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Breath of Life

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Meg shakes her friend violently, and before she calls out her name again out of pure desperation, a sudden intake of breath and a silent scream finally meet her as Claudette’s dark eyes open so wide, Meg can see the whites of them almost glowing in the faint moonlight. 

“C-cold…” Claudette whispers as she begins to shiver violently in Meg’s grip.

“Oh Claudette,” Meg hugs her friend to her chest as she curls up beside her, letting Claudette regain some sense of reality as she grasps for the warmth Meg brings, climbing onto her lap.  “Claudette, I’m here, it’s me, it’s Meg.”

Claudette begins sobbing quietly into Meg’s shirt, but she doesn’t mind, she holds her friend for all they’re worth, forgetting the world as Meg starts whispering words of reassurance to the shivering woman in her lap.  She rubs Claudette’s back for a minute, trying to get her to where she will be able to walk out and talk, but instead as the minutes pass, Claudette begins babbling about something that Meg can’t quite make-out, which only sends shivers down her spine.

“Come on, Claud, we are all here.  Nea and David are outside.”

She hopes.

“We need to get you out and we can go, we can go back to where it’s safe, come on…”

Meg frantically waves her hand across the dusty floor looking for her discarded phone and finally, her knuckle hits the edge of the flat phone.  She scrambles to pick it up, and when she does, light floods the room, and she is thankful that the light is still on as she lifts it up.  Looking around the room, she notices the floor is wet and when she flashes her light on it, it reflects dark and red.

Blood.

“Claudette! Claud, is this your blood?”

The soft spoken girl lets out a whimper beside her.

“Come on, I need you to talk to me.  Are you bleeding?!” Meg’s heart races and her hands shake so bad, she can hardly grasp at Claudette’s clothes trying to see if it is her blood from now or…

“No, not bleeding anymore, I don’t think,” Claudette’s small voice brings Meg’s attention back to her. 

“Okay…okay…” Meg breathes out in relief, though not quite as relieved as she could be.  This was Claudette’s from before, and she can only imagine what happened here…

With tears burning her eyes, she hoists her friend up, throwing her arms under Claudette’s shoulders, trying to drag her out into the open at least.  Claudette fumbles along, and as soon as they get to the stairs, Meg takes the first one and turns towards her friend, keeping her held up.

“Can you walk down the stairs? Claud, David and Nea are outside, we just need to get to them, and then we can go.  We can leave.  I just need you to get down these stairs, okay?”

Claudette lifts her head up and looks at Meg for the first time since she woke up, and Meg gives her a supportive smile that comes off more manic than anything else.

She nods her head before leaning against the wall, letting out a quiet moan of pain.  Meg tries to focus on what is currently happening rather than what happened to Claudette here within the span of just a day.

That is something she can figure out later, but now they need to leave, need to get out.

Meg helps Claudette take the stairs, one at a time, as her groans of pain grow louder with each step.

“We are almost there, you’re doing great,” Meg tries to encourage her, hiding the fact that her voice cracks and she feels like she is going to throw up along side Claudette.

While they near the bottom step, she hears heavy footsteps outside bounding towards the house, fast.  Every single nerve and every single cell in Meg’s body begins to burn, wanting to run away, desperate to run away, because she has no idea who it is. 

“Claudette, I need you to hold yourself up for a second,” Meg demands, disentangling herself from her friend as she struggles to reach in her pocket for her knife.

Goddammit she didn’t want to use this.

She stands at the bottom step, tears welling in her eyes, as the footsteps leading to the house become louder and don’t slow down once they get closer.  In fact, they seem to pick up.

Meg grips the knife, her palm sweaty, and she hopes that it won’t slip out of her hand if she needs to use it. 

Taking in a deep breath, she holds it, unable to let it out and too afraid to move otherwise.

She sees a huge shadow come through the door before the actual person, and that is when she jumps out, slashing at whoever is at the door, but before she can do anything, strong hands grip her wrists and arms effectively stopping her movements before causing any damage.

“It’s me!” Evan yells bringing Meg close to him in an effort to calm down her wild thrashing.  It takes her a moment to hear him, or rather to register what he says, and as soon as she hears his voice she melts into him.

She stops and stares at his eyes, wide and panicked, which mirrors her feelings perfectly, and as much as she wants to curl into his chest, wants to feel some sort of safety and security, she knows now isn’t the time.

“Claudette is here.  You have to help her, and I can’t carry her,” she says, running back over to Claudette who still stands swaying on the staircase.  “I don’t know what happened, and she won’t talk much, but she can’t walk by herself.”

“Move,” Evan demands, his voice low, as he walks past Meg to Claudette.  He scoops her up with one swift motion, reminding Meg of how strong he really is, and how they really wouldn’t stand a chance against him.

She is just grateful that he is on their side.

“How did you know we were here?” Meg asks, following them out.

“Heard the scream come from the barn and rushed over.  By the time I got there, your friends were both there but you weren’t.  The snarky one said you were still over here.”

“Are they okay?”

“They found more survivors.”

“What? Who?” Meg asks, her heart skipping a beat.

“Wait-“ Claudette mutters.

“Claud, it’s okay.  We have you.  This is Evan, he is on our side,” Meg tries to reassure Claudette.

“No…wait…others…” she whispers before her whole body starts writhing as coughs wrack her body.

“Others?”

“Others…in the house…” she says, her voice sounding far away as though she is spending all of her energy to get them to know what she is telling them.

“Other survivors?”

“Mhm.”

Meg stops walking and turns back to the house, and it takes Evan a moment before he stops along with her.   

“Meg, stay with us,” he says, as though reading her mind.  “We can go back together, you don’t need to go alone.”

“Obviously Jeffrey and Jed aren’t there now or they would have come out while I was there with Claudette, and Evan, I can at least get them ready to go if there are still more of my friends there!”

“You don’t even know if that’s what she is trying to say.  She is delirious! Look at her.”

“I know! But if more of my friends are in there, I can’t just leave them.”

“We aren’t leaving them! It’s dangerous to go back alone, you know that!” Evan’s frustration is clear in his voice but Meg doesn’t pay attention.  She just thinks back to her friends and what if they need help.

What if they’re hurt and need immediate attention?

She can’t just let them bleed out when she can easily help them.

“Just…Evan I’ll be okay.  Go take Claudette to David and Nea, and then meet me back at the house, okay? I’ll get them ready to go.”

Whipping around, she begins running back towards the house with a newfound determination at the front of her mind.

“Meg!”

She hears her name being called after her by Evan, but she doesn’t turn around, doesn’t let him stop her.

“Goddammit,” she hears him yell before he turns away, and soon his heavy footsteps fade into the sounds of Meg’s breathing and her own frantic running hoping to find other survivors there.

Deciding to check upstairs first, she bursts into the next room beside where she found Claudette, waving her flashlight around wildly, only to be met with silence.

