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Breath of Life

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The rocks came tumbling down in front of Evan so fast that one moment he was staring into the black abyss of the mines, and the next, grey, brown, and black rocks decorated the front of his vision.  The explosion was so loud in his ears that for a solid minute after the initial shock, Evan didn’t know where he was.  All he heard was the loudest of ringing in his ears as coughs wracked his already overworked lungs. 

Dust from the rocks falling filled the air and mixed in with debris of dirt and dust, as well as the powder from the deadly explosives Evan was given by his father.  He coughed more, or rather forced himself to cough, as the pain and suffocation were just enough to prolong the realization of what Evan had just done.

He coughed, or maybe he screamed, and at that point he couldn’t tell the difference with the way his chest squeezed so tight like there was a rope, squeezing tighter and tighter around his rib cage threatening to cut him in half.  He let tears flow down his face as his lungs screamed for air, for reprieve, until he was certain he could taste blood in the back of his throat.  He should have stopped, but instead he coughed even more, spitting mucus and blood from his mouth until finally…he couldn’t take it anymore.

His coughing slowed in time with the world around him.  There was no way that he could have even began to think about what just happened, so he stood there taking deep breaths in and out so carefully.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

He couldn’t hear himself breathe in, couldn’t hear anything around him, but even within the loudest silence, he thought he could still hear his lungs screaming at him, or maybe those were the screams of the miners…

Screams of all kinds filled the air for a few seconds after Evan detonated the explosives… or was the screaming coming from him?

For a moment, he almost wished it was just him screaming, but it was too loud, there were too many voices all at once, too many crying for help, there were just too many until even those began to get quieter.

And then…

Then it was silent.

He blinked once, twice, trying to look around him or even trying to take a step back from the rubble, but found he couldn’t.

Every single muscle in his body was frozen like ice, turning him into a statue.  If he didn’t know any better, he would have thought he actually became a statue, unable to move, or speak, or scream…but he knew that was not possible.

He was okay.

He was alive.

Unfortunately.

As he stared at the broken wood planks, the rocks, the dirt, he wondered if anyone survived down there.  Would it be too late to go get help? If he left now…

No, he knew that was impossible.  He knew where to put the explosives so they wouldn’t have to suffer long.  The whole mine would come caving in around them, and hopefully he gave them a quick death; they deserved as much.  But he wasn’t down there with them…he was alive…and he just killed one hundred and thirty-six people.

His goal was one hundred and thirty-seven.

How could he have messed up so bad?

He finally was able to take a step away from the rubble.  His mind was still blank, and his ears still rang so loud he couldn’t hear anything around him.  Where could he even go from here?

He let his feet carry him back up to the surface, though every fiber of him being didn’t want to see the sun again.  He already said his goodbyes; he didn’t need to see it once more.

When he reached the surface, the sun shined on his face, a beacon, a spotlight for the world to see.

Traitor.

Murderer.

He knew those words rang truer than ever, and he came to accept them…but he didn’t expect having to live knowing the whole world would soon know them too.

He didn’t need them plaguing his thoughts every waking hour.

He didn’t need them hovering around him whether he got thrown in jail.  He didn’t need them when his father would pay off the officers, and then just like that, the tragedy that took place would be replaced by stories of an unfortunate accident.

How much money could Archie MacMillan put on the lives of one hundred and thirty-six people? How much money is one life worth?

There would be whispers in town.  Evan knew that people wouldn’t go near him or his family ever again.

No one will know that he did it, or that his father ordered it on purpose…but how could they even begin to build up their fortune again?

Their reputation?

What was his father thinking?

When he ordered Evan to do this, he knew Archie MacMillan was going insane, but there was some small part of Evan that wanted to think his father knew what he was doing, wanted to trust him like he had his entire life.

He knew he was putting his trust in the wrong man, but it was too late. 

Evan didn’t even process what it was that he was asked to do until it was done.  He planned to kill himself in those mines with his workers, his friends.  It would be better than living a life here.

Once he reached the porch, all the overpowering guilt punched him in the stomach causing him to double over.  His stomach heaved as his breakfast came back up, sour and burning, as it splashed on the ground. 

What had he done?

Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he walked up the stairs to the house in a trance as his mind went in and out, thinking everything and nothing all at once.  He was too focused on finding his father, to ask him why or get some sort of an answer to ease Evan’s overwhelming guilt that he tried to keep at bay, but he knew he was quickly losing that battle.

Evan pushed open the door to the house so fast, he didn’t even hear the telltale creak of it opening as he walked to his father’s study knowing he would be in there.

He always was.

As he approached the forbidden room, papers on the ground caught his interest more than finding his father at that moment.  Archie MacMillan never had papers lying around, so what were those?

Evan bent down and picked them up as he began reading.

They spoke of some sort of “Entity” but the way his father described it made it sound like he was talking about a god, or God himself.  But that was not possible.  Evan’s father was never religious; he never believed in anything he couldn’t see or feel.  Evan kept reading, none of it making sense to him.  Trials, sacrifices, killers…it seemed the ramblings of a madman, but then suddenly, like a flash of lightning, everything made sense.

His father had gone mad, and there was no rhyme or reason to murdering all of his employees…

None at all.

And yet Archie MacMillan was coward enough that he didn’t even want to be the one to pull the trigger…he let his only son take the burden, shoulder the weight of one hundred and thirty-six people, one hundred and thirty-six lives, ended.

Anger bubbled inside Evan as he banged on the door to his father’s study with a fist, and as his hearing finally came back, the faint pounding of the door resounded within his own head like a war drum.

“Open up!” He shouted, shocked at the level of his voice.  He never once raised his voice to his father, but now…

Something had changed.

Everything had changed.

“Open-“  Evan yelled again until the door opened before him slowly, which caused Evan to stumble a bit inside not expecting his father to be standing there with a smile on his face.

He had never seen his father smile before.

“What did you just make me do?” Evan hissed at his father through clenched teeth, not giving the man a chance to say anything. Archie continued to smile at Evan even as he raised a fist and hit his father square in the jaw with all the strength he could muster.

The memory becomes fuzzy for Evan but he blinked, his mind trying to stay on track.

Suddenly, they were down in the basement.  His father was sprawled out on the concrete before him, broken and bloody.  There was blood everywhere.  It coated almost every inch of Evan, and he could taste it on his tongue, and smell the coppery tang of it in his nose, but he was in no pain.

That wasn’t his blood.

That was his father’s blood decorating the room like paint. 

“You’re going to kill me, boy? Is that it?” Archie grunted as he spat a tooth out of his mouth that was covered in dark sticky blood. 

Evan stood there as pure fury radiated from the deepest places of his mind, his chest, his heart…for the first time he had become something else entirely, fueled by the red hot blazing anger that ripped through him.  All he knew was rage, all he was, was fury.

But he couldn’t seem to do the one thing he had thought about his whole life.

It would be so easy now, he knew it.

Archie’s legs stuck out at awkward angles from where Evan stomped down on them, breaking them almost in two.  His fingers were tattered and torn to shreds from Evan grinding them into the hard floor.  Archie wouldn’t run away, couldn’t fight back.  Half of his teeth were missing, and one eye was already swollen shut.  There was no way he could fight back, and with the amount of hate Evan felt, he could easily end him once and for all.

But there was something in him that couldn’t end his own father’s life.

“I should kill you.  You have done nothing to deserve to keep living,” Evan mumbled more to himself than anyone.

“And you have?” Archie spoke up.  “What about all of those people you just killed? Do you think that you deserve to live too?” Archie let out a wet laugh that was followed by more bloody coughs. 

“You made me do that!”

