Chapter 41: Friends and Family

Carey fidgeted uncomfortably, staring into her hands and trying to ignore the tension in the room.

Will he be okay?

They'd taken 256 back to the house once Marvin had deemed him stable enough. Now that he was safe and inside, the doctor had forbidden Carey and the Gifted man from helping as he continued to work on him. Instead Janelle and Reagan were to be his assistants. Carey supposed it made sense, in a way. After all, we're the ones who know him… If – If things start to go wrong, we'll just be in the way.

Even so, she wished she could be there. Not only because she wanted to help, Carey honestly just wished she could just get out of this room.

Poor Thomas…

He was lying in a bed on the other side of the room, his red hair bright against the pillows. He muttered under his breath occasionally, but at least he didn't seem to be in as much pain as he had when they'd first arrived back at the house. Samantha sat beside him, stroking his right hand and determinately avoiding the gaze of the Gifted man sitting beside Carey. She had been less than pleased when he'd come back with them, but so far she'd held her tongue, which Carey was grateful for.

Still, she squirmed uncomfortably at the awkward silence in the room. In the corner of her eye, she watched the Gifted man. He was staring at Thomas, a strange look on his face.

"What's your number?" she blurted out. Anything's better than this silence…

"It's 805," the man said after a pause, glancing at Samantha briefly. She avoided his gaze, turning back to face her brother.

Carey nodded. "That's a nice… number."

805 shrugged, giving her a small smile before continuing to stare at Thomas. He was beginning to stir, frowning and fidgeting.

"Ugh…"

"Tom?" Samantha said, tears spilling from her eyes as her brother shifted underneath his blankets. He woke slowly, smiling when he saw his sister staring at him.

"Sam… Don't cry," he said through gritted teeth, raising his left arm slowly to presumably wipe her tears again. It was only then that noticed what was missing.

"My hand…" he said as he stared at where his fingers should be.

"I – I'm sorry, Tom…" Samantha said, squeezing his other hand. "Marvin said it was necessary. Do you – do you remember anything?"

He smiled weakly at her, but it seemed like a grimace. "I remember nothing."

Thomas coughed, sitting back on his pillows. He closed his eyes, screwing them shut as Samantha turned around to pour him a flask of water. He opened them quickly and did his best attempt at a smile as she faced him again, holding the cup to his lips. Carey watched them, her own eyes filling with tears.

"Marvin said you have to drink as much as you can," she said quietly, pouring a little into his mouth. He swallowed it, nodding. "You – you lost a lot of blood…"

He patted her on the back with his right arm, taking the flask from her and drinking the rest himself. Samantha trembled slightly, clenching her fists in her lap.

"I'm sorry. I – I shouldn't have let you –"

"It was my choice, Sam," he interrupted. "It was going to happen eventually, anyway…"

He tore his eyes away from his sister, finally noticing the other two people in the room. His eyes lingered on 805 for a moment before he smiled at Carey.

"I'm sorry Carey. I don't think I'll be making you a new sword anytime soon…"

He nodded towards her empty belt. Carey had almost forgotten she'd left her sword behind with the woman she'd killed. "It's – it's okay… We stole all those weapons anyway. I can just use one of those."

He nodded, staring at 805 again. The older man coughed slightly, clearing his throat.

"I'm sorry about your hand," he muttered. "I should have…"

His voice trailed off, fidgeting uncomfortably.

"So you're the one, huh?" Thomas said. All three of them turned to look at him.

"You remember me?" 805 asked, glancing at Samantha who scowled. "How?"

Thomas shrugged. "No, I don't. But you look so much like her –" he nodded towards Samantha, " – who else could you be?"

He paused. "Besides, I figured you were Gifted."

"You could have told me that," Samantha muttered.

Thomas shrugged. "I thought it was obvious. You don't look like any of the other mountain villagers, Sam. The Gifted are the only people who really move between the villages. Still, it was only after Mum told me about the Assessor that didn't take me away that I was certain. That was you, I assume?"

805 stared at his hands. "Yes it was."

"Thank you," Thomas said, smiling at him. He mumbled in response.

"Why did you do it?" Samantha asked, her eyes narrowed.

He shifted uncomfortably. "I have my reasons."

