Adam is stunned. “So he’s . . . dead?”
“I don’t know,” I finally admit, ashamed. I drop my eyes, study the grooves in the steering wheel. “I don’t know for sure.” I took too long to pull the trigger. It was stiffer than I expected it to be. Harder to hold the gun between my hands than I’d imagined. Warner was already dropping me when the bullet flew into his body. I was aiming for his heart.
I hope to God I didn’t miss.
We’re both too quiet.
“I don’t know how to drive.”
“You’re lucky this isn’t a stick shift.” He tries to laugh.
“A little more complicated.”
I bite my lip. “Do you remember where we left James and Kenji?” I don’t even want to consider the possibility that they’ve moved. Been discovered. Anything. I can’t fathom the idea.
“Yes.” I know he’s thinking exactly what I’m thinking.
“How do I get there?”
Adam tells me the right pedal is for gas. The left is to brake. I have to shift into D for drive. I use the steering wheel to turn. There are mirrors to help see behind me. I can’t turn on my headlights and will have to rely on the moon to light my way.
I turn on the ignition, press the brake, shift into drive. Adam’s voice is the only navigation system I need. I release the brake. Press the gas. Nearly crash into a wall.
This is how we finally get back to the abandoned building.
Gas. Brake. Gas. Brake. Too much gas. Too much brake. Adam doesn’t complain and it’s almost worse. I can only imagine what my driving is doing for his injuries. I’m grateful that at least we’re not dead, not yet.
I don’t know why no one has spotted us. I wonder if maybe Warner really is dead. I wonder if everything is in chaos. I wonder if that’s why there are no soldiers in this city. They’ve all disappeared.
I almost forget to put the car in park when we reach the vaguely familiar broken building. Adam has to reach over and do it for me. I help him transition into the backseat, and he asks me why.
“Because I’m making Kenji drive, and I don’t want your brother to have to see you like this. It’s dark enough that he won’t see your body. I don’t think he should have to see you hurt.”
He nods after an infinite moment. “Thank you.”
And I’m running toward the broken building. Pulling the door open. I can only barely make out two figures in the dark. I blink and they come into focus. James is asleep with his head in Kenji’s lap. The duffel bags are open, cans of food discarded on the floor. They’re okay.
Thank God they’re okay.
I could die of relief.
Kenji pulls James up and into his arms, struggling a little under the weight. His face is smooth, serious, unflinching. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t say anything stupid. He studies my eyes like he already knows, like he already understands why it took us so long to get back, like there’s only one reason why I must look like hell right now, why I have blood all over my shirt. Probably on my face. All over my hands. “How is he?”
And I nearly lose it right there. “I need you to drive.”
He takes a tight breath. Nods several times. “My right leg is still good,” he says to me, but I don’t think I’d care even if it weren’t. We need to get to his safe place, and my driving isn’t going to get us anywhere.
Kenji settles a sleeping James into the passenger side, and I’m so happy he’s not awake for this moment.
I grab the duffel bags and carry them to the backseat. Kenji slides in front. Looks in the rearview mirror. “Good to see you alive, Kent.”
Adam almost smiles. Shakes his head. “Thank you for taking care of James.”
“You trust me now?”
A small sigh. “Maybe.”
“I’ll take a maybe.” He grins. Turns on the car. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Adam is shaking.
His bare body is finally cracking under the cold weather, the hours of torture, the strain of holding himself together for so long. I’m scrambling through the duffel bags, searching for a coat, but all I find are shirts and sweaters. I don’t know how to get them on his body without causing him pain.
I decide to cut them up. I take the butterfly knife to a few of his sweaters and slice them open, draping them around his figure like a blanket. I glance up. “Kenji—does this car have a heater?”
“It’s on, but it’s pretty crappy. It’s not working very well.”
“How much longer until we get there?”
“Not too much.”
“Have you seen anyone that might be following us?”
“No.” He pauses. “It’s weird. I don’t understand why no one has noticed a car flying through these streets after curfew. Something’s not right.”
“And I don’t know what it is, but obviously my tracker serum isn’t working. Either they really just don’t give a shit about me, or it’s legit not working, and I don’t know why.”
A tiny detail sits on the outskirts of my consciousness. I examine it. “Didn’t you say you slept in a shed? That night you ran away?”
“Where was it . . . ?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. Some huge field. It was weird. Crazy shit growing in that place. I almost ate something I thought was fruit before I realized it smelled like ass.”
