The house shakes with the rumbles the bomb had created, and seems to jump into the air slightly. But the Runner, as well as the girl, are alive and breathing.
The girl forces a pained smile and a small “Yes!” in victory. Daniel, on the other hand, picks himself off the ground, shaking. What if he hadn’t have gotten there in time? They would have both been dead and the Unnamed would have won.
He looks up at her, her chest rising and falling unevenly. She’s pressing her hands against her wound, blood seeping out from between her fingers. Daniel gets to his feet.
“We... did it,” she whispers, her face pale. “Whoo...”
She almost tips over.
“Hang on,” Daniel tells her, not knowing what else to say. He rushes into his kitchen and produces several paper towels and fills a pitcher of water. “Lay down on your side--the one without the cut.”
She obeys, groaning with pain and still holding the wound. Daniel lets the water fall and clean it out, using the paper towels to press up against it and stop the bleeding. He tapes it to her, just in case she is unable to hold it to her body any longer.
“When did you become such a Doctor?” She laughs hoarsely, her eyes struggling to focus.
Daniel shrugs as he puts things back into their place. “I grew up with a whole house of people in different Categories,” he says, sitting down in the chair next to the sofa. “Things go wrong, especially when you’re working in the weight room or walking near the kitchen where the Cooks play with knives, and then you kind of pick stuff up. I thought these kind of things were important to remember.”
The girl considers this for a moment, nodding. “Well.” Her voice cracks. “I thank you for... remembering.”
Her eyes flutter shut and then drearily open again.
“You can sleep,” Daniel whispers. “You’re safe in here.”
“But... I need to apply pressure--”
“It’s fine,” he interrupts. “I’ll take care of it.”
He nods as he ducks out of the room, ignoring the arguments started by the girl. He sprints up to the weight room and brings back a two-pound weight, flat and round and small enough to cover the surface area of her cut. Her eyes are shut as he walks back in the room, and he sets the object directly on top of the paper towels.
“It hurts,” she breathes.
“I know. That means you’re healing.”
She mutters something unintelligible before drifting slowly off into sleep. After a while, the Runner finds himself dreaming as well.
+ + +
Daniel is jerked awake by banging inflicted somewhere outside his house. The images, memories, actions that replayed in his dream come rushing back all at once--making his heart beat twice as fast, even after the loud eruptions around him. More banging makes him twist around. It’s coming from a window.
The girl stirs and Daniel goes over to make sure the weight doesn’t fall off. Once she’s settled, the sharp blows shake the window once more. Daniel creeps closer, careful not to make a sound or move too much. He can see the shadow of someone outside, the sunrise barely breaking over the horizon. He sees the head of the shadow turn to its left suddenly, something familiar about the slope of its nose.
It moves quickly, making a strange noise against the glass before completely disappearing. Daniel counts to ten, breathing slowly, and then approaches the window. He peels back the curtains, the rising sun almost blinding him. A dark spot blots it out in the bottom left corner. The words are barely legible against the red backdrop as he squints in the brightness.
Carefully sliding up the window, he reaches through the crack and retrieves the torn paper. The writing is different. It’s not like the past letters he’s received from the Unnamed, from Mortimer, from Blaise... This one is softer, prettier.
I’m hoping I’m wrong about you. I’m hoping you gave up the Unnamed like you did for a good reason. There’s still this one part of me that believes in you, that you could save us all and change the world. Please don’t tell me I’m wrong.
I escaped from the Unnamed. They’re overrun and corrupt now, they don’t understand why we created this rebellion in the first place. They only want revenge. On you. And I’m risking my life on telling you this. The Unnamed will be at the next Competition, and they won’t hide in the background and be subtle about how they go about their business. If you can’t already tell. You know how they work, or how they used to work, and they’ve completely turned from doing it that way. They’re getting ready to take you and all of the Elites down, no matter the price.
If you have any good inside of you at all you’ll understand and you’ll do as I say. We need to infiltrate their system somehow, and quickly. But I can’t do it without you. After all, you are the fastest runner in the World.
Meet me in the tunnels at nightfall. You know how to get there. If you don’t come, I’ll assume you are and never will be worthy of being a hero.
Daniel presses his face against the window, his heart pounding. Had she been here? Was that her? It had to be her. But how can she be back after what he did to her--to the Unnamed? He was a spy the entire time... how can she be back? And did she escape the Guards that had taken her captive?
Daniel looks out to the horizon, which stares back in wonder. She believes he’s a good guy. And he guesses he is, considering he’s trying to keep the Unnamed from corrupting everything, anything. For a moment, his brain flips the situation. In their shoes, he’s the villain. But which side does he want to stand on?
He has hours waiting to be completed before he makes his decision, but for some reason it’s as if time isn’t on his side at all. Torn, he turns from the window and shoves the note in his pocket, seeming to weigh him down. His brain clicks to one decision: take care of what’s happening this moment. He can worry about Rose when it’s time. He’ll figure it out.