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Breath of Life

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Herman.

The Doctor.

One of the most ruthless, merciless killers out there was standing mere feet away from Meg, with only Evan standing in the way of the two.

Meg knows that she shouldn’t feel the electricity tingle from the soles of her feet up to the roots of her hair, but she still feels her whole body tremble as she peers behind her one protection. 

The Doctor leans to the side resting his right side against the wall, his legs crossed nonchalantly as he stares at Evan with an unnaturally large smile on his face.

Although most of his face was always visible in the trials, he never seemed human with his electric eyes and mutilated body chasing them around, but here he is looking surprisingly normal, and Meg doesn’t know if that somehow makes it better or worse.

He is very much human, but she saw how much he enjoyed killing and torturing them, just like Jed Olsen and the Clown…He’s no better than them, but as the three stand silently staring at each other, she can only hope she is wrong.

“Hello, Evan.  It’s been awhile.  I can’t even recall the last time I saw that lovely face of yours,” the Doctor, or as Evan called him, Herman spoke. His voice was deep but still sent chills down Meg’s spine thinking about all the times she heard his electric sounding laugh. 

Evan doesn’t respond, not right away, he only puts out an arm beside him and slightly backwards keeping Meg in place behind him.

“That was by choice.  Now I’ll ask again, what are you doing here?” Evan growls as his whole body tenses ready to attack at a moment’s notice. 

“Why, I could ask you the same thing.  What an interesting place to run into each other, isn’t it?” Herman says, pushing himself off the wall and gesturing around.  “And I see you have a little friend here with you.  Care to introduce us?”

Even though Meg is still behind Evan and can’t see his face, with the mention of her, she feels red hot anger radiate from him, filling the air like a last warning, and she has no idea how to stop the dam from bursting.

Her first instinct is to run, to tell Evan to just drop it and get away so they’re safe, they’re alive, and they’re away from Herman, but she can’t leave her friends, especially since she doesn’t even know where Feng is…

“Evan,” Meg croaks out his name at her sudden realization, “Evan, what if he has Feng?”

“What if I have who?” Herman overhears despite Meg trying to keep her voice down.  “I can assure you I am in possession of nobody.  Come on out from behind Evan, dear, there’s no need to be shy.”

“Meg, don’t move,” Evan instructs as he takes a step forward closing the gap between him and Herman.  “Herman, after what we have been through, I will not hesitate to kill you right here if you don’t start answering my question.”

“Such harsh words, such brutish manners.  You are making a spectacle out of yourself here, Evan.  Do you want to go outside where we can talk like civil human beings?” Herman asks, raising his arms up to his sides and gesturing around them.  There aren’t many people around but a few lone individuals in the waiting room, as well as a nurse eyeing them suspiciously from behind a desk waiting for it to escalate or keep going.

“No,” Evan huffs barely above a whisper.  “We are leaving, and I swear to any god or deity there is out there, if I see you again, I won’t hold back.”

Herman doesn’t say anything, he just smiles, but as Evan turns around and grabs Meg’s hand to pull her along with him, she doesn’t move, something keeping her tethered to the spot. 

“Evan, look, I’m all for leaving, but we need to find Feng, and we need to tell the others,” she hisses, hoping it was quiet enough to where Herman doesn’t hear, but that hope is quickly squandered when Herman laughs. 

“If this makes this whole awkward situation better,” Herman interjects, “I can assure you, I’ve changed my ways.  As much as killing every single day was enjoyment enough, it did get tiresome after awhile.  That was never my main goal anyways.”

Meg doesn’t move, she doesn’t even turn around to face him as she stares at Evan for any sign of approval.  They need to tell their friends, there is no doubt about that, and the way the hair on her neck stands straight up, she isn’t sure she believes Herman as far as she could throw him.

“There was no…spark, I could say.  Here, I may do as I wish,” he finishes his sentence with another cold laugh, making Meg shake where she stands.

“Look, where is Feng?” Meg finally asks, swinging around propelled by the absolute shock and fear she feels deep in her bones as she turns to face Herman.  Evan is behind her, and without him guarding her, she feels strangely exposed, a deer in headlights as Herman looks at her.

