We're going play a little "there's some bad news, and there's some good news." Of course, when it comes down to Pressia, the fiercest heroine in dystopic lit (move aside, Katniss) there's way more good news than bad.
So we'll start with the bad.
Okay, we all know Pressia has a huge crush on Bradwell (and vice versa) but she never tells him. Ever. She hints at it a few times, but there's no "I love you," even though that's simply the reality. And while she's reasoned with her love for him countless times, she can't help but talk herself out of it. It's like she's saying, I love him, I love him not. I love him, I love him not.
We want to reach into the pages if Fuse and say "Come on Pressia, you know you love him!" Just take a look at how she reasons her decision to huddle with him for warmth:
Loyal friends. That's what they are—friends—and that's why this is okay. If it were more, she would stop herself. (31.48)
Uh, yeah right. She tries to convince herself that they're just friends, but that's one huge lie. And you know what happens when you try to keep up one huge lie — it comes back to bite you. And this whopper bites her badly at the end. But let's hold off on the ending, because we can see right through Pressia from the very beginning of the book:
His broad knuckles are scarred and beautiful. How can knuckles be beautiful […] It's like Bradwell invented them. (1.25)
All right, if you ever find someone's knuckles beautiful, then you're helplessly in love. Not only does she put Bradwell up on a pedestal, but he's also clearly sexualized in her mind. And this is where Pressia gets herself in trouble: because she never admits her love to Bradwell, she carries the weight of that love with her at all times. She constantly struggles to reason away her love and lust for Bradwell… even though she knows the truth deep down.
For Pressia, outwardly loving Bradwell is a sign of weakness. It's a burden that would hold her down from her mission. But Bradwell is on her team, and ignoring her love for him just distorts her reasoning. Pressia even refers to one of their most intimate moments by saying:
It's a relief that they now have a phrase for it. In the woods. Not naked, not dying, not lying with each other, skin touching skin. (36.95)
True facts: they were in the woods naked, dying, and touching skin-to-skin. And you know what helped them not die? Their love for each other. Ignoring her love for Bradwell is a way in which Pressia ignores the truth, and that's a big no-no for our heroine… especially because she's so take-charge and straight-shooting in so many other ways.
So Pressia li-ikes a bo-oy, but that sure doesn't stop her from being an absolute force when it comes to her missions: namely, curing the wretches and finding her father. People like Bradwell and El Capitan constantly try to protect her, saying things like, "It's too dangerous" and "There's no way you should head out on your own," but her response? (8.43, 65.64)
I make my own decisions, and this isn't up to you. (8.54)
Get it, girl. Pressia isn't letting anyone make decisions for her anymore. In fact, she even becomes pretty selfish in her pursuit. She admits to herself:
She wants to know only the truth about herself in that world. It seems like such a selfish desire—small and petty. (8.12)
This desire to find out the truth about herself and herself only can be seen as a negative quality, but it actually propels her forward. Her desire to find her father: selfish. Her desire to be pure: selfish. Yep, Pressia is almost like a lone renegade among other truth-seekers, but just think about everyone else. Bradwell, El Capitan, Partridge, Lyda — every one of them has their own unique aspiration. So for Pressia, her relentless pursuit of her own truth sets her apart. For her, she thinks:
Is there something so wrong with that? Really? Is wanting not to be disfigured and burned such a crime? (20.40)
Pressia doesn't want to be disfigured anymore, and that's that. At this point in her life, he scars are a source of more pain than they are of strength. In one instance, she wonders if the description, "half herself, half destroyed" is fitting. (36.47)
And you know what? It is pretty accurate. Pressia struggles with her own identity in as much as she wants it to be hers. She knows what she wants. She wants to save the other wretches, but she wants to find her father more than anything else.