“I didn’t make you do anything.  I gave an order that you could have refused,” Archie said as he pushed himself up to lean against the cold wall.  His head lulled to the side as he let blood trickle out from the corner of his mouth giving Evan a smile.  “You know you wanted to do it, deep down, you’ve always had that dark side.  It was just nice to be able to act upon it with no real responsibility hmm? Blame it on good ol’ Pops.”

“Because this is your fault! Everything…if I refused you would have killed me or worse…” Evan trailed off, shivering as he remembered the few times he refused his father.  The deep scars on his back were a constant reminder, always throbbing, always a warning not to cross Archie MacMillan again.

“So,” Archie’s smile grew, “You put more value on your own life than that of one hundred and thirty-six people.  What makes you, Evan MacMillan, so special?”

Evan stood there, staring down at his father, but instead of saying anything, he closed his eyes.  He had heard every single horrible thing that could come out of his father’s mouth through his lifetime, there was nothing he could say that could surprise him.   

“Speechless now? I shouldn’t be surprised,” another wet cough, “you always have been a coward, letting me push you around…never able to stand up for yourself…Just kill me like you did my workers, and get it over with.”

That broke something in Evan, the last thread of any sort of control he thought he had in that situation. “I gave them a quick death which is something you do not deserve,” Evan snapped at Archie who sat on the floor, laughing.

“So you’re going to leave me here? Prove that you’re just as much of a monster as I am?”

“You are a danger to everyone out there.  If I keep you here, I’m doing them a favor!”

“No, Evan, you’re doing this for you, no one else. You truly are my son,” Archie’s smile started to fade into something resembling peace, like he got what he finally wanted after all this time.   “Go ahead, leave me here to die.  I completed what I needed to.  You hear that Entity? I did it! You can take him! Take me!” Archie started screaming, his deep voice cracking and bouncing off the concrete walls around them.  Evan, thinking that his father had finally lost it, turned around and walked out without another glance, locking the door shut behind him.

 

 

Evan’s eyes fly open.   The dream, the memory of his last moments before joining the Entity, the feeling of his fathers breaking bones beneath his fingers, the smell of blood, all of it is so vivid in his racing mind until he scans the room, and his eyes land on Meg.

She sleeps across from him with her feet tucked up, resting her head on her knees as her gentle breaths move hair that has fallen in front of her face.  Not wanting to look around the room at everything that will take him back to the memory, he focuses on her, really focuses.

Pain begins to radiate up his arms as he realizes he is gripping his leather armchair so tight, he can’t feel the tips of his fingers anymore.  His heart beats so fast, it almost feels like he is back in his dream, his last memory of being at the Estate before being taken by the Entity.  It pounds in his chest so fast, he can hardly breathe…so he stares at Meg, grounding himself to where he is now.

He is okay.

His father is gone.

He isn’t in the Entity’s realm anymore.

He is okay.

He is here with her. 

She makes things okay.

He pushes that last thought from his mind, trying to make it a blank slate and concentrating more on breathing and calming down the panic that settled deep within his chest from the dream.  He doesn’t need to be thinking about her, and he doesn’t need to be thinking about her like that.

It is unfair to her, he knows this, and there is no reason why she would ever regard him in any other light than that of an associate, a business partner.  She has helped him cope with these new times that he cannot even begin to understand, and he is helping by giving her a place to stay, and maybe some answers until she is satisfied, and will leave to go be with her friends.

But there are those times her eyes linger on him a little too long…

No.

Any thoughts he had, or has, he stuffs deep down, hopefully never to rise again.  He was good at forgoing how he truly felt for the greater good; he learned how to do that a long time ago.

There is one thing that Archie MacMillan taught him that he appreciates: Striving to be happy has never given anyone anything.  You cannot survive off of being happy.  There are more important things in life.  He doesn’t need to be happy.

The more he fights within his mind, weirdly enough, soon his mind begins to calm down.  Between the thunder outside and the gentle breathing that comes from the girl across from him, he regains control, able to breathe and think all at once. 

The first thing he does is get up to get his purple blanket from the other day that he threw back in the closet. 

Meg looks so peaceful, and he doesn’t feel the need to wake her up, not now, so he walks back, blanket in hand, and covers her up before going back to the study.

He walks to the forbidden room, hesitating once he’s outside of the doors.  His father’s screams when he would knock echo in his mind, and he has to take a moment to tell himself that his father isn’t here.  He can go in and out as he pleases, and all he wants to do is get his mother’s diary.

Somehow, earlier it seemed easier with Meg in there with him, but he walks forward anyway, refusing to wake her up because he is too much of a coward to go into his father’s study alone.  His back and shoulders tingle when he enters the room as though he walked through a cold breeze, so he picks up the red diary and beelines out of the study, shutting the door behind him with a loud slam. 

His whole body stiffens, already training his ears to listen for the heavy sound of his father’s footsteps like he did something wrong, but instead of the heavy footsteps, he hears light ones so faint, he hardly equates them to footsteps until he sees Meg come around the corner.  Her eyes are half shut from sleep, and her hair sticks out at odd angles, but she is there, peeking around the corner looking both concerned and scared at the same time.

It is a look he often sees on her.

“Was that bang from you?” she asks, her voice cracking from sleepiness.

Evan nods. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.  Go back to sleep.”

Meg stands there, rubbing one eye with her right hand before she covers her mouth, yawning.  She remains there for a few seconds without moving almost as though she were debating arguing with him and telling him to get ready to see her friends, or just letting sleep take back over.  With how she sways as she nods and turns around, he knows she settles for the later option. 

He expects her to go upstairs to her room, but instead she crawls back into the leather chair in the living room and pulls the purple blanket back over her without question.  He almost wonders if she will remember this in the morning, or if she was just that much half-asleep.  Something in his chest tightens as he watches her from the hallway, peacefully going back to sleep out in the open, making her comfort level perfectly clear.

That warms something within him knowing that she isn’t as terrified of him as she used to be, but then again, he should know that by now.

No one goes grocery shopping with a monster…

But nothing can change how he looks at himself, and he hates that she has had to overcome such terror, and for what?

What could she ever possibly gain from being comfortable around him?

He walks back into the living room and takes his seat across from her, taking a moment to look at her, knowing she’s there and that she’s safe, before he cracks open his mother’s diary to the last page he read, hoping that maybe having Meg there could help him read through it, whether or not she were awake.

He would never tell her this though, no.

The way she helps him by just being there is a secret he plans to keep, never making it into something more than it needs to be.  She is simply a comforting presence, that is all.  After his outburst upon finding the money, to his overwhelming trip to both the bank and grocery store, he felt having her close calmed something deep inside him.

But he knows he can’t become too attached to the way she makes him feel because he knows she will leave, as she should.  He can’t keep her there, and he doesn’t want to.

So he will enjoy it while he can by occasionally glancing up at her as he reads about his mother’s life, her plans, her dreams.  A small letter falls out onto the floor, the one he read earlier, and his stomach twists uncomfortably simply looking at it.  He doesn’t need to read it again.  Gripping it so tight in his fist, he is tempted to throw it in the fire, burn it up never to be thought of again, but…his mother wrote on this page.  He has a full book of her thoughts, but he can’t seem to get rid of any of it.  So he holds it in his hand, not looking at it or reading it, but as a lifeline of what might have been if his father didn’t kill her soon after she wrote this.

Archie MacMillan could have found this letter for all he knows and that’s why he did it…

Evan wouldn’t have put it past him to do such a thing, even to his own wife…but that begs the question… why?

It isn’t like he cared for Evan or had any fatherly bond with his son, so why did it matter to Archie MacMillan so much to keep Evan there at the Estate?

In the long run, it would have been easier for him to let them go, never hear from them again as he ran his business, maybe had another kid with one of his many women he had coming in and out of his bedroom at night. 

He didn’t need Evan there, did he?

