The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty Two

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[ CW: NSFW – on-page sexy times. To read the SFW censored version, check out the chapter on Wattpad ]

May waited a long time for Em to finish her call with Jeremy.

For hours she sat, folded up on the car bench couch. She was trying not to worry about what kind of plan could possibly take so long to discuss, and failing miserably.

How much trouble were they in? How risky was it going to be to reunite with the others?

From there her mind wandered to the tension between Em and Jeremy. What was bound to happen now that he knew her truth?

No wonder they’ve been on the phone forever, May thought as she picked at the worn upholstery. They have a lot to talk about.

She didn’t want to think about what it would be like to face Jeremy again. To May, their situation – two people in love with sort of the same person – felt insurmountable; a towering mountain range with no discernible safe way through.

Eventually, she drifted off, her sleep marred by anxiety and filled with a long procession of dreams tinted by Jeremy’s rage toward her.

When she jolted awake, chased from sleep by some nightmare that scurried back into the gloom as soon as her eyes opened, it took her a moment to get her bearings. The office was dark and the only light came from a sliver of where the door had been left open a crack. May blinked and stretched – someone had covered her with a blanket.

As wakefulness set in, she caught the sound of low voices in conversation outside the office. She could make out the familiar lilt of Em’s voice and Grant’s gruff replies, but not what they were saying. May sat up, relieved that Em was finally off the phone, and padded across the room.

She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but when May heard the tears in Em’s voice, she froze.

“I love her so much, Grant,” Em sobbed quietly. Every word was weighed down with heartache. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

“You’re just going to do it,” Grant replied in a voice that was gentler than May had ever heard from him. “And you’re going to do it because you love her.”

May forgot how to breathe. She stood in petrified silence, unable to think or react. What in the world was Em talking about, and what did it have to do with her?

Whatever it was, it was going to be bad. May vaulted back to the bench and curled up under the blanket. She took deep gulping breaths and willed her heart to stop hammering in her chest. Without wanting or willing them, visions of every horrible scenario that might happen when Em walked through that office door ambushed her thoughts.

But there was only one thing it could be; she knew it as instinctively as she knew how to breathe.

Out on the walkway, Grant bid Em goodbye with blunt words of encouragement. Em’s footsteps made their way toward the door, then stopped. May wished she could fall asleep on command; she wanted nothing more than to avoid what was coming.

The door creaked and then clicked shut. Em stepped lightly to the bench. May felt the gentle warmth of her hand on her shoulder, the tenderness made her want to cry.

“Maybe?” Em whispered, giving her a nudge. “Baby, wake up. I need to talk to you.”

May waited, pretending to sleep even though her eyes were clenched far too tight for it to be believable. She felt Em lean over her body, her face moving in closer.

“Please, May.” Em pressed a kiss to her temple. “Wake up, love.”

Turning her face, May kissed Em before she had a chance to react. Then she kissed her again, harder and more ardently. She kept kissing Em, each movement of her lips more passionate than the last, in a bid to put the inevitable off a little longer.

It seemed Em was of the same mind. Without breaking their embrace, she crawled on top of May and pressed their bodies together. Her hand slid behind May’s head, fingers twisting in her hair as she crushed in closer. Intensity bloomed between them and their bodies responded in writhing motion. The heat of their proximity set May ablaze; she squirmed to free herself from the tangled blanket before Em pulled it aside and got to work on her clothes. She shoved May’s shirt up, leaving a trail of greedy kisses up her body along the way. May finished the job, wrestling the shirt over her head while Em got rid of her own.

Drunk with desire, Em’s hands fumbled with the button on May’s jeans before pulling them and her panties down her legs with a hard, impatient tug. Before they hit the ground, Em had yanked May’s splayed body closer, kneeling in worship between her legs.

“Em,” May breathed, reaching for her with needy hands. Em replied by scooping up her body so May straddled her lap. She shifted, pivoting on the bench so she could shove May against the seat back, eliciting a gasp of surprise from her lithe lover.

They devoured one another in kisses. Em pinned May’s hands back against the seat, rendering her helpless and exposed. Being unable to act drove May into a bucking, whimpering frenzy. But Em was too engrossed in leaving bruising kisses down her throat and collarbone to notice. Her hips rolled, grinding delicious friction against May’s inner thighs. May pleaded in Em’s ear, begging for her touch where she needed it most.

It felt like an eternity of teasing before Em finally hitched May’s hips, her fingertips possessively digging into the flesh of her legs. There was no gentleness in how she took May, driving her fingers deep into her soaked and tender entrance with force enough to rock May’s entire body. May yelped as Em skipped the slow build-up; her fingers pistoned inside of May with a savage and desperate rhythm. Em twisted her hand, curling her fingertips and pressing her knuckles into all of May’s most pleasurable places. May’s body pitched with every movement, her nails scrambling for purchase against Em’s bare shoulders and carving angry red lines across her pale flesh in the process.

The sex was rough and urgent; May’s didn’t even realize she was screaming until she came, arching and shuddering like a woman possessed.

As May gasped for breath, Em collapsed against her. She pressed her skin into the heat and sweat of May’s, imagining they could melt together if she stayed there long enough. Slowly she circled her arms around May’s lower back and held her tight, nuzzling her face into her hair. May listened to Em’s slow and deliberate breathing. She knew that shallow cadence well; it was the way a person breathes when they’re trying not to cry.

May let the moment settle around them, cold and quiet like falling snow. Her fingers trailed along Em’s scored shoulder, down her arm and back again. They clung to this delicate hush and to each other, neither speaking a word and lost in thought.

But they couldn’t stay like this forever.

May swallowed down the lump in her throat and shifted so she could turn her face to Em. Reluctantly, Em pulled back. She kept her face cast down as she peered back at May through damp, glittering lashes.

With feathery softness, May tucked a lock of silver hair behind Em’s ear, smiling sadly.

“Go on and say it,” May said, her voice wavering.

“You’re leaving me, aren’t you?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty

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[ 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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Seven

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[ CW: Strong language ]


The air was thick and hot, hanging between May, Em, and Grant like an accusation.

“Murder, huh?” Grant addressed Em.

“That video was taken out of context,” May blurted, chancing a glance at Em who looked like she was going to pass out. “They attacked us first!”

Grant waved a hand and shushed May into silence. “Don’t care,” he barked. “Fuck knows I’m the last person who’s gonna judge anyone over a bit of street justice.”

Em groaned and dropped into a chair, cradling her forehead in her palms.

“Are you going to turn us in?” she asked without looking up.

“Of course not,” Grant replied. “Any friends of the kid are welcome here. But if you’re going to be hiding out with us, I’d better not get any shit from either of you.” He turned his hard stare to May. “We’re working here. Stay out of trouble and if we tell you to hide, you do it. Understand? There’ll be plenty of unsavory types on the lookout for you after that little show you put on.”

May felt like she was being scolded by a parent; Grant wasn’t mad, he was just very disappointed in them.

“I said, do you understand?” Grant repeated, looking between the two of them.

Em looked up, her features fallen and washed with fatigue. “We understand. Thank you, Grant.”

She received an unintelligible grunt in response. Grant stalked passed them both, heading for the door. He paused before exiting. “I’m going to give the crew their marching orders. You’ll be safe with us as long as you don’t press your luck.” He jabbed a finger at Jun’s workstation. “And if you want a single moment’s peace while you’re here, stay away from Jun’s shit.”

