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I break away and climb up the stairs to the little porch. Test the handle. It’s unlocked. I turn it, push the door open. Step inside.

This is where I was shot.

The bloodstain from where I was lying on the ground has already been cleaned up. Or maybe the carpet was changed. I’m not sure. Either way, the memories still surround me. I can’t walk back into this house without feeling sick to my stomach. Everything is wrong in here. Everything is so wrong. So off.

Something has happened.

I can feel it.

I’m careful to shut the door gently behind me. I creep up the stairs, remembering how the floorboards squeaked when I was first captured and brought here, and I’m able to sidestep the noisiest parts; the rest of it, thankfully, just sounds like it could be the wind.

When I’m upstairs, I count three doors. Three rooms.

On the left: Warner’s old room. The one I woke up in.

In the middle: the bathroom. The one I was bathed in.

On the far end of the hall, all the way to the right: his mother’s room. The one I’m looking for.

My heart is racing in my chest.

I can hardly breathe as I tiptoe closer. I don’t know what I’m expecting to find. I don’t know what I’m hoping will come of this trip. I don’t have any idea, even, if Warner is still in here.

And I have no idea what it’ll be like to see his mother.

But something is pulling me forward, urging me to open the door and check. I need to know. I just have to know. My mind won’t rest otherwise.

So I inch forward. Take several deep breaths. I grasp the doorknob and turn, so slowly, not even realizing I’ve lost invisibility until I see my feet crossing the threshold.

I panic in an instant, my brain calculating contingency plans, and though I briefly consider turning around and bolting out the door, my eyes have already scanned the room.

And I know I can’t turn back now.


There’s a bed in here.

A single bed. Surrounded by machines and IVs and bottles and brand-new bedpans. There are stacks of bedsheets and stacks of blankets and the most beautiful bookcases and embroidered pillows and adorable stuffed animals piled everywhere. There are fresh flowers in five different vases and four brightly painted walls and there’s a little desk in the corner with a little matching chair and there’s a potted plant and a set of old paintbrushes and there are picture frames, everywhere. On the walls, on the desk, sitting on the table beside the bed.

A blond woman. A little blond boy. Together.

They never age, I notice. The pictures never move past a certain year. They never show the evolution of this child’s life. The boy in these photos is always young, and always startled, and always holding fast to the hand of the lady standing beside him.

But that lady is not here. And her nurse is gone, too.

The machines are off.

The lights are out.

The bed is empty.

Warner has collapsed in the corner.

He’s curled into himself, knees pulled up to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs, his head buried in his arms. And he’s shaking.

Tremors are rocking his entire body.

I’ve never, ever seen him look like a child before. Never, not once, not in all the time I’ve known him. But right now, he looks just like a little boy. Scared. Vulnerable. All alone.

It doesn’t take much to understand why.

I fall to my knees in front of him. I know he must be able to sense my presence, but I don’t know if he wants to see me right now. I don’t know how he’s going to react if I reach out.

But I have to try.

I touch his arms, so gently. I run my hand down his back, his shoulders. And then I dare to wrap myself around him until he slowly breaks apart, unfolding in front of me.

He lifts his head.

His eyes are red-rimmed and a startling, striking shade of green, shining with barely restrained emotion. His face is the picture of so much pain.

I almost can’t breathe.

An earthquake hits my heart then, cracks it right down the middle. And I think here, in him, there is more feeling than any one person should ever have to contain.

I try to hold him closer but he wraps his arms around my hips instead, his head falling into my lap. I bend over him instinctively, shielding his body with my own.

I press my cheek to his forehead. Press a kiss to his temple.

And then he breaks.

Shaking violently, shattering in my arms, a million gasping, choking pieces I’m trying so hard to hold together. And I promise myself then, in that moment, that I will hold him forever, just like this, until all the pain and torture and suffering is gone, until he’s given a chance to live the kind of life where no one can wound him this deeply ever again.

And we are quotation marks, inverted and upside down, clinging to one another at the end of this life sentence. Trapped by lives we did not choose.

It’s time, I think, to break free.


Kenji is waiting in the tank when we get back. He managed to find it.

He’s sitting in the passenger side, invisibility off, and he doesn’t say a single word as Warner and I climb inside.

I try to meet his eyes, already prepared to concoct some crazy story for why it took me an hour to get Warner out of the house, but then Kenji looks at me. Really looks at me.

And I close my mouth forever.

Warner doesn’t say a single word. He doesn’t even breathe loudly. And when we get back to base, he lets me and Kenji leave the tank under our guise of invisibility and he still says nothing, not even to me. As soon as we’re out of the tank, he closes our door, and climbs back inside.

I’m watching him drive off again when Kenji slips his arm into mine.

We weave back through the storage facility without a problem. Cross through the shooting range without a problem. But just before we reach the door to Warner’s training facility, Kenji pulls me aside.

“I followed you in,” he says, with no preamble. “You took too long and I got worried and I followed you up there.” A pause. A heavy pause. “I saw you guys,” he says, so quietly. “In that room.”

Not for the first time today, I’m glad he can’t see my face. “Okay,” I whisper, not knowing what else to say. Not knowing what Kenji will do with the information.

“I just—” Kenji takes a deep breath. “I’m just confused, okay? I don’t need to know all the details—I realize that whatever was happening in there was none of my business—but are you okay? Did something happen?”