The way his eyes begin to roam her body isn’t in a lustful way, but rather like he is examining her, calculating what she might do next, and all she can do is stand there and try to breathe normally, her nostrils flaring from the fire burning in her chest. 

“Excuse me,” the nurse from earlier finally speaks up as she stands up from behind the desk, phone already in hand.  “May I remind you three that we are a hospital, and you need to lower your voices or step outside, please.”

Meg is the only one to mutter any sort of apology as both Evan and Herman stare at each other, Herman still with his unnaturally wide grin and Evan with his eyes filled with hate. 

“Look let’s just go outside-“ Meg says to Evan, her voice low as she glances at the nurse, still staring at them to see what they’re going to do next.

“After you,” Herman gestures behind Evan with a small bow, extending his arm towards the hospital entrance.

With a frown and a sound of annoyance, Evan grabs Meg’s hand, a gesture Herman doesn’t miss as his eye contact finally breaks and flickers to their hands, and somehow, his smile grows even wider as he stands back up straight.  Evan ushers Meg outside slightly in front of him as he looks over his shoulder at Herman who follows them just outside the sliding glass doors.

The once peaceful sun outside now seems too intense, a spotlight on what is happening as Meg begins to break out in a cold sweat looking between the two huge men with her out in broad daylight.

“So,” Herman ends up breaking the silence as he crosses his arms over his broad chest.  “You were asking about someone.”

“Feng,” Meg speaks up, her nerves vanishing slowly as she thinks about her friend.  “I know you have her.”

Herman lets out a thoughtful hum before opening his arms with a sweeping gesture.  “I can assure you, as I said, I don’t have anyone.  I am simply trying to make a new life for myself before you two showed up.”

“Before we showed up?” Meg scoffs, becoming too brave for the situation.  Evan takes a step forward behind her, putting a hand on her lower back, a small gesture that reminds her not to provoke him too much, despite how she feels in that moment.  “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have to be, but why are you here? What could you possibly gain by being here?”

“Why those are an awful lot of questions for someone you just met,” Herman answers as he glances over to the hospital doors as though waiting for someone to come out.  “Though I don’t feel I need to answer them as my life is my own business, I do appreciate the sentiment.  Now, if we are done here, if you’ll excuse me-“

“No,” Meg snaps. 

“Meg,” Evan warns, his anger still clear in his strained voice that wavers slightly as he talks.  “I know how you’re feeling but just let him go.  If he wants to leave, that’s what is best for us right now.  We can’t do anything and we just need to go.”

“Let him go?” Meg swings around at Evan.  “Let him go?! He has to have Feng, right? She has disappeared and-“

“Who has to have me?”

Meg’s rant is suddenly cut short by the front doors opening and Feng walking outside and with a quick glance, Meg notices that she looks just the same as she did after their fight.  She doesn’t look hurt in any way, and as Meg slowly turns back towards Herman, she is met with his huge smile and a twinkle in his eye.  “I told you,” he purrs.

“Meg…” Feng stutters, finally looking at Herman, her eyes wide and filled with panic.

“Herman Carter,” he introduces himself with a small bow.  “You must be the mysterious Feng I’ve been hearing about.  Your friends were quite worried about you.”

“Herman, leave her alone,” Evan commands, stepping around Meg to get in front of both her and Feng.

“Why, I’m not doing anything a gentleman such as myself wouldn’t do in the presence of such fine young women.  You could use a lesson or two in manners, Evan,” Herman replies, his smile never fading like he is in on some inside joke that no one else knows. 

As though a switch flipped in Evan’s mind, he grabs Meg’s hand and turns around, dragging her off away from Herman and Feng while angrily muttering, “Enough is enough.  We need to leave.  Now.”

“What? What about the others? What about Kate?” Meg hisses as Evan begins to pull her away from Herman who merely stands observing them as Meg stumbles a bit to keep up with Evan’s long strides.  “It’s not like Kate can just leave the hospital, not now…”

“I don’t care,” Evan mutters as Herman’s laugh grows quieter the farther they walk away.  “It’s not safe with him here, I don’t care what he says.”

