I nodded, but I sat down at his desk as he left the room. I reached for a photo screen, pressing the button on the edge to bring up the first image.
It was Callum.
Human Callum had shaggy hair and light brown eyes, an easy smile on his face. His arm was around another human boy, but I could only look at him. At his imperfect skin, at the goofy grin on his face, at the innocence that radiated from him.
His skin had been darker as a human. Reboots were paler, evidence that death had touched them, but I rarely noticed anymore. Humans had a brightness to them, a glow that only death extinguished.
I pushed the button and flipped through dozens of photos of Callum with his friends. I barely recognized him.
I raised my head as Callum came up behind me and was almost relieved to see he was how I remembered. His face was hard and strong, nothing like the boy’s in the picture. His dark eyes circled the room in a way that was probably instinctual now—he was looking for threats. He gazed over my shoulder at the picture, reaching down to take it out of my hands. A frown crossed his face.
“I don’t look like this anymore,” he said.
“I didn’t think I had changed. It’s only been a few weeks.”
“You have,” I said, touching his fingers. “I like you better this way.”
He raised his eyes from the picture to me, then to the wall just behind me. I turned to see what he was looking at and saw our reflections in a mirror.
“I don’t look human anymore,” he said.
“No. You’re not.”
He looked down at the picture sadly. “When I woke up, after I died, I thought I looked mostly the same.”
“Well, you do, in a way,” I admitted, nodding at the picture in his hand. “Your human memories start to get blurry right away. Especially the things you don’t want to remember.”
He lifted an eyebrow at me. “You know a little bit about that.”
I shrugged and he put the photo screen on the desk, taking my hand and tugging me out of the chair.
“Want to dance?” He scooped me into his arms before I could reply. “We have music this time. And I don’t have to punch you when we finish.”
“You don’t have to. But if I step on your feet too many times you can feel free.”
“I will pass on that offer, but thank you.”
He twirled me once, twice, three times, until I collapsed against his chest in laughter. I rose up on my toes for a kiss and he grabbed me under the arms and lifted me up in the air until I wrapped my legs around his waist.
“That’s better,” he said, brushing his lips against mine.
I closed my eyes and let myself fade away inside the kiss. I liked that I didn’t have to worry about sneak attacks or humans walking past. I liked yielding completely to the kiss, to his arms and the warmth of his body.
“There’s no dancing going on here,” I finally said with a smile.
“Sure there is,” he said, moving in a slow circle. “And this is my favorite dance, by the way.”
“Mine, too.” I leaned my forehead against his, letting the tickling happiness creep up my body.
When the song ended he sat down on the bed with me in his lap, running his hands into my damp hair and kissing from my jawline to my neck.
I wanted to reach under his shirt and touch the warm skin of his back with my fingertips, but I hesitated, my mind immediately trying to sort out how many people or cameras might be watching us.
But there was no one. It was just us.
So I trailed my fingers down his back and closed my eyes and focused on only him.
His breath against my mouth.
His arms as they circled tightly around my waist.
My lips against his cheek.
My eyes finding his, my smile at the desire in his gaze.
His fingers against my back, the cool air tickling my skin as he pushed my shirt up just slightly.
I stiffened, jumping away from him so quickly I almost fell off the bed. I missed the warmth of him immediately, but my stomach had twisted into nervous knots and I couldn’t bring myself to even look at him.
When I suggested we stay in his house I hadn’t considered there would be a bed. I hadn’t considered that we’d be alone.
I hadn’t considered what those two things might mean.
“I’m sorry,” Callum said. His voice was soft, slightly confused. “Not okay?”
“Um.” It was the only word I could come up with.
Was it okay? I’d never considered whether I wanted to have sex, with anyone.
I’d certainly never considered that someone would want to have sex with me.
“I’ve, um, never . . .” I finally looked up at him to see genuine surprise flash across his features.
“You’re kidding,” he said. “You were there five years and you never did it with anyone?”
“Of course not. No one wanted to touch me. You were the first person to even kiss me.”
He cocked his head to the side, studying me curiously. “That’s ridiculous, Wren.”
“It’s the truth.”
He scooted closer until his leg brushed against mine. “No one touched you because you didn’t want them to.”
Maybe he was right about that. I pressed my palms against my thighs but my hands were shaking, so I quickly clasped them together.
“I never did, either,” he said.
Unexpected relief flooded my chest. “Really? Sex is usually the first thing newbies do.”
“I think people immediately assumed I was yours so they stayed far away.” He met my eyes and smiled. “I was. I am.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips to mine. “Yours.”
I swallowed, a strange weight dropping in my stomach. I felt funny, hot, and nervous, and I wanted to pull him to me and never let go. I laced my fingers through his. I was the shaky one this time. He was steady.
“We—we can,” I stuttered. “But we have to leave my shirt on.”
His eyes dropped to my shirt briefly. “Why?”
“It’s gross. It’s better to leave it on.”
“Gross?” he repeated in confusion.
I said nothing and understanding crossed his face. “Oh. Is that where you were shot?”
“I don’t care if you have a scar, Wren.”
“It’s ugly. And it’s more than one.”
“Someone shot you more than once?”
“Yes. Three times.”
“Who would do that to a twelve-year-old?”