Hello! Thanks a lot for taking a look at this story. If you merely skimmed the summary and are interested in reading this story, please note that this is a sequel to "Gifted". You really need to read that one first to understand what's happening ;)
Anyway, I'm currently more focussed on rewriting Gifted, so my updates for this story will be quite slow initially. I'm not making any major plot changes, so you don't have to have read the most up to date version of Gifted to understand this story, but when I do finish my rewrites and have posted all the chapters up again I'll put a message on this story in case anyone wants to read it :)
Chapter One: Leadership or Friendship
"Just do it," Janelle muttered to herself as she stood outside the door, her fingers poised over the handle. She had been putting this off for days, but she knew she could wait no longer.
The Gifted could arrive in full force any time now… It's been three days since we attacked this village and stole weapons from the factory. It won't be long now.
Two Gifted had actually arrived from a nearby village the previous day, but the rioting villagers had killed them brutally. Their bodies were displayed in front of the Gifted house, along with the rest of the Gifted who had been killed in the past few days. Janelle knew the Council would soon find out, and send reinforcements.
The others have to get away as quickly as possible, or our efforts will have gone to waste.
Taking a deep breath, she opened it, nodding at Thomas and Samantha as she went in.
"Hi," she said awkwardly, waving. She withdrew her hand quickly, realising she probably shouldn't show off the fact she still had a right hand.
"Hello," Thomas said, unfazed despite Janelle's concerns. He lifted his left hand, waving also.
"Um… Can I talk to you, Samantha?" Janelle said quickly.
"What is it?" she asked, still sitting beside her brother's bed.
"I need to speak with you, Carey and Reagan alone, if that's okay."
Samantha nodded, turning towards Thomas. "Is that alright?" she asked.
"It's fine," he said, smiling. He almost seems relieved. "I think I can survive ten minutes without you."
She laughed a little. "Okay."
Samantha followed her out the door. Janelle led her through to the room where Reagan was waiting.
"Wait here," she muttered, running across the halls to where the Gifted boy slept. His condition had gotten worse over the past few days as his body temperature increased dramatically. They were doing their best to keep him cool, but his skin was far more cracked and dry looking than it had been previously.
"Carey?" Janelle said as she entered. She was sitting by his bedside, holding a wet towel against his forehead. "I – I need to talk to you."
Carey nodded, standing up slowly. Her long brown hair was greasy and unkempt, and she still had not changed out of the dirty clothing she had worn when they first arrived in this village.
Janelle lead her back to where Samantha and Reagan were waiting. She bit her lip. Just say it, Janelle. No matter what, it's got to come out. You've been avoiding this for too long.
"Listen," Janelle began, staring straight at Reagan. She knew he was going to be the one the least angry at her when she had finished, so his was the only face she could focus on. "I need you three to take the recruits back to the sanctuary where the others are waiting."
She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the objections.
"We can't leave now!" Carey protested. "I have to see if –"
"I don't care," Janelle said, careful not to let her uncertainty show in her voice. "You have to go. All of you. Otherwise we're putting ourselves in danger. When the Gifted arrive, do you think it's going to be easy to hide two rogue Gifted from them? No, it's not. We'll need – we'll need as few casualties as possible, if they find us. So Marvin and I will stay, but the rest of you must go."
She paused. "It's been three days… The other recruits are still waiting in that inn nearby. The purpose of this mission was to get those weapons, and I need to make sure they get to the sanctuary safely. I need all of you to go, and protect them."
"Why don't you go then?" Samantha said coldly, folding her arms. She'd been quiet the whole time. Janelle's heart broke when she saw the look her best friend was giving her, but she had no choice.
"I can't," Janelle heard herself say. "I have to stay with the hostage. I am the leader, so I need to hear what he has to say if he wakes up. And Thomas needs to get used to his condition, so…"
Carey and Samantha both glared furiously at her. It took all her self-control to ignore them.
"I am sorry," Janelle said quietly. "But this isn't a request. You will go with Reagan and the rest of the recruits, and take them back to the new sanctuary. We will meet you there shortly after you arrive, depending on how things go."
She strode towards the door. "Say your goodbyes and pack some supplies to take with you. I want you to be gone by tonight."