Carey noticed he was trembling. She wondered why he wouldn't just say what his reasons were, given the circumstances.

"Was it some elaborate scheme of yours? Our Mum was a beautiful woman, after all."

805 raised an eyebrow, his moment of vulnerability gone. "I don't choose where the Gifted send me," he said coldly. "You think I was somehow able to predict that the mother of the child I was supposed to take away would be beautiful?"

"No, I'm saying you used it to your advantage. When you returned you pretended to be this troubled bad boy with a hidden heart, and when she gave you what you wanted you left."

Carey hissed under her breath, trying to maintain her temper. She glanced at Thomas, who was staring at his stump, his bottom lip quivering. Thomas just lost his hand, 256 is possibly dying, but they're just…

805 shrugged, sighing. "You can think that if you want. I don't really care."

"Well, if you loved her, then why did you leave?" she demanded, running over and grabbing him by the collar. "Why did you –"

"Can you both shut up?" Carey snapped, her rational side finally losing the battle.

They stopped, momentarily speechless as they turned to stare at her. Carey fixed them with the best glare she could muster.

"If you're going to argue, do it somewhere else," she said coldly. "I – I don't want to hear it, I – He's dying."

A lump began to form in her throat, but she clenched her fists and forced it down.

"Forgive me," 805 muttered, pulling away from Samantha's grasp. "You're right, I'm sorry for my behaviour."

He paused, standing up. "I should be going, anyway."

"Don't you – don't you want to see if 256 is okay?" Carey asked.

He sighed. "I do, but I can't. Even if he's survived his initial blood loss, it'll be days, no, weeks before we know for certain he's not going to die. And if I don't leave soon, the Council will be suspicious."

"You're going back there?" she asked.

"Yes, I am. 256 was right, they need me. It was silly of me to try to…"

He stopped, clearing his throat. "Anyway, without the Gifted, I am nothing. That will never change."

805 stood up again, adjusting his sword. He glanced over at Samantha again, but she had her back to him as she poured some more water for Thomas.

"Look after him, Carey," he said quietly, patting her on the shoulder. "If he lives, will you do that for me?"

"Um… Okay," she muttered, glancing at Samantha. She still had her back turned.

"Thank you."

He left soon after, disappearing into the distance. Thomas, Samantha and Carey sat in silence again.

Carey stared at her hands, her thoughts once again turning to 256. Please, please let him be okay…

A few minutes later, the sound of footsteps filled the cottage. Carey, Samantha and Thomas all looked up as Janelle appeared in the doorway, Reagan close behind her.

"Thomas," she said, smiling nervously. "You're awake. How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," he muttered, giving her a strained smile.

"How is he?" Carey blurted out as she scrambled to her feet.

"He's – he's still alive," she reassured her.

Carey pushed past them, running up the stairs and bursting into his room.

"Carey…" Marvin said, holding a blood-stained cloth.

"Janelle said he's alive," she said breathlessly, her heart racing.

"Carey –"

She glanced over to where he was lying. He still looked quite ill, but she supposed that was natural given the amount of blood he'd lost.

"So he's okay?" she said, grinning widely. "He's going to wake up and be fine?"

"We don't know that yet, it's still too early."

"But he's survived, hasn't he? Won't he just heal and –"

"Carey, it's hard to say."

Her smile faded when she saw the look on his face. Marvin sighed, giving her a sad smile. "You're right. He's survived this far, which is a good sign. But he has sustained quite serious organ damage, you must understand that. There's nothing more I can do, he'll either heal on his own or he won't. Even if he lives, he'll have to take precautions with his life."

He paused, squeezing her shoulder lightly. "Carey, I know he's your friend… But don't get your hopes up too high. He's survived the initial blood loss but that's really only the first hurdle. There's still infection, for one, and Gifts of Fire have a tendency to overheat themselves when their bodies are stressed. We can keep him dry and clean, but there's not much else we can do."

"No. He'll live, I know he will. He – he has to live."

If he dies, it's my fault…

"Can you – can you leave us alone?" she asked, biting her lip and trying to stop the tears she felt building up from falling.

Marvin nodded. "Of course. If you need anything, just call."

Carey waited until he was gone before pulling up a chair and sitting beside him.