Evan swallows bitter thoughts and looks back at Meg, trying to get back to the once calm place he was before he started thinking too much about his father.

Maybe answers lie within his study, just as Meg thinks, but does he really want to know?

He ponders on this for awhile, switching his eyes between the roaring fire and the gentle way Meg’s chest moves up and down as she breathes, and the way her mouth parts open so slightly…

A part of him wants to go over and brush the hair from her face, but he decides to stay in his seat, not wanting to wake her up or make her feel uncomfortable by sleeping in front of him.

So he closes his eyes and tries to think of other times, other experiences he had in his life, particularly with his mother, holding the note in his hand, and soon the rain outside and the fire beside him lull him into a semi-comforting sleep for the first time in what feels like forever.

 

 

A few hours later as the storm lessens, Meg is woken up by a distant rumble of thunder, much farther than it was before.  The storm makes its exit almost just as quickly as it came, although the rain stays, a vision of what once was there.

Not that Meg minds, though.  On the contrary, she loves the background noise as it distracts her mind from reeling with thoughts after finding the letter from Evan’s mom, wondering what happened and why they didn’t get out.  The letter seemed pretty insistent and everything was planned out so meticulously, and yet…the fact that the money was still there is a clear sign that they never got out. The fact that Evan was still here is another sign saying they didn’t get out.

After Meg read the letter, she curls back up in her leather chair as she debates on whether to go to her room, stay there, or wake Evan up and maybe talk about the letter. 

Imagining how he was earlier when he read it, she decides against the last option, and like earlier, her bed almost seems too far away and too dusty compared to the warmth and comfort she feels in the chair now.  So she stays put and with the heavy feeling of sleep overtaking her body, she curls into the blanket on top of her and closes her eyes, with the last thing she sees being Evan across from her, sleeping soundly.

 

 

A little bit later, Meg wakes up once again as rain gently patters on the window behind her.  She looks around and notices that she is alone, and that it seems lighter in the room, so she assumes it must be morning by now.  She stretches her sore muscles from sleeping in a chair as she takes in the scene around her. The fire is still going, making Meg feel like she doesn’t even want to get up, but as she looks around, her eyes land on a a small clock sitting on a bookshelf. 

7:00AM

It’s a miracle, she thinks, that she slept all night.  She doesn’t even remember the last time she got that much sleep in one go, let alone curled up in a chair.

She gazes outside and suddenly an urge to go for a run overcomes her that is so strong, she can hardly contain it.  It reminds her of how she used to feel when waking up in the morning wanting to go for a run, back when running was an escape for her, not a requirement to stay alive.

When she lived with her mom, she used to get up around this time in order to get in a run before she would have to go off to whatever obligation she had that day whether it be school or her job.  After taking a brief moment to look around, she wonders where Evan went, but she quickly forgets that thought as the urge to go running gets stronger and her feet are practically aching to go.

Not holding back, she makes sure her shoelaces are tight as she rushes outside, throwing the hood of her sweatshirt over her head, as though that would keep her from getting wet, and off she runs.

Her blood pumps and her heart begins racing, but despite her joy of being able to run, she has to constantly remind her brain that she isn’t running from something for what seems like the first time in her life.  She is running to run, and slowly the endorphins she feels like she could live off of pump through her blood as she reaches the woods. 

She slows down a bit debating whether to go in and run to town and back, she knows that route well, or if she should run along the edge of the treeline and stay in sight of the house.  Maybe she could explore the Estate a little bit, see what else there is to discover.

But she quickly pushes the last thought from her mind thinking that she saw the different aspects of it plenty of times over the last decade, and she doesn’t think she is truly ready to face them yet in the real world, even if it is day time.

Taking a deep breath, she picks up her pace once again and heads into the woods that have become very familiar to her by now, and as much as she doesn’t want to admit it, she almost feels comfortable in the woods that once made her skin crawl and shoulder throb just a few days ago. 

A little time passes with Meg running with pure joy coursing through her until suddenly, a shiver runs up her spine that makes her slow down to a walk.  The way her whole body tenses and the hair on the back of her neck stick up, she frantically begins to turn around looking in every direction.  She is still on the path, she can run back to the Estate and make it there in no time, but she feels like a deer being hunted, and if she moves, that will be the end.

She is being watched, there is no doubt about it, and she doesn’t know from where or who is watching her.  It is reminiscent of the trials when she would go against Ghostface or the Pig or the Wraith.  They were hunters, waiting for the perfect time to strike, and when they did, it was almost too late. 

Carefully looking around, Meg doesn’t see anything.  Only trees, logs, dirt, and grass.  Everything is as it should be, but she knows something is wrong, and she doesn’t want to wait around much longer to figure out what it is. 

Making the split decision to run back to the Estate, she digs her heels into the dirt and sprints off in the other direction.  Nothing jumps out at her and nothing follows her as she runs, but all joy she felt earlier turns cold and bitter in her veins.  When she sees the house in the distance, she pushes on despite her now aching muscles, and with one last look behind her to make sure she really is alone, she rushes up the steps and turns around fully. Her eyes scan the treeline looking for something, anything, even if it was an animal, but she sees that she’s alone.  She sees nothing.

Paranoia…that is what it had to be, or at least that’s what she tells herself.

Maybe she wasn’t as comfortable in the woods like she thought.

She turns around to go inside, and for a brief moment she could have sworn she saw a flash of something white just behind the trees, but when she looks again, nothing is there.  Swallowing her concerns, she wipes beads of sweat from her forehead with her sleeve and goes inside.

Evan sits in the living room to her right, reading.  He gives her a small nod before setting his book down, and goes to stoke the dying fire.

He recently changed, and although his outfit is pretty much the same, his shirt is now a dark green and she almost wants to compliment him.  It looks nice.

But she doesn’t say anything, due to both not wanting to make things weird, and not quite knowing where the urge to compliment him came from.  She sniffs the air, smelling a hint of cologne, woodsy and warm, that Meg can't say she hates.  She briefly wonders where it is coming from, not equating it to Evan, until he stands up and comes closer to her.

“You-“ she stops herself, “It smells nice in here.”

“Just bathed.  I drew you a bath in case you wanted one,” Evan says, gesturing down the hall.

Meg smiles at the gesture. “Thank you.”

She wants to ask him about the letter, the words tingling at the tip of her tongue, but as he nods and walks back to the living room, she decides against it for now.  Instead, she begins to walk towards the hallway, but not before taking a quick glance at him before she is out of sight, and she thinks she can see him smile a little as he picks up the book he was reading again. 

As she walks away, she smells the air trying to smell his cologne one more time in an attempt to just enjoy the smell of cologne.  Like everything else, cologne and perfume had been missing from her life for such a long time, she almost forgot how it felt to smell it.

She definitely wasn’t smelling it because of him, she tells herself, as she makes her way down the hallway.  When she gets inside the bathroom, she sees that there is indeed water in an old fashioned clawfoot white bathtub with a bar of soap propped on the edge of one of the corners. 

Stripping off her clothes that stick to her skin uncomfortably with sweat, she can hardly contain her excitement about having an actual bath.  She takes her greasy hair from their braids and runs her fingers through her hair trying to comb the matted knots out, while also trying not to fall down as she stumbles into the tub, eager to finally be able to clean herself. 

Lowering herself in, she hisses as the warm water hits her various cuts from the last few days, but otherwise she is comfortable.  The water isn’t as hot as she would want, or would normally take a bath in, but this is better than anything she has had in ages.  So she leans back, trying to clear her mind, as she enjoys the feeling of being in an actual bathtub in an actual bathroom taking an actual bath.