Janelle forced herself not to look back as she strode down the corridor. She ducked into the largest bedroom and flopped onto the bed she, Marvin and Reagan were sharing, squeezing her eyes shut.
What can I do? My friends probably hate me now, but I don't have any choice… They must go. The less of us remaining here, the better… If the Gifted find this place, they need to be alive to carry on with the mission without us.
"Are you okay?"
Janelle opened her eyes. Reagan stood in the doorway, smiling at her like he always did. At least he's not mad too…
She sat up slightly, leaning on her elbows. "Reagan... What do – what do you want?"
He limped over and perched on the bed beside her. "You did the right thing."
She smiled bitterly. "If the right thing is betraying my friends, then yes. I did that brilliantly, didn't I?"
He laughed. "There's no need to be so dramatic."
"But it's true."
Reagan shrugged. "They're mad now, but they'll understand eventually. I'll make them come around, I promise. So don't be sad."
Janelle smirked, poking him in the ribs. "Neither of them like you very much, you know."
"I know. They think I'm annoying. Most people do, so I'm used to it. Anyway, I can try."
"Well… thanks," Janelle muttered, tucking a strand of her red curly hair behind her ear. Remember, you can't do this… Even if you want to, you can't risk it.
Janelle glanced at Reagan. He smiled at her like usual, almost nervously.
"I'll miss you," he said, patting her on the arm. "When will you be getting back?"
Janelle shrugged, moving her arm away. "I'm not sure. It depends whether the Gifted boy dies or not. If he lives it'll be in a few weeks, because we'll have to wait for him to recover. If not, we'll probably get there soon after you do."
"Okay," he said, his smile growing even wider. Janelle wished he wouldn't do that, it made him look unintentionally creepy.
"I'll miss you too," she said nervously. It's okay, you can say that.
He was still staring at her weirdly.
"Janelle… There's something I…"
Reagan stopped suddenly, fidgeting.
"What is it?" Janelle asked, confused.
"I – I have to go do something. I have to… pack. For our trip, you know?"
"Um, sure. I'll help."
"No," he said quickly, his voice surprisingly forceful. "I mean, it's okay. I'd rather be alone, if you don't mind."
Janelle nodded, although she felt a little hurt. He smiled at her again, before hurrying from the room.
Maybe he doesn't like you… And that's why he ran away.
Janelle shook her head, hardly believing that thought had crossed her mind. What are you, thirteen? It doesn't matter why he ran away, because you don't care. You know what happened last time.
"I don't care, I don't care…"
She repeated this mantra in her head as she packed a few blankets and spare clothes for them. Although it was still summer it was beginning to get quite cold at night once more, so she thought they would probably need some. They can get some more at the inn where the others are staying…After all, they've got about thirty people to take back to the inn.
Janelle finished packing and waited a few hours until the sun had set. After that, she found Carey and Samantha and took them outside. She tried to find Reagan, but she was unsuccessful.
He knew they were going to leave once the sun had set… He'll be here soon, surely.
Janelle pushed thoughts of him from her mind and smiled widely at her two friends. They both scowled back.
She hugged Samantha first, trying to ignore their anger. "Stay safe, Sam. Look after the others, won't you?"
"Of course," she said stiffly, wriggling out of her embrace and walking away. "Come on, Carey."
Carey turned to follow her, but Janelle grabbed her arm.
"Carey… I am sorry," she muttered. "I know he means a lot to you, but I have no choice. You and the others must go."
"You're not sorry," Carey said coldly, her blue eyes the colour of ice. "If you were, you wouldn't be doing this."
She ran off to Samantha, who was walking ahead. I hope they'll both find it in their hearts to forgive me… But I have to do this. I have to be the leader, even if it means losing my friends.
"Don't worry Janelle."
She jumped. "R – Reagan… You scared me."
He smiled, back to normal after his weird behaviour earlier. In fact, he seemed a lot happier, as well as a little breathless. "I told you, I'll convince them."
You can try, but neither of them will listen to you. "Thanks… I appreciate it."
They stood there awkwardly for a moment, staring at each other. How do I break this silence?
"Well… see you later," Janelle said, waving.
