Adam stands up abruptly. He pushes away his untouched bowl of food and clears his throat. Looks at Kenji. “So that’s why you didn’t kill him when he was right in front of you.”
Kenji scratches the back of his head, uncomfortable. “Listen man, if I had any idea—”
“Forget it.” Adam cuts him off. “You did me a favor.”
“What do you mean?” Kenji asks. “Hey man—where’re you going—”
But Adam is already walking away.
I go after him.
I’m following Adam down an empty corridor as he exits the dining hall even though I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t be talking to him like this, shouldn’t be encouraging the feelings I have for him but I’m worried. I can’t help it. He’s disappearing into himself, withdrawing into a world I can’t penetrate and I can’t even blame him for it. I can only imagine what he must be experiencing right now. These recent revelations would be enough to drive a weaker person absolutely insane. And even though we’ve managed to work together lately, it’s always been during such high-stress situations that there’s hardly been any time for us to dwell on our personal issues.
And I need to know that he’s all right.
I can’t just stop caring about him.
He stops at the sound of my voice. His spine goes rigid with surprise. He turns around and I see his expression shift from hope to confusion to worry in a matter of seconds. “What’s wrong?” he asks. “Is everything okay?”
Suddenly he’s in front of me, all 6 feet of him, and I’m drowning in memories and feelings I’ve made no effort to forget. I’m trying to remember why I wanted to talk to him. Why I ever told him we couldn’t be together. Why I would ever keep myself from a chance at even 5 seconds in his arms and he’s saying my name, saying, “Juliette—what’s wrong? Did something happen?”
I want so desperately to say yes, yes, horrible things have happened, and I’m sick, I’m so sick and tired and I really just want to collapse in your arms and forget the rest of the world. Instead I manage to look up, manage to meet his eyes. They’re such a dark, haunting shade of blue. “I’m worried about you,” I tell him.
And his eyes are immediately different, uncomfortable, closed off. “You’re worried about me.” He blows out a hard breath. Runs a hand through his hair.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay—”
He’s shaking his head in disbelief. “What are you doing?” he says. “Are you mocking me?”
He’s pounding a closed fist against his lips. Looking up. Looking like he’s not sure what to say and then he speaks, his voice strained and hurt and confused and he says, “You broke up with me. You gave up on us—on our entire future together. You basically reached in and ripped my heart out and now you’re asking me if I’m okay? How the hell am I supposed to be okay, Juliette? What kind of a question is that?”
I’m swaying in place.
“I didn’t mean—” I swallow, hard. “I-I was t-talking about your—your dad—I thought maybe—oh, God, I’m sorry—you’re right, I’m so stupid—I shouldn’t have come, I sh-shouldn’t—”
“Juliette,” he says, so desperately, catching me around the waist as I back away. His eyes are shut tight. “Please,” he says, “tell me what I’m supposed to do. How am I supposed to feel? It’s one shitty thing right after another and I’m trying to be okay—God, I’m trying so hard but it’s really freaking difficult and I miss”—his voice catches—“I miss you,” he says. “I miss you so much it’s killing me.”
My fingers are clenched in his shirt.
My heart is hammering in the silence.
I see the difficulty he has in meeting my eyes when he whispers, “Do you still love me?”
And I’m straining every muscle in my body just to keep myself from reaching forward to touch him. “Adam—of course I still love you—”
“You know,” he says, his voice rough with emotion, “I’ve never had anything like this before. I can barely remember my mom, and other than that it was just me and James and my piece-of-shit dad. And James has always loved me in his own way, but you—with you—” He falters. Looks down. “How am I supposed to go back?” he asks, so quietly. “How am I supposed to forget what it was like to be with you? To be loved by you?”
I don’t even realize I’m crying until it’s too late.
“You say you love me,” he says. “And I know I love you.” He looks up, meets my eyes. “So why the hell can’t we be together?”
And I don’t know how to say anything but “I’m s-sorry, I’m so sorry, you have no idea how sorry I am—”
“Why can’t we just try?” He’s gripping my shoulders now, his words urgent, anguished; our faces too dangerously close. “I’m willing to take whatever I can get, I swear, I just want to know I have you in my life—”
“We can’t,” I tell him. “It won’t be enough, Adam, and you know it. One day we’ll take a stupid risk or take a chance we shouldn’t. One day we’ll think it’ll be okay and it won’t. And it won’t end well.”
