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"What's wrong?" Hannah stood up warily.
"What happened to him?" Jonah looked at his unconscious friend.
"We drugged him. Who did you see?"
"You drugged him?!" Jonah's eyes bugged out. "Why--"
"Sorry! We saw Grace." Jonah shifted uncomfortably. "She's back in Cincinnati."
Silence fell on the small group. Hannah wasn't sure what to feel. She felt relieved that Grace was alright, but also suspicion: why was she back?
"Did she see you?" Hannah asked.
"I don't think so." Ethan shook his head. "Her hair was all weird and blue, but I know her face. What do we do? I mean, I know she's one of us--"
"She hasn't been one of us for two years," Wes grumped. "If she was, she would be living in this rat hole right along with us."
"Shut up Wes." Hannah turned on him angrily. Ever after two years of living in close proximity with him, Wes was still really annoying. "What happened wasn't her fault. She didn't know she was being tracked. She made the hard hard decision to live alone, and away from the city, to keep us safe. I don't know what your problem is--"
"Hannah," Aggie said quietly. Hannah bit her lip to keep back more nasty words. Wes was glaring at her. Hannah hated snapping at him. At anyone, really. She snapped more often now than before. She had even blown up on Skyler, and he had avoided her for days before he dared come close. Aggie was often the person who kept her in check. The stress of two years as a fugitive and constantly worrying about her friends and especially her little-yet-not-so-little brother had taken its toll on her.
"Sorry, Wes," Hannah murmured.
"Whatever," Wes said. "So what do we do?"
"We keep an eye out," Hannah said. "Let's not show her where we are until we know for sure she isn't being tracked. While what happens wasn't her fault, we can't risk it."
The rest of the afternoon was spent inside the hideout. Everyone was edgy with this piece of news, but Hannah suspected they were all still shaken up by the Nabber sweep yesterday.
Horatio had upped the Nabbers' sweeps. Now they came twice a week, even patrolling the old city, but still as random as ever. It had started a few weeks after they returned to the city, but yesterday had been way too close. Nearly all of them had been out then, and they had scattered. It had taken some of them two days to be able to get back to the garage safely. Everyone else was worried sick. Aggie and Jonah had been the ones gone the longest, and the stress that had put on the rest made them all jumpy.
Nabbers had also started getting more violent. They didn't just use the sedative pistols. They had actual bullets. Hannah had seen them catch a poor kid once. It had been too dangerous to try rescuing him, and she would have been outnumbered anyway, but she still couldn't keep the kid's look of terror out of her head, or his scream when a Nabber shot his leg.
"Hey." Wes came up to her. Hannah looked up from preparing dinner. They would be finishing off the food from their last search before they started on the new stuff. Hannah was eager to stop eating old cans of baked beans and move on to the canned tuna.
"Hi." Hannah nodded to him. "Nice shot today, by the way."
There it was again, that awkwardness between them. It had started a while ago, but Hannah still wasn't sure how to make it go away without making Wes go away. Their relationship had always been weird. One minute they could actually get along alright, the next they were yelling at each other. Then later Wes would try to flirt and she'd tell him off, and then after that they'd go back to being civil, but this time they had long awkward pauses. Hannah was at a loss as to how to deal with it. Wes was a good friend, but strange sometimes. He was rough, but you could count on him when you needed him, and he wouldn't ditch you. He was a loyal Jumper, and a brilliant one. He had been able to outrun a lot of trouble. He was just a big pain in the butt half the time, and he knew it and enjoyed it.
"Skyler should be waking up soon," Wes said. "I can finish up if you want to play big sister and keep him from being a grump."
Hannah nodded and stepped aside to let him finish up. She headed for the mass of ratty blankets and pillows they had managed to find. Skyler was just beginning to stir, opening his eyes blearily and blinking, looking around himself as if he wasn't sure where he was.
"Hey." Hannah sank to her knees beside him. "Sleep well?"
Skyler grunted at her, nodding. He passed a hand over his face, trying to wake up more. "How long was I out?"
"A few hours," Hannah told him. "It's almost dinner time."