“Evan, stop,” Meg demands, yanking her arm back as soon as they round the corner, breaking line of sight with Herman at the entrance to the hospital.  Feng didn’t follow them, not right away, but Meg doesn’t even think about it as she looks at Evan huffing like an angry bull.  “What has gotten into you?”

“It’s him! He is dangerous, Meg, more dangerous than the others by far and him being here is anything but a good sign,” Evan yells, smashing his fist into the hard cement wall next to them.  Meg jumps back, flashes of the Trapper coming to her mind seeing Evan like this and not his usual collected self. 

Sure, she has seen him mad and yell, but never enough to lash out and actually hit something, let alone a cement wall.  This isn’t the Evan she has seen, and although every instinct tells her to walk away, go back inside, she doesn’t, not when he’s like this.  He hasn’t left her when she’s been in bad moods, she can handle this…she thinks.

Tentatively, she reaches out a hand and places it on his forearm that still presses into the building, and where his knuckles meet the wall, streaks of dark red blood run down the bright white paint.

Her touch is enough to make him look at her as she gently moves her hand down his arm, to his hand, and takes it within both of hers, lowering it down so she holds his hand in front of her.  She doesn’t break eye contact with him, and she doesn’t say anything, but as the moments pass, his once rapid, shallow breathing begins to slow down, get deeper, and soon his face begins to relax as well.

“Meg…I’m sorry…” He begins to say before Meg lowers her hands, letting go of his and wrapping her arms around his midsection pulling him into a hug, leaning her head against his chest. 

“It’s okay.  I know,” Meg whispers as Evan hesitates for a split second, seemingly still trying to process that Meg is hugging him out in the open like she is.  Before long, he raises his arms up and pulls her closer into a tight hug together as he leans down slightly, resting his head on the top of hers. 

There have been so many times within the last few days that Evan has comforted Meg, and she can’t even begin to express how grateful she is for that, for him, and if she could have the chance to soothe any of his worries, she wants to help.

She wants him to be okay.

They stay like this for a few minutes, Meg breathing slowly in time with Evan, until they hear footsteps approaching them from behind.  Reluctantly, they both let go slowly, taking a step back from each other.

“Are you okay?” Meg asks quietly, taking his injured hand again in hers as she brings it close to inspect it.  His knuckles are cut, swollen, and turning different shades of purple and red from where he punched the wall, but if he was in any pain, he made no move to show it.  “This looks bad.  Are you sure you didn’t break something?”

Evan just chuckles and shakes his head.  “I’m fine.  I’m not sure what came over me, but my point still stands from earlier.  We should leave as soon as we can.”

“I know,” Meg agrees, but before she can say anymore, Feng comes walking up behind them.  With a deep breath, Meg turns away from Evan and towards her friend, eager to know just where she was during that whole time.  “Where did you go?”

“When?” Feng asks, shuffling from foot to foot before leaning against the wall, completely ignoring the drying blood beside her.

“Well, I don’t know,” Meg says sarcasticly, “Maybe before after we fought, and also just now.  That was clearly-“

“The Doctor,” Feng interrupts.  “Yeah, I know.  He said as much earlier.”

“Earlier? What do you mean earlier?” Meg asks, letting go of Evan’s hand and letting hers fall to her side, walking closer to Feng. 

“After our fight.  I mean…Meg I’m sorry about that,” she mutters, flicking her eyes up at Evan and then back on the ground.  “It was uncalled for, I know.  It’s all a lot to handle, ya know?”

“I mean, yeah, and that’s fine but lets rewind and tell me what you meant by ‘he said as much earlier’,” Meg continues, perplexed that she could come off with that statement as though it meant nothing.

Feng blows a puff of air from her nose like she is amused by something, but nothing about whatever is around them is funny to Meg in that moment.  Feng kicks at the ground before looking back up at Meg.

“Well, I didn’t know that was him,” she begins by saying.  “He was just some charming man that came up to me a little bit ago in the hospital.  Said I looked lost, I guess.  Because, Meg, I was mad earlier, like, really mad, but then when I calmed down, I had no idea what area of the hospital I ended up in.  So he began asking questions about me and why I was there and then it was like a light turned on and I finally realized that it was him.”

