Content warning: Strong language
May was still awake when she heard the trailer door creak.
She didn’t move as Em’s silhouette crept in the darkness.
A thud was followed by Em hissing a curse beneath her breath. May switched on the lamp above the bed. Em winced at both the sudden brightness and the pain of her freshly-stubbed toe.
It had been May’s intention to ask Em where she’d been for the past couple of hours, but when she saw the way her girlfriend’s soaking wet hair and clothes clung to her body, she had her answer.
“You went to the water after all, huh?” May asked.
“I’m sorry,” Em replied, a slight warble to her words as she stood there shivering. “I just needed to make it stop.”
May sighed and climbed out of bed. “Come on, let’s get you into some dry clothes.
They moved without speaking, Em peeling her sopping layers and draping them over chair backs while May brought her a fresh towel.
She repeated Dom’s words in her mind like a mantra: don’t make this about you. But it was hard; it stung to know her touch and her love hadn’t been enough to bring Em peace in all of this.
More than that however, was the helplessness. She had come to think of her relationship with Em – the team they made together – as being unstoppable. What was she supposed to do if this problem was what proved her wrong?
“Thank you,” Em mumbled, taking a seat on the edge of the mattress as she tugged the towel tighter around her shoulders. “Never in a million years did I think you’d be put in this position and you handled it like a rock star.” She looked up, eyes glittering with unshed tears. “I love you.”
May sat beside Em and gave her cheek a soft kiss.
“I love you, too.” May gently ran her fingers through the damp clumps of Em’s hair. “And I know you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when your mind starts to slip, but when it comes to problems like this, I want you to know you don’t have to deal with things alone. I’m here to help, even if that just means listening to you talk through how you’re feeling.”
Em shook her head and let it hang forward like a tree branch heavy with snow.
“Right now I feel sick,” she admitted. “I don’t know what to think. It feels like a fucking nightmare they’re even here, let alone what they’re asking me to do.”
“Us.” May interjected before she had a chance to think about what she was saying.
“Huh?” Em blinked at her.
May swallowed. “What they’re asking us to do. There’s no way I’m leaving you to deal with this on your own.”
Chuckling softly, Em rolled her head to rest on May’s shoulder. ”My feisty little queen.”
“I mean it.” May smiled. “We’re in this together.”
“I’d prefer if there was no ‘this’ to deal with in the first place.”
“Em…” May wasn’t sure how to tell her what she overheard at the motel, let alone her own feeling about what WIND was hoping they’d agree to do.
“Ugh,” Em groaned, flopped backwards onto the mattress with a defeated fwump. “Do you think if we just went to sleep now we’d wake up in the morning to find this was all just a dream? I don’t remember taking anything before the show but maybe we did and this is all just a bad trip-”
“Babe.” May eased herself down beside Em. “I’ll lie to you if that’s what you want to hear right now but we’ll still have to face it in the morning.”
Sighing, Em look at May. For a moment she didn’t speak, searching the dark pools of May’s eyes for the right things to say instead.
“I thought I was done with this.” Her voice was tight with sadness. “Fuck, if Welkin knew…”
She had to take a moment to steady her breath. May wrapped an arm around her and wriggled in closer.
“The entire time we were talking to them, I could feel Audrey’s memories bubbling back up,” Em explained quietly. “It was so confusing.”
“Confusing how?” May wanted so desperately to understand what Em was going through.
“I’m not sure how to explain it.” Em closed her eyes, a look of concentration settling across her face as if searching for answers on the back of her eyelids. “There had always been a tiny, tiny part of me that wondered what would happen if I ever saw them again. Would I forget who I am now? Would the Audrey in me be, like, awakened or something?”
May held her breath as she listened. She had wondered – and worried – about the same things, only that part of her was anything but tiny.
Em sighed and opened her eyes. “But instead I just kept remembering bits and pieces of life with them and I… don’t feel anything. Audrey would be devastated about the Loyals taking Gaten but instead here I am, grateful it’s not my problem.”
“Em.” May couldn’t help but feel scandalized. “You don’t really believe it’s not our problem, do you? That little boy…”
Omi’s face flickered across May’s mind. She sat up as a wave of emotion came over her and threatened to tumble out in the form of a sob. Em righted herself as well and watched May carefully.
“You think we should help them?” Em asked.
“You honestly think we shouldn’t?”
“You realize we’re just going to end up getting pulled back into the system that cost Audrey her life in the first place, right?”
“Emmy, look around,” May didn’t mean to shout. “We’re already there. We’ve been on the run for a year now. Isn’t this exactly what Audrey and the others were trying to get free from? What if helping them could put an end to all of that once and for all?”
A darkness fell over Em’s face. “I think you’re forgetting I’ve heard this argument before, May.”
Clutching the towel around herself tightly, Em rose from the bed. Before she could march away, May reached out for her with a tender hand.
“My love, listen to me,” she begged. “I’m not saying I want this. But I don’t know if I can walk away knowing there’s a little boy whose life might depend on us. And if you forget the others – what they meant to Audrey and what they mean to you now – and just think of him as one kid who needs help, I know you’d feel the same way. I know you, Em.”
With a defeated sigh, Em slumped back down. “Fuck. Who am I kidding? We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
“What do you mean?” May asked, unease creeping into her voice.
Em pointed at her chest. “Remember that scar Jeremy showed us? They all have one – it’s from a device the Loyals planted in them after the treaty to measure their vitals and shit like that. I wasn’t being paranoid; they are being tracked.”
“Oh,” was all May could think to say.
The air in the trailer felt heavy. It pressed down on the pair who struggled with the weight of their predicament in silence. After a moment, May took Em’s hand in hers and held tight.
“I know this is hard for you – scary, even – but I’ll be right beside you the whole time.” She gave Em her bravest smile. “Whether the others like me or not.”
Em’s body rocked with a silent laugh. “What makes you think they don’t like you?”
“Oh, please,” May groaned. “You were there. I’m pretty sure Jeremy wishes I was a bug just so he could step on me.”
Em’s face dropped, her expression growing distant.
“He thought I was Audrey,” she muttered, indistinguishable enough that had to May lean in to hear better.
“Isn’t that what Dom said?” Em asked, snapping back to the present. “Jeremy was expecting me to be Audrey.”
Failing to follow Em’s train of thought, May frowned. “What are you saying? Jeremy’s mad at me because you’re not who he thought you were going to be?”
With her free hand, Em pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled slowly. “Knowing Jeremy, he probably hasn’t given up on that theory quite yet.”
May laughed. “I don’t understand. What reason would he have to think you and Audrey are the same person? Why would it matter if-”
Em repositioned herself so she was facing May, both of her hands now clutching May’s in a way that almost seemed pleading.
“If you’re serious about wanting to help WIND find Gaten, then there’s something you need to know about Jeremy and Audrey.”
May’s mouth went dry.
“They were in love, weren’t they?” she whispered, realization hitting her head on.
“That’s putting it lightly.” Em seemed to shrink into herself with embarrassment.
“They were engaged.”