I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet. I vaguely remembered a commotion in the shuttle and someone yelling about a human.
“Hop on,” he said, leaning down and gesturing to his back. “I’ll give you a ride.”
I felt steadier on my feet after the food, but the world was still swaying. I gave Callum a grateful look and hoisted myself onto his back, wrapping my arms around his neck.
He walked into the hallway. The rooms we passed were empty until we turned a corner. There was a group of Reboots standing in the hallway ahead, and more gathered in some rooms. I recognized a few and they waved at me.
“This isn’t everyone, is it?” I asked, twisting around as Callum reached the stairwell. There were maybe twenty or thirty Reboots here.
“No, most of them stayed in the city. Took over houses and apartments human vacated. Some of them built tents. Said it creeped them out to be in here.”
Maybe it should have creeped me out, but it didn’t. Not now that HARC was out. A HARC facility had been my home for five years. It felt familiar. And safe, oddly enough.
“But we lost some in New Dallas,” he said softly. “Beth. A few other Austin Reboots.”
I squeezed his shoulders gently. I hadn’t really known Beth or any of them, but I knew it must have been hard for him to lose people on a mission he’d been in charge of.
Callum turned into the girl’s shower and gently set me down on the ground. It was similar to the Rosa facility, with stalls lined up and curtains down every row. I opened the shelf to my right and found a small stack of towels.
“Oh, I have some of your clothes,” Callum said, stepping backward. “You mind waiting a minute? I’ll grab them.”
I nodded and he disappeared out the door. I slowly walked across the tile floor and sank down in front of one of the shower stalls.
It was eerily quiet, the only sound a leaky tap dripping water somewhere. The showers had always been a source of discomfort for me. I’d hated watching the Reboots run around, flirting and laughing, half naked.
It seemed silly now to judge them when they were simply trying to make the best of a terrible situation. I ran my fingers over my scars through my shirt. It really seemed ridiculous to worry about my scars so much. I had probably made a bigger deal out of them by being so weird about it.
The door opened and Callum sauntered in, a bag in his hand. He set it down next to me. “It’s just some of your stuff from the reservation.”
“Thank you.” I grasped the edge of the shower stall to help me to my feet.
“I’m going to go shower on the other side,” he said, taking a step back. “You okay by yourself?”
I nodded and he smiled at me before turning away. “Callum.” I hooked my fingers into the collar of my shirt before I could change my mind and pulled the material down to expose the center of my chest.
He turned around, surprise coloring his features as he registered the state of my shirt. He glanced up at my face, then back down to the staples that stretched across my skin before disappearing inside my bra. He looked for several seconds, then met my eyes.
“I’m sort of disappointed,” he said, his voice amused. “I thought they’d be bigger.”
I burst out laughing, dropping my hands from my shirt. He took two big steps forward and ran a hand under my chin as he leaned down to kiss me.
“Thank you for letting me see,” he said quietly, more seriously.
“Thanks for wanting to see.”
“Heck yeah, I want to see.” He leaned forward, eyes on my shirt. “Can I see again right now?”
I grinned, rising up on my toes to kiss him again. He laughed against my lips and I melted into his arms, making the decision to forget about the insanity around us for as long as possible.
I WALKED ACROSS THE FRONT LAWN OF THE AUSTIN HARC facility that evening, fingers laced through Wren’s. After a shower, more food, and several hours’ rest, she had finally healed fully and looked like her usual slightly scary self.
Well, almost. She caught me watching her and smiled, an easy, relaxed smile. She hadn’t talked about her experiences the last few days much, but it was like they’d unburdened her in some way instead of adding to the weight on her shoulders. She seemed lighter, happier. She’d even whipped off her shirt to let me see her scars again earlier, when I’d jokingly asked.
I’d wanted to lay low in the HARC facility for the night, but she’d really wanted to go see the rebels.
I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Part of me was happy she’d come around, the other part wanted to scoop her up and make a run for it before she got hurt again. But she seemed so calm and pleased about her decision that I’d dropped the idea of leaving when she refused a second time. Despite my annoyance with the humans, I had to admit I was relieved she’d changed her mind about staying to help.
I glanced at her again. It wasn’t just her that was slightly different, but everything. The air between us seemed lighter and heavier at the same time since she’d shown me her scars. She kept giving me this look that made me want to grab her and crush her against me.
She turned her head toward a pile of rubble that used to be a house as we walked past it. “This is pretty impressive, Callum.”
“What? That I destroyed everything?”
“No. That you managed to unite the Reboots and take over Austin. I thought it would be years before we could that, if ever.”
“I went with a ‘I’m coming, deal with it,’ approach.” But I smiled at the compliment and squeezed her hand.
“I approve of that approach.” She paused. “Did you go check on your family?”
“David came and found me,” I said. “He wants me to go see our parents. I told him they could come to me if they wanted.”
“But he came.”
I smiled at her. “Yes.”
We turned onto Tony’s street and the usual chaos came into view. Humans streamed in and out the front door, and several people sat on the front lawn. I recognized one of them immediately as David, and he hopped to his feet when he saw us coming. A flash of recognition crossed his face as he looked at Wren.
“Hey,” he said as we approached.
“Hi.” I tilted my head toward Wren. “This is Wren. This is my brother, David.”
“Nice to meet you.” She held her hand out, and when David shook it I saw him blink in surprise, likely from her cool skin. He cast a quick glance down at her wrist and his eyes widened slightly.