“But look at us now,” he says. “We can make this work—I can be close to you without kissing you—I just need to spend a few more months training—”
“Your training might never be enough.” I cut him off, knowing I need to tell him everything now. Knowing he has a right to know the same things I do. “Because the more I train, the more I learn exactly how dangerous I am. And you c-can’t be near me. It’s not just my skin anymore. I could hurt you just by holding your hand.”
“What?” He blinks several times. “What are you talking about?”
I take a deep breath. Press my palm flat against the side of the tunnel before digging my fingers in and dragging them right through the stone. I punch my fist into the wall and grab a handful of rough rock, crush it in my hand, allow it to sift as sand through my fingers to the floor.
Adam is staring at me. Astonished.
“I’m the one who shot your father,” I tell him. “I don’t know why Kenji was covering for me. I don’t know why he didn’t tell you the truth. But I was so blinded by this—this all-consuming rage—I just wanted to kill him. And I was torturing him,” I whisper. “I shot him in his legs because I was taking my time. Because I wanted to enjoy that last moment. That last bullet I was about to put through his heart. And I was so close. I was so close, and Kenji,” I tell him, “Kenji had to pull me away. Because he saw that I’d gone insane.
“I’m out of control.” My voice is a rasp, a broken plea. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me or what’s happening to me and I don’t even know what I’m capable of yet. I don’t know how much worse this is going to get. Every day I learn something new about myself and every day it terrifies me. I’ve done terrible things to people,” I whisper. I swallow back the sob building in my throat. “And I’m not okay,” I tell him. “I’m not okay, Adam. I’m not okay and I’m not safe for you to be around.”
He’s staring at me, so stunned he’s forgotten how to speak.
“Now you know that the rumors are true,” I whisper. “I am crazy. And I am a monster.”
“No,” he breathes. “No—”
“No,” he says, desperate now. “That’s not true—you’re stronger than this—I know you are—I know you,” he says. “I’ve known your heart for ten years,” he says, “and I’ve seen what you had to live through, what you had to go through, and I’m not giving up on you now, not because of this, not because of something like this—”
“How can you say that? How can you still believe that, after everything—after all of this—”
“You,” he says to me, his hands gripping me tighter now, “are one of the bravest, strongest people I’ve ever met. You have the best heart, the best intentions—” He stops. Takes a tight, shaky breath. “You’re the best person I’ve ever known,” he says to me. “You’ve been through the worst possible experiences and you survived with your humanity still intact. How the hell,” he says, his voice breaking now, “am I supposed to let go of you? How can I walk away from you?”
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “I refuse to believe that this is the end of us. Not if you still love me. Because you’re going to get through this,” he says, “and I will be waiting for you when you’re ready. I’m not going anywhere. There won’t be another person for me. You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted and that’s never,” he says, “that’s never going to change.”
Adam and I freeze. Turn around slowly to face the unwelcome voice.
He’s right there.
Warner is standing right in front of us, his hands tied behind his back, his eyes blazing bright with anger and hurt and disgust. Castle comes up behind him to lead him in whatever whichever wherever direction and he sees where Warner is stuck, still, staring at us, and Adam is like one block of marble, not moving, not making any effort to breathe or speak or look away. I’m fairly certain I’m burning so bright I’ve burnt to a crisp.
“You’re so lovely when you’re blushing,” Warner says to me. “But I really wish you wouldn’t waste your affections on someone who has to beg for your love.” He cocks his head at Adam. “How sad for you,” he says. “This must be terribly embarrassing.”
“You sick bastard,” Adam says to him, his voice like steel.
“At least I still have my dignity.”
Castle shakes his head, exasperated. Pushes Warner forward. “Please get back to work—both of you,” he shouts at us as he and Warner make their way past. “You’re wasting valuable time standing out here.”
“You can go to hell,” Adam shouts at Warner.
“Just because I’m going to hell,” Warner says, “doesn’t mean you’ll ever deserve her.”
And Adam doesn’t answer.
He just watches, eyes focused, as Warner and Castle disappear around the corner.
James joins us during our training session before dinner.
He’s been hanging out with us a lot since we got back, and we all seem happier when he’s around. There’s something about his presence that’s so disarming, so welcome. It’s so good to have him back.
I’ve been showing him how easily I can break things now.
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