"Hi," she said, realising how stupid she sounded. He made no indication that he'd heard her, no sign of life at all aside from the slow rise and fall of his chest. At least it's better than nothing…

She hated the way he looked. His skin was pale and ghostly looking, as though it had already given up on its owner. Even the clothes he was wearing looked weird on him.

Marvin appeared to have found some new, clean clothes for him to wear in one of the closets. Carey had never seen him wearing anything other than his uniform. Now she thought about it, he'd probably never worn anything different in his life. When she'd been in the Council she'd noticed they all wore the exact same uniform, even the children.

In fact, she realised she knew almost nothing about his childhood. He'd never spoken about it when she'd been at the Council. He's my friend, and I know so little about his life before I knew him… But then, I haven't told him much about my life either. One day I'll – I'll ask him. That's right, she had to do things like that. She had to make plans, otherwise she'd given up.

His right hand peeked out from under the covers, limp and lifeless. She reached out and squeezed it gently. To her dismay, he showed no reaction.

His hand's so warm… It's much warmer than before, is he overheating himself already?

Carey shook her head. No, he wouldn't die. He couldn't die. She had to keep believing, even if everyone else had given up.

Her thoughts turned to the woman she'd killed. Carey shivered as she remembered, hardly believing it had been her who had killed her. When she'd killed 440, she'd been consumed with guilt for weeks, even though he'd been dying anyway. But up until now she'd felt nothing, no remorse, no pity… I didn't even hesitate… I just shoved my sword straight through her heart without a second thought!

At the time, she'd simply wanted revenge. She was becoming a killer, and the worst part was that she didn't even care.

I just want him to wake up…

"Please," she said, squeezing his hand. "Please, will you do that for me? Will you wake up?"

Even though she knew he wouldn't, Carey could feel the tears building up in her eyelids as his body remained still. He didn't even twitch…

She knew she had to keep believing, she couldn't give up. But as Carey laid her head down on the bed and closed her tired eyes to stop her tears from falling, she knew that was easier said than done.

.

Janelle went to sleep almost immediately that night, exhausted from the fighting and surgery helping she'd done. She, Reagan, and Marvin had no choice but to share the last and largest bed left in the house, as the Gifted boy and Thomas were currently occupying the other two while Carey and Samantha refused to leave them alone.

She woke early the next morning as the sun shone through the window. To her surprise there was still a decent amount of noise coming from outside. It won't be long before the Gifted arrive… I guess they're just enjoying freedom while they can.

Still, Janelle was worried. The Gifted were sure to arrive with reinforcements, and anyone engaging in unlawful behaviour were likely to be punished harshly. Did we just condemn this entire village? I hope not…

She slid out of bed, careful not to wake her companions. Janelle plodded along the hallway, deciding to visit the Gifted boy. Although she hadn't really thought of it at the time, she'd realised how much help the boy could be to them if he lived. I – I don't want to force him to tell us anything, but… Will it be necessary for our cause? Probably…

Janelle opened the door to his room as quietly as she could. To her surprise, Carey was still inside, her head resting on the bed beside him. One of her hands was on top of his, curled around his fingers. She really does care about him… It's strange, she's never mentioned any friends she made in the Council.

Janelle sat down next to the boy, watching him carefully. Marvin had fixed him up the best he could, but there was only so far his medicine could go. Is his body strong enough to heal on his own?

Although he was rather petite, the boy was sufficiently muscular and didn't seem frail despite his small stature. Janelle hoped that meant he was strong enough to pull through. After all, he wouldn't be much use to them if he died. However, his skin was gaunt and pasty looking, the only sign of life the shallow rise and fall of his chest. Janelle knew it was best not to get her hopes up, really.

It was strange. She'd always seen the Gifted as these overbearing, intimidating enforcers of the law. But this boy looked barely over fifteen, or even younger, and not particularly intimidating. In fact, Janelle had a feeling she'd seen him somewhere before, although she couldn't remember where.

What was strangest was how human he looked. Without his uniform, he looked no different from any of them. There was no way of knowing he had powers they didn't. Janelle had to admit, she felt sorry for him. Carey had told her what had happened, or at least part of it. He was stabbed by his own people… I wonder why? What could he have done to make them betray him?

