“Hey, Jules!” he yelled. “Did you get pillows and blankets and everything in that tent?”
“Yeah, it’s all set!” she called from behind him.
“Thanks,” I said, turning to walk away.
“Let me know if you need anything else!” he called.
I sort of waved in reply, torn between being annoyed at her special treatment and grateful that had been so easy.
I found Wren in the same spot. Firelight flickered off her blond hair and, even exhausted, she was striking, the most interesting girl I’d ever seen, in several ways. Her small, delicate features contrasted with the tough, almost terrifying expression she often wore. It was one of the first things I noticed about her. I remember lying on the ground, looking up at her, being sort of scared and sort of turned on at the same time.
Addie was trying to make conversation but not getting very far, and I extended my hand down to Wren. “Come with me?”
She took my hand and let me pull her up. As we walked, she slid an arm around my waist and leaned against my chest, which made a few Reboots turn to look at us. The numbers seemed just as important here as they were at HARC, and I wondered if they were staring at just her, or because a Twenty-two and One-seventy-eight were together.
I led her to the tent and pulled back the flap. There was a small fire pit in the middle, but it wasn’t lit. Next to that were two blankets and two pillows on top of a thin, homemade mattress. Given the amount of clothes and linens they had, they must have been growing cotton somewhere. Successfully, it seemed.
Wren plopped down on the mattress as I climbed in after her. “Is this just for us?”
“Yeah, Micah said he had it cleared out for you.” I stayed crouched near the tent flap, suddenly aware of the fact that we didn’t have to sleep in the same tent if we didn’t want to. When we escaped from Rosa, we had to stay close, huddled together behind trash bins or against tree trunks. We’d had the night in my old bedroom, but I didn’t want to assume we were going to sleep in the same bed every night.
She looked nervous, playing with a loose string on her pants and not meeting my eyes. I wanted to crawl onto the mattress and hold her without the threat of HARC hanging over our heads, but maybe that wasn’t what she wanted.
“I don’t mind staying with the other Reboots, if you’d like to be alone,” I said, shifting closer to the edge of the tent to prove I was serious.
She gave me a confused look. “Why would I want to be alone?”
I laughed softly. “I meant if you’d be more comfortable sleeping in here without me. I didn’t want to assume. . . .”
She shook her head, holding her hand out to me. I slipped my fingers in between hers and scooted toward the bed, until I was close enough for her to lean down and brush her lips against mine.
“I’m always more comfortable with you,” she whispered.
I smiled, kissing her again as I slid onto the mattress. She kicked her shoes off and I did the same, slipping beneath the blanket she held out for me. She was still wearing the shirt I’d given her when we visited my parents’ house, and it smelled a little like home when I pulled her close.
I didn’t want to remember home, or my parents, or how they rejected me. How I’d killed a man minutes after I’d told them I was the same person they remembered. I knew it was the HARC drugs that had made me an insane, flesh-craving monster, but I couldn’t help but feel I’d lied to them. After everything I’d seen and done on our escape, I wasn’t nearly the same person who’d left them a few weeks ago. It was ridiculous to think I was.
But I often didn’t feel like a Reboot, either. I wondered if Wren really didn’t feel anything about the people she’d killed, or if she just hid it well. If being less emotional was truly a Reboot trait, then I hadn’t acquired it in my twenty-two minutes.
Being able to brush off terrible things the way Wren did might have been useful, actually. I could see how numbness would be preferable to the weight sitting on my chest.
I winced. The human version of me never would have considered that. He would have been horrified by the prospect of shutting off guilt.
Wren looked up at me and I ran my hand into her hair and kissed her more intensely than I had intended. She wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed me back, tilting her head up as she pulled back slightly. Her eyes searched mine and I suspected some of my emotions were showing, because she seemed to be trying to find the right words.
“I think we’re okay now,” she said softly. “I think we’re safe here.”
I pressed my hand into her back, touching my forehead against hers as I smiled. I got the feeling she was lying, or at least stretching the truth, because there was no way Wren felt safe yet. But I appreciated that she wanted to make me feel better.
“Thank you,” I said quietly as I kissed her again.
I WOKE TO BIRDS CHIRPING AND I JERKED, MY HAND INSTINCTIVELY reaching for the gun at my hip. I found nothing but my old HARC pants. The heavy material at the front of the tent flapped in the wind, and I let out a slow breath.
I was safe.
Well, sort of. Safer than a few days ago, at least.
My second instinct was to find Ever in the bed next to me, and my head turned to the left before I could stop myself. There was nothing there but the fabric of the tent. I took in a shaky breath as I looked away. At least I didn’t have to stare at her empty bed in my old HARC room.
Callum was on my other side, hands behind his head, his gaze fixed at the small opening at the top of the tent. He was so still that for a moment I panicked, thinking he’d slipped back into insanity, but his eyes shifted to me and he managed a small smile. I could tell what he was thinking without him having to say it. The horror of what he’d done, the memory of the man he’d killed, was written all over his face. There was nothing I could say. My only hope was he found a way to forget, or move on, or do whatever normal people did when they had guilt about taking a life.
Someday I’d ask him how he could torture himself over one human life when I’d taken too many to count. I’d ask him why he liked me when he despised killing so much. Someday I’d point out the weirdness of that.
But not now.
I sat up and ran my hands through my hair, avoiding Callum’s gaze. I needed a shower. And new clothes. I was still wearing his old three-sizes-too-big T-shirt. They couldn’t possibly have enough clothes for everyone, though. I might just have to wash the ones I had.