Meg’s mouth falls open in shock and she can’t help the annoyance that laces her next words.  “You finally realized it was him? After how long? What did you tell him?” Meg asks beginning to panic at what could have possibly been said.  After all, Meg knew it was him right away.  How he was dressed, his smile, and although he didn’t look inhuman like he did in the trials, his very aura was the same, as well as his laugh.  It couldn’t have been more obvious to her…why did it take so long for Feng?

“It’s not like I did it on purpose, okay?” Feng hisses back before pinching the bridge of her nose and closing her eyes.  “I may have let slip where we are headed after here.  Issaquah.  But that was before I knew it was him!” She reiterates while opening her eyes and looking away, a slight red blush appearing on her nose and cheeks. 

“Are you serious? Why would you go around telling anyone that? You have no idea what could happen or who is out here…”

“I know, it was stupid! I…I didn’t want to think he’d do anything, or you guys would see him.  I was on my way back trying to find you and…him,” she motions over to Evan, “but then I saw the three of you standing outside.”

“But I just don’t understand why you’d tell anyone where we are going? What would anyone want with that information, let alone some ‘stranger’ you met in a hospital?” Meg is practically yelling now, feeling like she can’t wrap her head around what Feng is saying.  Feng isn’t dumb, she knows that, but this…this is completely out of pocket for her. 

“Did you talk to him for long? Alone?” Feng asks, pushing herself off the wall forcefully getting closer to Meg.  Her whole face is a shade of pink, out of embarrassment or anger, Meg can’t say for sure, but she doesn’t care either way.  She probably looks just the same.

“No, I was with Evan -”

“Then you don’t know what he’s like!” Feng yells, the sheer volume of her voice matching Meg, and she is almost sure someone will come outside and tell them to be quiet with how they’re arguing.  “I was telling him things before I consciously knew what I was doing.  He made me feel things, Meg.  He’s charming and manipulative and nothing like the person we saw in the trials.”

Meg stands there, her anger bubbling in her chest trying to think of anything rational to say without completely laying into Feng about everything that has happened today.

“She’s right,” Evan speaks up while stepping closer to Meg.  He lays a hand on her shoulder and instantly the anger she feels seems to begin to dissipate, cool down.  Her chest and face don’t feel as hot as Evan continues.  “As I’ve said before, he’s dangerous.  He knows people, and he knows how to make them talk.”  No one says anything right away as Feng looks past Meg and up at Evan, finally looking at him for once without looking so disgusted.  “That’s why we need to leave.  I don’t know what he could be planning, but if he knows we are here and where we are going, the sooner we leave, the better,” Evan adds, stepping so he’s beside Meg.

“We should be fine.  I didn’t tell him much, not enough for him to find us, I don’t think,” Feng mutters. 

“Well, there’s that at least,” Meg mumbles, still not quite as forgiving about the whole situation despite what Evan said.  First Feng yells at her for bringing Evan around them, then she goes and talks to a killer without realizing it’s them for who knows how long.  The hypocrisy is just blaring like a horn in her face but she doesn’t say anything more, knowing that if she were to open her mouth, she would say something she regrets. 

Instead, she turns towards Evan, completely away from Feng.  “We can’t really leave Kate though.  The best we can do is see if she can be transferred to another hospital or something.”

“I guess,” Feng speaks up.  “But who knows how long that’ll take.”

“All I am positive about is that we will be safer back at the estate,” Evan points out before grabbing Meg’s hands within his while looking directly at her, ignoring that Feng is even there by now.  “I told you that you have become my priority, and as much as I’d like to think I can protect you against Herman, he is strong, and I don’t want to risk anything here when I know I have a better chance on my own land.”

Meg’s eyes begin to well with tears at his words, almost too overwhelmed at how much he wants to protect her.

“Okay,” she clears her throat.  “We need to go talk to Ace and Kate, but okay.  I trust you,” she breathes out, the weight of her trust not lost on her despite everything that has happened.  She knows how powerful her admitting she trusts him is, and all she hopes is that Evan isn’t steering her wrong.  She knows that it wouldn’t be on purpose, but as much as he knows about Herman, he thinks this is the best choice and this is what Meg will go with.

