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And I don’t know what that means.

All I know is that it’ll never be safe for me to rely on someone else again, to need constant reassurance of who I am and who I might someday be. I can love him, but I can’t depend on him to be my backbone. I can’t be my own person if I constantly require someone else to hold me together.

My mind is a mess. Every single day I’m confused, uncertain, worried I’m going to make a new mistake, worried I’m going to lose control, worried I’m going to lose myself. But it’s something I have to work through. Because for the rest of my life, I’ll always, always be stronger than everyone around me.

But at least I’ll never have to be scared anymore.

“Are you going to be okay?” Adam asks, finally dispelling the silence between us. I look up to find that his eyes are worried, trying to read me.

“Yes,” I tell him. “Yes. I’m going to be fine.” I offer him a tight smile, but it feels wrong to be this close to him without being able to touch him at all.

Adam nods. Hesitates. Says, “It’s been one hell of a night.”

“And it’ll be one hell of day tomorrow, too,” I whisper.

“Yeah,” he says quietly, still looking at me like he’s trying to find something, like he’s searching for an answer to an unspoken question and I wonder if he sees something different in my eyes now. He grins a small grin. Says, “I should probably go,” and nods at James bundled in his arms.

I nod, not sure what else to do. What to say.

So much is uncertain.

“We’ll get through this,” Adam says, answering my silent thoughts. “All of it. We’re going to be okay. And Kenji will be fine.” He touches my shoulder, allows his fingers to trail down my arm and stop just short of my bare hand.

I close my eyes, try to savor the moment.

And then his fingers graze my skin and my eyes fly open, my heart racing in my chest.

He’s staring at me like he might’ve done much more than touch my hand if he weren’t holding James against his chest.


“I’m going to find a way,” he says to me. “I’m going to find a way to make this work. I promise. I just need some time.”

I’m afraid to speak. Afraid of what I might say, what I might do; afraid of the hope ballooning inside of me.

“Good night,” he whispers.

“Good night,” I say.

I’m beginning to think of hope as a dangerous, terrifying thing.


I’m so tired when I walk into my room that I’m only half conscious as I change into the tank top and pajama pants I sleep in. They were a gift from Sara. It was her recommendation that I change out of my suit while I sleep; she and Sonya think it’s important to give my skin direct contact with fresh air.

I’m about to climb under the covers when I hear a soft knock at my door.


is my first thought.

But then I open the door. And promptly close it.

I must be dreaming.


Oh. God.

“What are you doing here?” I shout-whisper through the closed door.

“I need to speak with you.”

“Right now. You need to speak with me right now.”

“Yes. It’s important,” Warner says. “I heard Kent telling you that those twin girls would be in the medical wing tonight and I figured it would be a good time for us to speak privately.”

“You heard my conversation with Adam?” I begin to panic, worried he might’ve heard too much.

“I have zero interest in your conversation with Kent,” he says, his tone suddenly flat, neutral. “I left just as soon as I heard you’d be alone tonight.”

“Oh.” I exhale. “How did you even get in here without guards stopping you?”

“Maybe you should open the door so I can explain.”

I don’t move.

“Please, love, I’m not going to do anything to hurt you. You should know that by now.”

“I’m giving you five minutes. Then I have to sleep, okay? I’m exhausted.”

“Okay,” he says. “Five minutes.”

I take a deep breath. Crack the door open. Peek at him.

He’s smiling. Looking entirely unapologetic.

I shake my head.

He slips past me and sits down directly on my bed.

I close the door, make my way across the room from him, and sit on Sonya’s bed, suddenly all too aware of what I’m wearing and how incredibly exposed I feel. I cross my arms over the thin cotton clinging to my chest—even though I’m sure he can’t actually see me—and make an effort to ignore the cold chill in the air. I always forget just how much the suit does to regulate my body temperature so far belowground.

Winston was a genius to design it for me.


Winston and Brendan.

Oh how I hope they’re okay.

“So … what is it?” I ask Warner. I can’t see a single thing in this darkness; I can hardly make out the form of his silhouette. “You just left earlier, in the tunnel. Even though I asked you to wait.”

A few beats of silence.

“Your bed is so much more comfortable than mine,” he says quietly. “You have a pillow. And an actual blanket?” He laughs. “You’re living like a queen in these quarters. They treat you well.”

“Warner.” I’m feeling nervous now. Anxious. Worried. Shivering a little and not from the cold. “What’s going on? Why are you here?”


Still nothing.