Okay, nothing in there.

The stark contrast of expecting someone to be in the room, to finding nothing, is jarring to say the least, but it helps Meg realize that she should take a few seconds to herself.

Just take deep breaths.

In and out.

Then she can walk around the old house calmly versus practically breaking down every door she comes across. 

Taking this opportunity, she steps out into the hallway and looks around.  The floorboards creak underneath her weight, but other than herself, she hears and sees no one.

The hallway is bare and dusty, a clear sign that it was abandoned until they got there, but it still makes Meg’s skin crawl and stomach flip.

A lot calmer now, she goes into the last room upstairs and pauses before pushing the door open.  Whether it is due to her adrenaline fading and her wits coming back to her about the uncertainty of what is behind the door, or if it was just because she maybe didn’t want to see what was on that other side, she doesn’t know, but all she knows is that her stomach is now in knots and her hands shake as she reaches for the brass doorknob.

She rests her fingers on it, feeling the cool metal beneath her touch.  Instead of turning it to open the door, she leans forward, pressing her ear to the old wood trying to see if she can listen for anything on the other side that could help her.

Is one of her friends in there? Or is it someone else? Or maybe even nothing at all.

She is met with silence, but she knows she wants to go in there to double check anyway.  As she turns the handle, she hears heavy footsteps downstairs entering the house, and with a sigh of relief, she decides to wait to check the room now that Evan is back and he can look with her.

Rushing back to the stairs, she doesn’t even look at who stands at the bottom until she is halfway down, until it is too late.

“It took you long enough to-“ she begins to say looking up, but then she stops as her whole body freezes and her head spins once she looks down at the landing, not seeing Evan at the bottom of the stairs.

Instead, she sees a huge silhouette resembling a nightmarish clown looking up at her, and her heart stops as soon as her eyes adjust to the darkness seeing who is really standing in between her and her one escape.

“Thought I heard a lil’ mouse upstairs,” Jeffrey Hawk, the Clown, slurs out, almost like he had too much to drink, but the way he stares at Meg with his beady eyes, and the way he doesn’t sway, not one bit, tells her that he is as alert as ever.

His greasy smile widens exposing rotting yellow teeth as he takes a step forward.

Bells on his outfit jingle, a cruel sound that once could be joyful within the right context, on the right people, but instead fills her with dread.

“You shouldn’t be here darlin’,” he drawls out before letting out a phlegm-filled wet cough.  His voice drips with the sounds of nails on a chalkboard and black tar, and that’s not what Meg ever expected him to sound like, but at the same time, it is worse than anything she could ever imagine.   

His giant frame encompasses the bottom step completely with no way for Meg to fit around him to get outside.

“Just let me go.  We will leave, and you’ll never have to see us again,” Meg tries to reason with him even though her throat feels like it is closing, and she can’t even get in a full breath.  He doesn’t seem to listen as he takes a step up, the floor creaking under his immense weight.

“What if I don’t wanna let you go?” He chuckles which makes his whole belly shake.

“Please, what could you possibly want with us now? You were stuck with us forever and-”

“Nah, lil’ mouse.  It wasn’t forever, but that’s what I’m wanting,” he slurs.

“What?”

“Forever,” he brings up a massive arm and wipes his nose, smearing grease paint and snot all over his face and on his sleeve before swallowing thickly.  “I don’t want to be out in this sorry excuse for a world longer than I need to be.”

As he takes another step up, he grasps the handrail, and Meg can see a faint beam of light from behind him coming from the door.

What if she ran and tried to duck under his arm? Could she fit?

But if he saw it coming, she would run right into him.

There really was no way…

She gave Evan her number but didn’t manage to get his…come on…

Where is he?

Her eyes dart around like a caged animal, trying to find an escape, but as Jeffrey ascends up the stairs, she knows her options become limited as she breaks out into a sweat.

“Come on, lil’ mouse, no need to give me that look.  Jeffrey will treat you right.  Haven’t I always?” he lets out another wet laugh and at that, Meg makes the split decision to run upstairs in order to buy time until Evan can get there.

Evan always knows what to do.

Evan said he would be there to protect her…

Suddenly her promise to keep her friends safe seems trivial and meaningless if that means that she dies at the hands of Jeffrey fuckin’ Hawk himself, and the selfish thought alone is enough to make her want to hate herself.

But she can’t think of that right now, not when she hears Jeffrey’s heavy shoes bound up the stairs behind her, at a slightly slower pace, but still too loud and too fast for her liking. 

She bolts into the closest room and slams the door shut, knowing she isn’t getting away, but maybe making it more a nuisance to catch her will buy her the time she needs until Evan comes back.  For a moment, she fumbles around, groping the door handle looking for a lock until she feels a small metal latch that she quickly turns, locking her inside.

Much as it was in the trials, she hears Jeffrey’s disgusting laugh before she hears anything else, and afterwards, for a moment, the house is silent.  Her mind lets her believe that maybe he stopped, maybe Evan came back, maybe he disappeared, but those thoughts soon came crashing down with the thundering sound of him pounding on the door Meg currently stood in front of.

“Come on, darlin'.  Let me in,” he growls from the other side, pounding on the door, making it rattle beneath Meg’s body weight that she holds the door with.  With every pound, her teeth rattle and her mind frantically tries to find some sort of solution as she looks around the room. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t much in this room except a few boxes stacked in the corner, as well as an empty closet to her right with more boxes.  There really is no place to hide.

She’s stuck with only a flimsy rotting door between her and a monster of a man whose intentions Meg can only begin to imagine.

There is a window to her left letting in the bright moonlight, and she tries to look out to see if she can see the other barn, see her friends, see anything familiar that she can call out to, but she must be on the wrong side of the house.  All she sees is bare, stark fields, and with a whimper, she tries to hold the door in place for as long as she can.

She closes her eyes and silently prays for Evan to come back, to rescue her from Jeffrey Hawk that still stands on the other side of the door, slowly breaking it down with every pound.  Despite Meg’s insistence of holding it shut, she feels the wood break on her back with every hit.  She knows that soon he’ll be able to break straight through the door, no matter how much she can hold it closed for now.

Before she can figure out what to do or where to go, the wood behind her cracks in half, officially breaking the integrity of the door itself, causing it to half collapse on Meg before she scrambles out of the way. 

What the hell is taking Evan so long?

Her eyes dart around, once more a caged animal, feeling even more trapped than before.  She stands in the middle of the dark room as the Clown stands on the other side of the doorway, blocking her one means of escape.

But she has her knife.

Her hand flies to her pocket and grips the handle, ready to use it if necessary, but she prays that she won’t have to as she stares at the giant man in front of her.

He has to duck under the doorway and slide in at an angle in order to get his full girth through the door, and as he takes a step towards her, Meg can hardly see him straight as her vision starts to blur out of fear…or is it tears?