Feng doesn’t say anything as Meg turns around, blinking back the tears that pooled in her eyes a few seconds ago.  “Can you get Dwight and David while we go see what we can do about Ace and Kate?” Meg asks, and without another word, Feng nods and turns to go back inside. 

Following Feng in, Meg and Evan go straight to Kate’s room, both hoping that they don’t run back into Herman on the way. 

“Well didn’t think I’d see you two back so soon,” Ace greets them as they walk in the room.  He hasn’t moved since they left him alone with Kate, still gripping her hand in his while she sleeps.  His usual smirk starts to disappear once he gets a good look at Meg “Everything good?”

“Ehhh, not exactly,” Meg says, taking a seat.  “The Doctor, from the trials, he’s here in the hospital.”

“Ah…well shit,” Ace mutters, leaning back in his chair while running his fingers through his hair.  “Is he like, good? Like our friend over here?”

“No,” Evan says immediately.  “He says he means well, but don’t trust him.”

Meg looks at Evan, his shoulders and back so tense, she can see his muscles bulging and shaking beneath his clothes.  She wonders what happened between them.  It must be something that happened while they were in the Entity’s realm, but what more could have happened between them to where the mere sight of him was enough to drive Evan to punching a wall?

Tucking that question away for later, Meg decides to break the silence with Ace being surprisingly quiet for once.

“So we were thinking that we could look into Kate being transferred to another hospital or something. It isn’t safe here, not with him being around, and we were thinking about heading back to the estate as soon as we can too.”

“That’s probably smart.  Let me go see what I can do,” Ace says, nodding his head in agreement.  “What’s the town again? Issaquah?”

Meg nods and watches as Ace exits the room, hearing his loud voice echo at the nurses station just outside the door.

“Mary, my muffin, I have a favor to ask.”

Meg and Evan continue to sit in silence listening to Ace’s particularly loud attempt at convincing the poor nurse sitting at the nurse’s station that they need to talk about transferring right away.

“Mr. Visconti, someone will be in to talk with you and your wife in a little bit about a transfer.”

“But how long is a little bit? Just a ballpark estimate?”

“I am not sure, but as soon as I find out, I will let you know.”

While there is a lull in Ace’s conversation outside, Meg hears a small groan coming from the bed and as she looks over, Kate’s eyes are opening slowly as she grimaces, gripping her stomach.

“Was that Ace?” She groans, her eyes looking out the door towards his voice as he still pesters the nurse, Mary, like he was with Sheila earlier.  Before she has an answer from Meg, her eyes scan the room and stop on the big white board beside the bed.  “Kate Visconti?”

Meg lets out a laugh as she jumps up, excitement overcoming her at Kate being awake and being okay.  Going over to the seat that Ace was in before she woke up, Meg plops down and grabs Kate’s hand, giving it a squeeze.  “Yeah, apparently you’re Ace’s wife now.”

Kate’s whole face relaxes as she laughs as best as she can given the circumstances before she shakes her head in amusement.  “Really now? How was the wedding?”

“It was pretty small.  Nea got drunk and David got into a fight with the bartender but overall it was nice,” Meg jokes.

“Sounds about right,” Kate says before clearing her throat and swallowing hard.  Wincing, she looks around another time.  “Is there any water?”

Nodding, Meg quickly gets up and gets her a small plastic cup of water from the sink in the room before sitting back down.

“Thank you.  It’s really nice for you guys to be here.  I didn’t mean to make such a fuss,” Kate says just before she quickly drinks all the water in the cup and with an audible sigh, she continues,  “So what happened? I mean the last thing I remember was being in so much pain…I don’t remember much after going into the hotel bathroom…”

“Turns out that the Clown was poisoning you,” Meg says, getting up and refilling Kate’s cup with more water.  “It just took awhile for the symptoms to show up, but according to the doctors, you’ll be fine.  They just want to keep you for some observations tonight.  But…” Meg hesitates, not completely wanting to cause Kate more stress, especially not now, but she should know about Herman.  They can’t just keep the fact that there is yet another killer around. 

“What is it, hun?” Kate asks, reaching out slowly and resting her hand on Meg’s, and Meg’s chest grips with guilt.  She should be the one comforting Kate right now, not the other way around.  Flipping her hand over and grabbing Kate’s, she scoots closer to the edge of her seat.