May raised her hands as if to show she meant no harm. The move seemed to satisfy Grant. He nodded and left the girls alone with their silence.

Em went back to hanging her head. She looked defeated and small. For the first time since she woke up, May felt a twinge of guilt over having been so relentlessly harsh with her.

Quietly, May dragged a chair in front of Em and sat down facing her.

“What do you think?” she asked in a gentle voice. “Can we trust him?”

Em spat a hollow laugh into her palms. “Ironically, yes.”

May’s eyebrows quirked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

With a slow exhale, Em sat back. She looked May straight with an intensity that made her squirm. “Grant’s what you might call a crime boss. He’s very good at it too. This garage is just a front.”

“He told you that?” May hissed, eyes wide with disbelief.

“No, Jeremy did.”

“How would he-” May considered what she knew so far. “Is he “the kid” Grant keeps talking about?”

Em nodded. She folded her arms and stared off across the room. Her eyes grew unfocused and her lips pressed into a tight line.

“What is it?” May asked, shifting with unease. Being under the protection of an accomplished criminal was as alarming as it was comforting.

“I’m trying to figure out what to tell you,” Em murmured, her eyes still staring through something that wasn’t there.

“How about everything?” May challenged. “I deserve to know what we’re caught up in.”

A small smile tugged at the corner of Em’s lips. She shook her head and glanced back at May, her eyes softer now. “Not this time. This is one of those stories that aren’t mine to tell.” Rubbing her hands together, Em considered her words carefully. “Jeremy met Grant when he was nine. Grant and his team kidnapped him on his way home from school and held him for ransom.”

May’s stomach plummeted and her mouth gaped. Had she been asked to guess where this strange familiarity between Jeremy and a crime boss began, she never would have come up with this.

“Jeremy was still with the crew when Connor and Audrey met him,” Em continued. “Only by that point he was a full fledged member of the team.”

“Wait, what?” May was flabbergasted. “How old was he by then?”

“Thirteen,” Em answered after doing some math on her fingertips.

“How did he go from being a kidnap victim to a member of a gang of criminals?”

Em cringed. “That’s the part I don’t feel comfortable sharing. That story… it’s Jeremy’s.” When her eyes met May’s they were full of worry. “I’m sorry, babe. I know how important it is that we share things with each other, but this-”

“It’s alright,” May cut her off. And it was. After all, she had stories of her own. All she had to do was imagine Em telling Jeremy about what had happened to her back on the island of Hoku – the things Kane had done and the way the people of her village turned on her – to know why this was one secret Em had to keep. “I understand.”

They lapsed back into silence. From down on the garage floor, Grant’s voice drifted up as he addressed his crew. May couldn’t make out his words but she let her mind wander, filling in the blanks of his deep cadence.

“I’m sorry,” Em whispered, breaking May’s daze.

Blinking, May turned to her and forced a smile.

“It’s going to be okay,” she said. A mechanical response. May stood and reached down, offering Em a hand up from the chair she seemed to have melted miserably into. “Come on, let’s explore our new home.”

They stepped lightly from the control room. Grant had finished filling in the others on their temporary guests, but the group – ten in total – still milled around speaking in low voices. A few of them cast their eyes upwards when they noticed the girls emerge, but none lingered.

“A crime den.” May gazed down at the assorted characters that made up Grant’s crew. “Amazingly, not the weirdest place we’ve wound up.”

Em laughed, her mind casting back over the many strange and wonderful experiences they’d had since running away together. “Not even close.” Her expression turned grim. “Kind of fitting we’d end up hiding out with a bunch of criminals though.”

She made a good point – the pair of them were past the point of innocence now. May considered the crew. Some looked exactly like you’d expect – rough and shifty, scarred and guarded – while others were more unassuming, even surprising. But one thing was certain: they all had their reasons for being there. Each and every one of them likely had their own colorful stories full of questionable decisions made along the way.

A somber smile slid across May’s lips.

“We’ll probably fit right in.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Six

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May’s heart twisted and tore as she watched Em crumble in her arms.

She refused to believe the violent spectre Em had become was anything more than remnants of Audrey breaking through. May knew Em’s love – its strength and its light. Anyone who loved as strongly as Em couldn’t be so cold hearted, May was as sure of it as she was sure she was still breathing.

But none of that could erase what Em had done.

I need you to be stronger than that, May wanted to tell her. I need you to stay who you are.

She released her grip on Em’s shoulders and wrapped her arms around her instead. Just thinking those words made May feel selfish. It was so easy for her to forget how much Em was already suffering just by being here.

“Just… tell me something like this won’t ever happen again,” May pleaded quietly.

Em took a shaky breath in. She opened her mouth to answer, but a different voice spoke instead.

“I take it this is a bad time?”

May gasped and Em sat up with a start. The stranger’s voice was like a flood light snapping on, chasing the moment from the room as though it were darkness.

Standing in the doorway was a man in his early fifties, built like a stone with shoulder-length greying hair and a beard that made him look even older than he likely was. Inscrutable hazel eyes watched them from beneath thick eyebrows.

“Shit, Grant.” Em wiped at her eyes. “I didn’t hear you coming.”

“I figured,” the man called Grant gunted in reply. He gave a pointed look to May. “How’re you feeling? You’ve been out for a while.”

“I’ve been better,” May admitted.

The man nodded and turned, motioning for the girls to follow.

“Do you think you can walk?” Em asked quietly, not quite meeting May’s eyes.

She helped May to her feet and held her hand tightly through those first tentative steps. The ache in May’s legs gave way to tingling that faded by the time they made it out of the office. Blinking, May’s eyes swept over a surprisingly bright warehouse below the grated walkway on which they stood. Warm afternoon sunlight pressed in through greasy windows that lined the top half of the walls, reflecting a lazy cloud of dust motes. The ground floor was busy; two neat rows of vehicles lined either wall and pairs of legs protruded from beneath their hoods and chassis.

“A garage?” May asked. The sounds and smells made sense now, but she was still surprised. “What kind of safehouse is this?”

“The safest kind,” answered Grant.

He led them into a room at the end of the metal walkway. The room, perhaps originally intended to be a breakroom, half-served its original purpose while doubling as a command center of sorts. A long card table filled the middle of the room, surrounded by mismatched chairs and littered with sheafs of paper, empty beer bottles, and stained coffee mugs. Blinking computer servers and monitors lined the far wall in a set-up not unlike Marina’s workshop.

“What is this place?” May marvelled quietly. The equipment seemed far more advanced than a garage required.

“Woah, hey!”

May spun to find Jun in an opposite corner, hunched over his own workstation. He jumped to his feet and stood so his body shielded his monitor from view. “What are you doing in here?”

“Relax, Jun,” Grant grumbled from the other side of the room. He busied himself by pouring a deep amber colored brew from a mason jar into a mug.

“I’m workin’ on something here.” Jun sounded scandalized. “What if they see?”

The man turned to Jun, a single eyebrow raised. Frowning, Jun sank back into his chair without another word.

“I already told you – these two are friends of the kid.” Grant screwed the cap back on the jar and slid it onto a shelf. He carried the mug back to May and held it out to her. “Drink this. Throw it back. If you try to sip it you’ll never finish it. It’ll make you feel better.”