After a few minutes her face starts to turn as red as her hair as she begins blushing, her thoughts flowing to Evan, like they always seem to do now, as she thinks that he actually made sure to prepare this for her.  Did they even have working plumbing for hot water? If not, this would have been a chore to get the water warm…

No, it should have been easy, there is no way he would go through all of this trouble for her. 

To take her mind off of Evan, she grabs the bar of soap and begins to scrub her skin, trying to get the years of dirt and grime off her.  Although she doesn’t look dirty, the thoughts of what she went through for a decade stick to her skin like a leech, and no matter how much she scrubs at her arms, she doesn’t feel clean enough.

Not only has it been almost a week since she has been out and hasn’t had a chance to clean herself, but in the Entity’s realm they never had a proper shower or bath either.  They had a stream and a pond nearby that they would bathe in as they tried their best to rub off dirt and blood and any other mysterious substances they would find on themselves sometimes after a trial. 

So this…this is nice.

Meg’s skin starts to turn red with her scrubbing but it almost feels like this is her chance to finally scrub everything from the realm off of her, finally be a new person, finally get clean, but even though her skin starts to feel raw and begins to look like she has a sunburn from the way she rubs the soap over her skin, she doesn’t feel any more clean than before.

She still feels dirty.

She’ll never be clean again.

There will always be that permanent stain of blood and dirt and vomit that permeated her skin, sticking with her through everything. 

After awhile, the water begins to cool and she decides that she should get out despite wanting to go over her body one more time with the soap.  Taking in a deep breath and closing her eyes, she sinks beneath the water, washing the soap from her hair and her face, and when she comes back up, she can say she almost feels refreshed.  Almost.

There is a towel sat on a chair next to the tub, as well as some folded clothes that Meg isn’t sure are for her or not.  Taking the towel and drying off, she looks at her dirty clothes on the floor and considers putting them back on, but grimaces at the thought.  She feels a little bit clean, and putting her old sweaty clothes back on doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, so she goes back to eyeing the clothes on the chair. 

There is a burgundy-colored button-up shirt, but it’s small, probably the right size for a teenage boy, and a pair of black pants, again, for a man, but they are way too small to fit Evan now, so she assumes they aren’t set here for him.  He is practically a giant, so she hopes that she would be able to make these work, and what’s the worst that could happen by her wearing them?

Evan tells her to change? She could handle that.

She pulls on the old clothes, excited to be wearing something different, something she has never worn before.  Her clothes in the Entity’s realm were hers; they were a link between her life there and her life back home, and she cherished them almost more than anything.  But now…now when she looks down at her dark blue hoodie, white shirt, and leggings, all she is reminded of is the torture and excruciating pain she went through.

She is okay with wearing something else for awhile, so she buttons up the shirt and rolls up the sleeves, making her miss some of the flannels that Nea would give her to wear sometimes.

Pulling on the pants, they are a little bit too long and as she turns around to look in the mirror, she can’t help but let out a laugh at how ridiculous she looks.  She looks like a little kid playing dress-up in their dad’s old clothes.  But then she gets an idea, one she steals from Feng who used to tie her jean vest in a knot sometimes. 

She takes her shirt and ties it in a knot right above the waistline of her pants, not so any skin is showing, but it helps give more of a structured feel which Meg likes, as she buttons up the rest of the buttons up to the collar.  She also rolls up the pants and uses her hair ties to keep them in place and hopes they stay as she gathers up her things.  She likes her clothes to be stable, adaptable.  Not baggy and loose. 

Feeling more comfortable both by being clean and wearing new clothes, she steps out and goes to put her old clothes upstairs until she can wash them at some point. 

When she comes downstairs again, she finds Evan in the kitchen looking through the cabinets where Meg put their food from their excursion yesterday. 

He doesn’t notice her there right away, and something in her doesn’t feel the need to make her presence known, so she watches him as he picks up various items they bought, stares at it for a little bit, and puts it back exactly how he found it.  He repeats this process item-by-item until he finishes one cabinet and goes to the next, as though inspecting everything they bought but not wanting her to find out.

It is almost endearing the way he is trying to come to terms with how things are now, and Meg appreciates that he is trying, instead of refusing and just wanting to hunt meat forever.

Evan finishes looking in the current cabinet and goes for another, but then Meg’s cover is blown as he glances at her from the corner of his eye, slamming the cabinet door shut making both of them jump.

“You startled me,” he begins, his voice was calm and collected, giving off no hint at actually being startled.

“What were you doing?” Meg asks taking a full step into the room, ignoring the fact that she somehow startled Evan MacMillan of all people. 

Evan doesn’t respond to the question as he stares at her, but unlike times before, he doesn’t try to hide the fact that his eyes travel up and down her body once before landing back on her face, and Meg takes it as a sign that maybe she shouldn’t have helped herself to his clothes.

“I’m sorry if I took these, I thought-“

“Don’t be sorry.  I put those there for you,” Evan says, his voice low before he clears his throat and continues, “I thought you’d want some new clothes.  Those were mine from when I was younger.”

“Well I appreciate it.  The other ones were…” Meg blushes slightly at the way that Evan’s eyes flick down to where she tied the shirt just at her belly button and then back up, “Well it was time to wear something else.”  She doesn’t know what it is, but he looks at her with such an intense stare at that moment, and it isn’t like how she normally sees him full of anger and fury.  This is intense in every opposite way, like he is studying her, and it causes her to have a weird pit in her stomach that she tries to ignore as she takes a step into the kitchen.

“They aren’t bad.  I guess teenage Evan had decent taste,” she says, trying to feign being at ease when she feels anything but that.

“Only decent?” Evan retorts as he chuckles.  “I would say I have impeccable taste.”

“You would say that, since your taste definitely never changed,” Meg laughs, gesturing to his outfit now that looks almost identical to hers, except he is wearing suspenders and has his shirt tucked in, rather than tied in a knot like Meg’s.

“But this style is timeless.  Why would I change it?”

Meg smiles and shrugs while nodding, accepting that yeah, he had a point.  As she walks further into the kitchen, she runs her fingers through her hair, trying to distract herself from Evan’s gaze that she doesn’t quite understand.

“Have you had any of the food yet?” She says, walking closer to him and over to some of the cabinets he was looking at.

This finally seems to snap him out of his trance as she shakes his head.

“Was waiting for you.”

“Ah, okay…well…” Meg hums, trying to find some of the perfect food to try first.  “Are you really hungry?” Meg asks, this question determining the next step of what food to pull out.

“Not particularly.”

Perfect.

She grabs a big bag of cheese puffs and settles on him trying some snack food before heading out.  They have to get their sugar intake up, she thinks, as a vision of Evan having a sugar high comes to mind making Meg let out a small laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Evan asks, an eyebrow raised.

“Nothing, it’s nothing,” Meg says, shaking her head and sitting down in a chair next to the table with Evan following her over.  Opening the bag with a pop, she immediately shoves one in her mouth, missing the fake cheesy taste of the crispy snack.

“Here, try this,” Meg says, shoving a bright orange cheese puff in Evan’s face.  He immediately recoils, his face scrunching up in disgust at the fake cheese smell that violates his nose.

“What is that?” he asks, bending over to examine it, still not taking it from Meg’s hand.

“It’s a cheese puff,” she responds while taking the cheese puff from her hand and putting it in her own mouth, crunching down on it.  “They’re good.”

“They look horrible.”

“That’s because you’ve never tried one…come on, just one,” Meg puffs out her lower lip, pleading. She pulls out another one and hands it to him, shooting him a smile as he takes it, even if he does pick it up with the tips of his pointer finger and thumb like it is diseased.

“Why is it so orange?”

“For flavor.” Meg emphasizes this by flashing him jazz hands that Evan only looks at, adding to his confusion.

“I dont-“

“Oh my god just eat it already!”