“Well, you’re okay, but we ran into the Doctor here.”

Kate’s face scrunches up in confusion.  “Well, I sure hope so.  There should be plenty of doctors here…in the hospital?”

“What? No…oh God, no I mean yes, there are doctors but I meant The Doctor.  From the trials.”

“Oh.  Well…that’s not good news now, is it?” Kate gives Meg’s hand a squeeze before laughing quietly.  “It just seems like it’s one thing after another, doesn’t it? He didn’t hurt you at all, did he? Because if he did, I will get out of this bed and-”

Meg smiles, and as she looks up and over at Evan, he actually has a small smile on his face as Kate talks, once again threatening to protect them against anything event hough she is the one who nearly died this morning.

“We are all okay,” Meg reassures her, cutting off Kate’s ongoing rant.  “Ace is trying to see about transferring you while the rest of us try and scope out the estate back home.  I think Ace is going to stay here with you in the meantime.  We couldn’t pull him away even if we tried.”

“God bless him,” Kate says, her cheeks turning a shade of red at the mention of Ace. 

“You should have seen him earlier, Kate.  He was a wreck and wouldn’t leave your side at all.  So I’m just saying, if Kate Visconti sounds good to you…” Meg nudges Kate’s arm with her elbow while wiggling her eyebrows at her.

“Oh stop it! I doubt it’s like that.  Ace is a sweet guy, I’m sure he’d do the same for y’all.”

Meg just stares at her with an eyebrow raised, trying to send the message that no, Ace would not do this for anyone else.  Sure he would be worried as friends are, but not to this extent.  This…this is definitely something else.

“Will you stop givin’ me that look?” Kate laughs, rolling her eyes at Meg who just continues to smile at her.  “I’m serious here!”

“Okay, whatever you say,” Meg replies, smiling as Ace walks back in, a big goofy grin on his face as his eyes land on Kate.

“You’re awake!” Then he looks between Meg and Evan. Flopping in the chair beside Evan, he leans his arm nonchalantly on the back of Evan’s chair, who just looks at him like he is too close for comfort.  Ace doesn’t seem to notice as he continues talking to Kate, “How’re you feeling?”

“Like a field of daisies.”

“You look just as beautiful,” Ace purrs, flashing a cheesy grin and a wink at her that only makes Meg groan and Kate laugh.

“Anyways,” Meg interrupts purposely dramatic, “What did you find out?”

“Ah, well they said they’d let me know.  Couldn’t really get more out of them, but they gave me permission to stay overnight here with her if we don’t hear anything today about transferring.”

“Okay, well, are you sure you’re okay if we head back to the estate? We can see if David and Dwight want to stay behind, too,” Meg asks, glancing over at Evan to gauge his reaction.

“Them? They’re too busy foolin’ around like a couple of horny teenagers.  Wouldn’t make a difference if they were here or with you kids,” Ace scoffs.  “I think we should be fine, and I’ll make sure we can get somewhere tomorrow.”

“Are you sure? We don’t know what the Doctor has planned, if anything.”

“And that’s something we can handle if he decides to do anything.  There’s not much he can do while we are right next to the nurses station.  I’ll be fine, honey.  All y’all didn’t need to stay here for my sake in the first place,” Kate inputs, putting on a brave face even though she’s the one stuck in bed with a killer walking around the hospital around her.

Not wanting to argue or discourage them in any way, Meg nods, although she is still unsure about leaving them altogether.  But Evan is right, and the safest place for the rest of them to be is away from here, she hopes.

“Okay, Ace you still have the phone, right?” Meg asks, giving Kate’s hand one last squeeze before standing up.  Quickly reaching into his pocket, Ace dangles the phone Meg gave him before sticking back in his pocket and giving it a pat.  “Keep us updated.”

“Didn’t we just have this conversation? We will be fine, promise, Firecracker.  Now you kids get outta here and I’ll let you know on what I hear,” Ace says, taking the seat beside the bed that Meg was sitting in. 

Meg nods and with a smile, she turns around and follows Evan, who seems to have the same plan, out of the room. 