May had her doubts but took the mug anyway. With a curious look at Em, who only offered a shrug, May did as she was told and tossed the drink back in one searing swallow. It lit a fire in her belly that burned in a flash and then sizzled out, filling the rest of her body with a comfortable fuzziness. She shook her head and coughed.

“There’s no medicine on earth that cures quite like a strong shot of hooch,” Grant said, taking back May’s mug as she hacked out another couple of ragged coughs. “Better?”

Coughing aside, when May stopped to consider herself she was surprised to find she did feel better. Grant took the surprised look on her face for confirmation and nodded, satisfied.

“May, is it?” he asked. Clearly Em had already filled him in on a few details.

“Yeah,” May replied, shaking his hand. “Thanks for taking us in.”

“Yo, Parker!” a voice shouted from the floor below. “Whaddaya think of this?”

Grant turned to Jun. “Go tell them I’m gonna need a minute.”

Jun didn’t argue, shuffling from the room and closing the door behind him.

“Who’s Parker?” May turned the name over in her mind, wondering why it sounded familiar.

“Me.” Grant gestured at himself. “Last name.”

A memory clicked into place sending a wave of realization washing over May.

“Grant Parker?” she asked. “Are you related to Jeremy?” Her eyes lingered on his greying hair, searching for a hint of Jeremy’s signature fiery red.

His strong arms were crossed, but May caught the slightest hint of a smile tug at the corner of Grant’s mouth.

“No, but he and I go way back.”

As he turned and walked away, May shot Em a quizzical look.

“It’s a long story,” Em whispered.

“Ladies, come over here a minute,” Grant called over from the command-center wall. “There’s something I need to show you.”

Everything about his words sounded like bad news. May followed Em to join him, both wary and weary at the thought of how things could possibly get worse than they already were.

He stood in front of a monitor featuring the image of a man’s serious face, frozen mid-sentence. The name Wyndam Aviar hovered at the bottom of the screen and below that, the word aldermember. Em bristled when she saw him, but said nothing. Grant tapped a few keys and the image – a paused video – jumped back and played from the beginning. Shaky cellphone footage showed dark vans parked along a hedged street and a swarm of people in uniforms lining the end of a private driveway. Between their shoulders, May could make out the unmistakable rosy shade of her own hair. She felt the blood drain from her face as the person shooting the video made a foolhardy dash across the street and continued recording from behind one of the vans.

Explosions of light and energy filled the screen and distorted the feeds. May relived the horror of Em being blasted back by the Loyals’ arm cannon and her miraculous recovery. The cameraperson swore as Loyal agents were knocked back by another one of Em’s assaults and then the picture zoomed in. The screen was filled with Em’s dark and dangerous face. The view pulled back, shaking as the person directing it tried to capture exactly what they were seeing: a young man, jerked high into the air.

Screaming and pleading.

Em, unflinching as she snapped her arm downward.

The video cut off just before the young Loyal agent hit the ground.

Beside her, May felt Em tremble.

The video moved on to the talking head of Wyndam Aviar as he addressed the viewing audience.

“It doesn’t matter if it is by magical or mythological might: any supernatural being who uses their abilities to harm the defenseless is a criminal. Whomever this woman is, she is dangerous and must be apprehended. Please use extreme caution when-”

Grant paused the video, frozen on the aldermember’s face like when they first found it.

Em clasped a hand over her mouth, breathing fast and hard.

May’s mind raced through all the things this video meant for them.

Grant turned and surveyed them both, his expression unreadable.

“Well, ladies.” His gruff voice broke the heavy silence.

“Looks to me like you’re in a whole lot of trouble.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Three

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CW: Strong language


All eyes were on Em.

“Emmy?” May whispered, laying her hand carefully on Em’s thigh.

“I don’t…” Em’s eyes searched something no one else could see. “I forgot.”

“You clearly didn’t forget everything, did you?” Jeremy said. His voice was tight with anger. Placing the guitar on the floor, he stood and looked down at his friends. “I know you think I’m crazy but I believed it then, and I know it now: somehow, she is Audrey.”

“Jeremy,” Priva hissed, unconvincingly scandalized. The fear of realization had already settled across her features.

“Tell me I’m wrong again,” Jeremy barked, pointing straight at Em. “I fucking dare you. No one else knew that song, no one.”

Em gaped wordlessly. She was frozen in horror, completely unable to act.

“Stop it,” May shouted, jumping to Em’s defense. “You need to let this go!”

Jeremy rounded on her like a cobra. “You fucking knew, didn’t you?” His voice shook. Tears threatened on the brims of his eyelids. “You’ve known all along, haven’t you?”

Now it was May’s turn to falter.

“I…” She didn’t know what to say. Her breath tightened; she was trapped.

“Just fucking admit it,” Jeremy yelled. May jumped, frightened by his forceful energy. “Tell me the truth.”

Seeing Jeremy come at May was the antidote to Em’s paralysis. She leapt up from the couch and stepped between them.

“Leave her alone,” she growled. “You’re not wrong, okay?”

“What?” Connor choked, getting to his feet.

Rue’s eyes were round as the moon. “How? Audrey is dead. We saw her, we put her in the ground together.”

“It’s complicated,” Em said, raising her palms before her like a protective barrier. “And it might be hard to understand. Audrey did die.” She forced herself to meet Jeremy’s fiery stare. “Welkin captured what they could of her spirit before it was completely lost and had an Emandi help to create a new body to put it in. But you need to understand, I am not her.”

May looked to her in confusion. This was the second time Em had mentioned the Emandi, but May still had no idea what that was or what it meant.

“How can you say that?” Jeremy’s voice was barely a whisper. Silent tears snaked down his face. “How can you stand there and tell me you carry her spirit but you’re somehow “not her”?”

“A spirit begins to evanesce as soon as the body dies, Jeremy,” Em spoke gently, sadly. “What Welkin was able to salvage wasn’t whole. They had to fill in the gaps themself. I am a new person.” She swallowed hard. “Jeremy, I’m so sorry.”

“My stars,” Rue exclaimed, distracting everyone with her expression of surprise. She gazed at Em as though she were seeing her for the first time. “Is it true?”

“I promise, I’m telling you the truth,” Em assured her.

Rue stood and stepped to Em slowly, taking her hand and regarding it with near reverence. “Incredible. This… this has never happened before! It makes so much sense! Where is Welkin now? I need to speak with them.”

Em opened her mouth to answer but Jeremy cut her off.

“Fuck you.”

Everyone turned to stare at him as he stood, fists balled at his side.

“You came back, knowing what you did – who you are – and you didn’t even try to find us? You didn’t let me know that you were alright? Do you have any idea-“

“Jeremy, please,” Em stopped him abruptly. “You’re not listening to me. I might have some of Audrey’s memories but I am not the same person. Besides, it wouldn’t have been smart or safe of me to come find you guys and you know it.”

Glowering, Jeremy’s eyes grew dark and foreboding. “So you got your freedom and I got left behind to grieve. Amazing.”

“That’s not fair,” May interjected. “She had to die for what you’re calling freedom.”

“Shut up,” Jeremy snapped back. “I am not interested in anything you have to say. You couldn’t possibly understand.”

Drawing up her courage, May pushed back the hurt. “Of course I understand: I love her.”

“So did I!” he screamed back, lunging forward.

“Cut it out!” Em shouted, shoving him back. The intensity of her confusion and frustration rippled outward from her like an impact strike, rattling the glassware and knocking him off his already unsteady feet.

