I half expected Anna to put guards on us, but when we ventured out of our room to look for something to eat, there was no one obviously waiting outside our doors and everyone in the hall appeared to be on their way to or from somewhere, not lingering suspiciously. “Well that makes things easier,” I muttered.
“What?” Teddy asked. “Turn right here.”
“Oh, just that you remember where the kitchens are. I want to stop by wherever their medical staff hides out. You need a new sling, and I want someone to check out those scrapes on your neck.”
Ethan, a medic who lived with Anna as part of her household, checked Teddy’s shoulder, moving it until he winced. “You should definitely have this braced. You could’ve done more damage to the joint.”
“Other things were more important,” Teddy said dryly.
When Ethan looked away, opening up a cabinet to avoid our flat stares, I took a quick moment to pilfer several medicine packets as well as a roll of bandages. Teddy’s new sling made a great place to hide some bread and hard cheese. We’d have to make do with the small flagon of ale they gave us for lunch to hold water, but at least we had some supplies.
It was odd, how little attention everyone was paying to us. I said as much to Teddy over lunch, but he shrugged. “They have Varket to keep them occupied.”
“True. Probably won’t last too long.” Good thing Wildman planned to come soon. We managed to filch more food over lunch and dinner. A pillowcase would have to do for a pack, since ours had been left behind with Varket captured us. I used a curtain tie to keep it shut and form a loop to fit over my arm.
Teddy was sitting in the window sill. The ancient city spread out, dotted here and there with lanterns. People had been moving about, but as darkness fell, they all disappeared indoors. All the better to disappear once Wildman showed up.
I sank down behind Teddy. He leaned against me. “Are we ready for this?” I asked.
“Maybe. At least we’re together. I’d give up chocolate for that.”
I smiled. “Now I really know you love me.”
“Where is he?” Teddy whispered.
“He’ll be here.” I was sure of that. “We didn’t set a time.”
Teddy yawned, leaning against the open window. “Probably should have.”
“There was an attack in progress, and I got the idea that Wildman was trying to get away before Anna could order her men to nab him.” I rubbed his shoulders. “Rest. I’ll wake you up when he gets here.”
I was too keyed up to sleep. I scanned what I could see of the city, leaning out the open window.
Startled, I jerked back inside. Wildman appeared upside down in the opening. “Go now.”
“All right. Let me wake up Teddy.” I went over and shook Teddy’s good shoulder. “Wake up. Wildman’s here.”
“What?” Teddy rubbed his eyes. “Oh. Okay.” I helped him up. By the time we turned around, Wildman was crouched outside the window beckoning to us. It was harder to get out this time, since Teddy was hurt, but we made it out to the jungle once again. We trooped through the darkness, lit only by faint shafts of moonlight filtering from above.
“Seems like this is where we were always heading,” Teddy said. “Out here, with him. It’s scary, but so much better than living in a bubble of ignorance in the city.” He nodded toward Wildman. “You’ve got someplace safe for us to go right, Wildman?”
“Sure. Safe place,” Wildman parroted.
“You know, we know you’re smarter than you let on. If we’re going to stay together, work together to survive, you should be honest with us.” I hiked the bag up on my shoulder.
“Don’t like to talk much.” Wildman stopped and turned around, crouching at the base of a tree. He patted the packs I thought we’d lost. “Yours.”
“He really doesn’t.” A man dropped down beside him. It was No Name.
“You!” I took a step forward. “You left us in the city to be used or die.”
“I told you; I have people to take care of. I didn’t stop Wildman from helping you, and I sent a message to Anna. I helped you the only way I could.”
“A bit too little, far too late. We shut down Shvesla’s machine. Wildman risked his safety and his life ensuring we succeeded and then could escape. We trust him, not you. What are you even doing here?”
“Helping you,” he said simply. “Do you think you’re equipped to live rough? Two soft boys fresh from the city? No. I don’t know how he does it.” He gestured toward Wildman who was pawing through some food No Name had given him.
“So what, we’re supposed to just go with you? Let you be in charge and take over telling us what to do?” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Teddy and I are a pair. I won’t let him live anywhere we won’t be allowed to live our lives free, together.”
No Name shrugged. “I don’t care if you’re intimate with each other or a hole in the door as long as you pitch in to the community. I don’t tell you what to do; we all work together. I speak for the group, but only if we all agree. If we don’t, we all die. The world is a hostile place, but it’s better than living in the cities.” He slung his gun over his shoulder.
“You can come with me, or you can take your chances with him.”
Now for more flashing!!