She doesn't even know what was happening within her own mind, or her own body, as she instinctively takes steps back, hitting the wall behind her with a loud thud.

“I will use this,” she threatens, brandishing the knife from her pocket suddenly as a last ditch effort to make sure he didn’t come any closer.

It doesn't work though, as he simply chuckles a wet laugh within his chest, taking steps towards her until he is in the middle of the room, only a couple feet away from her.

If she reached out, she thinks she could touch his protruding stomach, but she can’t get herself to even move as he studies her.

“Didn’t think I’d get to see you this close so soon, lil mouse,” he muses, his eyes looking her up and down once more.

Meg looks around, hoping that maybe she can run past him and get to the door despite the fact that he stands directly in front of her, but she is fast.

She has always been fast.

Without letting herself talk herself out of the idea, she bursts into a sprint and goes to his right while she swings her knife at him, hoping maybe it would catch him off guard and give her one precious second for her to slip by.  She gets past him but he is too quick, always too quick, and she feels his arms wrap around her torso, pulling her back into the room.

She kicks back at him, hoping to hit him where it hurts, but no matter how hard her kicks come in contact with him, he carries her like she is a rag doll, never reaction to her frantic kicking and screaming.

Flailing her knife around her, she expects that even the various cuts she knows she is making on him will do something, but he only laughs behind her as he spins around, throwing her onto the floor.  She lands with a harsh thud and her vision goes dark as she smacks her head on the ground.

Groaning, she blinks several times to get her vision back as she tries to scramble away as best as she can given the circumstances.

“I admire your tenacity, I’ll give ya that.  I always liked seeing you run away in our trials, but now, now I can really play with you,” Jeffrey moans as he stands above her, watching her struggle to get away like this is some game.

Meg tries to push herself up as quickly as she can, but as soon as she begins to jump off the ground, a heavy black boot comes crashing down on her chest, pushing her back onto the floor and knocking the wind out of her.

“Oh, you’re not going anywhere, lil mouse.  Not until I’m done with you,” he muses.  She feels droplets of blood drip on her from the slashes she made in his arms and chest, and she thinks she can even see a shiny deep cut on his cheek, but it’s like he doesn’t even care or couldn’t feel it.

She gasps for air, feeling like she can’t get enough in her squeezing lungs from the pressure coming from his boot, and she wants to yell, wants to scream, but she can’t even make any sound come out of her mouth.  Absolutely frozen with terror, she has no choice but to stare up at his slimy grinning face.

Jeffrey takes his boot off her chest and she gasps for air, but it doesn’t last long before he straddles her and sits down roughly crushing her legs and pelvis into the hard floor.

Instinctively, she begins swatting at him, knowing that it won’t make a difference, but she has to fight, needs to fight even though now she is totally and utterly trapped at the mercy of Jeffrey Hawk.

“Let me go!” She yells to no avail.

He grabs both of her forearms in one giant hand and yanks them painfully over her head, causing her knife to clatter to the side of her arms just out of reach.  The tears that Meg has been trying to fight back this entire time now burn at her eyes and begin to trickle down the sides as she glares up at him, still thrashing and attempting to wiggle out from underneath his immense weight. 

This does nothing but make him smile down at her as he uses his free hand to grab her face, digging his dirty fingernails into her cheek.

He brings her up close, too close to where she can smell his putrid breath on her face.  He smells like death and decay mixed with the sharp stench of rubbing alcohol and chemicals.  She has to hold her breath to keep from vomiting as his watery eyes look her up and down, making her feel more violated than she has ever felt before.

“What do you want?” Meg blurts out loudly, trying to mask her fear by yelling, but it only makes her voice crack and crumble before her.

Jeffrey lets out a hum as he brings her closer, inhaling deep, and letting out a gruff groan.

“Mmm, you don’t need to yell at me, lil mouse.  It doesn’t suit you.  I can cut out that nasty tongue of yours just as easily if you don’t shut the fuck up for me.”

His hand grips her forearm so tight, she can feel his long fingernails cutting harshly into her skin causing blood to trickle down her arm, and she can feel bruises start to form the harder he squeezes.

She lets out a yelp of pain as he tugs one wrist up towards him, looking at her fingers.

But he’s not just looking at them, no…he is studying them, reading them like a book, and looking at them like nothing he has ever seen before.

He brings her hand up to her face, and despite her wiggling to try to escape from underneath him, it proves to be a fruitless effort as his weight bares down on her more, crushing her pelvis and grinding every single one of her bones painfully into the floor.

“My friends are here, they will kill you once they come back.  You’re outnumbered,” Meg cries out as her bones feel like they are to the breaking point, but he says nothing.  He only lets out another wet, disgusting laugh as he brings one of her fingers to his lips.

“Ah, but they’ll be awhile, I’m sure.  We have them nice and distracted,” he informs her, breathing on her finger.

“We?” Meg croaks out as her stomach drops thinking of all the possibilities that he could be talking about. 

She tries to pull her arm back, but the more she fights, the harder he grips, making it clear he has all the power here.  Jeffrey just laughs and shakes his head, not answering her question and not giving her any more information.

Despite his grip tightening to the point of being absolutely crushing, she tries to pull away more, tries to fight, but it makes absolutely no difference, and he pushes her finger past his greasy lips.  Rubbing it along the ridges of his crooked teeth, he lets out a moan before opening his mouth fully and licking her finger from base to tip in one obscene gesture. Trying to curl her finger away, to do anything that she can when she can’t even move, he notices and catches her finger between his teeth, stopping her movements. He bites down, not hard enough to cause any serious damage, but for the warning itself to be there. 

Meg tries to let out another scream, or anything to call out for help, but it only comes out as a sad whimper, which seems to please Jeffrey as he pushes her whole finger into his mouth, encircling it within his lips.  He sucks on her finger like a lollipop and then pulls it out with a lewd pop.

“What are you doing? Just let me go…” Meg cries through burning tears in her eyes.  Her thinly veiled composure begins to crumble and her defensive attitude slips from her as the seconds drag on, making her more into a pleading mess than anything.

“I missed the taste of these in particular, yes,” he grunts, shifting slightly on the floor until Meg can feel something long and hard jab into her hip, and once she realizes that the hard object was coming from Jeffrey himself, she wants to be sick.

“No, no, no please,” she starts pleading, thrashing around more and fighting against his terrifyingly strong grip.  He hasn’t even started anything, but the thought itself has Meg already seeing black spots in her vision, ready to pass out from the fear. 

He ignores her pleas as he yanks her arm towards him so hard, she feels her shoulder pop and her vision flashes white with agony, croaking out a painful yell that doesn’t seem to deter him from sticking more of her fingers into his mouth and sucking.

