That morning, Serena was up surprisingly early. Regardless of the amount of time she'd given herself, however, the morning was gone in a blur. Tooth-brushing melted into breakfast, 'hasty toiletry packing' sloughed right into 'that one last television show before leaving', and before Serena even knew it, she was standing outside her Grand Cherokee, exchanging goodbyes for a good twenty minutes.

"It's pretty far... if you get tired, just pull into a rest stop, okay? Sleep in the car," Charlene said, smiling slightly. "Or call me. I've also heard blasting the air conditioning really works..." Serena smiled and rolled her eyes, hugging Charlene again.

"I'll keep all that in mind... quit worrying, seriously. You're going to give yourself an ulcer... or... something equally bad," Serena said, pulling away. When she looked into Charlene's face this time, she was crying. "I—I'm only going to be gone a week, Charlene."

"I know, but..." she smile through her sobs. "I'm j-just a worrywart, I guess..."

"You guess?" Serena said with a smirk. "Seriously, I'm going to be fine. I feel better already, actually. Definitely more awake..." Serena trailed off as she pulled open the car door and looked back at Charlene. Charlene was biting her lip, seeming to try her best not to burst into sobs again.

"You'd better be safe, okay...? And call me tonight when you stop at the rest stop—I want to know you got there safely... okay?" Charlene asked. Serena smiled slightly as she started the car.

"All right, Charlene. And seriously, stop worrying..." Serena said. "I drive in my sleep all the time."

Charlene laughed nervously then, as Serena pulled away. She watched her drive all the way down the street, gently cursing her friend's terrible sense of humor.


As Serena drove—the music blaring and the air conditioning so cold it was making her eyes water—she thought... She couldn't quite remember any of her dreams lately; only fragments here and there of what might have been interesting scenes. Hardest of all to remember was the one she'd had the night before... although something nagged at her, like it had been the most important thing in the world, and she'd gone and forgotten it.

The long, winding highway and equally mind-numbing music were both breeding grounds for the wanderings of an overactive imagination. Scenes played in her mind as her brain faithfully navigated the roads without an interruption. Like an instinct, the blinker would flick on, or a casual glance at a mirror would take place... but she never thought about it. It was like a dream. And the deeper in she got, the more snatches she seemed to remember from the night before...


Lenore laid very still in the large, cold bed. Its blankets were soft and somewhat warm, but the cloying fear of whatever might come the next day blotted out the silky siren call of sleep.

Fear... it wasn't an emotion she'd been much in contact with lately. It just seemed to walk out one day, with a genial tip of the hat and a whistle... but here it was again, hands at her throat, pulling, pulling, pulling...

She wasn't sure what brought on the emotion. Of course she feared for her life, but the Grimwelds at least didn't seem to want her dead. So why...? Why this deep, penetrating fear that seeped through her veins and twisted her stomach? What was she so worried about?

She looked out the window, past the gently wafting curtains, at the freakish brightness of the gibbous moon before closing her eyes and trying again to sleep...


Serena looked up at the sun as it began its slow descent in the sky, gas pump firmly in her hand. The freedom of the road and the copious amount of unfamiliar sights helped to dissociate her from the stress at home. She knew it wasn't healthy to do that—shove everything into a tiny box to deal with later. It just... felt so much easier...

She locked the pump and walked into the mini mart, walking out minutes later with a soda and a few packs of gum. The man at the register told her there was a rest stop about an hour and a half down the freeway. She could make it.

She pulled out the pump, grabbed the receipt from the machine, and drove away...


After hours of a miserable limbo between sleep and consciousness, Lenore had resigned herself to walking around. There was a good chance she wasn't supposed to be doing that, as a sort of prisoner. To be honest, she didn't feel like one, though. They'd put her in a rather nice room—one of many that the government used to harbor Justices who visited the Armament on long cases. It still had the unwelcoming air of the rest of the building, but it was a bed, at least... and not a cell.

Hell, she deserved one.

It was this civility that put her on edge. Did she really earn that? No matter how many years she was Darius' student, she had killed people. Regardless of her feelings toward it, there was still a part of her that was absolutely baffled. Is this really how the justice system worked?

She paused in the middle of the hallway, with its high ceilings and its numerous doors to rooms that spilled the light of the fat, waning moon. It swathed the hall in that same chilly, impersonal light that suited the edifice so well. She turned, now ready to try her hand at sleep again... when footsteps made her freeze...