"See you," Reagan said, leaning down and kissing her. Janelle was so surprised she just stood there, dumbfounded, until he pulled away. You can't, you can't, it's too risky!
"I'm sorry, did you not want me to do that?" he asked, fidgeting as he noticed her doubt.
Janelle considered telling him that no, she did not, because she knew how these things ended. However, she couldn't form the words, no matter how hard she tried.
Maybe I'm being judgemental… Why have I just assumed that he'll be like Alex and betray me?
She looked up, and their eyes met. I know why. It's because I don't want to get hurt again. But I'm older now, I won't be as reckless… I learnt my lesson.
"It's okay," she said finally, allowing herself to smile. Tentatively she pulled Reagan towards her and kissed him again.
"Bye," she said breathlessly as they broke apart. "The others are probably waiting for you…"
"Yeah," he muttered, glancing at their retreating figures. "Janelle, I…"
"What is it?" she asked, remembering their conversation earlier that day. He wanted to tell me something then, too.
Reagan shook his head, smiling. "Actually, nothing. See you at the sanctuary."
He ran as fast as he could, even though it must have hurt him to do so because his ankle was still healing. Eventually he managed to catch up to Carey and Samantha. Janelle watched them go, a sinking feeling in her stomach. As soon as the others are strong enough, we'll come join you… Please, forgive me.
Sighing, Janelle turned around and trudged back to the house. She found Marvin in Thomas's room, changing his bandages.
"It's healing well," Marvin said as he examined the puckered skin at the end of his stump. Thomas glanced at Janelle, smiling apologetically.
"I'm sorry you have to see this," he said as Marvin wrapped bandages around his arm again. "It's – It's not very nice looking…"
Janelle shook her head. "It's fine. Anyway, the others left."
"We know," Marvin said. "Samantha was in here just fifteen minutes ago. She wasn't very happy."
Thomas nodded as he unsuccessfully tried to hold a cup of water in his left hand, spilling it all over himself as he raised it to his lips. Marvin reached over and helped to pour it into his mouth.
"Thank you," Thomas muttered, burrowing his now bandaged right arm under the covers.
Marvin smiled. "No problem."
Thomas smiled briefly in return, staring at his left hand. It was missing a finger too, the other three and his thumb wrinkled and white looking. There was a strange expression on his face.
Marvin caught Janelle's eye and motioned his head towards the door. "I'd better go check on the Gifted boy," he said quickly. "He'll need his bandages changed, too."
Janelle nodded. "I'll come. I – I hope you feel better, Thomas…"
She reached out and patted him awkwardly on the shoulder, but he didn't seem to notice, still staring at his hand.
It's strange, he seemed okay when I was in here before… But now he's upset again. Maybe it's because Samantha left? I don't know…
"Is he going to be okay?" she said quietly once they closed the door behind them.
Marvin sighed. "I don't know… Physically, he's fine. He just needs some time to adjust, that's all. I think it'll be good for him to be away from Samantha for a while, though."
"Why?" Janelle asked as they walked along the corridor.
"I don't know. I just think it will be good for him."
Marvin stopped outside the boy's room, hesitating. "I told Carey he's probably going to die. The Gifted boy, I mean."
He nodded. "I'm pretty sure. His injury is healing okay, but he's so dehydrated… I have no way of giving water to him, and his Gift is making it worse. There isn't really anything I can do."
They went inside the room.
"He doesn't look like he's dying to me," Janelle commented. He looked much better than he had when she visited him that morning. His skin was far less cracked and dry-looking, plus a little colour had returned to his face. Marvin frowned, rushing to his side.
"This isn't right…" he muttered, lifting up his hand. Marvin pinched the skin on the underside of his wrist hard. His eyebrows knotted with confusion, pinching his wrist again.
"What are you doing that for?" Janelle asked, a bit confused. "I mean, I know he's unconscious, but you don't have to hurt him."
Marvin shook his head, pinching him for a third time. "I – I don't understand… How did he…"
His voice trailed off. Marvin leaned up and felt his forehead, lifting up his lips and peeking at his gums. He leaned back, swallowing.
"What - what is it?" Janelle asked, his strange behaviour making her nervous.
Marvin smiled slightly, shaking his head. "I don't know how, but… He's probably going to live."