“These probably taste like that pretty little cunt of yours, don't they? I bet you use these to fuck yourself, huh? I can taste you on them…”

Meg barely registers what he is saying above her as the pain of her shoulder being moved around and her bones being crushed by his weight becomes too much for her to handle.  Her stomach heaves and her head turns to the side, spraying the ground and herself with vomit, her head whirling on the verge of passing out.

Deep down, Meg hopes that this may cause some negative reaction in Jeffrey, or something to make him get up, let her go, anything to lessen the pain, but instead she feels his hard cock twitch against her hip before he ruts into her thigh painfully.

“I didn’t expect such a show from you.  Didn’t expect you to be such a whore, wanting me to enjoy this, huh?” He laughs again, always with his laugh that Meg feels like she will never be able to get out of her head now.

It’ll be a constant ringing in her ears, a blaring horn, a dangerous siren, and through the stinging of vomit coming up her throat and some of it spraying through her nose, she can barely register what he begins doing.

He drops her arm with a thud, sending shocks of hot hot hot pain through her whole body, and next thing she knows is his hand groping her breast, hard. 

A newfound wave of nausea hits her as she tries to fight him even more now, and despite the agony that radiates through her body and the sheering pain of his dirty fingernails digging into her skin, she needs to get away.

Get away get away get away.

But she can’t move her arm, can’t even begin to lift it without wanting to scream, and unfortunately, the more she moves, the harder he gropes and melts into her like he is trying to consume her whole.  He bends down more causing his huge stomach to lean against her, making it difficult to breathe.

She resumes kicking her legs as best as she can, making her upper body writhe under him and she can feel her own vomit mix in with her hair and seep into her clothes.

Then a thought goes through Meg’s mind, so distant, she begins trying to make it happen.

What if she just let go, separate herself like she did in the trials as she hung like a piece of dead meat on those horrifying meat hooks?

She isn’t Meg Thomas and she isn’t being groped and violated and licked and tortured by a murderous clown.

She can be somewhere else…anywhere else.

It would be over soon, she hoped, or maybe Evan would come soon…if he didn’t leave her.

As time drags on, she begins to think her friends must have left, like they did in trials.

Left her alone to suffer, left her alone to die.

If she died now, maybe it would be all over, and she wouldn’t have to feel the painful sting of betrayal.

“Come on, give Jeffrey a little smile, huh? Don’t pass out on me yet, there’s still so much that I want you to feel,” Jeffrey purrs, rutting into her thigh again trying to get more friction between their clothes, and as he does so, his grip loosens just a little bit on her other good hand.

But with that, hearing Jeffrey taunt her as he does what he wants, something breaks in Meg.  She spent years with him where she couldn’t fight back and now…now she isn’t in the trials.

Swallowing her absolute terror, with the sight of this grotesque man on top of her and wanting to defend herself, a burst of adrenaline courses through her as she yanks her hand from his grip suddenly, taking him by surprise.  Her skin tears with his nails in the process but she barely registers the sharp pain as she grasps for the knife that is so close to her.  Swinging the knife up, she stabs it into his massive gut, causing a terrifyingly loud howl to come from the sweaty clown.

“You fucking, bitch!” he grunts fumbling off of her, giving Meg a chance to push herself away from him by frantically kicking the floor to scramble to the corner by the door.  He grips at his enormous stomach, and Meg knows she messed up by not aiming for somewhere more lethal as he stands up and yanks the knife out without hesitation. 

She tries to push herself up, only to come tumbling back down on the ground, her legs and hips too numb from his weight baring down on her for so long.

Jeffrey takes one large step towards her, his wound leaking dark blood onto the floor that he doesn’t even seem to pay attention to after the initial stab.

“Now that’s not very polite now, is it?”

“I told you to stay the fuck away from me!” Meg shrieks, still trying to claw herself away from him.

His face distorts as he grimaces down at her but before he can take a step forward to close the gap between them, a huge shadow encases the room.  Jeffrey seems to notice this too as he swings around from Meg.

“Ah, didn’t think I’d see you here.  Welcome to our little show!” Jeffrey announces with a brassy showman’s voice as though completely forgetting Meg was crying and panicking on the floor behind him. 

“Get away from her,” the voice growls, and Meg immediately recognizes it as Evan.  A tidal wave of pure relief washes over her as she tries to push herself up against the wall. 

“Hey, buddy, I never said you couldn’t get a turn.  I can be a nice guy, I can share,” Jeffrey boasts, finally stepping away from Meg so Evan can get a good look at the broken girl on the floor.

Evan’s face, already twisted with rage, flashes with something else entirely as his eyes land on Meg, broken, bloody, and covered in her own vomit on the floor. 

“Ahh, I see you’re a man of taste as well.  Like what you see, huh?” Jeffrey says, a laugh escaping his fatty lips.  Before Meg can even comprehend what is going to happen, Evan takes a couple steps closer to Jeffrey, winding up his fist behind him and sending it flying towards the Clown, landing square on his jaw.

This takes Jeffrey by surprise as the big man stumbles back, and a gloved hand flies to his face.

“Well that wasn’t very nice, bud.  You’re just like your whore here, resorting to violence before the fun even starts,” Jeffrey coughs out, regaining his composure.  Evan marches over to Meg, trying to get in the middle of them and never taking his eyes off of Jeffrey.

“You know I can do much worse.  If you know what is good for you, you’ll leave right now.  I’ll give you one more chance,” Evan threatens, his voice rough and low.  She has never heard him sound as dangerous and threatening as she does in that moment, and her chest tightens knowing that he is here defending her. 

Jeffrey stares at him for a second before letting out a loud laugh, followed by chunky sounding coughs.  He spits onto the floor before wiping his face on his sleeve.

“Or you’ll do what? Kill me? I can give you a slow death, and you can die watching me fuck your little whore over there.”

With that, Evan doesn’t hesitate as to throw another punch at Jeffrey, but this time, he was ready and steps out of the way.  Jeffrey elbows Evan’s back, almost knocking him to the floor, but Evan recovers fast, spinning around and launching towards the putrid Clown.

Meg watches from the ground with wide eyes and terror etched onto her face as the two giant men begin fighting in front of her.  She tries to push herself up or grab the knife, but with each attempt, her body falls limply to the ground and she hits the ground out of frustration at not being able to get up and help.

Evan lands decent punches onto the Clown, and once Meg hears the small sound of a tooth falling onto the ground covered in dark red sticky blood.

But with each blow Evan lands on  Jeffrey, the Clown lands one on Evan too followed with a horrid laugh.  Meg can almost feel the punches that land on Evan, and she tenses and twitches every time. 

The grunts and dull sounds of punches and kicks landing on the two men echo through the room, and Meg has never felt so helpless in her life.

They seem pretty evenly matched, and Meg’s heart drops when she thinks of the possibility of Jeffrey somehow winning.

No.

That can’t happen.

She refuses to let that happen.

So she wills herself to think that Evan will win.  Evan will save her.  Evan will protect her.