In a flash, Jeremy was back up. Snapped from their awestruck reverie, everyone else jumped into action, struggling to pull and push Jeremy and Em away from one another. The two were incensed, shouting and swiping at one another around the others.

When May reached into the chaos, Jeremy’s hand caught her wrist and he stared at her with the fury of a wild, cornered animal. “This is all your fucking fault.”

“Let’s go!” May cried, wrenching herself from his grip and stumbling back from the mele.

Tears sprang to her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. She was completely overwhelmed.

With a sob, she turned and ran from the room.

She needed to get away.

Shoving open the heavy oak doors that lead outside, May tripped into the twilight, and ran.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Two

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[ CW: strong language, sexual content ]

Marina’s big house was fairly quiet for the rest of the day, especially considering how many people were in it. The party spent most of the afternoon napping and getting cleaned up.

Some time after three o’clock, Em jolted awake and glanced groggily around the room until she remembered where she was. It came back to her slowly: the memory of crawling along the couch and flopping down onto her stomach between May’s splayed legs. May had been lounging there, reading the computer reference book Marina had loaned her; Em fell asleep with her arms wrapped around May’s middle and her face resting on her stomach as it rose and fell with each gentle breath May took.

“How long was I asleep?” Em asked. She peered up at May, who lifted the book she was still reading to peek back at her.

“Not sure,” May admitted. “Maybe an hour?”

Connor strode into the room carrying a basket full of fresh laundry.

“Do you guys mind if I fold in here?” he asked. “Rue’s sleeping upstairs.”

“Knock yourself out,” Em replied with a yawn, snuggling back down onto May who set the book aside and began combing her fingers lightly through Em’s hair.

Connor was almost finished his chore when a sleepy-eyed Rue wandered downstairs.

“Feeling better, love?” he asked when she walked up for a quick kiss and to survey his progress.

“Much better.” She smiled warmly.

Marina breezed into the room and grinned when she saw them. “Everyone’s surfacing! Who’s up for a drink or two?”

Without waiting for a response she unlocked a magnificent liquor cabinet and pulled out glasses. She then went to retrieve wine from the kitchen as everyone made their drink selection. Before striding back into the room she called up the stairs to the stragglers. “We’re getting drunk without you!”

Soon Jeremy and Priva joined them. They were disheveled, but it didn’t appear to have been from sleep. Em and May exchanged knowing looks when the pair passed them on their way to make their drinks, but they kept their teasing remarks to themselves.

“Oh, man.” Marina sighed happily, settling back with a very full glass of wine. “I can’t remember the last time I got drunk. I think I’m overdue.”

“We’re not getting drunk,” Connor laughed. “But don’t let us stop you.”

“For those prepared to party,” Em raised her glass of whiskey to Marina. “We salute you.”

They all clinked their glasses, a chaotic moment of reaching arms trying to make sure no one was missed, and toasted to being together, regardless of the circumstances.

For everyone but May and Em, the conversation flowed naturally, especially once the alcohol started to lighten the mood in the room. No one wanted to talk about the present and so those who shared a history dipped into the wells of nostalgia. They rehashed memories, retelling increasingly funnier stories until they gasped for breath between their laughter.

May and Em sat on the far end of the couch, edging closer with every sip from their glasses. At first they tried to stay cognisant that Jeremy was right there, regardless of the fact that he hadn’t looked at them once since entering the room. But as the whiskey worked its magic, they seemed to forget that anyone else was in the room. Em coiled an arm around May’s slender waist and nuzzled into the curve of her neck. She planted kiss after kiss – playful in the beginning, then slower and seductive as they worked through their second and third drinks – along May’s jawline and shoulder. Between kisses she’d whisper things in May’s ear that left her crimson-cheeked and giggling.

“One day I’m gonna buy us a big house like this one,” Em told May in a matter-of-fact, whisper-yell. “And you can just spend all day lounging around in fancy lingerie like the fucking queen you are.”

“Shhh, everyone can hear you.” May grinned and kissed Em to silence her.

Em replied by mumbling something against May’s lips that sounded a bit like, “I worship you.”

The only sign that Jeremy heard any of this was the subtle bouncing of his knee.

It wasn’t long after that May excused herself, slipping upstairs to use the washroom.

***

Jeremy didn’t realize Em had crept away too until he rose to fix another drink and found her missing. Squaring his jaw, he tried to focus on the promises he had made; one to Rue to try harder to be pleasant to the girls, made in the throes of gratitude that came with having survived his beating in the alley, the other to Priva. That afternoon she had made him promise to stop obsessing over the past – to see her, the one standing right in front of him. He had promised to try and it must have been enough for her; they made love for the first time in ages.

He thought of the sex, imagining the feeling of Priva’s silky skin under his and the look on her face as he moved between her thighs. Her moans of pleasure, her nails digging into his shoulders, the genuine happiness she radiated as they laid together afterward.

He reached out and took her hand. He could try.

“I know what we’re missing,” Marina announced, sitting up quickly. “Music!”

Priva snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you say Myles plays guitar now?”

“Yes!” Marina pointed at her, clearly into the direction Priva’s train of thought was headed. “It’s in his room!”

Priva looked to Jeremy expectedly. “Go get it, boo! Play for us!”

Jeremy blinked up at Marina. “Where’s his room?”

“Third floor. First door on your left.”

Without arguing – he was trying to be better, after all – he got to his feet and made for the stairs. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d had to drink until standing; his head swam with the early stages of his buzz.

As he stepped onto the second floor, Jeremy paused. To his right the staircase continued upwards. But to his left he saw the bathroom, open and dark. Across the hall was Em and May’s room, the door open just a crack. Everything was quiet.

That’s weird, he thought with a frown. He had been sure they had sneaked up here to fuck. A slight flurry of concern rose in his stomach.

Against his better judgement, he tiptoed toward the room. Perhaps they had simply passed out like a couple of lightweights. But what if they weren’t in there? He tried to push down the paranoid voice in his head, honed from years of fighting and fleeing, that screamed something might be wrong.

He held his breath as he peered through the miniscule opening in the door. From there he could see the bed, made and empty.

A sudden rush of movement took him by surprise as a pair of bodies tumbled into his line of vision from somewhere hidden by the door. Jeremy had to bite his bottom lip to keep from gasping out loud.

A tangle of peaches and cream; May had pushed Em up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Their shirts had already been discarded, their hands were everywhere.

To Jeremy, the world seemed to fall away. He stood, paralyzed; knowing he needed to walk away but helpless to do so.

May dragged her teeth lightly against the tender flesh of Em’s throat. Head back, Em welcomed May’s assault with a breathy moan.

Kisses were peppered across Em’s collarbone as May groped under her lover’s bra with one hand and worked the button of her jeans with the other.

Get out of here, Jeremy’s brain shouted at him.

But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the ecstacy on Em’s face as May’s hand plunged down the front of her pants and pressed into her warmth.

He knew that look, he remembered it perfectly. Her quiet noises of passion were exactly the same.

All at once, memories of when he was the one in May’s place came back to him like a crashing wave.

It didn’t matter what she looked like or what she called herself: Jeremy knew Audrey when he saw her.

At last he was able to tear himself away from the door. He staggered to the staircase and heaved a few deep and rocky breaths.

Go upstairs, he coached himself. Get the guitar. Go downstairs. Figure your shit out.

From down the hall, Em cried out softly.

Figure your shit out.