A tight breath.

“I want you to come with me.”

The world stops spinning.

“When I leave tomorrow,” he says. “I want you to come with me. I never had a chance to finish talking to you earlier and I thought asking you in the morning would be bad timing all around.”

“You want me to come with you.” I’m not sure I’m still breathing.


“You want me to run away with you.” This can’t possibly be happening.

A pause. “Yes.”

“I can’t believe it.” I’m shaking my head over and over and over again. “You really have lost your mind.”

I can almost hear him smile in the dark. “Where’s your face? I feel like I’m talking to a ghost.”

“I’m right here.”


I stand up. “I’m here.”

“I still can’t see you,” he says, but his voice is suddenly much closer than it was before. “Can you see me?”

“No,” I lie, and I’m trying to ignore the immediate tension, the electricity humming in the air between us.

I take a step back.

I feel his hands on my arms, I feel his skin against my skin and I’m holding my breath. I don’t move an inch. I don’t say a word as his hands drop to my waist, to the thin material making a poor attempt to cover my body. His fingers graze the soft skin of my lower back, right underneath the hem of my shirt and I’m losing count of the number of times my heart skips a beat.

I’m struggling to get oxygen in my lungs.

I’m struggling to keep my hands to myself.

“Is it even possible,” he whispers, “that you can’t feel this fire between us?” His hands are traveling up my arms again, his touch so light, his fingers slipping under the straps of my shirt and it’s ripping me apart, it’s aching in my core, it’s a pulse beating in every inch of my body and I’m trying to convince myself not to lose my head when I feel the straps fall down and everything stops.

The air is still.

My skin is scared.

Even my thoughts are whispering.



6 seconds I forget to breathe.

Then I feel his lips against my shoulder, soft and scorching and tender, so gentle I could almost believe it’s the kiss of a breeze and not a boy.


This time on my collarbone and it’s like I’m dreaming, reliving the caress of a forgotten memory and it’s like an ache looking to be soothed, it’s a steaming pan thrown in ice water, it’s a flushed cheek pressed to a cool pillow on a hot hot hot night and I’m thinking yes, I’m thinking this, I’m thinking thank you thank you thank you

before I remember his mouth is on my body and I’m doing nothing to stop him.

He pulls back.

My eyes refuse to open.

His finger t-touches my bottom lip.

He traces the shape of my mouth, the curves the seam the dip and my lips part even though I asked them not to and he steps closer. I feel him so much closer, filling the air around me until there’s nothing but him and his body heat, the smell of fresh soap and something unidentifiable, something sweet but not, something real and hot, something that smells like him, like it belongs to him, like he was poured into the bottle I’m drowning in and I don’t even realize I’m leaning into him, inhaling the scent of his neck until I find his fingers are no longer on my lips because his hands are around my waist and he says

“You,” and he whispers it, letter by letter he presses the word into my skin before he hesitates.



His chest, heaving harder this time. His words, almost gasping this time. “You destroy me.”

I am falling to pieces in his arms.

My fists are full of unlucky pennies and my heart is a jukebox demanding a few nickels and my head is flipping quarters heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails heads or tails

“Juliette,” he says, and he mouths the name, barely speaking at all, and he’s pouring molten lava into my limbs and I never even knew I could melt straight to death.

“I want you,” he says. He says “I want all of you. I want you inside and out and catching your breath and aching for me like I ache for you.” He says it like it’s a lit cigarette lodged in his throat, like he wants to dip me in warm honey and he says “It’s never been a secret. I’ve never tried to hide that from you. I’ve never pretended I wanted anything less.”

“You—you said you wanted f-friendship—”

“Yes,” he says, he swallows, “I did. I do. I do want to be your friend.” He nods and I register the slight movement in the air between us. “I want to be the friend you fall hopelessly in love with. The one you take into your arms and into your bed and into the private world you keep trapped in your head. I want to be that kind of friend,” he says. “The one who will memorize the things you say as well as the shape of your lips when you say them. I want to know every curve, every freckle, every shiver of your body, Juliette—”

“No,” I gasp. “Don’t—don’t s-say that—”

I don’t know what I’ll do if he keeps talking I don’t know what I’ll do and I don’t trust myself

“I want to know where to touch you,” he says. “I want to know how to touch you. I want to know how to convince you to design a smile just for me.” I feel his chest rising, falling, up and down and up and down and “Yes,” he says. “I do want to be your friend.” He says “I want to be your best friend in the entire world.”