[ CW: Strong language ]
Em’s pale eyes snapped open at the sound of May’s frantic voice. She gasped, a sound like wind whipping through a mountain valley. In her surprise, the light surrounding her froze, then began swirling backward, rapidly falling back on itself until it seemed to implode into her. The light winked out into a firefly-like glow beneath Em’s skin and she dropped from the air like a stone.
May fumbled for the switch, filling the small office with the buzz of harsh fluorescent light that felt grotesque after Em’s cosmic display. From where she sat in a heap on the floor, Em blinked up at May like a newborn.
“Ow,” she moaned, gingerly rising to her feet.
“Are you okay?” May asked, jumping forward to help her stand. “What was that?”
“Practice,” Em answered, looking sheepish.
“Practice for what?” May glanced around the room – Em had used old newspapers to cover the windows. The smudged faces of strangers stared back her from the pages. The boxes from the corner were stacked in front of the door, which explained why May had to force her way in. “What is all this?”
With a resigned sigh, Em dropped onto the car seat bench.
“I needed a bit of privacy,” she said, motioning to the newspapers and boxes. “Not a lot of that to go around here.”
“Privacy for what, Em?” May pressed, eyeing her curiously.
Em raised a hand and snapped her fingers. Like a flint, a blue light flared between them. When she inhaled, the light spread like flames, dancing across the tips of her fingers and into her palm. She exhaled, blowing air between her lips that extinguished the light into nothing more than glittering dust.
“I’ve been working on my abilities,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’m trying to get better at controlling them, myself. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.”
May’s breath hitched. “Em, you don’t…” she was afraid to ask the question – stemmed from Jeremy’s accusation – that had secretly plagued her since she first woke up in the Rookery; the question that haunted her dreams and turned them into nightmares. She was afraid to ask because she didn’t know how she’d handle the answer. “Do you blame me for what happened? Is all of this my fault?”
Blinking with surprise, Em gazed up at her. “You? Fuck, no. Why would you think that?” She scooted over and patted the space beside her. May sat, feeling quite weak without warning.
“Because I ran right into a Loyal ambush,” she admitted, the words tumbling out of her like water. “Because I insisted we help WIND in the first place. Because I kept you from finding them again.”
“Woah, woah, woah,” Em shook her head and turned so she was facing May head on. “I was never trying to find them. Don’t let Jeremy get in your head. Even if I’d never met you, I still wouldn’t have gone back.”
She made to lay a hand over May’s. For a moment she hesitated before finishing the gesture. The sensation of Em’s hand on hers made May’s stomach flutter the way it did during those brief, innocent touches back when they first met.
“I know things have been tense between us lately,” Em continued, tracing patterns on May’s skin with her thumb. “But nothing about the way I feel for you has changed.” Her eyes locked on May’s and held her gaze tightly. “I will never regret falling in love with you.”
May hadn’t realized how badly she needed to hear those words. It was as though a dam inside her burst, letting emotions she had suppressed crash through her veins and rush to her head like a flood. She let out a sob and flung her arms around Em’s neck, kissing her hard. Em pulled May closer and held her so tightly May thought they might just meld into one. When the kiss ended they curled into one another and sat in stillness, breathing one another in like it was the very first time they’d ever been so close.
“I don’t blame you for anything,” Em murmured, her fingers lacing through May’s thick hair. “If anyone is to blame for anything it’s me.”
“Don’t do that,” May said, sitting back. “I’m sorry I was so hard on you, I was-“
“Justified,” Em cut her off, leaning her forehead against May’s. “Your reaction was justified. And I’m not trying to be a martyr – if I had listened to Welkin in the first place maybe things would be different right now.”
“Welkin?” May cocked her head curiously. “What about them?”
Em took a deep breath. Talking about Welkin since their disappearance had been hard for her. May waited patiently for her to be ready.
“When I first woke up as me,” Em began, gesturing at herself. “Welkin insisted I spend time practicing my abilities. They said I’m more powerful than Audrey was and I needed to learn to control it, especially with Audrey’s life force still such a big part of me. In case you hadn’t noticed, she had a short fuse and a taste for vengeance.”
“I have noticed,” May said with a grim nod.
“But I was cocky,” Em continued, looking down with sad eyes. “I didn’t listen to them. I was always such a brat to them and I kick myself for it every day, but especially now.”
“Hey,” May whispered gently, stroking Em’s cheek. “Don’t do that to yourself. Who doesn’t push back against their parents?”
Em huffed a small laugh. “Well, I’m making up for it now. I’ve been working on my control, meditating and stuff. I don’t get as tired as I used to, so Welkin was clearly on to something.” She looked at May, her expression resolute. “When we find them again, I’m going to make them proud. Both of you.”
A knock came from the door, followed by the sound of it hitting the pile of boxes and a gravelly, “what the fuck?”
Grant’s head poked into the room. He peered around the door to the boxes and then to the girls.
“Do I even want to know?”
“Sorry,” Em replied, flushing. She extended a hand and clenched it into a loose fist. When she pulled it toward her, the boxes slid out of the way so Grant could push the door in with a shake of his head.
“Sorry to interrupt, ladies,” he said, deftly ignoring the way Em and May’s legs were still tangled together.
“But you have a phone call.”
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