“That was easy,” Meg comments, surprised that Ace and Kate were so receptive to being left alone even with the Doctor around.  But she guesses that they did make a good point that they will be surrounded by people, and if they are vigilant, she knows they’ll be okay. 

“She’s a tough one,” Evan comments as soon as they begin the trek outside of the hospital once more.  “Well, all of you are.  Truly.  I’ve never met tougher people in my life.”

“I guess we just learned that we had to be.  There was no other option,” Meg replies.  After all, being in the realm and going through those trials weren’t easy by any means, and if you weren’t tough, or strong, there was no way they could survive.  They weren’t sure what would happen if they gave up, but somehow they all knew it wasn’t good. 

“That is fair, but even outside of there, and being here, all of you continue to be tough, and I really admire that about you and your friends, especially you though,” Evan says softly while brushing his fingers against the back of her hand before taking it within his grasp. 

As much as Meg appreciates the sentiment as she squeezes Evan’s hand gently, she isn’t sure if she could even compare to her friends, but she isn’t going to argue.  Not right now when she is just tired, and appreciative of a compliment wherever it comes from.  “Well, I don’t know how much I compare, but thank you.  I think all of us needed to quickly learn some sort of bravery in the realm, even you, and it shows.  We’ve been through Hell and back.”

“Me? No,” Evan scoffs.  “My time there was mostly cowardice, protecting myself from more pain and torture that I fully deserved, but you…your friends…for all of you to remain so…human is incredible.”

“Human? I mean, you’re human too,” Meg laughs quietly, not quite understanding what he’s saying.

“No, no I’m not.  Or at least I wasn’t.  But along the way, and even now, you and your friends can joke around, laugh, act like nothing has happened.  It is evident that all of you held onto some semblance of humanity through the most inhumane circumstances,” Evan pauses and takes a deep breath before giving her hand another squeeze as they finally reach the hospital front doors leading back outside.  “That takes courage and hope, way more  than I could ever imagine.  You are truly incredible.”

“I mean…” Meg starts, wanting to fight him while not feeling quite like the hero he is making her out to be.  She lived because that’s all she could do.  She never felt brave or courageous or any other positive word.  She was stuck, and even if she felt depressed and hopeless, she doesn’t even know if that would have changed anything at all.  “As much as I appreciate how you look at me and my friends, I don’t think that it is well-deserved.  We did what we had to, not because we are strong or anything.  It was just…our lives.  We were in Hell, and we did all we could.  I don’t think it takes much bravery when there’s no other choice.”

Meg lets go of his hand to rifle through her pocket for her phone, finally trying to fiddle with the app on her phone to call another car to bring them back to the hotel.

“I don’t believe that,” Evan continues as they wait.  “You could have given up, could have stopped fighting.  Either way, you were living terrible lives, but you kept fighting, and the way I see all of you interact now, there is emotion there that I haven’t seen in over a century.  You may think what you want, but I will be here impressed by how incredibly strong you have been and still are.”

“Well, we could talk about the flip-side of that,” Meg says, raising her eyebrow.  “You lived a life you clearly didn’t want to live within the realm, and yet here you are, completely, surprisingly, normal, unlike the rest of the killers we’ve seen this last week.”

“That has nothing to do with any sort of bravery-“

“But it shows how you are, and how strong you are to hold onto some humanity when the Entity tried nothing more than to push it out of you.  If I’m strong, so are you, Evan.  I don’t get the same feeling from you that I felt with Jed or the Clown or the Doctor.”

“Which is surprising.”

“Stop it,” Meg says, smacking his arm gently.  “I’m serious.  You may have not done…great things in your lifetime that lead you to the Entity, but you’re not the Trapper, at least that’s nothing like I’ve seen so far.”

Evan doesn’t argue with her and doesn’t say anything as their hands find each others again, interlocking as David, Dwight, and Feng finally meet them outside, chatting amongst themselves as they wait for the van to pick them up and take them back to the hotel to pick up Nea and Claudette.

Meg and Evan don’t say much after their conversation earlier, but Meg’s face still can’t stop radiating red heat at his words that she can’t stop thinking about. 

Strong.

Yes they were strong because they had to be, but as each day passes, she doesn’t know how strong she really has been.  She has just been doing what she needs to, but for Evan to think it is something more than mere obligation is a nice reassurance. 

