It took about an hour to get to Jacob's apartment; unfortunately, forcing him to pick us up during rush hour meant we had to endure stationary traffic for a lot longer than necessary. Still, with my airport nap already under my belt, I was able to stay awake long enough to get my first look at the city of Chicago.

The place was the exact opposite of everything that had come before it; Thunder Bay had hardly been a sprawling metropolis, and camp was about as far from civilization as human rights laws permitted. Even back home, our neighbourhood on the outskirts of a small town seemed worlds away from the streets here. We were surrounded on all sides by looming skyscrapers, from which Jacob's car would probably look like a tiny, orange ant. The sidewalks were packed with people all rushing in different directions, in a state of such bizarrely organized chaos I couldn't help wondering how they avoided crashing into one another.

We parked in a downstairs lot of an apartment building, where Seb and I were reunited with our heavy rucksacks. Unfortunately, this was also the point at which we had to follow Jacob up hundreds of stairs, and we would've done a lot better without the weight dragging us down. By the time we reached his front door, my legs were trembling beneath me, and my heaving breaths threatened total collapse. I only managed to hold it together long enough to take my first step inside Jacob's apartment.

I was afraid of some ultra-clean place, where we'd feel grubby just for walking in the door. However, first impressions looked thoroughly lived in; stacks of magazines and mugs were piled on the coffee table, the dining table looked more like an office space than anywhere to eat, and the set of bookshelves on the far wall looked full to the brim. I wasn't sure exactly what Jacob did for a living, but I had a feeling it consumed a large chunk of his life.

"Sorry about the stairs," Jacob said over his shoulder, with a look caught somewhere between apology and amusement. I had a feeling he was enjoying watching his brother suffer. "Elevator's broken."

"I didn't realize you lived on the hundredth floor," Seb wheezed. "Didn't mention that when you invited us to stay, did you?"

"Oh, man up. It's the tenth. You'll get used to it."

Seb murmured something that sounded suspiciously like, "Doubt it."

"Anyway," continued Jacob, whose attention had already moved on, "Ellie, you'll be in the guest room. I'll show you in a second; it's at the other end of the hall. Seb, you're on the couch."

"Hold on." Seb frowned at his brother. His brows were edging closer together, and I made a mental note to attack him with my tweezers at some point. He was the world's biggest baby when it came to plucking, whining the entire way through, but I had to admit I liked the power it came with. "Why am I on the couch?"

"Because this is a two bedroom apartment, and Mom would literally kill me if I let you share a bed with a girl."

"I told you earlier," Seb said, "we're not dating."

"And how am I supposed to know that's not part of some elaborate plan to get you two some alone time?" Jacob asked, a faint smirk playing at the edge of his mouth. I couldn't tell whether he was joking or not. "Sorry, little bro, but I'm following Mom's orders. I'm not about to let any teenage pregnancies happen under my roof."

I ducked my head, knowing my entire face had probably flushed scarlet. Seb looked faintly uncomfortable but recovered a lot easier. "Do you have to be so gross? That's not going to happen."

Jacob held up his hands in mock surrender. "Just doing what Mom says. Now get settled on the couch while I show Ellie her room."

Seb scowled as he threw his rucksack on the cushions. I couldn't resist sticking my tongue out at him as I followed Jacob out of the room and down the hall. Part of me did kind of feel bad for him, but at the same time, I wasn't about to say no to my own bed after several days without one.

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