The road was dark, now—fenced in on both sides by thick forest. It wound around in a serpentine pattern, its markers glinting in the light of the headlights. It was eleven hours into the trip when Serena first noticed the world start to dip.

The road seemed fuzzy at the edges and her eyes felt more than ready to snap closed and stay that way. Her head felt heavy and everything wanted to sleep—to slip... down, down, down, down...

She panicked, cranking up the air conditioning, blaring the music, and shoving another piece of gum in her mouth. She'd make it. Fifteen minutes to the rest stop...

She'd make it. She had to.


"Good thing you're out and about," a voice purred, sounding louder and louder as the footsteps approached. "I didn't know where your room was. Maybe that was the point, though... probably should've stayed in there, love... although, what do I know?"

Lenore watched the man approach, suddenly very aware of why the fear had set in. She hadn't considered it before—hadn't even thought about what might happen if—...

Time seemed to slow down, warping as if her brain didn't want to believe what was happening. The man who approached almost seemed to smile with his full lips and dead eyes. He was rather handsome... those beautiful brown eyes, his dark skin and lovely dark hair... and a gun, clenched tightly in his hand, and pointed directly at Lenore.

She wrenched herself around, fighting her panic-sodden brain every second of the way. She started down the hall opposite him, running with every iota of energy left in her tired body...

... When pain and heat began to blossom in her chest.


"I—Charlene? Yeah... yeah, I'm okay... About ten minutes 'till I get to the rest stop... yeah... yeah, don't worry. I'll sleep eight hours, yeah... No, no, I'm all right... just tired... shaken... little dizzy... Don't worry about me... I'm awake now..."


"... What—the hell...?" Lenore choked, now sprawled on the floor. Her lungs were on fire and the muscles in her chest spasmed as she struggled for air that would hardly come.

Moritat's mouth twitched.

"You almost act like you weren't expecting this. I—" he cut himself off as he grabbed Lenore's arm harshly. He dragged her into the nearest room and hastily closed the door. As he turned the latch, the two lovers looked at each other then, speechless—each for different reasons.

Lenore's breath came even weaker as she lowered herself to the floor, gasping and choking while Moritat calmly walked over to the window and opened it.

"You could've shot me. You could've yelled at me, screamed at me, done something to show you were an actual goddamn human being... but you didn't. You just lit the house on fire, and hoped I'd go up with it..." Moritat took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves.

"Couldn't commit yourself to anything, could you, darling?" He asked, nimbly picking up Lenore, her body convulsing as it tried to work around the collapsed lung. Her eyes were wide and her jaw almost shook too much to speak.

"N... n-no..." she gasped weakly. Moritat raised a brow as he carried her to the window.

"You're right. You couldn't..."


The phone sat on the floor, having slipped gracefully from a catatonic hand. It slowly rolled to and fro along the floorboard as Charlene screamed on the other end... but to no avail. Serena's eyes had finally closed, submerging her in a deep and blissful sleep. Her forehead, now bruised, was fixed to the steering wheel as the car swerved along the road.

Bright lights soon swept down the serpentine path, dousing the out-of-control Grand Cherokee with light. A loud horn sounded. Serena's head snapped up from the wheel in a second, her brain still swimming in the thick liquor of narcoleptic fatigue.

When the grill of the semi was close enough to touch, she screamed.


There was nothing to say, now, as husband held wife, both standing before a window with a terrifyingly long drop. Moritat couldn't find any more words to express his distress, and Lenore was rapidly expiring in his arms. Finally, he decided on something—something old and familiar, but something so impersonal and final. He murmured it, more to himself than his delirious and fading wife, as he slowly let her go:

"Good bye."


... The car spun through the air, but it wasn't real it wasn't real it wasn't real because these things didn't happen to people—these things didn't happen to you, they happened to someone else, they happened—

... soaring through the air! Dropping, dropping, dropping—stomach felt fluttery and her brain was electric with fear. Soaring, hair drifting around, soaring...

The heat was intense. Just as soon as the car hit—slammed into a tree—everything hurt, everything bled, everything slowly... blissfully...

—Heat, pain—a hundred bones shattered, and a quick, thick, warm blackness that started spreading everywhere—like a thick, scraping shroud... Everything slowly... blissfully... faded... away...

... For the rare and radiant maiden... whom the angels named Lenore,

nameless here for evermore...