza's chin in her hand. Slowly, she brought her chin up so their eyes met and waited until she had Elyza's full attention. She brought their lips together in a soft closed mouthed kiss eyes fully open. Elyza gazed at her in hopeful wonder.

"Never," Alicia implored, less than an inch from her face. "I will never think you weak or pathetic. You have a strong heart and spirit."

"Their lives are yours to do with what you want. Tell me what you want, and I'll do it." Elyza clenched the table with her hands, every part of her being wanting to please.

They gazed at each other silently before Alicia kissed her again, this time deeper. It was still chaste in comparison to some of their more passionate kisses, but there was trust and sincerity behind the gesture. Alicia rested her forehead on Elyza's and their eyes closed in companionship.

"You are alive, our people are alive. But I need to face this so I can move on. Do you understand?"

"I do," she whispered and Alicia felt the nod against her.

"Take Aleks with you, for my peace of mind."

Alicia agreed.


She decided to make the visit to the prison sooner rather than later. It was best to get it out of the way than let it dwell. Besides, she had no intention of making Elyza any more uncomfortable than she already had. Aleks walked stoically besides her and she drew comfort from his presence as she had many times in the past. His unwavering faith in her judgment and capabilities had always made her strong in the past, even when he had disobeyed her. He knew better to disobey her orders or betray her trust; no matter how deeply rooted his concern for her well being was. It was similar for Titus, although she doubted if the man had ever loved her as Paunovic.

Titus had loved what she was. As Heda she had been a symbol of the Coalition and representation of the Flame.

Despite her determination, she felt unease settle in her gut. Dinner was about to begin for most of the residents in Arkadia and she was relying on that fact to travel unopposed through the buildings.

"Oh Captain, my Captain!" A voice hailed from the shadows.

Paunovic grabbed the intruder suddenly about the neck and shoved him into the wall. A red apple fell and rolled along the floor and she stopped its progress with her foot. The man gasped in surprise and nearly choked on the apple he had been devouring.

"Nick?" Alicia's brows furrowed in confusion and then in annoyance at her brother. "What are you doing?"

Nick pointed at the hand restricting his windpipe and Alicia nodded at Paunovic and Nick was released. Nick rubbed his neck, breathing deeply and eying both of them warily.

"Guess you really are some hotshot now. I always knew you were a high and mighty bitch." The tone was mostly teasing but Paunovic didn't see it this way. He made to grab Nick once more and beat the respect into him but Alicia stilled his hand.

"You're still an idiot," Alicia sighed.

"But now I'm the idiot brother to the co-leader of the apocalypse." He spread his arms wide in dramatic flare.

Alicia picked up the apple at her foot and Nick snatched it from her. He cleaned it on his shirt and took a large bite.

"Yes, and you're in my way." She walked around him but he continued to follow her.

Paunovic glanced at her meaningfully and she shrugged.

"We haven't seen you since Chris bit the bullet and was invited to a barbeque."

"Must you be so crass?" She felt poorly enough over the event as it was. "I thought it might be best if I gave Travis time."

"You've given them time, sister dear. Mom misses you," he divulged, serious for once. "No one blames you," he added finishing his apple and looking for a place to dispose of the core. "I didn't care much for the poor bastard," he said quietly.

Disliked or not, his death was on her hands and that was enough.

"I'll come see them tomorrow," she said to appease him.

"So, which inmate are we visiting? This is the way to the prison isn't it? And where is your partner in crime?"

"Most likely sleeping." Elyza was exhausted and Alicia had advised her to rest until she returned from the prison at least until she returned.

"Did you wear her out already this early in the day?"

The innuendo was not lost on her but she ignored it, especially since she hadn't actually slept with her in the carnal sense in this life. She ignored Paunovic's side-glance. Nick must have sense her thoughts because he rounded on her in the next instant.

"Wait, you haven't slept with her yet have you? Holy shit, really? Damn, this must be the one and done thing if you've been sleeping in the same bed and haven't fucked. Maybe it's that Thomas guy. I heard they were a thing. Well, not in this life, but that other life thing, or whatever you guys call it."