Evan’s face is twisted with both rage and concentration as he leaps forward, trying to grab Jeffrey and toss him aside enough to lose his balance, but Jeffrey ends up landing a hard punch on Evan’s neck, making him cough violently and stumble backwards himself.

Within the span of a few seconds, Meg sees the glimmer of something in Jeffrey’s hand, metal reflecting in the moonlight, and Meg’s whole soul panics when she realizes…

“Evan! He has a knife!” She screams, sudden adrenaline coursing through her veins as she scoots closer to the men fighting.  Evan is able to recover and as his eyes flick down to Meg scooting closer to them on the floor with her legs stretched out.  Evan gives Jeffrey a hard shove, causing him to take a step back and stumble over her outstretched legs.

Evan takes this chance to grab the knife from Jeffrey’s waving hands and without a second thought, plunges it deep within his chest.  Jeffrey sputters for a second, not even yelling out in pain, as he looks between the knife and Evan before collapsing to the ground with a loud crash. 

He barely misses where Meg is sat on the floor, but Meg kicks her way away from him and closer to where Evan is now standing, staring down at the bleeding clown before them. 

The sounds of Jeffrey coughing and gargling for a few minutes is the only thing that they hear, until even those begin to quiet down until there is nothing.

It is pure silence.

“Is he…dead?” Meg asks, still sitting far away, unable to move any closer.  She squints in the dark, trying to see any movement from the Clown at all, any sign that he is still alive, not quite sure what she wants more in that moment.

Can she live with herself knowing she helped murder someone? But then again, this isn’t just any other person…

This was Jeffrey Hawk, The Clown.

Someone who abused, poisoned, tortured, and killed her so many times…

He was going to do it again, and who knows what else he would have done.  Her mind snaps shut like closing a book, refusing to even think about what more he could do.

She helped kill him, but it was self-defense, she starts repeating over and over again. 

It was self-defense.

There was nothing else she could do.

“I don’t know,” Evan huffs.  “But I don’t want to wait around to find out.  We need to leave.”

She nods her head, silently agreeing through cloudy vision. 

“Evan, look, I’m so sorry…” she begins to say as tears well in her eyes.  “You were right, this was a mistake and…”

“Stop,” he whispers, his eyes finally landing on her.  “We can talk about this later.  Can you walk?”

“I think so,” she mutters, but as soon as she tries to push herself up, stabbing pain radiates from her hips, up her back, and then explodes in her shoulder, as she lets out a painful cry.  She hoped that it was just her legs refusing to cooperate from being crushed, but now she isn’t sure.

“My shoulder…Evan, I think he dislocated it,” she says, already letting fresh tears roll down her face.  “Goddammit,” she mutters, smiling a sarcastic smile at Evan.  Out of everything she had been through in the trials, she knows she can handle a dislocated shoulder and bruised bones, but why is this so incredibly painful? Even when she tries to move, she sees stars and feels like her stomach squeeze painfully, wanting to force all of its contents out again.  “Fuck!” she screams, punching the floor again with her good hand.

Evan kneels down, ignoring her tears and outbursts as he studies her shoulder.

“I…I don’t know how to fix this,” he says, “but I can try.” His words, although still slow and even, shake just slightly as he scoots closer to Meg on the floor.

“I’m fine, it’s fine.  Just…help me up.  We can fix it later.”

“You can barely stand.  How do you expect to make it all the way back to town?”

“Help me up!” Meg demands, getting more frantic through more tears that turn hot like the anger she feels radiating from deep within her.  “We can make it.”

Even through him scowling, she can see something else in his eyes as he sighs, bending down and trying to scoop her up into his arms like he did Claudette, but unlike her friend, as soon as he touches Meg, the pain in her hips and shoulder explode once more into fire and acid and agony.

“We can’t move you like this,” he says, matter-of-factly, but she sees a glimmer of sweat start to form on his brow, and her heart races.

He’s trying not to panic, trying not to show that he is just as frustrated as she is, and that somehow makes it worse.

She glances back at Jeffrey, lying face up, his greasepaint makeup dripping with sweat and mixing in with the vomit and blood on the ground. 

She can’t be in here any longer, not with him…can Evan move him?

No…no that would be impossible.

They can call 911…

And explain what?

How could they even possibly begin to explain this? Any of this? Or them…

Meg’s chest squeezes so tight and she begins to hyperventilate, feeling like there isn’t even air around her.

There isn’t enough oxygen in the room, and how can she think when she can’t even breathe properly?

Her vision blurs with more tears and she begins to not just cry, but sob pitifully on the ground, frustrated with the situation, but more frustrated with herself. Her being here is all her fault, and she knows this...if she only listened...

“Look, let’s get your friends back here.  You survivors were always good with patching each other up right? Maybe they know how to fix this so you can at least walk out of here.”

“H-h-how w-w-will,” Meg starts stuttering, barely getting any words out and the way her chest wracks with sobs does nothing to lessen the agony in her shoulder.

Evan immediately grabs Meg’s face within his own two hands and turns her face towards him.

“Look at me!” He demands, not yelling, but all the confidence he lost within the last few minutes returns to his voice.  Deep, strong, commanding.  “Meg Thomas, I will die here before I let anything happen to you.  We will get you out of here.”

She tries to listen, tries to focus, but her gaze flickers back to Jeffrey lying cold on the ground…

“No.  Eyes on me.  Only me, okay?” He commands, rubbing a thumb underneath her eye, not roughly, but with enough pressure to make her look back at him.  “Breathe with me.  We will figure this out.”

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

He deliberately takes in long breaths through his nose, holds for a few seconds, before exhaling slowly out of his mouth, which Meg can’t do immediately at first.

She hiccups and sobs for a minute before her breathing starts to quiet down and starts to match his.

Instead of focusing on Jeffrey Hawk, the Clown, potentially dead behind Evan, or how she just went through one of the most traumatizing experiences she could ever face, she focuses on the way Evan’s fingers feel gripping her face.

His hands are big, and it feels like her face rests in the palms of his rough hands comfortably due to their size.  His thumbs draw small circles on her cheek and up to her temple before coming back down to her cheek.  The movements are so slow, she almost doesn’t realize this thumbs are traveling up and down her face until she realizes they are at a completely different spot than they were when he started this.

She focuses on his face, illuminated dimly by the moonlight, and his eyes.  She can’t see the color of them, so she tries to think about it.  Green with gold flecks in the irises.  She wants to see that color again.

After a few minutes of breathing, Evan’s movements on her face slows until they are staring at each other, breathing perfectly in sync, and are a lot closer now.

His face is mere inches from hers, and she tries to tell herself it is because he wants to try to block her view of Jeffrey.

She doesn’t know if she quite believes that though.

He gives her a small nod and sits on the floor in front of her, bringing one leg up beside her, and extending the other one over her legs.  Still not letting go of her face, he loosens his grip so it isn’t so rough anymore without fully letting go.

