Most of the uncertainty went out of Maggie’s smile. “We can do that,” she agreed. “Shaun? Do you want to show Georgia to your room? I’ll call the front desk and have things sent up.” She gave me a measuring look. “I think the biometrics from the door will give us her size.”
“Thank you,” I said. There wasn’t time to say much more—Shaun was making hasty farewells as he grabbed my hand and started hauling me toward the door. Mahir was still saying good-bye when the door slammed shut behind us, leaving us alone in the hall.
I expected Shaun to say something then. He didn’t. He just kept pulling me along, walking briskly back toward the elevators. I glanced at his face and decided to give it a minute. He’d survived me being dead for over a year. I could survive him being silent for a little while. Still, my feet hurt, and even the soft carpet wasn’t helping all that much. I was relieved when he finally pulled me to a stop in front of a door that looked like every other doorway in the hall.
There was a small green light just above the peephole. It blinked twice when he gripped the door handle. Then the door swung open, revealing a room that looked like the younger sibling of Maggie’s room. I had to blink twice before I realized the dimness wasn’t only because he had the curtains drawn; the overhead lights were set to UV. It was the kind of change that used to be second nature to both of us, making sure the lights in our hotel rooms wouldn’t give me migraines that left me incapable of doing my job.
Shaun let me enter first. He pulled the door closed as he stepped inside and said roughly, “The bathroom’s through there. You can change the lights if you want to. I don’t mind.”
“No. No, this is… this is good.” There were no signs that he’d been in this room before, except for the curtains and the lights. I turned to face him. He was watching me, a deep, anxious hunger in his eyes. “I’m real, Shaun. I’m not going anywhere.”
“What did you give me for my eighth birthday?”
“A black eye, because you said girls couldn’t be Newsies.”
“How did we meet Buffy?”
“Online job fair.”
“Who was your first boyfriend?”
I had to smile at that. “You were. Also my second, and my third, and every other number you can think of. You can keep asking questions as long as you want, Shaun, but I’m only going to get ninety-seven percent of them right. It’s up to you whether that makes me real or not.”
“I missed you.” He raised a hand, touching my cheek so gently that it made my heart hurt. I put my own hand over it, forcing his fingers flat against my skin. He sighed. “You died, George. I shot you, and you died.”
“No. You shot Georgia Mason.” He winced, but didn’t pull his hand away. I forced myself to keep going. If I didn’t say this now, when we were alone for the first time, I was never going to say it. And I had to say it. “You shot a woman whose DNA profile I share. I have ninety-seven percent of her memories. I remember growing up with you. I remember my first blog post. I even remember dying. I remember everything, right up until you pulled the trigger.”
“I remember thinking I was the luckiest woman in the world, because you were there to do it. But those memories aren’t only mine. Do you understand?”
“You’re Georgia enough for me,” he said, finally pulling his hand away. “Neither of us is perfect anymore.”
I nodded. Fine, then. If this was who I was going to be, then I was going to be her. “You saved me.”
Shaun dipped his chin in what would have been a nod, if he’d raised his head again. Instead, he kept looking down at the floor, slow tears beginning to make their way down his cheeks. “I wanted to die with you.”
“You didn’t.” I grabbed his hand again, squeezing his fingers. “You kept going. And now I’m back, and we get to finish this thing together.”
He raised his head, looking at me anxiously. “What if you get hurt again?”
“We can’t start living in ‘what if,’ Shaun. If we do that, I might as well have stayed dead.” I smiled a little. “Is there a first-aid kit? I want to get some sealant on my feet.”
“What? Oh!” He straightened, focus returning almost instantly as he realized he had something he could do, rather than standing around worrying until Mahir came back and said it was time to go. “This way.”
He led me to the bathroom, where a search of the medicine cabinet yielded a first-aid kit that could have put some hospitals to shame. I sat on the edge of the bathtub while he wiped my feet off with a wet cloth, then sprayed them with a fast-drying layer of wound sealant. It would act as an artificial skin, porous enough to let my wounds heal, but thick enough to prevent infection. I’d used the stuff before, although never on quite such a large area. It’s amazing how big the bottoms of your feet can seem when you’ve managed to run all the skin off of them.
He wrapped my feet in a layer of gauze once the sealant was dry, just in case. I didn’t ask him to stop. I just watched him work, studying the tension in his shoulders and the new strands of gray at his temples, visible even through the bleached-out streaks of almost-blond. I saw the moment when that tension turned into decision, and was prepared when he straightened up, leaned forward, and kissed me.
There have been times when I wondered how people didn’t put the pieces together. How many so-called siblings share hotel rooms after puberty, much less share bedrooms with a door connecting them? We never dated. We never went to school events with anyone but each other. We never did any of the normal social things, and yet people still assumed we were on the market, not that we’d been off the market before we even knew what the market was.