***

By the time the girls slunk back downstairs, the sitting room was filled with the sound of guitar strings and drunken singing.

“Welcome back, ladies,” Priva announced loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to the blushing pair as they slid back into their spot on the couch.

“Look,” May laughed, trying to come up with an excuse and failing.

“Listen,” Em said, with just as much success.

From his chair, Jeremy fiddled with the guitar pegs, adjusting the tuning. He didn’t look up as he launched into another song.

The notes were familiar. May recognized it as the song she and Em had performed at the flat in Luxton; the first song she learned to play herself.

“Hey!” She turned to Em, smiling. “It’s the song you’re always singing!”

But Em didn’t answer. She wasn’t smiling either.

Instead her gaze was fixed on Jeremy’s hands as they danced over the strings.

“Wait,” Em muttered, squinting. “How do you…”

Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, fuck.”

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, glancing between Em and Jeremy.

“Imagine how surprised I was when you two started playing this song,” Jeremy said, his eyes still trained on his instrument as he finished the melody. “This, the song I wrote for Audrey.”

The final note reverberated itself into silence. No one spoke.

“She’s the only person I ever played it for.” Now he looked up. His eyes were cold.

“Isn’t that interesting?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Three

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Content warning: sexual/physical assault mentions, PTSD trauma, sex


With each day that passed, the awkwardness and tension lifted. Though Jeremy remained cold toward May, she found herself warming up to the other members of WIND.

According to Priva, it would take three more days for the group to arrive at a small town called Luxton where they would be able to take a brief rest and resupply. The town was a stop along a train route that would take them to their next destination; the city of York.

“You’re amazing with these maps,” May remarked as she hunched beside Priva, watching her trace the path they would follow with the tip of her finger.

“I’d better be,” Priva laughed. “Cartography is in my blood.”

“How so?”

Priva pointed to a signature in the bottom corner of the map. It didn’t register as anything familiar to May, but Priva was clearly proud of it.

“My great granddaddy drew this map himself when he explored this range as a young man,” she explained. “People think we’ve found all that’s worth seeing in this world. But there are still so many remote places waiting to be understood. I even like to map out the places I’ve been, just in case I’ve seen something other explorers have missed.”

“That’s incredible!” May was so enthralled that she listened to Priva explain the finer points of cartography and tell stories about her great-grandfather for half a day out on the trail, hanging on every word.

After dinner the following evening, May was helping Rue clean up when she noticed the far off look in her eyes as she gazed into the dying fire.

“How are you holding up?” May asked kindly.

Rue started slightly. “I’m sorry. I was just…”

“Thinking of Gaten?”

There was a heartbeat of silence. “Yes.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling,” May said. “I have a nephew back home and I love him like crazy. Don’t tell Em this, but when we first went into hiding I would wait for her to fall asleep and then I would cry because I missed him so much.”

“Oh, May.” Rue pressed a hand to her heart. “That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be!” May balked. “I only bring it up because I thought that was bad. I was a mess over it. And yet here you are, going what you’re going through, and you’re being so brave about it. Gaten is going to be so proud of you.”

Eyes glistening, Rue still managed to smile. “That’s a very sweet thing to say, May. Thank you.”

They worked for a couple more moments in a silence that was lighter than a moment earlier.

“So, you like kids then?” Rue asked, unexpectedly continuing the conversation.

May grinned. “Yeah. I mean, I spent a lot of time looking after my nephew and he just… I don’t know. I guess kids just have a way of giving you a whole new perspective on things.”

“They sure do,” Rue agreed, laughing.

The more May got to know these people, the better she felt about the dangerous journey they were on together.

She also felt like she was getting a better sense of who Audrey might have been. The person Em had once been often felt like a ghost to May, haunting just out of her line of sight. But the more she learned about the people Audrey had known and loved, the more that spectre seemed to take shape. While Jeremy’s thorny disposition had left May wondering what kind of person could love someone so perpetually hostile, the others gave Audrey more dimension. May could imagine being friends with these people. She could imagine Em being friends with them too, and although May recognized that she still had virtually nothing other than a notion to go on, she couldn’t help but wonder if Em and Audrey were quite as different as her lover insisted they were.

As for that lover, the pair did what they could to make sure the circumstances didn’t come between them. Long after the others fell asleep, May and Em would keep one another awake, rolling and rocking in the throes of love and lust as best they could while trying to stay as quiet as possible.

May loved crawling between Em’s legs, using her tongue to guide her in the darkness as she teased and tasted, feeling Em tremble and buck against her. Em preferred to use her hands. With one she would pin May down while the other worked its magic. The night was like a blindfold that kept May tense with anticipation; each touch was a surprise so overwhelming that it took every ounce of willpower May had not to shatter the silence of midnight with her passion.

On their last night in the woods, long after the lovers had exhausted themselves into sleep, May awoke with a violent, heat-pounding jolt. She sat up, breathless and terrified. Frantically she tried to remember where she was by reminding herself of where she wasn’t.

“It was a dream,” she whispered into the darkness, feeling hot tears slide down her face. “He’s not here. It’s not real.”

Beside her she could feel the softness of Em’s naked body and the gentle rhythm of her breath. She was, somehow, still asleep and May couldn’t bring herself to wake her.

But her nightmare – the feeling of Kane’s greedy mouth on hers, his hands in places they had no business being – refused to release her from its grip. Her lungs panicked for air and her heart wouldn’t stop racing. To May, the world seemed to be tipping, threatening to cast her off into a full fit of panic. Knowing she needed to move – to do something – she crawled, trembling from beneath the covers and pulled on her clothes before staggering out into the cold of the night.

Free of the tent, May doubled over, gasping for breath and pleading with herself to calm down.

“It’s not real,” she wept as quietly as she could. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“May, it’s Connor,” she heard in the darkness. “Don’t be frightened.”

Through tear-soaked eyes, May peered around but it was too black for her eyes to focus.

“Connor? Where are you?”

A match flared, illuminating him from where he sat beside the fire pit, a heavy blanket over his shoulders. “Would you like to sit?”

May’s flight instincts were still firing wildly in her mind. It was a struggle for her to overcome the impulse to shrink away, but slowly she shuffled to where Connor sat and lowered herself down beside him just as the match burnt out.

“I’m going to put the blanket on you. Is that okay?” Connor asked, his voice soft and steady.

“Yes,” May whispered back.

In the darkness she felt the full weight of the blanket gently drape across her shoulders. She clutched at its edges, drawing it closer around her body; she hadn’t realized just how cold she had been before now.

They sat in silence for a long time, until the blindness of night came to feel like a hiding place and May felt her heartbeat slow.

When her lungs were at last able to have their fill and her mind had ceased its noise, May looked into the void beside her where she knew Connor was sitting.

“Why are you out here?” she asked.

She heard him release a long, slow exhale. “The same reason you are, I’d imagine.”

“Did you have a nightmare too?”

“Is that what it was?” There was a hint of skepticism in his voice, so faint May wondered if she imagined it.

May considered his question in the privacy the night’s black shroud afforded her; she’d had plenty of nightmares before, but when she really thought about it, she knew this one was different.

“Maybe not,” she admitted finally. “It’s more like a… I don’t know…”

“A flashback?”

She ruminated on the word.

“Yes, I think so.”

Connor hummed. “Me too.”

