By the time Ian came back, Bella was long gone.
He didn't want to accept it at first, not when he realized her bag was missing, not even when he saw the back door hanging ajar, highlighted by the few rays of sun peeking through the clouds, as if to mock him. It wasn't until he heard the lonely echo of his own voice, as he stood amidst the scattered raindrops calling her name to no reply, with neither sight nor sign, that he finally let the truth sink in.
It was the second time that he'd been abandoned by someone he'd called a friend, and this time, he didn't even know why.
Things sort of blurred after that. He vaguely remembered walking back into the house, wiping his feet ever so carefully on a mat that didn't even exist, as the first few traces of emotion started leaking through the numbness.
The silence was deafening when he returned to the lounge room, the shadows immense and the air dead. He didn't know why that seemed to matter so much, because really everything was just the same, but it did. Perhaps that was why the bottle near Bella's chair caught his attention, because it was an actual break in order, something that really was out of place.
And perhaps that was for the best, because even if he still didn't have answers, it at least gave him some hints at the puzzle. Fluoxentine, the label said; an anti-depressant, if he could trust half forgotten memories of his parents discussing pharmacy. He weighed the empty bottle carefully a moment, as his eyes flicked across the room to the wall, and he gave a snort that might have almost been mistaken for a laugh.
The glass made a dull crunching sound as it hit the floor several feet short of intended target, the energy behind the throw dying even as the bottle was set in motion.
With that, he collapsed into the chair he'd occupied before, envying that bottle as the energy that drove him died as well. Because he would bend and yet couldn't quite break, because he'd spent so much time hiding in the comfort of his own mind that, now that it was a trap and not a sanctuary, there was nowhere else to turn but his own bitter thoughts. Because he was just a scared and lonely kid, and so very, very tired.
So think he did, as he drifted in and out of consciousness. Sometimes it was Steven's rebuke, twisting the knife still further, reminding him in that trite but painfully on target way that he'd failed to really make a difference. Other times, there was a memory of a quiet talk with his Dad as he explained to him the purpose of learning self-defense, and in the process, gave Ian a glimpse into the potential horrors of human nature. It was something he couldn't fully understand, nor had he ever wished to, and yet now here he was, trapped and trying to cope as best he could with something even worse than gangs and a rough neighborhood.
And still other times, he just thought of home, of books, of games, of family, of a future that had seemed so promising just a week ago, and cried inside.
It was sometime late in the night when the last tattered remnants of his hopes died.
He awoke with a start when memory sparked a terrible thought, almost jumping to his feet despite muscles that groaned even louder than the chair, and hurried to a window, looking in what he thought was the direction of the town.
There should have been a light, a raging fire to burn down half the town as a signal from the escape group. It should have been there, telling them the plan had worked, should have been the first of many efforts to attract attention from off-island.
He slunk back into his armchair and sat unmoving for a very long time. Because this was defeat. Perhaps he could have eventually worked up the will to keep on going forever, as long as there were still windmills to charge, as long as he could cling to some small shred of hope. Because if the plan had always been just shy of hopeless, the idea of shooting the collars off almost absurd, it had at least seemed better than nothing, better than just accepting death.
He'd already forgotten the gun in panic following the dangerzone, but even that had been an obstacle that could be overcome. Now...now all he knew was that he'd have to face Juhan and Takeshi tomorrow, and explain to them what had happened, and he was scared.
It was a long, cold, and bitter night. He took what troubled sleep he could, and left early in the morning, long before the place was declared a dangerzone.