When Em came to, she found herself tucked neatly into an unfamiliar bed. She looked around at the sterile looking room; the hospital.
Beside her, May perked up.
“Did they move the bears?” Em mumbled through the grog of wakefulness.
May made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. Em had caught her crying.
“The team is working on that right now,” May answered, smiling weakly. “I can’t believe that’s the first thing on your mind.”
“I don’t blame ol’ mama for getting fighty back there.” Em shimmied onto her elbows. “She was just looking out for her babies.”
May made to stop her but Em shrugged her off.
“It’s okay,” she said, sitting up in full. “I’m fine. Just sapped. I’m out of practice and that bear was strong.”
“Drink this,” May insisted, handing her a small glass of something sweet-smelling. “The doctor said it will help.”
Em pulled a face but did as she was told and sipped for a moment in silence. Carefully, May reached out and laid her hand on Em’s leg.
“Emmy,” she whispered, eyes welling up again. “I am so sorry. I thought I was going to lose you and all I could think about was how the last thing I did was yell at you.”
Laying her own hand atop of May’s, Em looked her in the eyes.
“You don’t have to apologize,” she said gently. “I understand why you were upset.”
“No.” May shook her head, a few rogue tears tracing their way down her cheeks. “I didn’t want to fight with you. It’s just… Ever since we left on this trip it’s felt like I keep learning all these new things about you. First you tell me about Audrey’s friends and then Welkin says the Loyals are still kind of looking for you. It made me wonder how well I really knew you. Then all that stuff about Dom… I don’t know.”
She looked away. A blush crept across her cheeks, betraying her sense of shame.
“I know it sounds stupid,” she continued quietly. “But I felt like I was just waiting for something to happen. Like someone was going to sweep in and take you away, or remind you that you had this epic life you were supposed to be living and you’d leave. You’re so much more than I realized and I…” she bit her lip and met Em’s gaze. “I wasn’t sure how someone like me fit into all that.”
Em exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Giving May’s hand a squeeze, she closed her eyes for a moment to think.
“You asked me earlier what we’re doing here,” she said. “I’ll admit it: there’s a part of me that wanted to see my friends again. You can’t really blame me there – I don’t have a whole lot of those.”
May sniffled and chuckled in spite of herself. “That makes two of us.”
“But the real reason I brought you here is so you could experience it yourself.” Em leaned closer. She wasn’t sure if what she was about to say made sense. She wanted May to understand. “I know you love your family, May, but the world is a big place full of amazing opportunities. And you’re an amazing person. I wanted to show you that your life doesn’t have to be spent waiting for people to forgive you for something you didn’t do. You deserve to lead a great life and you deserve to have a say in what that looks like.”
May gaped. She didn’t know how to respond to that.
Looking sheepish, Em went on.
“I know all this Star business sounds impressive but it’s not like I have some cool magical destiny or anything. I’ve got nowhere to be and nothing but time. All I know is, I like being with you.” She placed her cup on the bedside table so she could bring her hand to cradle May’s face. “But you’re the one with ties, May; you’re the one with a life to go back to, regardless of what happens here. If you want me around then I’d love to stay. I am one hundred per cent on board with giving us an honest shot. You just have to let me know.”
The world around them seemed to fade away. In that moment all May could see was Em. The undeniable honestly in her confession made her laugh, light with relief.
“I like the sound of ‘us’.” May grinned, fresh tears of a happier variety spilling forth.
Em lit up. She pulled May close and kissed her deeply.
There was a knock at the door. A nurse poked his head in and smiled.
“You’re awake!” he nodded to Em. “I’ll let the doctor know. Miss Alana? There’s someone in the waiting room who would like to speak with you.”
May and Em looked at one another.
“Who do you think that could be?” Em asked.
“Not sure,” May shrugged. “Give me a sec and I’ll find out.”
Stepping into the waiting room, May didn’t see anyone she recognized.
“Excuse me?” came a voice from behind her.
She turned to find one of the hikers – the woman she’d had to ask to leave.
“Hello,” May shook her hand. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” The woman smiled, reciprocating May’s handshake warmly. Now that they weren’t under threat, May was able to get a closer look at her ruddy face and and long dark hair. It was difficult to tell how old she was; everything about her looked tired. “I was wondering if it would be possible to speak with your friend. The one who saved that woman’s life? I wanted to thank her. What she did was so selfless.”
May opened her mouth to respond when she caught sight of Em over the woman’s shoulder. She peeked around the door that led to the treatment wing, her face awash with fear. When their eyes met, Em shook her head desperately and waved at May to return.
“I, uh…” May blinked. The woman glanced back but Em had already ducked out of sight. “I’m sorry, but she’s still sleeping. Perhaps you could try back later?”
“That’s alright. I don’t mind waiting.”
May couldn’t shake the feeling that this stranger didn’t look as friendly as she had a moment before.
“If she’s feeling up for it when she comes to I’ll come find you.”
They shared a wave and May walked as nonchalantly as she could through the door. As soon as she was out of sight she dashed back to Em’s room.
When she got there, May found Em struggling to get the window open.
“What are you doing?” she hissed, glancing around for any signs of hospital staff.
“Lock the door and help me with this,” Em grunted. She was still weak and the window was giving her trouble. “We need to get out of here, now.”
May did as she was told, the tone of Em’s voice chasing away any arguments.
“What’s going on?” she asked, adding her strength to Em’s. The window slid open. A shrill alarm cut through the air, making them both jump.
Em heaved herself over the sill and reached back for May. The room was on the third storey of the hospital; an escape was going to require strength May wasn’t sure Em had. Still, she took Em’s hand and let it guide her into her lap.
“Are you sure about this?” May asked, trying not to look down.
“We don’t have a choice.” Em wrapped her arms around May tightly and took a deep breath. Behind them someone banged on the door, shouts muddled by the shrieking of the alarm. “I recognized that woman in the waiting room.”
May blanched. She knew what Em was going to say next.
“She’s a Loyal. We have to run.”
Banner art by @flowerveil