Cold took my breath away and rain soaked me to my core; it was safe to say the military rain macs did not provide sufficient warmth with just the black t-shirt, but I had to give my hoodie to Jasper, who was even more cold than me.
I peered into the compound from outside the barb wire fence, checking to see if any torches would light us up on patrol. Dark had come, rain poured and Jasper was still broken. We spent hours sat in the woods, Jasper leaning with his back against the tree, crying and crying and crying. I crouched beside him, his head on my shoulder and his gun in my hand. I had to find a way to fix this... fix him...
"I can't." Jasper croaked from behind me, we agreed to go back to the tent and sleep, sleep was the safest thing for him and I could keep an eye on him and tell Bellamy to look out for him. "I can't, Nick, I thought I could but I can't."
I swallowed, looking through the broken chicken wire, a hand leaning against it and my eyes detecting no nearby torches or guards or citizens. "Jasper, you can't stay out here all night, you'll freeze."
Jasper presumably looked at the floor, "Nick, I can't go back there. Not yet."
I turned around to look at him, and as I predicted he looked at the floor, he wiped rain off of his nose and continued, "I can't sleep and I know you said you'd stay with me till I did, but I know I won't. And even if I do sleep, all I see is..." he trailed off and then looked up at me, his eyes still puffy and wet, But most devastatingly: Numb. "All I see is Monty. I can't go back, Nick. Not yet, not tonight."
I shrugged, "So where then?"
Jasper turned his body back to the forest, "There's a cave, not far from here. We could spend the night there, I'm sure there's a blanket in there and it's by a river so we have water if we get thirsty."
I turned back around, peering through the wire, "It's too dangerous, you know that."
Jasper sighed in frustration, "You tell me not to pull that trigger and for what? All we do is survive. What's the point? We're not even living, we're just barely getting by. We may as well be dead, at least we can do whatever the hell we want."
I sighed myself, feeling the weight of Jasper's words. Feeling his words echo in my own mind.
I looked out to the tents and spotted a body laid outside of one, passed out and I'm sure her snores reaches me. I saw her red hair sticking to her sleeping face and that's when I remembered.
"You're right." I said, turning to look at him, "But I'm going to show you how to live."
He looked at me exasperated, "How?"
I smiled a big smile, "The only way I know how. Do you trust me?"
He looked at me for a second before concluding, "I guess."
"Good." I smiled, "Follow me."
* * *
Air filled our lungs and adrenaline ran through our veins as we used the brick wall of the side of the West Wing to support us, struggling to catch our breaths and completely soaked with rain.
"If this is living," Jasper panted, resting his palms on his knees and bent over as he struggled to catch his breath, "I'm not sure I can do it."
I walked down the side of the building saying, "We didn't get caught and doesn't it feel good? Adrenaline, it takes your breath away and makes you feel naturally high."
I bent down and put my hands on the metal handles of the hatch, leading to the place the Guards promised me I'd end up.
Jasper stood with his hands on his hips, I saw a spark lighting in his brown eyes, "They almost caught us, Nick!"
I shrugged, lifting up one side of the basement doors.
Jasper wiped his nose and let his arms dangle by his sides, "What's down there, anyway?"
I opened the second door, hearing the faint sound of Drum & Base vibrating towards us, I grinned at him, "I don't know, but I think we'll like it."
I looked down the hatch, a ladder descended into a dark corridor with candle light flickering at the end of it. I looked up at Jasper, "You first."
He looked at me and then down below, swallowing, he looked a little nervous but he rubbed his hands and said, "See You on the other side." Before lowering himself down the ladder and into the darkness. I followed, shutting the metal doors above us.
I reached the bottom and Jasper stood, staring into the light behind me and I turned to join him, drinking it all in: drunken soldiers and citizens sat around round tables on barrels with mugs of beer and moonshine in front of them. Tables covered in spilt booze, roll ups and various powders. Music blazed and it felt like a familiar scene of a club/pub before the Apocalypse broke out. And straight ahead, smiling at me, stood the guard from this afternoon, cleaning a mug out with his cloth behind a bar.
I patted Jasper on the shoulder and walked past him, walking up to the bar.
In the candlelight, the soldier had a scar across his left cheek, his hair almost gone and black stubble covered wrinkles on his face, "Told yer you'd be back." He smugly said, he then pointed to Jasper behind me, "Brought a friend too."
I nodded, feeling at home, "Yeah, so what do you have for us?"
He chuckled, "Straight to the point, a man after my own heart." He gestured to the first barrel behind him, "We got a dark, bitter ale," he pointed to the next barrel, "A mead, a wine if you will," the third and final barrel he grinned a large grin, "And we got Moonshine, but it's not for the faint hearted."
I shook my head, "That's nice and all, but you know that's not what I'm asking."
He nodded and then placed a hand on a shelf under the bar, he placed a glass jar on the table, the liquid inside was dark and I saw something floating around. Jasper came and stood next to me, "What the hell's that?"
The guard-turned-barman has a glint in his eye, "Adrenal." He stated proudly.
I asked exactly what he wanted me to, "What's it do?"
He explained, smugly, "The greatest trip of your life. It can turn the most pathetic and lowest person into a hero. Gives you the power to lift cars, throw boulders and maybe even fly... or at the very least, makes you feel like you can. It takes all your worries and makes you forget them. You haven't lived till you've had this."
I nodded slowly, before asking, "How much?"
"Nick!" Jasper protested, he put a hand on my shoulder and leaned close to my ear, "You sure you should be doing this? What about Lexa? Alicia?-"
"It's fine, JJ," I told him, retuning a hand on his shoulder and giving him a little shake before placing both my hands back on the bar, "How much?"
The barman shrugged, "Usually, ten ration tokens, but for you..." he looked me up and down, "Free."
I nodded, thinking for awhile, "The catch?"
He held his hands out, "No catch-"
"The type of shit where it's one hit and I'm forever yours?"
He shook his head, "No, not at all. Since I saw you, I could tell you were something special. And your friend looks like he's had a rough day, call it 'charity' - I could use some good karma and you could use a good time."
I turned my back to the bar, scanning the room, seeing all of the people off their tits and just enjoying themselves like it was the last night of the world.
“Fine.” I said, Turning back around, “We’ll take three.”
“Three?” The Barman asked.
I nodded, “We have a friend waiting upstairs, I saw him following us. He needs cheering up too.”
The barman nodded, opening the jar, “Three it is.” The jar opened with a pop and he pulled out three squidgy pieces of “adrenal” wrapping them in a rag and handing them me, He then pulled out three black beaded bracelets with a red bead in the middle and handed them towards us.
I raised an eyebrow, “Friendship bracelets?”
The barman nodded, “So you can use the front door. Wear this and show it to the person on reception and they’ll lead you through.”
I put one of the bracelets on, “I’ll be back, right?”