BOOK 2 // FIFTEEN: Think Fast

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            As the scene before me started to sink in, my heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach.

I was going to be sick. The sight of the blood made my insides churn so violently they seemed to be forcing their way up my throat, and I clamped a hand over my mouth in an effort to hold them back.

But at the same time, somewhere beneath the physical reaction, my brain was at work – pushing me to return to my senses so I could do what I needed to do.

I rushed forward and dropped to my knees beside Jace. His body was unmoving, his eyes closed, which for an agonising heartbeat made me fear the worst. But then I noticed the shallow rise and fall of his chest that seemed to stop my world from crumbling. He was still breathing, which meant he was still alive, which meant he still had a chance.

I touched his arm gently. When I spoke, I tried to keep my voice light, but there wasn't a force in the universe capable of keeping the panic from seeping in. "Jace."

The sound caused him to stir; his lips parted, making way for a soft groan, and his eyes started to flutter. For the first couple of seconds, they struggled to focus – but eventually they fixed on me, and relief flooded his expression.

Still, he said nothing; he was either too dazed or too weak to form coherent words. As my momentary flash of hope faded, panic rushed in to fill the space, and my eyes swept frantically over the rest of his body. He was covered in blood, his clothes saturated, so much so that I could barely tell what colour his shirt was beneath the sinister red splotches. As my gaze trailed downward, I realised most of it was coming from his left leg, and there was a growing pool on the ground beneath it.

"Oh my God," I breathed.

Shakily, he lifted his head, his gaze attempting to follow mine. "Is it... bad?"

I didn't have a clue: not when all I could see was blood, when it was everywhere, over everything, and now burned into my mind forever. The bullet had obviously gone somewhere, but I couldn't even see where the wound was, let alone assess its medical severity. But Jace already seemed hazy, like the world was blurring around him, and I wasn't about to let slip that I didn't have even the weakest grasp of the situation.

"No, no, it's fine," I said, though it hardly sounded convincing. "We just need to... to..."

I racked my brain, searching desperately for the answer. It had to be there. After all these years, after everything that had accumulated and been neatly stored there, it couldn't fail me now. What did I know about first aid? We'd done a course back at the academy, years ago now: an afternoon of tying bandages around our own arms and practicing the Heimlich manoeuvre and resuscitating lifeless dummies. I should've been able to recall every detail, to replay the instructor's walkthrough like I'd pressed rewind on a recording.

And yet, as I tried to go back there, put every shred of mental effort into going back, I couldn't quite get there. Each time I got close, a wall went up, and I was left stranded on the wrong side.

For the first time, my perfect memory was flagging.

And the only logical conclusion I could come to was the obvious one.

"We need to stop the bleeding."

Said aloud, it was at least sensible enough for me to start believing in myself. Jace was hardly in a state to be offering comprehensive medical advice, but I took the way his head bobbed in a vague nod to be a good sign and went ahead.

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