Questions leapt to May’s mind at his subtle confession, but she wasn’t sure it was her place to ask them.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Connor said as if reading her mind. “But if you’d like to, I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”

This made May smile despite herself. “I’m not sure why it happens. Something happened to me – was done to me – years ago. Sometimes I relive it in my sleep.”

“Trauma is like a ghost that way; sometimes it doesn’t like to be ignored.”

“What about you?” May asked. ”I mean, we don’t have to talk about it either but-”

“It’s okay,” Connor assured her. “I’ve had a lot of time to get familiar with my ghost. I’m not sure how much you know about the different Star worshipping groups; there are a lot of them out there. My uncle is part of a fairly conservative group that only acts on direct command from the Stars. They opted not to pursue Wishes because, technically, the Stars didn’t sanction the hunt in the first place. But they also frowned on the illegal Wishes.”

Connor paused to sigh. May waited in polite silence.

“I was still pretty young when the Loyals were formed and began hunting down Wishes. My parents thought the safest place for me was in hiding.”

“So they left you with your uncle?” May ventured.

“It was a good idea in theory; the Loyals didn’t suspect such a stringent group of harbouring a Wish. But, like I said, this group didn’t approve of the Wishes either, they just weren’t willing to destroy them. Needless to say, I wasn’t treated very well.”

“They didn’t… hurt you, did they?”

“Very much so.”

The wind passed, rattling the tree branches above them.

“Connor, I’m so sorry.” Already May was feeling terribly guilty for having asked.

“Don’t be,” Connor replied. ”Like I said, I’ve had plenty of time to learn to live with what’s happened to me.”

“But that doesn’t make it alright.”

“No, and it’s not always easy, but I’m doing better now than before. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.” Even in the darkness, May could tell he was looking at her now. “Besides, I’m not the only one out here with ghosts.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

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By the time May, Em, and Priva returned to the campsite, Connor already had the fire blazing with a satisfying crackle. Rue busied herself with food prep while Jeremy had been tasked with creating small tin foil bowls for everyone. They took turns layering their bowls with meat, potatoes, and eggs, positioning them delicately on a camp grill once the coals were hot enough.

The snapping fire was the only sound as the group sat wordlessly, waiting for their meals to cook. May watched spits of ash pop from the flames and drift skyward into the darkening sky. The sherbet colours of twilight gave way to night by the time Connor inspected his bowl and deemed dinner to be ready.

May wondered if the tension around the fire had been in some part the result of empty stomachs. As she collected her meal, she felt the mood lighten as everyone tucked into their food, and decided now might be a good time for casual conversation.

“Back to camping,” she said with a sigh, dropping back down beside Em, the edges of her foil plate pinched between her fingers.

“Hey,” Em remarked, looking mildly scandalized. “I thought you liked camping.”

“I like some parts of camping more than others,” May replied with a wink.

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Kids these days,” she grumbled, earning her playful kick in the ankle from May.

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

“How old are you two, anyway?” she asked.

“Twenty-five,” May answered, distracted. She leaned over to survey what was in Em’s plate. “Yours is cooked better than mine.”

“That’s because I’m a pro,” Em teased. Then, turning her attention back to Rue, “I’m, uh, a bit older.”

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

“You saying you’re a cradle robber?” She grinned at Em who mirrored her expression.

“Ha! Not quite that bad.” Em scooped a hearty forkful from May’s plate and shoved it in her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, “Still, I almost passed out when I realized my girlfriend was just a wee babe.” She turned to look at May. “Yours is fine, by the way.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” May defended, digging her own fork into Em’s plate. The utensil pierced the foil bottom, catching in a way that May hadn’t expected. Her hand slipped, sending the plastic handle snapping backwards and striking Em’s breast with a sharp thwap.

“My boob!” Em cried, choking on laughter and clutching at her chest. “You got me right in the tit!”

May doubled over, breathless in a fit of gasping laughter and tears, unable to reply.

Everyone but Jeremy succumbed to the first true bout of laughter since the two groups met, a moment of pure weightlessness that made the night feel a little less dark and the stakes a little less dire.

“So, how’d you two meet, anyway?” Jeremy asked, his question stopping the laughter dead.

May’s heartbeat stumbled. When she and Em decided to lie, they hadn’t taken the time to fill in the blanks of their cover story. Hoping her own panic wasn’t showing, May glanced at Em and found her to be a picture of calm.

“Maybe’s a dancer,” Em said, a goofy lovesick smile on her face that left May flushing. “I was in the audience one night when she was performing and I was instantly smitten.” She gave May a wink. “I’ve been her biggest fan ever since.”

That night in Omea’s community theatre – the night everything changed between them – flashed through May’s mind. She could still see Em standing in the wings, wide-eyed and marveling, watching her take the stage for her final performance of the night. Was this what Em was thinking of as she spun her tale? May had never asked Em what it was that pushed her over the delicate line between friends and lovers; that there might have been some truth to Em’s story made May giddy.

“Of course!” Rue’s face lit up. “We saw you dance at the circus. How long have you been performing?”

“Since I was in school,” May replied, delighted by Rue’s interest. “I’m self-taught though, so sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go.”

“She’s selling herself short,” Em insisted.

“Self-taught?” Connor look gob-smacked. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

“Thank you,” May gushed. But elated as she was to have a chance to talk about one of her truest passions, she wanted to steer the conversation away from her and Em. “What about all of you? I’ve been so curious to know more about Wishes. I mean, I know what Wishes are but…” she shrugged, struggling to find the right words. “What does that mean for you? Is it different than being human?”

Sure, she was playing dumb to a certain extent. But this was the first time she had ever met other Wishes; she was curious about what she might have been missing. Em’s attempts at distancing herself from her past had often made her answers to May’s questions vague or indifferent. May figured this was a chance to learn more about herself as much as the others.

Connor rubbed his chin, mulling over her question. He looked to his friends. Priva shrugged.

“I guess for the most part it’s not that different,” he admitted. “We’re born to our mothers and, if we’re lucky, we live our lives and die when we’re old. The only difference we’ve noticed – aside from how we come to be, of course – is that every Wish has their own unique ability.”

May blinked in a way she hoped conveyed naive confusion. “What kind of abilities?”

“Something we’re naturally very good at,” Connor replied. “Think of it like a talent on steroids. Everyone’s is different. Mine is my strength.” He gestured back to the massive dead tree they were using as firewood and May picked up on the implication that he had felled it singlehandedly. “Nothing too fancy here.”

“Mine, on the other hand, is very fancy,” Priva said, sounding rather proud of herself. She leaned forward and grinned. “I don’t have to sleep.”

“That’s only partially true,” Rue quipped, giving Priva a cutting look. “She can live on very little sleep. One night’s worth for every three or four days awake.”

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

If this was a reason to be any less impressed, May didn’t see why.

She looked to Jeremy expectantly. “What’s your ability?”

Arms crossed, Jeremy studied her for a moment before answering.

“Perfect memory.” He tapped his temple, his expression impossible to read. “I don’t forget anything.”

“Oh.” May smiled. “I’ll bet that comes in handy.”

Jeremy didn’t reply.

“What about you, Rue?” Em cut in on the awkward silence filling the space between May and Jeremy.

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Yep.” Rue set her bowl down and settled back beside Connor, leaning gently into his side. “My place in this little family is kind of different than the others. I come from an ancient line of astromantic druids.”

Now genuinely confused, May frowned. “What does that mean? Are you human?”