Evan frowns, like always, as he carefully puts the cheese puff in his mouth and chews slowly, his face not changing.

“I don’t like it,” he says, reaching for another one from the bag.

“Oh really?”

Eating another one and already reaching for a third he mumbles, “They’re terrible.”

“Uh huh,” Meg hums, a look of triumph on her face. 

“No, really, I’ve never tasted something so revolting in my life,” Evan mumbles, a mouth full of crumbs, as he takes a seat next to Meg and moves the bag so it is in between them on the table. 

Meg smiles and takes another cheese puff for herself while rolling her eyes. 

They sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes, snacking on what Evan keeps mumbling is the worst food in existence.

Meg takes this moment to think of something else to have as her stomach growls wanting more than just cheese puffs.

“Oh, I know, you have to try a donut too!” Meg remembers, jumping up and almost flinging the bag of cheese puffs on the floor.  If it weren’t for Evan’s newfound “disgust” for them, he might have let the bag fall to the floor, but instead he grabbed it so tight and sent a glare over to Meg who was too busy trying to find where she put the donuts from yesterday.

“Hey, be careful.  You almost knocked these over,” he says, shaking the cheese puff bag at her, “We can’t be wasting food.”

“Yeah because I know the only reason why you’re eating it is because you don’t want to waste food, right?” Meg mocks.  Although her back is to him, she can feel his eyes on her and can almost picture him scowling at her, chewing on a cheese puff, trying to come up with a good retort. 

She finally opens a cupboard where she stuffed the bread and donuts, and brings out the donut box with glee.  Throwing the box on the table, she expects she would have to move the cheese puff bag, but by now, Evan has it sitting in his lap, his fingers on one hand fully coated with the orange dust.

Her eyes flicker between the bag, Evan’s fingers, and his face that remains as passive as always, until he notices what she was looking at.  He squints his eyes at her almost daring her to say something more.

She swallows any rebuttal that comes to mind with a small laugh as she opens up the donut box.  She was sure to get a bunch of different ones back at the store: some filled with cream and jelly, some maple bars, a couple glazed, and a few with different colored frosting and sprinkles on top.

“Okay what donut do you want to try? We’ll split it.  I don’t know how much fake sugar you’ll be able to handle,” Meg says, eyeing one of the donuts with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

“I don’t need to try one,” Evan replies, staring at the different donuts in the box.

“You said I could introduce you to different types of food, and I feel like until we can go out, and the rain stops, now is a good time.  What else would we do?” Meg insists, taking the initiative and picking out the donut she was eyeing with the pink icing. 

“Anything but you forcing me to eat disgusting food.”

“Come on, it’s not all that bad,” she says, ripping it apart and giving Evan the bigger half.  He is a big guy, after all.

“I know what donuts taste like.”

“Oh, no you don’t.  Not these donuts.  Your old donuts back when you had them were a pretty sorry excuse for this delicious breakfast food.”

“People eat these for breakfast?”

“Mhm!” Meg nods, taking the first bite of the soft doughy donut that she has had in years.  Like with the cheese puffs, she closes her eyes, enjoying the flavors that remind her of better times like having breakfast with her mom, or watching trashy TV on the weekends and eating junk food.

She goes in for another bite and notices Evan watching her, really watching her.  He stopped eating his cheese puffs and hasn’t taken a bite of his half of the donut either.

“What?” Meg asks, hesitating.  Did she have something on her face? Or did she make a weird moan when she took the bite? She didn’t think so, but maybe she did…she really loved donuts.

But without warning, Evan reaches out and with his thumb, brushes a few crumbs from Meg’s cheek, causing her to flush red with embarrassment. 

Or was it something else?

Butterflies flutter in her stomach, making Meg lose her appetite, but she takes another bite anyway, careful not to get anymore crumbs anywhere.

“You had food on your face,” Evan says, finally taking a bite of his donut.  His face scrunches up and he looks around, again, unsure about the taste.

“It’s so sweet…how do people eat these in the morning?” He continues, completely moving on from what just happened, as though that were a totally normal thing for someone to do, or for him to do to her.

She chooses to move on too, thinking that it was probably nothing, as she pushes thoughts of the donut first and foremost in her mind.

“Well, you’ll get used to it.  It’s good,” Meg smiles as she chews.  She turns to look at him as he takes a couple more bites, chewing slowly as though he were debating swallowing it or spitting it out, until he finishes the whole thing and reaches for second donut.

“Oh, going for another huh?” Meg teases.

“Maybe it was the icing on that one, I’ll try another one.”

“Just be careful.  You can’t get a stomach ache when we leave.  You’ll be miserable.”

“I think I can handle it.  I’ll be fine.”

Meg watches as he deliberates on what donut to pick up, until he finally picks a glazed old-fashioned one.  Without a word, he splits it in two and hands the other half the Meg before he sniffs his half.

She takes it and smiles, not particularly wanting another one, but the thought was nice, too nice, and she couldn’t just set it back down, so she eats it happily.  Evan is beside her poking and testing the glazed donut, and before Meg almost spits out the last bite she took out of laughter, he finally tries it and nods.

“I like this one better.”

Meg raises her eyebrows and smirks at him.  “I knew you’d come to your senses.”

They finish their food, neither one of them trying to start up another conversation, but Meg doesn’t mind since she feels weirdly comfortable just sitting beside Evan right now.  It isn’t strange and awkward, like so many times before, no, this is familiar and warm.  Meg almost doesn’t want it to end.

A few minutes pass as both of them stare out the windows and watch as the rain, once pouring, now turns to a light drizzle, a good indication that it should be stopping soon.

“So,” Meg starts out, breaking the silence and turning towards Evan, “I was thinking that maybe we could look at those papers I found in the study before we go…”

Evan turns to face her, his eyes glossing over at the mere mention of the study.  It turns Meg’s blood cold thinking about how she just ruined the perfectly good day they were having, but she presses on.

“If we are going against the Clown, and who knows what else is there, it may be good to know what your father knew.”

Meg knows that this is testing her limits in this newfound comfort they have somehow built over the last twenty-four hours, but as she said yesterday, she is there to find out about the Entity, and that is what she is going to do.

“Why do you want to look now? I doubt there is anything worthwhile in those notes,” Evan responds, his voice reverting back to its usual guarded tone, not giving away too much information other than using his words.

“Because from what I saw, I think there might be more there to help us…and even if there isn’t, we should look at it sometime,” Meg responds, trying not to get defensive, angry. 

She tries her best to make sure her voice is level and calm even if she feels anything but those.

“I don’t think they’ll help us with the Clown.”

“And how do you know?” Meg interjects almost immediately.  “You’ve never seen them! Did you even read them after…” Meg pauses remembering him holding the knife in his father’s study, “After I left the other day?”

Evan hesitates, looking away from her and out the window. 

“No, but I’ve seen some of them before.  I thought…” his voice trails off, but Meg doesn’t hesitate to fill the silence after he stops talking.

“What?” She yells, her voice cracking,  “I thought you didn’t know what they were! You told me-“

“I know what I told you,” Evan yells back, effectively interrupting her.  “I told you what I believed to be true.  I didn’t know they were in there, but I have read some of the notes in the past.”

Meg sits stunned, unsure of what to say as she has to concentrate on not shaking in her seat out of pure anger. 

“I have been saying over and over again that we need to look at those…” she fumes, barely above a whisper.  “And you let me think that neither of us knew about it…that you didn’t know about it.”

“Look, it’s not…” Evan hesitates, his voice a lot lower and his words not as aggressive as before.  “I found some of those spread out in the hallway after the 'incident' here…I thought they were nothing, ramblings of a lunatic.”

Meg stays silent for once, waiting for him to continue, to keep going, to answer why he hasn’t told her about it before this.