“Better?”

She nods just a little bit, as much as his hands let her, and his mouth twitches into a smile.

“I say there are a couple of options,” he begins saying as he still stares straight into her eyes.  “One, we call the police, or whomever we can to come get you.”

“What would we even say?” Meg finally speaks up.  Her voice is deep with previous tears that she tries to swallow away.

Evan’s eyes search hers for something, though she isn’t sure what.

“I don’t know.  Therefore, option two is that I get your friends over here.”

Meg’s stomach twists and heart pulls as her mind goes into panic mode once again.

“You can’t leave! You can’t leave me here,” she says, beginning to look around but as soon as her eyes leave his, he pulls her face towards his again.

“I’m not leaving you, at least for long.  We need help.  You need help that I can’t possibly give you right now without causing more damage or more harm.”

“I can’t be alone, what if he wakes up? What if someone else comes?”

“We looked through all the buildings on this property, and your friends should only be over at the barn.  They aren’t far.  It will take me two minutes,” Evan says, a look of determination on his face as he lets go of her face.  “I will leave a better weapon with you.  Countdown the seconds until I’m back.  I will be back.”

"But Jeffrey said there was someone else here.  He said there was a distraction with all of you...what was that?" Meg asks, trying to control the rising panic she feels again.

Evan takes in a deep breath and sighs.  "Yes, they seemed to have heard something in the woods and wanted to go investigate it."

"Did they see what it was?"

He shakes his head and lets out a small laugh.  "No, but it took a lot of convincing. You survivors seem to like to rush into dangerous situations without thinking much," he observes with a frown.  Meg smiles at him, imagining Nea and David arguing with Evan outside.  What did he say to finally convince them to stay?

"Hey," Meg starts with a half shrug with her good shoulder, "when you spend years in constant danger, you want to know what is happening around you at all times."

Evan hums, bringing his hands up to cup Meg's face once more.  "I will keep you safe, Meg Thomas.  But first, we have to get your friends.  I will be back, I promise."

Meg doesn’t say anything, can’t say anything as her mind searches for the right words in this situation.  She felt like she was going to die, and not only was she goes to die, she was going to be tortured…and worse…in her last moments.

She feels like she barely made it out alive with Jeffrey, and now he is wanting to leave her alone again when who knows what else could be out there?

Evan grips her face as they look into each other’s eyes for just a moment, and he is so close, Meg’s heart starts racing.  His eyes flicker down to her lips and then come back up to meet her eyes, and for a moment Meg thinks that he might kiss her…

Then he lets go.

Meg pushes all thoughts away about what she thinks was going to happen, and she gives him a nod. 

“Please hurry,” she mutters to him as he stands up.

“I will.  You’ll be safe.  I promise you that.”

Meg gives him an uneasy smile as he turns to leave her once again, and she tries not to cry out of absolute fear in this situation.

But he said he’ll be back.  He hasn’t lied to her yet, she knows he will hurry.

She will be okay.

Taking a deep breath, she looks around the room, trying not to look at Jeffrey lying on the floor in his either dead or comatose state, but she definitely doesn’t want to get close enough to see.

Instead, her eyes glance over to the closet near all the boxes, and maybe she can hide in there just in case…

It’s her best bet, she thinks, as she pushes herself across the wet floor with her weak legs and uninjured arm.

She bites her tongue to try and keep her grunts of pain down to a minimum, but it doesn’t work as every single movement sends shocks of pain through her whole body.  All she knows is that she can’t stay in the middle of the room.

After a few seconds of pushing herself, she finally reaches the closet with a sigh of relief.  Wiping beads of sweat that formed on her forehead, she takes a moment to rest and take a deep breath, letting her body relax just a bit until she pushes herself in completely.

With one last burst of energy, she propels herself backwards and tries to curl up into the corner.  She pulls the dusty old boxes towards her, hoping that maybe it will hide her more if anyone were to come in, and as she gets situated, she thinks she hears footsteps coming up the stairs.

They aren’t heavy like Evan’s, and there is only one set of them.  Her mind begins to panic preparing for the worst.

The door to the room creaks open letting in a stream of moonlight right beside where Meg stays hidden behind the boxes, and she is relieved just a little by the fact that she decided to move herself.  She clutches at her knife, thankful that Evan was so insistent on her bringing it and giving her a better one than the one she had against Jeffrey.

Every rational part in her brain tries to tell her that this is just one of her friends, another survivor, or maybe it’s Evan and he’s back.  He just forgot to announce it.

But as time drags on, every second feeling like an hour, she realizes that this possibly can’t be a friend coming into the room.  She covers her mouth with one hand in order to stop her rapid breathing and quiet the involuntary whimpers that come out of her mouth.

Her mind plays the cruel image of Evan asking her if she was ready for this just an hour ago, turning it into a mockery of her confidence.  She thought she could handle this.

She thought that because she spent a decade being chased and killed, that she could handle being here no matter what she faced.

But she was wrong.

She should have listened to Evan.

She closes her eyes, and that is when she hears the voice of whoever stepped into the room.

First she hears him tsk and out of curiosity, she peeks out between a small crack from the edge of the closet and the boxes to see what is going on.

A man, average height and an average build, stands illuminated by the moonlight.  He looks down at Jeffrey with one boot on Jeffrey’s face, pushing it more into the floorboards.

“And here I thought you would put up a fight, at least make this a little bit interesting,” he mumbles, his voice is smooth like velvet, but drips with acid after every syllable.  It makes Meg’s skin crawl.

But then again…

She knows that voice.

Her brain goes into overdrive, trying to think of where she knows it.

People from her past, a past survivor maybe? Nothing comes to mind until…

“Thanks, doll.  You see, I was driving near the old barns down Egg&I in Chimacum, and that’s when I saw him.”

This is Jed Olsen…Danny Johnson…whoever Ghostface is, and now he is standing in the same room as Meg.  She quickly brings her head back, hoping that he didn’t see her, but all hope was crushed once he speaks again.

“You can come on out, Sweetheart, I won’t hurt you,” he calls out to the seemingly empty room.  Despite both of them knowing she is there, she doesn’t dare to move, thinking that maybe he is just trying to see if anyone else is in here.  It’s a bluff, one that she’s calling.

She doesn’t move a muscle.  The only sound she hears is her heart pounding so fast in her ears, it’s deafening. 

“Playing hide-and-seek is my specialty.  You won’t win,” he says again before taking a step into the room.  His boots splash in the fluids on the ground, making Meg’s skin crawl as she grips the handle of her knife tighter through shaking hands.

Jed Olsen walks around the room a bit, his boots occasionally splashing in some mystery puddle of blood or vomit or water, before looking around. 

“He got pretty carried away there at the end,” he says, but his voice is so low, Meg thinks that he might be talking to himself, that is until he adds, “Don’t you agree?” He pauses like he is waiting for a response before he continues, “I got some good pictures though, especially towards the end.  There were a few that looked like you were enjoying it.”

