A/N: This is my first, and probably only, Uglies fanfic. Set near the end of Pretties, before Zane's tracker is set off. This is very, very loosely based on the song Chemicals React, hence the title.
Tally didn't want to leave his bedside. She could hardly stand to be away from Zane, when he was in this condition. They kept assuring her that he was getting better, but Tally didn't know whether or not to believe them. What if he wasn't getting better? What if these were the last moments she was ever going to spend with him? Don't think like that, Tally commanded herself, shaking her head. If Maddy said that Zane was getting better, then he had to be getting better. After all, his headaches had gone away, hadn't they? He was even awake for long periods of time, and was able to speak to Tally, just like he always had.
Tally had never before regretted sharing the cure with Zane, but now there was a nagging feeling at the back of her mind. All of this was completely her fault, and Zane could have died because of her. That was a guilt that she didn't think would ever go away. But at the same time, she still didn't regret sharing the cure with him. Zane had changed her somehow, in a way that the cure couldn't. And she had changed him.
Zane made Tally feel different, something she hadn't experienced before. Even with her memories of David clearer than ever, she knew that she had never felt this way about him. David had changed her too, it was true, but she could hardly compare it to what she had with Zane. They had done and experienced so much together, and most importantly, they loved each other. Had she ever loved David? No. But maybe she could have, if she had never met Zane. Tally immediately turned away from that thought. The idea of never having met Zane brought an unpleasant twisting sensation to her stomach. She and Zane belonged together. There was no other explanation for it.
Being with Zane was almost surreal, like the world was spinning in slow motion, but he was moving too fast. It felt as if at any moment, he could be ripped away from her, leaving her alone and helpless. She thought back to that moment in the rain, before she had taken him to the hospital, when he looked so weak and defeated. She had to be strong for him then, and she needed to be strong for him now. Without even knowing it then, Zane and she were both broken. It was strange to consider that she had been broken in a good way, while Zane had been fighting for his life.
But then Zane had seemed a little better, despite the headaches that continued to plague him. They spent days together, just the two of them, and Tally's mouth lifted up in a smile as she recalled the memories. Despite the numerous opportunities, they hadn't gone all the way. The loss of pretty-mindedness had left them with better judgment, and until the night on the balloon, Tally hadn't been sure if she wanted to. She suspected that Zane hadn't been too sure until that moment, either.
Tally's favorite memory was of a snowy night that kept them trapped inside, an image of fire illuminated on the smart wall. Tally and Zane lay in bed, blankets draped over them to keep them warm, even though they could have just turned the heat up. Tally snuggled up beside Zane, and he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close. The palms of her hands rested on his bare chest, and she titled her head back to meet his eyes. They had no need for words, and Tally had never felt more secure in her life.
Zane shifted, bringing his head closer to hers. Their lips met, pressed together for merely a few seconds before he pulled away. Tally laid her head back on the soft pillow and closed her eyes. She remembered Zane whispering something in her ear, perhaps a song or a poem, his hand gently grazing her back in a soothing rhythm, until she fell asleep.
The memory made Tally's eyes burn, but she refused to shed any tears. It was lucky she didn't, because Zane woke up a few minutes later. Seeing Tally cry would have put unnecessary stress on him. Besides, Tally hadn't cried since she was a littlie, and she wasn't going to cry now, either. Zane's eyes opened slowly, and he turned to look at her. "Hey Tally," he said softly.
"Zane," she whispered, smiling brightly. He returned her smile, and she felt her stomach turn a somersault. Zane shifted, moving over to make room for Tally. Without even thinking about it, she kicked off her shoes and crawled under the blanket next to him. They lay facing each other, their eyes never moving. Tally wasn't even sure if she blinked. As they lay still, Tally felt as if the whole universe was shifting around them, until everything was perfectly aligned. They were together, and nothing could be wrong now.
Zane brought his hand up to caress her check, and Tally lifted her own hand to catch his, keeping it there, warm and comforting. They lay together like that for a while longer, before Tally sat up. "Are you hungry?" she asked him, wondering why no one had bothered to bring him food. It wasn't as if he could get it himself. But Zane shook his head and said, "I just want you to stay here."
"I will," Tally promised, before leaning down to kiss him. It reminded her of the simple kiss they had shared that snowy night, but it lasted much longer. They didn't notice that another person had slipped inside.
"I can come back later, if you're too busy to eat," an annoyed voice said.
Tally turned quickly to see David standing at the entrance, a plate of food in his hand. Tally's good mood vanished, and she felt almost guilty. "No, bring it here," she said. David crossed over to them, handed the plate to Tally, and left quickly. She wondered how much it bothered him to see her with Zane. Shaking her head, she turned back to Zane. He sat up as best as he could, and let Tally feed him the Smokey food that he was still getting used to.
When he was finished, he lay back down, resting his head on the pillow. Tally slid down next to him, and he wrapped an arm weakly around her. "Aren't you hungry?" he asked. Tally shook her head. She suddenly felt exhausted and just wanted to sleep. As she closed her eyes, Zane kissed her gently on the cheek. "I love you, Tally," he whispered.
"I love you, too," she answered. Neither of them had any idea that everything would be ruined in just a few short days.