“I haven’t thought about those papers in decades.  It wasn’t until I remembered in a dream last night that I saw them before…” he stops again.  “Before I left my father to die.”

Meg’s mouth practically falls open at hearing the way Evan admitted to killing his father.  Although she knew as much, it was still weird to hear him say it.  She wasn’t sure if the regret and hurt clear in his voice made it better or worse. 

Evan takes her silence as a way of explaining what happened when he saw those papers.  He tells her how the details are fuzzy for him, but he tries his best to tell her about seeing the papers, what he read, and how he confronted his father in his study, beat him to a bloody pulp, and then dragged him down to the basement.

There’s a basement?

Meg wondered if Archie’s bones were still down there and it makes her stomach churn.

“The last thing I remember before waking up in that fog was walking away from the Estate, from here, and going into the woods,” Evan says, and for the first time since the beginning of this conversation, he turns to Meg, his lips tugging up into a sad strange smile, “And do you want to know the funny part of it all?”

He waits for Meg’s confirmation, which she never gives him, so he continues a few seconds later.

“I like to convince myself that I was actually going to find a doctor, or maybe even help for the mines.  I think I was doing the right thing, but maybe that was a trick by the Entity, maybe it was decades of wistful thinking but…” he swallows, his smile fading, “I really do think I was going to go back.  I wasn’t going to let him die. But…”

“But the Entity took you before you could do anything…” Meg finishes his thought, her voice small as she connects the dots.

Evan doesn’t look away from her, doesn’t even seem to blink as he talks, “That’s why I didn’t tell you about the pages earlier today.  I knew you’d go back to looking at me like you do now.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Meg asks, almost fully aware of what he means as she tries to ignore the way her muscles twitch, wanting to push herself up and run away, and the way her heart beats too loud in her ears, she can barely hear him over it.

“The fear in your eyes when you looked at me, it was almost gone, but now, the fear is as prominent as anything.”

Meg thinks about what to say in response, not quite sure what Evan is even referring to.  Why should it matter if she looks at him with fear? Realistically, in their situation, it shouldn’t matter…

But something has changed.

Something.  The word floats in her head as Meg sticks to the thought, not knowing what it is, but not wanting to go back to hating each other either. 

All she knows is that she just likes how they were yesterday at the bank and the store…and she likes how they were earlier with the food.

She doesn’t want that to change, she thinks.

“Look I don’t know what you want me to say, or how you want me to react. ” She peels her eyes away from him and closes the donut box as a way to keep her hands busy as she talks.  “I can’t help being shocked when you tell me you left your own father to die after killing over a hundred people,” Meg says, pushing the food away from them and folding her hands together. 

Neither of them say anything so she continues, thoughts coming to her mind as she talks.  “I’m not afraid, or mad now, I guess, that you didn’t tell me about the papers.  You just told me a lot and truthfully, I have no idea how to react.”

As she holds her hands together, she can feel her fingernails pushing into her skin so hard, she almost expects to see blood leak from her palms despite her continuing, “But…you haven’t hurt me.  The fear I feel…I can’t help it.  It’ll take more than a few days to go away after everything.  I know you won’t hurt me…just…don’t keep things from me like this despite how I may react.  If you try, I’ll try.”

She wants to know the truth, or really anything that can help her in her search for the truth of the Entity, whatever that means. 

Evan nods as he reaches out almost like he is going to put a hand over hers, but instead he rests it just beside her arm, not touching.  They stay like this for a few moments until he takes his hand back and stands up

“I understand,” he beings saying as he grabs the food and begins putting both the donuts and cheese puffs back in the cabinets where they got them from before he walks back over to Meg. "We can look in there when we get back from your friends' hotel.  I have yet to read most of the notes, if that helps."

"Okay, deal."

She gazes outside and sees that the rain has nearly stopped, leaving wet streaks along the window with no new raindrops hitting it. 

Taking in a deep shaky breath, Meg stands up and looks at Evan, giving him a quick nod, trying to change the conversation.

“Should we go? The rain has cleared up.”

Evan takes a moment before he disappears out of the kitchen, not telling her where he’s going or if he’s coming back.  She thinks about following him, but instead she uses this time to process what he just told her, and how to move on from there.

She can’t say that what he said was surprising, especially since Matt, the security officer, already told her that Evan was most likely to blame in his father’s death, but the way Evan described it sent chills down her spine and sent her mind to a dark place that she hasn’t been to for a few days.

She was almost forgetting how it felt to be in the presence of a murderer.  Although she never forgot what he did, she has seen sides of him that are so different from The Trapper, or even the picture of Evan MacMillan she had in her head when she first got out of the Entity’s clutches. 

Feeling nothing but terror every time she would see his face for as long as they were trapped, she had a hard time differentiating that from Evan MacMillan, but the more time she spends with him, really spends with him, without yelling and taking their anger and hurt out on each other, she feels like she can truly see the man behind the mask.

And she doesn’t want to give up on that man just yet. 

Before long, Evan comes back in with a canvas bag in his hand.

“We should pack some stuff to go.  We don’t know how long we’ll be gone, we shouldn’t go with nothing prepared.”

Spoken like a true hunter. 

She gives him a small smile and agrees, pushing herself up and following him around the house as he picks up various tools that she doesn’t recognize, but she trusts his judgement.  He stops by his room, and with Meg feeling too uncomfortable to go inside, she stays in the hallway, leaning against the wall waiting for him.

“I packed some more clothes for you,” Evan says as he comes back out.  “They should be the same size as the ones you’re wearing.”

“Oh,” Meg says, a blush crawling across her cheeks at the thought of him offering her more clothes.  She tries to replace the blush with a grin as she continues, “Trying to say you hate my style huh?”

Evan smirks back at her. “You can’t say you have style when you’ve been wearing the same thing for days now.”

“Oh so between this and the bath earlier, you’re just trying to say I stink and have no style then?” Meg retorts, crossing her arms across her chest feigning being hurt.

Evan chuckles and begins to walk away, but pauses to add, “You’re the one who said it, not me.”

Meg laughs at that, actually laughs, and it feels good.  She laughed with David and Nea the other day, but she’s never laughed like that in front of Evan, but…she couldn’t help it. 

“Do we really need extra clothes though? We will only be gone for a day, maybe two,” Meg says, peeking into the already stuffed backpack.

“We need to be prepared.  You don’t know what could happen,” Evan responds, already walking away with the bag without giving Meg a chance to fight it, and although she didn’t quite agree about the extra clothes, she can’t say she hates the fact that he is finally thinking about the possibilities of emergencies.

The tension from earlier slowly seeps into the background, not completely forgotten, but instead maybe it was just another building block to their already weird and twisted companionship they’re slowly building.

She doesn’t know if she would go so far as to say they were friends, that term seems too familiar for her, but when she looks at him now, she doesn’t feel absolute hatred like she did before.  She is almost ready to admit that she enjoys his company, but she wouldn’t admit that out loud, not yet, if ever.

But she will say that it is a feeling she quickly became addicted to, whether it was because she was craving that company from someone new, or maybe it was because she really enjoyed being around him.

So instead of focusing on anything else, she revels in the fact that she can actually laugh around Evan now as she follows him, circling back downstairs to the kitchen.  They pick out food to throw in their bag, including donuts that Evan wrapped up and tried to sneak in without Meg noticing, even though she caught him in the act.  She laughs and rolls her eyes at him and helps him position the donuts so they don’t get squished by everything else. They look at the bursting bag and agree that they should hopefully be set for their journey.

“One last thing,” Evan say as they get to the front door, holding out a small looking pocket knife to Meg. “You need to have this on you.”

