Apparently, I can come back from the dead.
At least, that was what it felt like.
And, according to April and Larabee, what I looked like—regardless of the age I happened to be at the time, I was like death warmed over.
“We’re really sure I’m not dead?” Clayton asked, trying to sit up and failing, again. He was sore everywhere, and he didn’t really want to move, but he kept trying just to see if he could. He had never been so helpless in his life than he had been in that warehouse, and he couldn’t let that happen again. He didn’t know how he was going to stop it, but he would have to do better next time.
He really didn’t want there to be a next time.
“Can you please stop asking that?” April sighed. “If you don’t, I’m going to smack you, and after what you’ve been through, you can’t—I don’t want to hurt you again.”
“I’m apparently immune to that to a degree.”
“Just because you’re—”
“He broke all the bones in my arm, April. I know he did. I felt it. And yet…” Clayton lifted his hand and wiggled his fingers, waving at her. “I… healed. I’m not sure how that works, but I’m… hard to kill.”
“And I am damn glad you are,” she said, putting her hands on his face and kissing his forehead. “You’re not allowed to die on me.”
He sighed. “What if I don’t die, but you do? I’m not looking forward to a lifetime of random shifts and improbable healing when I’d end up alone. I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but I’m really nothing without you.”
“You are a lot more than you think, and we are going to make you see that somehow. You don’t have to be a superhero, Clayton. You don’t have to have a superpower. You can be you, and that is enough for me. Of course, you need to work on your outlook and self-confidence still, but I just want you. And our not-normal and very complicated but very us life together. Speaking of, there is something that I should probably tell you—”
“I saw the superhero costume he made you.”
She groaned. “That’s not it. It’s not about superheroes or costumes or anything like that.”
“It might have to wait,” Clayton admitted with a yawn. “I think I’m going to pass out again. You are the best thing I’ve ever seen, and I can’t keep my eyes open to look at you.”
“You could almost pass for a romantic.”
He laughed, but he really couldn’t fight the pull into unconsciousness any longer.
“When was the last time you slept?”
“I’m fine, Clayton.”
He combed his fingers through her hair. “You’re afraid if you go to sleep I’ll be dead, aren’t you?”
She sighed, curling up against him. “Or that they’ll come back and try to finish what they started. You gave us both a really good scare. I thought… I really did think I’d lost you there, and you’re still so weak… If they come back now, we don’t hardly stand a chance, do we?”
“You never know. Larabee really liked my idea of turning spandex into a weapon.”
She giggled. “You and spandex. Him and spandex… It’s so wrong it’s funny.”
“Yeah, that’s the story of my life.”
“Everything but you, of course. You’re the one thing that’s right.”
She rolled her eyes as she sat up again. “I know right now you’re not up to it because even though you’re back to one random shift a day, you’re exhausted and can’t hardly move, but we are not letting this happen again. I think what you did—standing up to them and not giving in—was amazing, and I love that you did it, but standing up to them like that doesn’t do you any good if you can’t do it without nearly dying in the process. We know your body can take a lot of punishment, but it shouldn’t have to.”
He nodded. “I think we have to find out what Kilbourne was trying to do when he created me and what the rest of them know and maybe then I can figure out why I’m—I can’t afford not to be able to defend myself. And—Larabee has got to get better at his tech gadgetry. I don’t see why the stuff he invented for his game nights works fine but the important stuff fails.”
“Because he had fun making it?”
“I love you.”
She smiled at him. “I love you, too. And as soon as we get you on your feet again, we are going to change things.”
“Not all of them, though, right? I still get my gummy bears and you and I’ll still hate spandex, right?”
She rolled her eyes. “Clayton—”
“I didn’t say it before, but thank you. Thank you for finding me. I know you get annoyed when I say I’d be lost without you, but you know it’s true this time. I almost died.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. “It won’t happen again.”
“You won’t rescue me?”
“No, I mean you won’t be in that situation again. Never again.”
“You know what they say about saying never—”
“Never say it. Yeah. And our life is highly chaotic and improbable, but this is a situation where never needs to be said, if only that we vow not to let the part of it that we can control happen again. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” he said, wrapping an arm around her. “Now go to sleep. We have a lot of work to do when we get up again.”