Meg presses her hand onto her mouth even harder, trying to gain some sort of control over her involuntary gasps.

“Pleasure, pain, it all causes similar reactions.  You just gotta know the right context, is all.  Hell, some people even get off on the pain.  Are you one of those people, Sweetheart?” His voice is so close to her by now, she just hopes that he doesn’t check behind the boxes.

Please don’t check behind the boxes.

“You know,” he pauses right in front of the closet door, so she can see his boots and his legs, but he can’t see her.  Not yet anyways, and if she believed in any sort of god, this would be the time for praying.

But her prayers were never answered.

So she prays to Evan, wanting him to come back.

Has it been two minutes yet? It has felt like an eternity.

“They say, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”

He takes a step into the closet, and begins slowly, so tantalizingly slowly, removing the boxes that Meg is encased in, and she can’t even move.

All she can do is watch it happen.

Soon the last box shielding her is removed, and the moonlight has never been so bright as she looks at the man that is Jed Olsen.

Before she can get a good look, he raises a camera and quickly snaps a picture, causing a shocking white flash to blind her vision, and for a moment she wonders if the blinding white flash from her shoulder dislocating was her mind reacting to the pain, or if he was there the whole time.

“Hi.”

Meg tries to propel herself forward and reach him with the knife, but the pain shooting through her body grips her movements and makes her wince.

“Well that’s no way to greet an old friend, now is it? Sweetheart, we are going to have to teach you some manners, aren’t we?” He exclaims, crouching down in front of her and snapping another picture that causes Meg to temporarily go blind for a few seconds.

“Evan is coming back, and if he finds you, he will do the same thing to you that he did to the Clown,” Meg threatens, furiously blinking her eyes trying to regain her sight while she swings the knife around with her good arm.  Even if she doesn’t hit him, it feels like it creates a more protective bubble than anything.

“Ah, yes, I did hear what that big oaf had to say while he was leaving.  You have him wrapped around that little finger of yours, don’t you? I wonder why that is…” his words fade away as he over dramatically raises his hand to his chin as though seriously thinking of an answer.  “Curious indeed, Meg.  Can I call you that? I’m going to call you that.  At least that’s what I heard him call you.”

He pushes himself up and starts walking around the room, as though he was talking just to hear himself talk.

“I never got the honor of hearing your name, and why, that hurts me, wounds me deeply, after all the fun we shared.  Doll, we really gotta have some bonding time of our own.”

“What do you fuckers want?” Meg grunts out in between throbs of pain.  Her shoulder and hips all throb uncomfortably in time with her heart, and it only gets worse the longer she sits there.

Where is Evan?

“Ah, there’s no need for such vulgarity,” he says, turning to her and flashing her a smile, ignoring her question.  “I bet that’s not how you won Ivan over is it?”

“It’s Evan.”

“Ivor. Whatever the brute’s name is.  What makes him so special? And what makes you so special? You see, these are all things I’d love to find out, but, as we both know, Igor should be back anytime now,” Jed says, marching his way back to the closet and kneeling down so he is face-to-face with Meg.  She tries to kick at him, a warning to get away, but he catches her ankle in his grasp with one solid movement.

Although he doesn’t look as strong as Evan and Jeffrey, he grips her ankle and twists it painfully to one side, causing her to let out a yelp of pain.  She tries jerking her leg back, but it stays stationary within his grasp.

“I expect some more decent manners next time we meet.  After all, it’ll be like a reunion, won’t it? All of us together, it’s a shame we couldn’t get family time now.  But I suppose it isn’t the right time,” he mumbles, still gripping her ankle as he crawls up her leg so his face is close to hers.  He takes his free hand and grips her chin painfully, turning her head one way and then the other.

He doesn’t say anything as he seems to study her as much as she’s studying him.

His lidded eyes are dark, and even though they are in a dark house, she can tell they are dark all the time, with almost black baggy circles under them. 

There is stubble over his cheeks and chin, a sign he hasn’t shaved in a few days.  His nose is crooked like he broke it one too many times and never bothered to fix it somewhere in his past, but his smile…

His smile is the worst part of him.  He has nearly perfect white teeth, but when he smiles down at Meg, she knows it isn't a good thing.  It makes her feel like he is telling her a joke she doesn't understand, but she doesn't want to find out what it means.

At least he doesn’t stink, not like Jeffrey did.  He just smells like cigarettes, liquor, and cheap hotel rooms. 

“I’ll be seeing you around.  Try not to have too much fun without me,” he mutters with no emotion in his eyes as he lets her go and stands up.  Taking one last look behind him, he walks out of the room, and Meg hears his light footsteps walk down the hallway and down the stairs…and as much as she wants to feel relieved that he’s gone, the absolute fear of being face-to-face with him takes over and freezes her to the spot.

Silence overcomes her, as her heartbeat and her shaky breaths are the only things that she hears for a few seconds until she thinks she hears distant footsteps outside once more.

As much as she wants it to be her friends and Evan, she doesn’t get her hopes up, not again, and she slinks back into the corner of the closet, hoping that if it is them, she will see them before they see her just in case it is someone else, someone else that she doesn’t want to get in contact with.

Before she gets far, she hears her name echoing through the yard outside.

“Meg!” Nea calls from outside and Meg’s heart leaps into her throat.

“Up here!” She tries to yell back but her voice gets caught, not going anywhere but within the closet she hides in.  Dragging herself out, she hears thundering footsteps pounding upstairs and run to the room.

Evan bursts in the room first and immediately goes to the closet.  He takes one look at the absolute horror that is etched on her face and falls to his knees on the floor in front of her.  It is a weird sight for Meg, seeing Evan lose his composure enough to collapse on the floor in front of her, but it isn’t something that is unwelcome.

Instead, she practically clamors for him, beckoning him close with her good arm until he encompasses her within his arms, immediately becoming a beacon of safety for her that she never wants to let go of.  She tries her best not to break down and cry, not again, but she can’t help it, as tears break and she silently cries into the chest of someone she never thought she’d crave the comfort from. 

A part of her doesn’t even want her friends to see her like this, broken and sobbing for what seems like the hundredth time today, but with Evan, she feels like she can cry into his chest and he’ll somehow make it okay.

“I’m here,” Evan whispers to her as he combs a hand through her hair, ignoring how wet it is with various substances.  “It’s okay.”

His deep voice soothes her and she clings to it with desperation, trying not to fall into the dark pit that her mind wants her to go to.  It helps her regain her composure, her thoughts, herself.  A few minutes pass then lighter footsteps finally come up the steps and stop once they reach the room.

“What the hell happened here?” Meg hears David ask from the hallway.

Reluctantly, she pulls away from the comfort that Evan gives her as she looks in the room, seeing two beams of light illuminate the floor, making it look even more gruesome than she could have imagined.