Meg hesitates, knowing that while it is probably a good idea, the thought of carrying around the knife makes what they’re about to do seem all too real. Evan seems to notice her hesitation and speaks up, not letting her say no.

“You said it yourself, we don’t know what emergencies can happen until they happen.  Keep it with you,” Evan orders, his voice stern.

Meg nods and takes the knife from him and slides it in her pocket.

“I have some on me too, but if anything happens, and I’m not there, you have a way to protect yourself,” he says, his voice unusually stern.

That makes Meg feel a little bit more comfortable knowing that he has ways of protecting himself too. 

“Just don’t let anything happen to you and we’ll be fine.  I swear to God if you make me use this…” Meg threatens him by pointing the knife at him, still in its small sheath. 

Evan chuckles and pushes open the door for her, totally not intimidated by her threat.

After that, they are ready to leave, and as soon as they walk out and shut the door, Meg feels a kind of heaviness in her chest, already wanting to go back inside where it is warm and safe. Although she hasn’t spent much time there, she stares at the wooden door and takes a deep breath, hoping that this isn't the last time she is going to see it. 

Turning around, she pats her pockets quickly making sure she has all of their essentials, money, phones, and her knife.

Standing next to Evan, she looks up at him, almost waiting for him to look back at her.  It takes him a minute, but finally, through the corner of his eyes, he glances down at her before turning his body towards her fully. 

“This is it,” she starts, not quite sure what to say and feeling like she should make a point of some kind before they take off.

Evan reaches up and rests a giant hand on her shoulder, giving it a small squeeze. 

“We will be back, there’s no need to worry,” he reassures her, oddly comforting her. 

“I know, I just…nevermind, let’s go,” Meg stutters, nodding as she turns forward and walks off the porch. 

As they begin to walk, Meg eyes their supplies that Evan carries in his hand instead of carrying it on his shoulder, but the more she looks between the bag and his shoulder, it almost seems comical how small the bag is compared to him.  She doesn’t even think it would fit on him comfortably, and she almost feels bad that he is carrying it.

“I can carry the bag, if you want,” she offers, holding her hand out.

“I can do it,” he rejects the offer with a wave of his hand.

“No, seriously, I doubt you’d even be able to carry it on your back.  I can help,” Meg insists, not giving up until finally Evan hands over the bag to her and she hoists it on her back.

She doesn’t tell him how she is actually happy to carry it as it reminds her of the times she used to go hiking and carried her supplies on her back.  The weight is familiar and the comfort of feeling prepared relaxes her somewhat, despite the way she doubted him earlier about the necessity of bringing supplies.

As they walk, the backpack conversation slowly slips from her mind as she thinks about telling him how she feels about the house, how although she hates everything about it, the way it looks, the memories it brings up, the dust, and how nothing in it is her, she still feels oddly connected to it, and she doesn’t know why. 

She assumes that it is because it's the first house in ten years that she has had the chance to stay in, and she lets herself think that, not wanting to think too much into the causes of her feelings. 

They walk a little bit, making their way to the woods as the trees encompass them fully until all they can hear is the soft wet noises of their shoes on damp leaves and water dripping from wet trees around them.

After about fifteen minutes of walking, Evan chuckles beside her.

“I hate what I’m about to say,” Evan mumbles.  Meg’s stomach drops, unsure if she even wants to hear what he is about to say.  Her mind goes to the worst case scenarios that she isn’t ready for.  But instead of waiting for Meg’s reply, Evan continues, “You were right.”

That wasn't what Meg expected to hear.

“I'm always right," Meg jokes. "But what am I right about this time?”

He shoots her a glare before continuing, "Don't make me regret admitting you were right."

"Okay fine, fine, what is it?"

“My stomach…it might hurt, just a little.  I’m fine,” he quickly adds that he’s fine, “It’s nothing.  Doesn’t even hurt…but how unhealthy were those things you made me eat?”

Meg almost fights back, saying how she didn’t make him eat anything but she remembers that she really did. 

“In all fairness,” she begins, pointing a finger up at him as they walk, “I didn’t make you eat as much as you did.  I did warn you.”

Evan lets out a grunt beside her as he keeps walking, not saying anything to continue, but he shuffles just a little bit closer to her as they walk and occasionally, she feels his hand brush so lightly against her knuckles, but when she looks up at him, he remains as stoic as ever, facing forward. 

They bask in the warmth of the silence despite the frigid rain dropping down from the leaves as they make their way through the woods.

“So,” Meg breaks the silence after a few minutes of walking as the reality of what they’re about to do weigh on her more with each step.  “Can I ask you a few questions?”

Evan snorts beside her, “I feel like you will whether or not I say yes.”

Meg frowns, giving him a light tap on his forearm, “That’s not true.  I would stop.”

“Until later when you would ask me again,” he says calling her out as he glances at her through the corner of his eyes.

Meg scoffs and continues to look forward, refusing to make eye contact with him.  “Regardless, at least I’m asking this time right?”

“Okay, I will give you that.  What is it?”

Meg smiles, and thinks about the first thing she wanted to ask yesterday, and then they can go from there.

“You mentioned that the Clown’s name is Jeffrey.  Do you know the other killers’ names?”

The smirk that was on his face fades slowly and his whole demeanor changes with every passing second before he finally nods.

“I only know a handful of them.”

“So, were killers…close? Like, you know that all of the survivors had the campfire and we had each other, but…what was it like for you guys? The killers?”

Meg hesitates, not wanting to push him to answer something he isn’t totally comfortable answering, but they are potentially going to see another killer, and it is only fair that Meg knows as much as she can about who they might face when they get there.

But…even though she asked, and she justified it to herself that it is something worth knowing, she can’t help the way her stomach flips and her chest pounds as she waits for an answer.

She almost doesn’t want to know.  She wants to keep being in the dark, thinking that Evan didn’t know anything, he is one of the “decent” killers…

She can’t say he’s good.

He was a murderer before he went there…They have had to have been apparently.

But she wants to know.

Eventually, Evan speaks up, both his voice and his eyes seem far away as refuses to look at Meg while he talks.

“No.  We all had our own places to stay in different parts of the woods.  I had the Estate there, though I built my own house, refusing to stay in the house there.”

“You built your own house?” Meg interrupts, impressed.

Evan glances at her and nods, before returning to his original story.

“Killers can visit others at their leisure.  I never had any interest in communicating with the others, but they sure liked coming onto my property, some more than others.”

Meg thinks about this, images of the killers sitting around together and hanging out come to mind.  What would they even talk about?

The trials?

Killing?

“Jeffrey Hawk visited a few times.  Boasted his name loud and clear like some introduction to us being buddies, but I always kicked him out.  As I said, while never having interest in knowing any of them helped, he was extremely vulgar and repulsive, which solidified my desire to never come in contact with him again.”

Hearing that Evan, someone who also was stuck murdering people practically for sport, didn’t like the Clown makes Meg feel physically ill.  In her mind, getting to know Evan and how he is as a human being has helped lessen her anxiety when she thinks back to the trials with him.  The shock and fear and anxiety is still there, and she isn’t sure how long, if ever, it’ll take for it to go away completely, but knowing that Evan can be a decent person helps.  He didn’t like the killing and he was stuck there like everyone else.

The survivors weren’t so alone, it seemed, not that it would help much at the time as they were still being tortured and killed. 

But then…if the Clown was like that, he probably loved it there.  She knew he did, deep down, but she didn’t like to think of it much.  Even the way he would look at them, full of some dark desire as he watched them struggle.  The more they struggled, the more he laughed his repulsive, disgusting, wet laugh. 

Meg can’t think about him now.  She just wants to get to her friends and then they can plan. 

She swallows, pushing thoughts of him away, as she swears she feels another raindrop fall on her cheek.  Then another.  Then another.