Alicia's patience for her flesh and blood ended abruptly. Alicia turned on him in anger at hearing him speak so crudely of Elyza. His words had also brought forth hidden thoughts of doubt. What was she waiting for, what was Elyza waiting for? Perhaps, the intimacy they had thus shared was something else entirely?

"Say one more word and I'll cut out your tongue," she growled. He held up his hands in surrender, realizing he had gone too far, teasing his sibling who also happened to have the ability to chop him up in to little pieces.

Alicia inhaled deeply through her nose and counted to ten silently releasing the breath.

"Now, if you're going to follow me, shut up will you?"

"I'll behave."

Alicia nodded and they continued on in silence.

"So who's the criminal?"

She groaned internally. She should have known the quiet wouldn't last. Alicia could practically feel Paunovic's annoyance radiating off of his larger form. In times past he would have silenced someone so ignorant and disrespectful with a blade in the gut.

"An old acquaintance and mentor." There was little she wanted to discuss on the sensitive matter, but perhaps a fresh viewpoint would be helpful, even if it came from a less than desirable source.

Finally, she stopped in front of a door and motioned for Paunovic to unlock it. The door creaked open and a man huddled in the corner. He blinked at the light shining through the door and his eyes widened seeing her standing there much as she had appeared to him on the day of her death.

"Titus," she said, without inflection or emotion.

Alicia watched his face change the moment he realized she had procured the memories from her past life.

"This is the man who killed me." Alicia informed Nick and her brother glanced from her to the stranger he had seen briefly months ago, on their first arrival. "He was a religious figure and my mentor."

"Please Heda, I-" Titus crawled on his knees towards her. Paunovic kicked him backwards. "I am not worthy, but I ask for your forgiveness."

"Although, his real target was Elyza," Alicia continued speaking to her brother as she watched the pitiful man before her. "Titus saw her as a threat."

He flinched hearing his name, but Alicia did not know his present name nor did she care to learn it. He had once seemed such a strong and pious figure, and now in his place was a groveling, sad man. It was difficult to place all of her hate and anger at a person who appeared mournful of his actions.

"Love is weakness. You taught me this from the moment I came to Polis. You were wrong, and I was wrong to allow you to dictate my actions and thoughts for so long. However, you did not break your word from what Elyza has told me. Tell me, what would you have me do with your life?"

"I only meant to protect you. I have no excuse. Do with me what you will," he bowed his head.

"Nick," she caught her brother's attention as she continued to watch the man before her. "Do you believe in second chances?"

"I believe in death and gravity." He shrugged, contemplating her question further. "I do, but I've fucked up a lot of second chances before this shit started, so I'm not sure."

Alicia nodded gravely. "I forgive you Titus; however, I cannot let you go. But nor will I end your life. You disobeyed me, endangered the people and you cannot be trusted. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Heda." He almost sounded as if he longed for death and wished she would end his life with the cruel lessons that had been installed in her from his very first lessons.

"Love is not weakness, it is strength," she imparted this last bit of wisdom as Paunovic closed the door. Perhaps, one day in the future, she would decide to end his life or set him free.

Nick watched her and followed as she turned around ready to leave. She stopped and glanced to her left. Her brows furrowed remembering another person she had seen. She knew Pike was down here as well but she distinctly remembered a female in this room. She opened the latch on the door opening the small window.

A brunette slept on the single cot. Alicia studied her clear face, trying to place her features. Suddenly, the young woman's eyes opened and she sat up. Their eyes locked and Alicia immediately recognized the face of Ontari kom Azgeda, the Azgeda Queen's secret Night Blood and chosen successor.

She could tell by the way the woman looked at her that she didn't recognize her, or rather didn't know who she was. She was Reborn, but without her memories.

Should they let her go so close to the Queen?

No.

They'd use her as leverage at some point, or kill her. Time would tell.