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“Are you awake, or just moving your head?” Nathan’s voice was barely louder than the beeping.

I rolled my head to the right, bringing him into view, and smiled. It was always nice to see my boyfriend first thing upon waking up. It reminded me of how handsome he was, for one thing, and of how much I loved him. No matter how much I enjoyed sleeping, the Nathan in my dreams was never as good as the real thing. “I think I’m awake,” I said. My throat was dry, and the words felt scratchy leaving my lips. “Are we still at the hospital?”

He nodded, faint smile fading into a much grimmer expression. He looked like his mother in that moment, and it worried me. Nathan and Dr. Cale had a similar bone structure, but they really only looked alike when they were upset about something. “We are,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

“The drums are softer now. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” I waited for Nathan to nod before I continued, saying, “Nothing hurts. Am I on a lot of painkillers?”

“Not as many as you might think,” he said. “We’ve already sealed the surgical incisions, and numbed the skin around the wound enough that it shouldn’t hurt for an hour or more, by which point the skin bonds should have started taking effect. You’ll be completely healed inside of the week.”

“So the operation…?”

“Was successful.” Nathan raked his hands back through his hair, and for the first time I realized how worried he looked, and how exhausted. As hard as this day had been on me, I’d been dealing with my own medical problems, and I hadn’t had a lot of energy to look outward. Nathan had been handling everything I couldn’t—including his mother—and he’d done it all without a word of complaint. “Daisy was able to program the surgical tools, and she and Fang sealed the damaged blood vessels so that they won’t be at risk of rupture anymore. You still shouldn’t take any blows to the head if you can help it, but you’re not at any more risk of an aneurism than anyone else.”

“Good.” I offered him my hand. “Thank you for everything you’ve done today. I would never have made it this far without you. I mean that. They’ve probably shut down the trains by now, and you’re not supposed to take dogs on the BART anyway, so I’d be stuck in San Francisco, waiting for somebody to eat me.” The thought was horrifying. I shuddered exaggeratedly.

Nathan smiled a little. “You’d have found a way. You’re a survivor, Sal. You survive things.”

“Is there any chance that’s going to include surviving pants sometime soon?” I gestured at the blanket that covered my lower body. “This is nice, but we should get back to your mom. She’s going to send an extraction team if we don’t come home soon. That, or Adam’s going to try to walk the dogs all by himself, and we both know that isn’t going to end well.”

Nathan’s smile faded. “I can get you some clothes, but we can’t leave.”

Somehow, that was what I’d been afraid of since I’d woken up to find myself still in the hospital, and not safely back in the bowling alley. “Why not?” Horror washed over me. “Did we get caught? Are we under arrest for misuse of a medical facility?”

“No,” said Nathan, shaking his head. “Actually, we sort of got the opposite. No one’s asked any questions about whether or not we’re allowed to be here, but Daisy and Fang have both been drafted into patient triage. The administration tried to make me go too. I was able to put them off by saying you still needed to be monitored, but I expected them back at any moment with a nurse’s aide that they plan to plunk down in a chair and make sure you don’t die. They need the hands, and they’re not being particularly picky about where those hands come from.”

“What happened?”

“There’s been another outbreak in Lafayette. This one was larger than the one we got caught in before, and the authorities have closed down the hospital in an effort to contain it. They still think quarantine zones help. They could, if we were able to filter out people whose implants are on the verge of going active and could be triggered by pheromone tags, but we don’t have that capacity yet, which means the quarantines are doing nothing but causing panic. Of course, try getting the people in charge to admit that.” Nathan looked, if anything, even grimmer than he had before. “They’ve also closed down most of the roads. The official cover story is that there’s been a gas leak—that’s what we’re supposed to tell patients who ask, or reporters who manage to sneak past the cordons. It’s a mess out there, Sal. I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this building.”

“You’ll think of something,” I said, and then, because that didn’t seem quite right, I amended to “We’ll think of something. This is just more survival, right? We’re good at surviving. We can get out of this.”

“The ambulances are locked down.”

I frowned. “That’s bad,” I agreed. “But do we need an ambulance? I mean, I was on a gurney last time, because you needed me to be sedated, and because it made things more believable, but couldn’t we take a taxi or… or steal a car or something?”

Nathan paused, his eyes widening slowly as he absorbed my question. “There’s no one watching the parking lot at this point,” he said, after a long pause for thought. “All the available security has been pulled inside, to stop people who shouldn’t be here from getting in, and to prevent patients from escaping. They haven’t cracked down on the staff yet, and the security reinforcements are still an hour or so out.”