She looks up at the sky, the grey clouds only looking darker than before, a clear sign that it is starting to rain again.

Meg quickly takes out her phone from her pocket and punches in the name of the hotel as they near downtown, wanting to put in directions before it starts raining harder and ruining the phone. 

According to their GPS, they’re still about a twenty minute walk away, so Meg quickens her pace just a little so hopefully they aren’t soaked to the bone by the time they get there. 

Meg looks up at Evan as she pats at her backpack.

“I guess it was good we thought to pack some extra clothes before heading out.”

“Even though you fought me the whole time,” Evan replies, a smirk coming back on his face.

“I did not!  You just told me I stink.  Plus I got stuck carrying the bag.”

“If I remember correctly, you offered.”

“I didn’t think you would let me carry it.”

“Well hand it here then,” Evan says, holding out his arm. 

“I’m carrying it now, I’m fine,” Meg says, flapping her hand in his direction, not wanting to give him all the satisfaction that he was right as she smiles up at him.

Evan chuckles beside her, “Well I can carry it when you get tired.”

“Who says I’ll get tired?” Meg replies, more determined than ever to make sure she doesn’t get tired of the backpack out of spite.

Evan smiles as they walk even after talking, and the few times she glances up at him, she almost has to take a double take, not totally used to seeing him actually smile.

Smirk? Yes.

Smile? No.

The tension while talking about the killers fades a little as they walk and the rain picks up.  They walk in silence, enjoying the sound of the rain around them and wanting to get to the hotel as soon as they can.

Meg speaks up, hopefully not ruining the mood, but she was curious about one more thing.

“Were there any of the killers that you did like? Or not particularly hate?”

Evan hesitates, the question hanging in the air between then.

“I suppose Philip wasn’t a bad guy, the Wraith.  He was quiet.  I had no problem with him.”

“Is that it?” Meg asks, not really surprised that out of all of the killers, Evan only liked one other one.

Evan nods, “I suppose so.  As I said, I never liked to talk to any of them.  Didn’t talk enough to get to know them, and they stopped coming onto my property.  Left me alone most of the time.”

“That sounds…lonely,” Meg says, looking up at Evan, trying to imagine over a hundred years being totally and utterly alone.   

Evan takes a deep breath in so slowly, as though trying not to let Meg see the way his chest shakes ever so softly before he speaks again.

“It was, but I managed.  As I’ve said before, it was what I deserved.”

Meg wants to say something to reassure him, try to make him feel a little bit better about the whole thing, but she fails miserably.  She is torn between agreeing that he deserved such treatment, and saying that nobody deserves to live like that.

But she knows she would be wrong, maybe people like Jeffrey Hawk deserved that…but Evan? At one point she would have said all of them deserved it.

Hell, even a few days ago she would have said Evan deserved it too, but she has come to see his regrets firsthand, so maybe everything isn’t as black and white as the Entity made it seem.

“But see,” she starts out, biting her lip, not wanting to say the wrong thing and talks as the thoughts come into her mind, “You clearly regret your actions that lead you there.  While they were horrible and heinous…you know what you did was wrong, and that shows more about you than I think you like to see.  You aren’t an inherently bad person.”

Evan slows down, his walking coming almost to a stop, and it takes Meg a few moments before she realizes he’s not walking beside her anymore.

She turns around to face him, and sees him stare at her with a stunned look on his face. 

Suddenly reminiscent of all the times that she felt like his stare could burn a hole right through her, she becomes self-conscious, worried that she said the wrong thing.  Not that it would matter, she tries to tell herself, she was trying to be nice.

It’s not her problem if he takes it the wrong way…but…

She sighs and gives him an uneasy smile.  After everything that has happened today, she finally admits to herself with a racing heart that she does care what she says around him.

When did that change?

“I’m sorry if what I said upset you-“ she begins to apologize, wanting to move on and get to the hotel that they think they should be close to by now.  She breaks eye contact and looks around, thinking she sees the hotel at the end of the street.  They could easily just turn and go, forgetting what she said.

But Evan speaks up, “No, no don’t apologize.”  His brow furrows and he stares at her hard.  “That may be the first nice thing someone has said to me in decades…even before the Entity,” he whispers so soft, she can barely hear.  He takes a few giant steps to catch up to Meg until they stand less than a foot apart, him invading her personal bubble, like always, almost like a ritual between the two.  But this time… it feels different.

She has to crane her neck to look up at his face, but she smiles, wiping wet strands of hair from her face, trying to blink rain away from getting into her eyes.

“Well, I guess you have stopped being such a pain for the last day, it’s only fair I can say a nice thing or two every now and then,” she says, her voice cracking halfway through, but she pressed on anyway. 

“Meg…” he says her name like it is a breath of fresh air, and she realizes that it is actually the first time he has said her name out loud.  The rain picks up as they stand there, feeling like electricity is flowing between them, and as much as Meg wants to step away, she doesn’t.  The force she feels standing there with him, them staring into each other’s eyes feels both unnatural and something that she has come to rely on these last few days.

If someone were to say to her a week ago that she would be standing mere inches away from the Trapper, staring up at him and feeling anything but pure terror and fear, she would have laughed in their face.  But here she is, not quite sure what is happening.

She feels everything all at once, and nothing at all, encompassed within the rain as he lifts his giant hand and wipes away hair that sticks to her forehead.

“Thank you,” he says, his voice unnaturally low and hoarse.  She is about to say something, or even reach up and grab his hand that hovers right above her ear that he just tucked her hair behind, but then she hears her name being called from behind her.

“Meg? Meg is that you?”

The desperate cry of Nea jolts Meg back into reality, and suddenly the electricity she felt with Evan becomes too much, shocking her away as she jumps back and clears her throat.  She turns to find Nea running at them, pure panic etched across her usually calm face.  Her wide eyes don’t even look at Evan as she runs up and brings Meg in for a huge hug, putting one hand on the back of Meg’s head and the other around her shoulders, pulling her in close.

Meg returns the hug and lets out a small laugh.

“What’s going on? It has only been a day…”

“No, I’m really happy to see you, I am, but something has happened.  I’m so glad you’re finally here.”

Meg’s stomach drops and suddenly the relaxing sound of the rain is too loud, too chaotic in her ears.  It rattles her to her very core making her too aware of her own heartbeat.

“What is it? Is everyone okay?”

“I don’t know…look Meg…” Nea finally glances from her to Evan who stands stoic, as always, quickly putting back on his professional demeanor that makes Meg want to laugh knowing that she has seen other sides of him.  Meg looks between Nea and Evan, curious about what she will say, but instead she squeezes Meg’s hand and pulls her in close, hissing in her ear.

“Look, come inside, but I don’t want him following us, not right now.”

Meg pulls away a little bit and frowns at Nea.

“Well, he can’t just stay out here in the rain-“

“I don’t give a shit where he goes but he’s not welcomed in the hotel.”

Meg is taken aback by the sudden one-eighty that Nea is trying to pull with dealing with Evan, but she swallows any defensive comments she wants to say back, trying to see Nea’s point of view.

“I know you don’t like him-“

“That’s not it! He’s a killer, Meg, and…” she pauses, taking in a deep breath, and even through the rain, Meg can see her eyes well with tears when she continues, “Claudette is gone.  She disappeared and we have no idea where she is but someone left a note, and I think someone took her.”

Meg freezes and begins shuddering despite not being cold as she looks at Nea, forgetting everything else around her.

“What did the note say?”

Nea pulls out a crumpled note from her pocket and despite it raining, she shoves it into Meg’s trembling hands.  It’s short, nothing Nea couldn’t have memorized already, but as Meg reads it, her stomach drops as her world turns upside down.

 

I know you saw me on the news, come and find us.

-J.O. <3