Content Warning: Brief, non-explicit insinuation of past sexual assault
May should not have been standing at that door.
There was a foggy sense of purpose egging her on from a dark corner of her mind. Her hand trembled as she raised it to knock weakly. If someone had asked her in that moment why she was there, she wouldn’t have been able to answer, aside from insisting it was something she needed to do.
It wasn’t until she heard the lock click that the bottom of her stomach gave out. Her extremities tingled and a roaring filled her ears.
No. This isn’t right.
From across the threshold, Kane smiled down at her with cruel satisfaction. Dim light from his apartment framed him in the night; a dark and dangerous silhouette.
He didn’t touch her – didn’t say a word – just stood back to let her in.
As if under a spell, she stepped past him and listened in dread at the sound of the door closing, the deadlock clicking into place.
Stop. Stop, what are you doing? Go back.
He was on her in an instant, his hands rough and unforgiving. She cried out of fear. She cried out of shame and pain. But he didn’t stop.
He never stopped.
It was only while she was in the thick of reliving one of her worst memories that May would realize that’s all it was – a memory. A dream.
She’d wake up in a cold sweat, often in tears, shaking and confused. It didn’t happen as often as it once did – before Em had washed up into her life – but that didn’t make it any less terrifying when the nightmares came.
Tonight’s dream was no different. May fought for wakefulness to escape it.
“Hey,” a soft voice came from beside her in the darkness of the room. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re alright, babe.”
May felt Em’s arms encircle her, strong and warm. She collapsed into her and took a few deep breaths. Em’s familiar, airy scent filled her senses and grounded her in the present.
“The dream again?” Em squeezed May’s shoulders gently. May nodded against the crook of her neck.
“I’m sorry, babe.”
Pulling back, May brushed away a stray tear and exhaled. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Moonlight streamed in through the open window and lit Em’s pale diamond eyes; her gaze was full of loving concern.
“It’s alright,” May mumbled, trying to bury the fading visions from her mind with a light shake of her head. “I woke up a lot sooner than last time.”
Em frowned. “It’s been such a long time since the last one. Is everything okay?”
It was a difficult question to answer given the circumstances.
The pair had been travelling for months; so many May long since lost count. They moved frequently but made their stops memorable. May had done more since she and Em fled Hoku than she had in the rest of her life combined. The rich, earthy scent of the vineyards they were working on wafted in from the window; it must have just rained.
But for all the amazing experiences and wonderful people they met along the way, it was never far from May’s mind that they were on the run. They had only come to this vineyard a few weeks ago, making money by working the vines by day and enjoying free wine and each other by night. Yet they were already making plans to leave. Where to head next had been the last thing the two talked about before falling asleep that night.
May bit her lip. She didn’t want Em to worry – to think she was having regrets about leaving her home behind. But Em was giving her that look and she knew dancing around the truth wouldn’t get her very far.
“I think…” May swallowed. “I think I might be a little tired.”
It took a moment for Em to catch on. “Is this about the move?”
With a shrug, May nodded sheepishly.
“It might be. I can’t say for sure. But…” she let out a sigh. “I don’t know. It’s not like I’m not happy or enjoying seeing the world. I just-”
“No, I get it.” Em gently brushed a rosy curl from May’s forehead. “You’re right – this way of life can be exhausting. Being on the lam is stressful. Maybe we can find a place to settle for a while. A bit of routine couldn’t hurt as long as we don’t get sloppy.”
May smiled in appreciation; Em always found the words when she couldn’t. She took Em’s hand in hers and pressed it to her lips.
It was only then May realized Em was sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Were you already up?” She glanced back at Em’s side of the tiny bed they shared. The blankets were tossed aside, the pillow was on the floor.
“Couldn’t sleep.” Em’s eyes flitted to the window and at once May understood.
“Not a thing.”
Try as she might, Em hadn’t been able to make contact with Welkin. She spent long nights casting her vibrations into the sky and receiving nothing back but the regular noise bouncing around the universe. Em tried her best to downplay her concern, but May could tell not knowing what had become of the Star was wearing on her. Her gaze was unfocused, her thoughts far, far away.
“They’ll find their way back to us sooner or later,” May assured softly, trailing her fingers up and down Em’s forearm.
Em blinked, bringing herself back to the moment. She smiled at May. “Yeah. I’ll try again some other night.”
Still far from being ready to go back to sleep, May returned Em’s smile before leaning in, letting their lips meet in a soft, slow kiss.
“Want to make out until we fall asleep?” she asked in a honey-soaked voice. She trailed her fingers all the way up Em’s arm this time and used them to trace her jawline with a feather-light touch.
Em raised an eyebrow. “I would hope making out with me wouldn’t put you to sleep.”
A playful look settled across May’s face.
“Maybe we can keep each other awake instead.”
With a sly grin of her own, Em crawled up May’s lap and crushed another more urgent kiss against her lips.
“Now that I can do,” she murmured, her voice low, mouth still grazing May’s with tantalizing proximity.
They fell into one another, letting the softness of skin on skin and the heat of desire drown out all the worries and fears. Both knew they were only putting off the inevitable; neither could shake the sinking sensation that the gap between them and danger was quietly closing.
And while they couldn’t have known it for sure, they were right to worry.