“For the most part. But way back, in the beginning of human history, my people came to be specifically because of the Stars.”

The firelight danced, reflected in Rue’s magnificent golden eyes. May’s breath caught as she remembered why they had seemed so familiar.

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

“No.” Rue’s eyes – the same otherworldly gold as the Star called Welkin – creased in the corners as she smiled. “They were Starborn.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Nineteen

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“We need to lay low and travel carefully,” Connor had instructed. “If the Loyals learn we’ve found you before we’re ready to stage the handover then we’re screwed.”

According to WIND, the Loyals had informants everywhere. To avoid rousing suspicion from potentially prying eyes, the group would have to leave as faint a trail as possible. No travel that required identification; cash only, aliases as much as necessary. May and Em didn’t mind – they were familiar with the best practices of runaways by now.

No one cared who you were when you took the bus, and travelling by dark was a good way to keep a low cover, which was how the group found themselves riding a night bus headed east. May and Em sat away from the others, as they would whenever they were in public. May was grateful for the many hours that lay between them and their next destination; she felt like she could breathe for the first time since climbing out of Dom’s truck.

She leaned into Em, her legs curled up beneath her. She was supposed to be sleeping, but with the space to breathe had also come the stillness her mind had been waiting for. It took advantage of the silence and filled it with a barrage of worries.

Beside her, Em fidgeted.

“Can’t sleep either?” she whispered, her voice just audible over the monotonous din of the bus.

Em gave an affirmative grunt.

Glancing up, May watched Em toy with a lock of dark hair. In their hasty packing, Em had the foresight to take one of her stage wigs – the long black one she used for their Moon and Ocean routine. May had trimmed it to a reasonable length and tucked her own hair beneath Em’s old ball cap. It wasn’t much as far as disguises went, but it was certainly better than nothing.

“On a scale from one to ten, how goth do I look in this thing?” Em asked, gesturing at the wig with a dramatic flourish.

May chuckled. “Ten. Very witchy.”

“Ooh, witchy. I can get into that.” Em wrapped her arms around May and let her cheek rest atop May’s head. “How are you holding up?”

Chewing her lower lip, May debated whether she should share the latest addition to her growing list of concerns. She hadn’t had the chance to tell Em what happened with Jeremy back at the motel.

Em broke her train of thought with a squeeze. “Babe? What’s on your mind?”

May sighed and decided to go for it.

“When we were back at the motel, Jeremy pulled me aside and told me he wouldn’t put up with me slowing things down.”

Em snorted. “Classic Jeremy.”

“He said he wouldn’t let me ‘get in the way’.”

“He doesn’t know you’re a Wish,” Em said, shrugging lightly. “He, Connor, and Priva have their abilities; him and his perfect memory, Connor and his super-Wish strength… have I ever told you that Priva only needs like, a handful of hours of sleep per week? And I mean, Rue may not be a Wish but even she has experience resisting the Loyals. Jeremy probably thinks you’re just an ordinary human, and if that were true, he wouldn’t be wrong in thinking you were in over your head.”

“Interesting,” May bristled. “That wasn’t what I thought he was implying at all.”

Em stared down at her quizzically before she clued in.

“Ah, you think this is about Audrey.”

“Can you blame me?” May tried to keep her voice down. “Ever since you told me the two of you were engaged I haven’t been able to-”

She was cut off by Em shifting out from beneath her. Righting herself, May twisted in her seat to see Em sitting pin straight and frowning at her in the flickering shadows.

I was never engaged to him, May,” she spoke tersely, her words simultaneously hurt and offended.

May’s heart dropped. “I’m sorry. I meant-”

Em grabbed May’s hands and held them tightly.

“Babe, I need you to believe me when I tell you that Audrey and I are different people.” Her intensity was impossible to miss, even as she whispered. “Please, tell me you understand.”

“You can’t blame me for being confused,” May hissed, the fear and frustration she had been suppressing bursting the holds of her patience. “I still don’t even understand why Jeremy expected you to be her. These are her friends – people who loved her. And here you are asking me to keep this all straight as if it made any rational sense to begin with.”

Sighing, Em sat back and took a moment for both their sakes. It was difficult to see her in the darkness but May didn’t need her eyes to know Em was studying her carefully.

“You’re right,” Em agreed at last. “I’ve been asking you to suspend your disbelief without giving you much reason too.”

May shook her head. “I’m not asking for you to placate me, Em – I’m asking you to help me understand. Please?”

Leaning back against the window, Em hummed thoughtfully. She gestured for May to join her, and she did, nestling into her as best she could across the uncomfortable bus seats.

“Where do you want to start?” Em mused, lacing her fingers with May’s.

“Tell me why Jeremy thought you would be Audrey,” May replied. She remembered the tattered security photo he had shown her when he first stormed into her life. “Do you look like her?”

Em chuckled softly. “Not really. Audrey wasn’t a ghost like me. She had her mother’s super thick, brown hair and this warm, honey brown skin that I’m guessing came from Welkin, like her eyes.”

“Her eyes?” May asked, peering up at Em and trying to imagine her painted in Audrey’s pallet.

“Gold,” Em answered. “Just like the Stars.”

May mulled this over, curiosity tugging at the corner of her mind.

Em continued. “She was a bit shorter than I am. Smaller in generally, actually. It’s like when Welkin built this new body for me they made everything about it… more. Bigger. Stronger. It’s as if they thought…”

She trailed off. Her expression was distant.

“As if they thought making you stronger might keep you safe,” May finished. Em’s physical strength had never escaped May’s notice – even now she could feel the firmness of her body beneath her own. She could imagine Welkin – like any parent – wanting to do whatever possible to protect their child, especially after what happened to her.

“Yeah,” Em breathed.

May swore she could feel the fissure Welkin’s disappearance left in Em’s heart widen from where she lay against her.

“So what was it then?” she asked, trying to pull Em back from the edge of despair. “What tipped Jeremy off?”

Beneath her, Em squirmed with unease.

“My abilities,” Em explained. “All Wishes have a distinctive natural advantage; like you and the way you can master virtually anything with only a little bit of study. But the things I can do – the levitation and manipulation of energy – only a Starborn can do that.”

“A Starborn? Are there more like you; people who were parented by a Star?”

Em shook her head. “Not anymore. We were a bit more common thousands of years ago but that’s it.”

Fear settled over May. She sat up and looked at Em in a panic. “If that’s the case then they all know. How could they not?”

“Babe, people don’t come back from the dead.” Em’s voice was calm and steady. “What Welkin did for me is unheard of. Jeremy might be holding out hope, but the others are probably looking for the logical answer. They likely think I’m another Starborn, just like the Loyals do. Our job is to come up with a convincing story and stick to it, okay?”

May toyed with her ring, her anxiety relentless despite Em’s self-assured tone. “Okay. So you’re a Starborn. We’ve never heard of Audrey or Welkin.”

“Right.” Em cupped May’s cheek. “Just another secret love-child between a Star and some earthly creature. Maybe we can tell them I’m half-elvish. That could be fun.”

“Sure,” May laughed weakly, trying to shrug off her apprehension.

In the darkness, Em kissed her; soft, slow, intoxicating.

“It’s going to be okay, my love,” she whispered against her lips. “Trust me.”

May swallowed and nodded, breathless.

With a gentle tug, Em pulled May back against her, wrapping her in her arms and offering her body as a makeshift bed. “Let’s try to get some sleep, okay?”