"You drugged me." Skyler looked at her, his blue eyes confused and a little hurt. Hannah felt a stab of guilt.
"You weren't getting enough sleep," Hannah said. "I'm sorry, Skyler. I didn't know what else to do."
Skyler nodded and pushed himself upright. "What time is it?"
"Almost dinner," Hannah replied. She started to tell him about Grace, but checked herself. He didn't need that stress right now. Hannah suspected Skyler was fond of Grace, and knowing she was back would set him off, and he push himself harder and refuse to sleep at all. She couldn't do that to him. Not yet. "The others are back."
"Did they find any food?"
"Sure they did," Hannah grinned. "We can go over what we use up first after dinner."
Ever since they jumped off the train two years ago, Skyler had been look to as the leader, or at least the head of operations. He was second youngest, but no one else stepped up to lead. It had been his idea to go back in the first place anyway, so leadership seemed to have slid to him. Over time, he really did become the leader, and he fit into the role gradually, but he fit it well.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Hannah could tell Wes was still miffed at her, and even Skyler was a bit distant. Or lost in thought. Hannah hoped he wasn't annoyed with her. Having Wes be a grump was bad enough. Put the two most stubborn boys together for a grump-fest was a really bad idea.
"We're running low on water," Ethan said after a moment of silence. "We'll need to make a run to find some."
"Why not just head into the city?" Wes asked. "We can slip in, grab water, and slip out easy. We've done it before."
"It's too risky." Skyler shook his head. "They have had our faces on wanted posters everywhere for months. Even if we manage to get into the city, the stores--"
"Yeah, yeah, alright," Wes snapped. "I get it. So what do we do then? Wander the streets and hope it rains? It hasn't rained in weeks, and the last time it did we got nothing."
"It worked," Skipper sniffed. "Just.... Letting it run down filthy rooftops into the buckets is what ruined the idea..."
"Enough," Hannah cut Wes off as he started to make a snarky response. "We'll be fine for now. We'll keep an eye out for water, but we've had worse."
Skyler hadn't allowed himself to worry a lot over the past couple years. At least not for himself. He would worry sometimes for the others, if they were sick or gone longer than expected. But a lack of water made him really begin to worry. He never felt as strong and alert as he used to. Twice he stood up and the whole room would spin, and it took him a while to steady himself. It made him nervous, not being as in control of his senses as he used to.
They had run out of water almost three days ago, with no luck in finding any more. They couldn't risk a visit into the city, and all of the abandoned shops in the old sectors had been cleaned out long ago. Eventually Skyler called off their searches for the others because it was getting too dangerous to sneak about when everyone could hardly keep upright from dizzy spells.
"Little bro." Hannah came up to him. "We need water."
"No kidding?" Skyler looked up at her from the map. She looked less put together than she normally did, and weak. The thought of his sister dying of thirst scared him.
"I'll go out and search," Hannah went on. Skyler started to protest, but Hannah cut him off. "No, listen. We have to make one more sweep. I'll take Wes and Aggie with me, and we'll explore the west side of the old sector. We haven't gone that way yet."
"Yeah," Skyler said slowly. "That's because that place also has the poor sector. It's crawling with not very nice people, Hannah!"
"What choice do we have?" Hannah asked. She lowered her voice. "We're going to die if we don't do something."
"I'll go," Skyler said. "You stay. I don't want--"
"Skyler, you can barely stay on your feet." Hannah smiled sadly. "I've already packed, so have Wes and Aggie. We'll be back by tomorrow afternoon, at the latest."
"Hannah." Skyler grabbed her hand and turned her around to face him. He searched her face pleadingly. "Don't. I can't lose you again."
Hannah's lower lip trembled and she wrapped her arms around Skyler's neck. He hugged her close, fighting back the wave of panic and helplessness.
"And I can't lose you again, either," Hannah whispered. "We'll be careful."
"Do." Skyler smiled. Hannah laughed a little and stepped back. She kissed his cheek and turned to join Wes and Aggie at the door. Skyler watched her leave, trying to resist calling her back and argue more. He knew Hannah would be fine. There was nothing to worry about.