Chapter Twelve

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I was alive.

I had no idea how.

But I did know that everything hurt. Every bone, every muscle, every cell—it all ached and burned like I'd been dipped in boiling water. Especially my leg and my palms, which were where most of the pain was focused. But consciousness faded from black to a blurry sort of white, and I blinked my eyes open, trying to peer at my surroundings. While trying to get my bearings, I tried to file through my memory, on the last thing that happened to me.

I woke up this morning, I thought, and watched the sunrise. I went to work. I left work. I went to Cassie's

A pain so intense rolled through me, starting from my chest and fanning out, nearly making me gag. I tried to roll away from it, but the sheets pulled over my bed constricted that movement. The air clogged in my throat.

Two hands pressed against my side, forcing me back down before I even realized I tried to sit up. That was why the pain grew so much in my chest—I'd been trying to sit up. That, and my brain felt like it was cracking apart. I went to babysit—and Cassie

"Everyhing's okay," a woman said in a cooing voice, grabbing at my wrists and pushing them against the bed. I tried to pull them away from her, clenching my fingers into my palms even though it hurt. "You're okay, Jonas, calm down. You're going to hurt yourself even worse."

Oh, really? I wanted to scream at her, unable to focus on her features. They seemed to blur just out of reach, distorted as if I were looking at her through a layer of water. Maybe if you let me go, I'd calm down!

A man in a white lab coat hurried in, his glasses slipping low on his nose. "Okay, let's push another dose to see if that calms her down a little. Jonas, can you hear me? You're okay, sweetheart."

And a moment later, I felt said drugs move through me, an icy sort of feeling that left me relaxing against the bed. The woman—a nurse, presumably—pulled her hands away, but stayed near the edge of my bed. "There's a good girl," she said gently, as if I were a freaking dog, reaching up and smoothing my hair back. "The bandages on her hands need to be redone—she's beginning to bleed through them."

"I'll send for a resident," the doctor told the woman, coming up around my other side. His face, too seesawed in and out of focus, and though I blinked several times, I couldn't fully grasp his image. "That was a close call there, Jonas. We weren't sure you were going to make it."

"But you pulled through, like a trooper."

I turned my gaze to the ceiling, drawing in a breath. The fog in my brain hadn't cleared an ounce, but I knew the big stuff. I went to babysit. Mrs. Rivers is dead. Kelsey and Cassian were taken by Jev. I was supposed to be dead. But I wasn't. Why wasn't I dead? What the hell was going on? Why was I at a hospital—how did I even get to the hospital?

"There are some people here who want to see you. They've already been cleared by Dr. Hamilton, if you were wanting to see them."

Dr. Who-now? Hamilton? Obviously not the doctor next to me, unless he liked speaking in third-person.

I wasn't sure who I expected to walk through the door. Kelsey was gone. Beck? I hadn't seen Beck since the barrier went up. He never came to the closet—unless he had. Was that the reason I was in the hospital now? Had he brought me?

If he hadn't, was he okay? Was he...alive?

No, of course he was alive. I wasn't even going to entertain the idea otherwise.

I wasn't sure who I expected to walk through the door, but I definitely hadn't expected to see my very dead parents very much alive.

A man and a woman who I would recognize anywhere walked into the small room, easing the creaking door open. Their faces shimmered a little, as if they weren't quite right. I saw Dad's face first, face crooking up as he tried to smile, but it wasn't very happy. It looked forced, ingenuine, false.

That's when another memory came back at me, and a different sort of freezing feeling. The man—alien—in the backyard. He wore my father's image. With his strange expression, that had to be who stood before me now. Surely one of the women stole the image of my mother. I wrenched away from the two of them, though my body rebelled at the idea. It felt like all of my muscles were asleep, not wanting to obey.

That was when I realized there was a chaotic beeping, loud in my ear, and the nurse came to my side again to capture my wrist. "Jonas, calm down sweetheart, okay? You need to be calm. Let's try those breathing exercises Dr. Hamilton taught you, okay? Inhale for four beats—Doctor, are we maxed out?"

"Let's push some fentanyl," he replied, rattling off an exact dose, and though doctor lingo was lost on me, I'd watched enough of Grey's Anatomy to know that fentanyl was a sort of painkiller. From what I remembered, it was a high painkiller. It made me wilt almost instantly, and though my breathing began to slow, it sounded ragged coming out of my nose. Fuzziness ate at the corners of my vision, creating a blur effect.

These are not my parents, I wanted to scream to the doctor, but my lips wouldn't budge apart. Get them out of here. Find me Beck—I need Beck. I need to wake up.

Wake up. The two words echoed in my ears, rapidly, in tandem with my increasing heartrate. Wake up. But I was awake. I was awake. Right? No, the pain was real. These people were real. They were just blurry, just fuzzy, but I was awake...right?

"We haven't been able to come and visit recently, and we're sorry about that," Mom said, her voice quivering as she attempted to smile. The sight was so startling that I would've started screaming if I could've moved an inch. But I couldn't. I was staring at the dead, smiling image of my mother and I couldn't move. "It's just so hard for us sometimes, especially when you—well, that and Luyah Psychiatric is just so far from home. But it's the best center we could find for you."

She was talking, but I had no idea what she was saying. None. Wake up, a voice echoed in my ears, almost drowning her out. I heard the words, but none of them made sense. You need to wake up, Jonas. Wake. Up.

"Her heart rate's getting too high," the doctor said, but his voice sounded muffled, as if he were talking through a glass barrier. "Must be a reaction to the fentanyl. Let's give her something to make her sleep, Allosynie." The nurse at my elbow moved into motion. "Mr. and Mrs. Verandez, let's step out into the hall and we can go over more about her condition."

No, I wanted to say, please.

But another voice cut through my brain, one that was deep, masculine, familiar. Jonas, Beck's voice whispered, but it grew faint, distorted, and I couldn't even be sure it was h, wake up.

And then whatever drugs Nurse Allosynie pushed into my I.V. coursed through me, and that fuzziness at my vision faded completely to black.

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