My breath catches. “It was an empty field? Barren? Totally abandoned?”
“The nuclear field,” Adam says, a dawning realization in his voice.
“What nuclear field?” Kenji asks.
I take a moment to explain.
“Holy crap.” Kenji grips the steering wheel. “So I could’ve died? And I didn’t?”
I ignore him. “But then how did they find us? How did they figure out where you live—?”
“I don’t know,” Adam sighs. Closes his eyes. “Maybe Kenji is lying to us.”
“Come on, man, what the hell—”
“Or,” Adam interrupts, “maybe they bought out Benny.”
“No.” I gasp.
We’re all silent for a long moment. I try to look out the window but it’s very nearly useless. The night sky is a vat of tar suffocating the world around us.
I turn to Adam and find him with his head tilted back, his hands clenched, his lips almost white in the blackness. I wrap the sweaters more tightly around his body. He stifles a shudder.
“Adam . . .” I brush a strand of hair away from his forehead. His hair has gotten a little long and I realize I’ve never really paid attention to it before. It’s been cropped short since the day he stepped into my cell. I never would’ve thought his dark hair would be so soft. Like melted chocolate. I wonder when he stopped cutting it.
He flexes his jaw. Pries his lips open. Lies to me over and over again. “I’m okay.”
“Five minutes, I promise—I’m trying to gun this thing—”
I touch his wrists, trace the tender skin with my fingertips. The bloodied scars. I kiss the palm of his hand. He takes a broken breath. “You’re going to be okay,” I tell him.
His eyes are still closed. He tries to nod.
“Why didn’t you tell me you two were together?” Kenji asks unexpectedly. His voice is even, neutral.
“What?” Now is not the time to be blushing.
Kenji sighs. I catch a glimpse of his eyes in the rearview mirror. The swelling is almost completely gone. His face is healing. “I’d have to be blind to miss something like that. I mean, hell, just the way he looks at you. It’s like the guy has never seen a woman in his life. Like putting food in front of a starving man and telling him he can’t eat it.”
Adam’s eyes fly open. I try to read him but he won’t look at me.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Kenji says again.
“I never had a chance to ask,” Adam answers. His voice is less than a whisper. His energy levels are dropping too fast. I don’t want him to have to talk. He needs to conserve his strength.
“Wait—are you talking to me or her?” Kenji glances back at us.
“We can discuss this later—,” I try to say, but Adam shakes his head.
“I told James without asking you. I made . . . an assumption.” He stops. “I shouldn’t have. You should have a choice. You should always have a choice. And it’s your choice if you want to be with me.”
“Hey, so, I’m just going to pretend like I can’t hear you guys anymore, okay?” Kenji makes a random motion with his hand. “Go ahead and have your moment.”
But I’m too busy studying Adam’s eyes, his soft soft lips. His furrowed brow.
I lean into his ear, lower my voice. Whisper the words so only he can hear me.
“You’re going to get better,” I promise him. “And when you do, I’m going to show you exactly what choice I’ve made. I’m going to memorize every inch of your body with my lips.”
He exhales suddenly, shaky, uneven. Swallows hard.
His eyes are burning into me. He looks almost feverish, and I wonder if I’m making things worse.
I pull back and he stops me. Rests his hand on my thigh. “Don’t go,” he says. “Your touch is the only thing keeping me from losing my mind.”
“We’re here, and it’s nighttime. So according to my calculations, we must not have done anything stupid.”
Kenji shifts into park. We’re underground again, in some kind of elaborate parking garage. One minute we were aboveground, the next we’ve disappeared into a ditch. It’s next to impossible to locate, much less to spot in the darkness. Kenji was telling the truth about this hideout.
I’ve been busy trying to keep Adam awake for the past few minutes. His body is fighting exhaustion, blood loss, hunger, a million different points of pain. I feel so utterly useless.
“Adam has to go straight to the medical wing,” Kenji announces.
“They have a medical wing?” My heart is parasailing in the springtime.
Kenji grins. “This place has everything. It will blow your goddamn mind.” He hits a switch on the ceiling. A faint light illuminates the old sedan. Kenji steps out the door. “Wait here—I’ll get someone to bring out a stretcher.”
“What about James?”
“Oh.” Kenji’s mouth twitches. “He, uh—he’s going to be asleep for a little while longer.”
“What do you mean . . . ?”
He clears his throat. Once. Twice. Smooths out the wrinkles in his shirt. “I, uh, may or may not have given him something to . . . ease the pain of this journey.”