Content warning: Strong language
May crashed through the door and raced into the living room of the flat, breathless and frantic.
Everyone else was there, their faces falling when they saw the state she was in.
“May, what happened?” Em was on her feet in an instant. Since meeting WIND she had been reluctant to use her abilities in front of them, but now she didn’t think twice about bounding airborne across the room just to pull May to her faster. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s Jeremy,” May choked. “The Loyals. Two guys have him in the alley. I think they know we’re here.”
“Em, May, we’ve got to get you out of here,” Connor barked.
Without another word he, Rue, and Priva jumped up and began re-packing their belongings in haste.
Em looked at May with wide eyes. “Babe, are you okay?”
May wasn’t sure how to answer.
“I don’t know. Jeremy was the only one who saw me but…” she trailed off, the grisly images of Jeremy’s assault flickering through her mind in rapid succession.
Priva rushed up to her, eyes full of panic.
“These Loyals,” she said, her voice cracking. “Did they hurt him?”
May couldn’t find words so she nodded instead, wrapping Priva in a tight hug when she sobbed.
Connor strode back into the room, a pack in each hand.
“I know it must have been awful but you did the right thing, May.” He handed the packs off to Em. “We’ll take care of Jeremy. Do you two remember what to do?”
It had been one of the many, many things the group had discussed before leaving the motel on that first day, and yet May still remembered the rule with perfect clarity. For every stop along the way, Priva would choose an assembly point somewhere a safe distance away. In the event of an emergency or separation, the group was to find one another again at that point.
“We remember,” Em assured him, slinging her pack over her shoulders.
“Good,” he said. “Now go.”
For the second time in their relationship, May found herself escaping out a window in Em’s arms. Together they soared in the direction of the assembly point, moving as quickly as Em could before the added weight of May and both packs forced her to find a discreet place to land.
“Good thing it’s dark out.” Em panted as she brought them carefully to the ground behind a row of dark houses a few blocks away.
“Are you going to be alright?” May asked. “Do you need me to carry your pack?”
“No, I’m good. Do you know which way we’re headed?”
“I think so.”
Hand-in-hand, the pair took off, avoiding busy roads and streetlights, speaking only when absolutely necessary. Every flash of a vehicle’s headlights or shout in the night made them jump; May’s hand was sweating in Em’s but she didn’t dare let go.
It took hours of sneaking around and getting lost before the pair finally found their way to Still Water Park. They followed a winding trail into a wooded grove in the heart of the park to where a lonely rain shelter stood like a shepherd amid its flock of picnic tables. Everything was still and quiet – they had beaten the others there, but at least they were alone.
“I feel like I’m in one of those hokey haunted houses and I’m just waiting for some actor to jump out and scare me,” Em whispered as they picked their way blindly into the shelter.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about but I can still tell it’s not funny,” May hissed. She reached the far corner and settled onto the poured concrete floor, pressing her back to it so she could still see the opening.
“Right,” Em mumbled, joining her on the ground. “You probably didn’t have those on Hoku. When this is all over, remind me to take you to one.”
The shelter wasn’t much more than a raised roof and three half-walls, but it would do for the night. May shivered, partly from the chill but also from the adrenaline still coursing through her, but she didn’t want to risk taking out her sleeping bag in case they needed to make another hasty retreat. Em wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.
“Do you think they’ll be okay?” May asked, her eyes fixed on the shadowy shelter entrance.
Em gave her a squeeze. “I do. Trust me, they’ve prepared for every scenario. If anyone can figure a way out of this, it’s those guys.”
“How long do you think it will take before they can meet up with us?”
“I’m not sure. They’ll want to wait until they’re confident they won’t be followed. We have to be patient.”
A quiet breeze swept through the park, rattling the leaves on the trees above. May nestled in closer to Em.
“They really hurt him,” she whispered, so softly she wasn’t even sure Em would hear her.
For a moment, it seemed she hadn’t. But then she sighed and rested her head against May’s.
“He’s tough.” Em sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as May. “Incredibly tough. Believe it or not, he’s been through worse. He’ll be alright.” She planted a kiss on her lover’s temple. “Still, I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“I wish I could have done something.” May felt dangerously close to crying. “He was in trouble and I just froze. If he hadn’t spotted me and signaled for me to run I probably would have just sat there like a useless lump.”
“Do not do that to yourself.” Em was gentle with her scolding. “You did exactly what you were supposed to. Thanks to you, we got out of there in time. You saved us, May.”
Unable to accept her accolade, May merely hummed vaguely and wrapped her arm around Em’s middle.
“I know it’s probably asking a lot right now, but you should try to get some sleep.” Em stroked May’s hair. “No matter what happens, we’re going to need our energy in the morning.”
May wasn’t sure if she managed to reply. As uncomfortable and frightened as she was, Em’s simple suggestion was like permission, and in moments May was asleep.
But it didn’t feel like sleep, and if the intention was to wake up refreshed, May’s subconscious was doing its best to sabotage her. Nightmares and night noises kept her flickering in and out of wakefulness.
Sill, she must have drifted off eventually, because the sun was rising when she felt Em jolt beside her.
A silhouette stood at the entrance of the shelter.
They had been discovered.
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