“Okay.”

It took only a moment for Em to drift off, the rhythm of her breath joining the concert of bus noise.

For May it would still be some time before sleep took her.

She could say she was okay as much as she liked.

She felt anything but.


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Sixteen

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


“This is easier said than done, but don’t take it personally.” Dom was trying to make the best of Em’s sudden and very unexpected departure. “She probably has no idea she hurt you.”

May turned to him with an icy stare. He winced accordingly.

“I know you think that’s supposed to help, but it’s really not working,” she said.

“Noted.” Dom raised his hands in surrender.

“Yes, she has every right to be freaked out and upset.” May could hear the octave of her voice rising. She didn’t care. “But this affects both of us. We should be working this out together. And if she doesn’t realize that taking off like this would hurt me-”

“Maybs,” Dom placed a hand on each of her shoulders and exhaled. “I know you don’t want to hear this but I don’t think this is the time to make this about you. Em loves you but she needs a bit of space. She’ll come back to you when she’s ready.”

He was right – she didn’t want to hear it. But with every second that passed, it sank in that he might have a point. With a heavy sigh she stepped away until she backed into the cool metal side of the trailer. She slumped against it miserably.

They were outside, watching the sky, waiting to see if Em would return. Every time a star flickered May’s heart skipped, but it was never her. Dom dropped himself onto the steps and together they let the moments slip by in silence.

“What happened to her hair?” Dom asked eventually, intruding on the stillness of the night.

When Em had tumbled into May’s arms, her ballcap fell to the floor to reveal her once long, shimmering locks had been chopped short.

“It’s easier to hide under hats and wigs this way,” May answered absently, gesturing at her own head. “We tried colouring it but it wouldn’t take. Her body just rejects stuff like that. Wouldn’t even take a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” Dom raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“We were supposed to match.”

“Are you telling me you got a tattoo?”

May shot him a mischievous look. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Chuckling softly, Dom looked skyward.

“I really fucked up, didn’t I?” he asked, his voice heavy with defeat. “If it’s worth anything at all, I really did think I was doing the right thing. But I guess the road to ruin is paved with good intentions.”

May smiled sadly.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Dom,” she said. “I think I would have done the same thing.”

Dom groaned in reply, dropping his head into his hands.

“Are you alright?” May shot upright in alarm.

Fast as a blink his form appeared to flicker.

“I’m sorry to do this to you now, Maybe.” Dom grunted as he pulled himself to his feet. “But it’s been awhile since I’ve spent time in the forest. My magic is getting weak.”

“Oh no.” May watched as he flickered again, revealing a flash of roots and foliage. “Your glamour is slipping.”

It was so easy to forget what he really was. In a way it was the same with Em.

If someone told me a a couple years ago I would one day be surrounded by magical creatures and not be phased by it, I would have laughed in their faces, she thought as she reached a hand out for Dom.

“Come on.” She motioned for him to follow. “I’ll take you to the woods.”

The walk to the outskirts of town took some time and by the time they arrived, Dom’s human form had been replaced by the hulking silhouette of his true self. May could just make out the points of elk-like antlers reaching from his crown of lush greenery and vines, and the glint of his inky eyes reflecting the moonlight.

“Ahh.” His exhale sounded like the wind passing through mountain pines as they ambled into the forest’s edge. “Better… al…ready.”

“I’ve never seen you like this.” May squinted through the darkness. Even in the shadows he was an impressive thing to behold. “Not properly anyway.”

Dom held out his hand and let her run her fingers over what were previously his fingers.

“I can’t believe I spent most of my life thinking magic only existed in myths and legends,” she mused. Dom grunted in what she realized was supposed to be a laugh; his capacity for human speech was now as gone as his glamour.

“Will you come back before we have to meet them tomorrow?” she asked.

He nodded before turning slowly.

May watched wordlessly as he disappeared into the trees. She stood for a while, letting the breeze send goosebumps racing along her flesh. The sound of crickets distracted her from how very strange it felt to be completely alone for the first time in ages.

Eventually the chill of nighttime made her shiver and she decided she had no business lurking in the dark any longer. She took a meandering route back to the circus grounds, shuffling her feet down a quiet road. Aside from the crickets and the occasional passing car, the world was peaceful and still, which is why, when the sound of weeping drifted from somewhere ahead, May paused to listen.

The sorrowful sound came from the lit parking lot in front of the building she was coming up to. She hesitated before continuing, unnerved by what she might find. The cries sounded more heartbroken than distressed and May didn’t want to intrude.

Stepping lightly, she crept along in the shadows of the building, peering around the corner into the lot. She gasped. Sitting on the curb, her knees drawn to her chest, was Rue. Her shoulders shook with each sob.

May glanced up at a poorly lit sign that read Willows Court.

“Shoot,” she hissed under her breath.

The door to one of the motel rooms creaked open. May ducked low and watched as Jeremy stepped over the threshold and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

“I’m sorry, J,” Rue sniffed. “I was being too loud, wasn’t I?”

Jeremy took a seat on the concrete beside her, giving her shoulder a nudge with his own.

“Nah, I just couldn’t sleep.”

Rue mumbled and the pair fell into distracted silence. From their expressions May could tell their thoughts were taking them to complicated places.

“I’m really sorry, Jeremy,” Rue said, snapping him out of his daze.

“For what?” he asked.

“That she’s, you know…” she shifted awkwardly. “That she’s not her.”

Jeremy went stiff.

“It’s fine,” he muttered, staring off into the darkness so he didn’t have to meet her pitying eyes. May shrunk back, worried the intensity of his gaze might allow him to spot her in the shadows. “It was stupid of me to think she was somehow still alive.”

“Not stupid.” Rue leaned her head on his shoulder. “Just hopeful.”

Giving his head a small shake, Jeremy tried to loosen up. He peeked down at his friend and took her hand in his own. “Speaking of hopeful, how are you holding up?”

Rue’s mouth puckered and for a moment May thought she might start to cry again. Instead she let out a slow, shaky exhale and closed her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll say yes?” she asked quietly. “Do you think they’ll help us?”

Jeremy frowned. “I wish I could say yes, Rue. Audrey would have. But-”

“She’s not Audrey,” Rue finished, sitting back up and pretending to fuss with her hair so she could wipe discretely at a stray tear. “And they don’t know us and they don’t know Gaten.” Her voice cracked, her breath fluttered. Now she let the tears slide. “It was so dumb to think they would they ever agree-”

“Hey,” Jeremy stopped her, draping a long arm around her quivering shoulders. “Don’t do that. She might not be Audrey but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a good heart, right? Who knows, they could still surprise us.”

May pulled back. As quietly as she could she backtracked and found a sidestreet to take instead. Before she knew it she was running, pumping her legs as fast as they would carry her until her lungs seared with the effort.

But it didn’t matter how far or how fast she went – she couldn’t outrun the memory of Rue’s sadness. Her mind flashed between the image of Gaten in the locket to every mental photograph she held dear of Omi. If it were him, she’d be just as devastated.

If it were him, she wouldn’t think twice about doing whatever it took.

She didn’t stop until she reached the circus gates. Breathless, she doubled over and let the weight of the truth crash down over her.

It was stupid.

It was dangerous.

May peered up at the sky with all its winking stars and wondered what her own would say when she told her what she was thinking.

They had to do it.

They had to save Gaten.


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Ko-Fi May