Her thoughts turned to her daughter. She wondered, as she often did, where she was. Janelle supposed she must be at the Council. She knew almost nothing about her, really, not even what she looked like. When she'd been a baby she'd had big blue eyes and tufts of red hair. I wonder if she looks like me or Alex… She had his eyes, but he was blonde.

Janelle didn't even know what Gift she had. Perhaps she didn't even know herself. She'd be a little over five years old, the age that Thomas' Gift appeared. Maybe hers hasn't appeared yet. Or maybe it has, who knows.

She wondered how it was possible to miss someone she didn't know so much. Janelle had thought of her every day since she'd been taken away, wondering if she was okay. For all she knew, she could've died in infancy.

But although she thought of her so often, Janelle knew Amy probably never thought of her at all. She had no idea who she was, after all. She wouldn't even know her name... She isn't Amy anymore, she'll have a number like the rest of them.

Did this boy ever think of his parents? Did he ever wonder where he'd come from? For all Janelle knew, the Gifted were told that they'd been given up willingly. In fact, it wouldn't surprise her at all. If he lives, I'll ask him.

There was a lot he could tell them, a lot he could contribute to their cause… But did he want to? The Gifted were his people, after all. They were the only life he'd ever known. If I find my daughter, will she even want to meet me? I don't know…

Carey began to stir, distracting her. She sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes and stretching. She noticed Janelle staring at her from across his bed.

"What are you doing here?"

Janelle shrugged. "I thought I should come visit him. I mean, if he lives –"

"He will live."

"Fine. When he wakes up, he could tell us a lot about the Gifted, you know?"

Carey gritted her teeth. "He's not just someone who can help you with the revolution. He's a person. What if he doesn't want to help?"

Janelle raised an eyebrow. "Carey… I know you probably don't want to hear this, but he is essentially our hostage. It might be morally wrong, but I can't let this opportunity slip through our fingers."

She crossed her hands in her lap. "We don't have a choice. If we play nice forever, we'll never manage to achieve our goal."

"So what? You'll just force information out of him?" she demanded, her eyes narrowed.

"No… I don't know," Janelle muttered. "I'll think of something. But we won't be cruel, I promise. I wouldn't stoop that low."

A loud shout from outside distracted them, both their heads turning towards the window. Janelle waked over to it and looked out, watching the villagers outside. After all that had happened, she'd almost forgotten why they came to this village in the first place – to steal weapons. That part of the mission had been successful, although their allies were still waiting for them at the sanctuary just outside the village. Tomorrow I'll have to send a few people to take them back to the brothel… It would be best if I could send Samantha, Reagan, and Carey, but they probably won't want to go.

In her heart Janelle knew she'd have to send all three of them whether they liked it or not. The fewer that stayed here, the better. As she and Marvin had no choice but to remain, Janelle had to make them all go. She already had no idea how they were going to hide this boy and Thomas from the Gifted when they inevitably came to restore order in this village, and she needed them to be safe in case something went wrong. They'll be annoyed at me, sure, but it's my job. I'm the leader, and I have to do what's best for the revolution. Even if my friends resent me for it.

She watched Carey as she stared out the window into the village below.

"I didn't mean to start a riot," Janelle said sheepishly. "I should have thought of that…"

Carey shrugged, avoiding her gaze. "Who knows, perhaps they'll want to join us."

Janelle nodded, ignoring the sarcasm in the girl's voice. "Perhaps they will."

Carey scowled at her, sitting back down next to the Gifted boy and taking his hand again. Janelle sat down on the opposite side, watching her carefully as she stroked his fingers. They sat in silence for a while, both lost in their own thoughts.

"Anyway, what are we going to do now?" Carey muttered. "The Gifted will be here soon…"

Janelle smiled. It was simple, really.

"We'll keep on fighting."

A note: Thanks to everyone who read this story right to the end! :) I know I'm not the most vocal of authors (I never really write author's notes and stuff) but I really have appreciated your support. Thank you to everyone who reviewed/favourite/followed this story, and thanks to everyone who just dropped by to give it a read! Anyway, obviously this isn't really the end. I will be writing a sequel, but I have a lot of rewriting to do first, so it might be quite a while before I get to it. And there's those things called exams, which I have soon… Anyway, thanks again! :D