Jeffrey is still in the middle of the room, surrounded by old water, harsh red blood, and chunky vomit.  It seems like no matter where Meg looks on the floor, there is no dry spot, and it makes her stomach flip, wanting to throw up again, but she swallows and takes a deep breath, trying to control her reactions.

“It doesn’t matter now,” Evan speaks up for her after noticing how Meg only looks around the room, not answering.  “She needs your help so we can leave.”

He looks back at Meg one more time, and as their eyes meet, he reaches for her face, resting his palm against her cheek just for a second before nodding and standing back up.

“I think he dislocated my shoulder, fuckin’ bastard,” Meg spits out informing her friends of what happened, while also trying to sound annoyed to mask the feeling of her whole chest shattering like glass inside her.  “I can’t move without it hurting.”

As she wipes tears from her face, David comes over and kneels beside her.  Nea follows, shining her flashlight down at Meg.  Even from where she sits, Meg can see how Nea’s face twists with both worry and rage, reflecting how Evan also looks beside her.  It almost makes her want to laugh if the situation weren’t so serious right now.  They really had a lot in common, if only they could actually talk without hating each other.

“Okay, love, this is gonna hurt,” David says immediately as he shuffles closer to Meg and takes her hand in his.

“Oh woah woah woah,” Meg stutters, smacking his hand away with her free hand.  “Do you even know how to do this?”

“I’ve had plenty of these in my day.  Fixed ‘em myself most of the time,” David mutters back not quite looking at Meg’s face, but instead studying her flimsy shoulder. 

“Will it hurt after you fix it?” Meg asks, unsure of what’s happening.  Thinking back, she always took pride in the fact that she never broke a bone or dislocated anything despite growing up as a daredevil tom boy.  She always thought she was lucky when it came to her injuries, but now…

Now not so much.

David lets out a sound of amusement before glancing up, finally meeting Meg’s eyes.

“It’ll hurt like a bitch for awhile, and it’ll hurt like hell fixing it, but once it’s over, it won’t be so bad.”

Meg shifts and lets out a sad laugh.  “Thanks for the amazing reassurance.”

“Aye, you know I can’t lie to ya.  Okay, you ready?”

Meg nods and David begins to count down.

“Three, two,” he grasps her shoulder and her elbow in both hands, and maneuvers them in place on the count of two, effectively popping her shoulder back into place but not without a yell from Meg.

“Fuck, what happened to one?!” Meg yells, gripping her arm against her chest as her shoulder radiates with shockwaves of pain with every heart beat. 

“Didn’t want you to tense up,” David replies nonchalantly.

“Then why did you count down in the first place?!”

David stares at her, and shrugs before standing back up and looking between Nea and Evan, who both share equal looks of concern on their faces.

“Can you walk?” Nea asks, bending down and taking Meg’s hands in her own, filling Meg with familiarity and comfort. 

“I don’t know,” Meg mutters, deciding to try to push off the ground with her good arm, but as soon as the weight shifts to her legs, they buckle under her weight as her hips and pelvis radiate with pain from being crushed so long with the weight of the Clown. 

Evan doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even wait for a confirmation or an okay before he shoves past Nea and scoops Meg into his arms, much like he did with Claudette earlier.  With Meg's shoulder back into place, him picking her up doesn't hurt nearly as much, but she still hisses as he shifts her in his grasp.

“It’ll be easier if I carry her,” he says, adjusting her within his arms, as she leans against his chest, feeling both irritated at the lack of confidence in her, but comforted within his arms once more.

“Meg? Are you okay?” Nea says, taking a step towards the two of them while glancing at Evan, as though to ask if him carrying her was okay, not if she was okay.

Meg nods.

“I just want to go home,” she mutters, trying to control her voice as her whole body seems to be on fire with both her shoulder throbbing and the heat of being in Evan’s arms.

“We got the rest of them out by the road, we just need to call a couple of cars and we can leave.”

“The rest of them? The rest of who?”

Nea grabs Meg’s hand excitedly, ignoring that she is also mere inches from Evan, who stands there surprisingly patiently as they talk.

“We found others.  Dwight, Ace, Kate, and Feng were all in the barn.  We weren’t the only ones who got out.  So it looks like we lost all of our bragging rights,” Nea says with a smile squeezing Meg’s hand before letting it drop back to her side.

She nods her head at Meg before looking at Evan, and she does something Meg doesn’t expect in that moment; Nea nods at Evan too before turning around.

“Well come on you two, unless you want to hang around for this dude to wake up,” she says, gesturing towards the Clown, who is still on the ground. 

“We have to look around the house first,” Meg says.  “What if we find someone else?”

“David and I already looked,” Nea says, walking back towards Meg and Evan.  “There’s no one else here.”

Meg considers fighting harder for them to look again, but she decides against it, trusting their judgement.  She also thinks she should tell them about Jed Olsen, or Danny Johnson, but as they begin to walk out of the house, Meg in Evan’s arms, she can’t bring herself to talk about it.

Not right now, not right away.

She knows she will tell them as soon as they leave, she knows she needs to, but right now, she can’t even let her mind go back to the last thirty minutes of her life, so instead, she focuses on the way Evan’s strong arms feel as they carry her, and how with every step, she melts even more into his touch.

If you were to tell Meg a year ago, or a month ago, or hell, even a week ago, that she would be within the Trapper’s grasp and not want to be kicking or screaming, she would have laughed in your face, but now…now she doesn’t want to leave his arms.

Leaning her head to the side more towards his chest, she listens to his breathing and his heartbeat, both steady and strong, just like him, and she can’t believe that she is clinging onto him for safety out of anyone. 

Her whole body throbs painfully and her mind reels, thinking about Jeffrey, about Jed, about her friends, and she can barely keep up with all of this new information, so she stares at Evan’s face as he carries her.

He looks straight forward, clearly trying to avoid how she stares at him so intently, but she can’t help it.  She wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for him, and after everything they have ever been through, something has changed.

Everything has changed.

He saved her life, and now she feels she owes him something, anything, in thanks, but she can’t seem to voice it just yet, so she settles on calling out his name.

“Evan?”

He hums in acknowledgement as Meg feels the vibration deep in his chest.

“Thank you…for everything.”

She doesn’t even know where to begin to thank him for protecting her, for helping her, or for being there for her, so she settles on just a simple thank you, and when the time is better, she can thank him properly.

But even with her small thanks, he hesitates just a bit, a fault in his walking, before he gains his rhythm again, but as soon as he starts walking, his grip on her tightens, bringing her closer to his chest.

He doesn’t say anything in response, doesn’t even acknowledge it, but with the way his breath hitches and he holds onto her so tight, she doesn’t mind. 

So they walk in silence towards the road as Evan grips onto Meg for dear life, as she melts into him, not wanting this walk to end.