Maybe it should scare Jake- how easy it is for them to slide back into their usual line of friendly bickering.

Even if it feels fake.

But it feels good- just like old times- when Marco reaches across to punch him in the arm.

"I knew the old Jake was in there somewhere. Where've you been hiding?"

He grins- like he thinks he's just said the funniest thing in the world.

It's approximately five minutes into this routine when Marco decides to quit clowning around and get to the point that Jake assumes has him here in the first place.

"You need to stop punishing yourself."

Jake's fingers grip the steering wheel a little tighter.

"I'm not punishing myself."

"You're at Tom's grave because you like it there?"

"I'm there because he's my brother!" Jake clenches his teeth so hard his teeth ache.

"Not because you blame yourself for his death?" Marco asks. "You're here twice every week, Jake. That isn't exactly normal."

"You've been spying on me?!"

Marco dodges the question with a wave of his hand, even though Jake has no intention of letting that go. "I know you, Jake. You're running every scenario through your head, asking yourself if there's a way you could have done things differently."

He inhales quietly.

"You've been spying on me," he says, deadpan.

"Cassie and I were worried about you."

"Cassie?" Jake turns to face him and it's hard- really hard- to ignore the sharp dig of betrayal that he feels under his ribs.

Marco has always been good at sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, but Cassie… He never thought…

"Hey, she didn't know," Marco cuts in. "I said she was worried about you. What did you expect, man?" He gives him a sharp glance. "It's Cassie."


Thinking about Cassie is like swallowing broken glass.

It hurts.

He shouldn't dwell on her rejection. She made her choice and he respects that.

But the what if still lingers in the back of his mind.

"I'm just saying," Marco pushes on, "maybe you should start trying to live your life. It's what Tom would want."

You don't know what Tom would want.

The words rise to the back of Jake's throat, but his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth and he can't bring himself to speak them.

Deep down, he knows that Marco is right.

That Tom would want him to live his life.

But he also realizes that the Tom he knew was a different Tom than the one who died.

It's difficult to look back and know that the brother he knew for the past three years was a parasite.

He had no idea what Tom was like in his final years.

No idea how much his brother had changed.

He can't even pinpoint when the change happened. When the Yeerks took his brother.

But he remembers a single moment.

Their first raid on the Yeerk pool. Tom throwing himself between Visser Three and another escaped slave.

Sacrificing himself.

"Jake, man?" Marco interrupts his thoughts.

It's a shock when Jake realizes that he's crying. A tear slips along his jawline and he hurriedly wipes it around.

He clenches the muscles in his throat and jaw.

"I'm fine," he says.

"Clearly," Marco agrees.