A few minutes pass and a small grey van pulls up, eyeing the group suspiciously with their dirty torn clothes and exhausted demeanors.  The driver shrugs and with a few confirmations that he was there to pick them up, the group climbs in, and after a quick car ride, they reach the hotel faster than Meg expected. 

Quickly getting out, Meg gets Nea and Claudette, explaining the situation to them as best as she can while trying not to let her nerves take over or sound too frazzled.  Nothing has happened yet.

But they just need to leave.

“Ace is trying to see if Kate can be transferred, or if he can just stay at the hospital, keep an eye on things.  Nothing can really happen while they’re there, we hope,” Meg finishes telling them as they walk out of the hotel.

“I guess.  Were there a lot of people around? Like would there be any chance that…what was his name? Herman? What kind of name is Herman? Nevermind-“ Nea shakes her head, getting her mind back on track.  “The Doctor would maybe even impersonate another doctor? Be able to get into her room?”

Meg shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders, completely unsure and while leaving isn’t the best idea, staying would be just as bad for everyone.  “I hope not.  There were a lot of people around, and I bet Ace can get her transferred,” Meg begins before laughing.  “You should have seen how he was talking to those poor nurses.  Trying to use his charm to get what he wanted.”

Nea lets out a laugh at that.  “That is true.  He’ll convince them, or he’ll just annoy them enough that they’ll give in if that just gets him away from them.”

Meg nods, agreeing completely as they get back in the van that waited for them outside, and with that, they are off back to the ferry in a tense silence filled with the unknown circumstances that are surrounding them once more.

With Meg’s nerves raging inside her, both the car and ferry ride are relatively fast, going by in a blur.  While on the ferry though, Meg begins to constantly look around and over her shoulder, the hairs on her neck standing up on end feeling like she is being watched, but no matter how many times she looks around, she doesn’t see anyone she knows other than her friends.

As much as she wants to say she is just being paranoid, the picture on her phone of Jed on the ferry with them appears in her mind until she is gripping Evan’s hand so tight, she thinks she is cutting off the blood supply, but he doesn’t say anything.  He lets her hold onto him with all of her might, and she is grateful. 

Once the ferry docks and Meg works the app to get a van to pick them up, they wait for the car to bring them back home, back to safety, and Meg feels like she can’t get there fast enough. 

No one says much during the journey, everyone seemingly concentrating on themselves, other than David and Dwight that stay huddled up whispering to each other quietly once in awhile.  Claudette and Nea occasionally answer yes or no questions the driver asks to make conversation, but after awhile, even the poor driver gets the hint and stops talking, letting everyone sit in silence for the remainder of the ride. 

Soon they begin to pass familiar places like the small bank they sold Evan’s gold to, the grocery store that finally broke some barrier between them, the park Meg fell asleep at, it all seems like too much as she grips Evan’s hand in hers, not knowing how important it would feel to know that he is with her now.

He squeezes her hand back with just as much force that still sends chills up Meg’s back as the car approaches the woods.

“You can let us out here,” Meg speaks up when she sees the familiar overgrown dirt path. 

“Here? You sure?” the driver asks, slowing down despite the worried expression on his face. 

“Yeah, this is fine.”

As the car comes to a stop, Meg and Evan wait for her friends to climb out first before they clamor out of the van from the backseat, and once they close the door, the van speeds off, not even waiting for them to start walking before disappearing into the night.

“This is cozy,” Nea mutters looking around at the trees that Meg and Evan begin to walk in without a second thought.

At some point in the walk, Meg and Evan must have slowed down, not in any particular hurry to get back as the other survivors passed them on the walk, following the path and getting annoyed by their slow pace.

They didn’t mind though as they walk; it was nice, just enjoying the night air and the feeling that maybe they were alone in these woods, for once.  The feeling of security that flows around them is clearer than ever and Meg feels like she can finally breathe.

As the trees begin to thin and the moonlight grows brighter, Meg knows they are getting close.  She shuffles just a little bit closer to Evan, thinking about how they were when they left, walking this same path just a few days ago. 

But so much has changed.

Everything has changed.

Meg smiles to herself as she holds onto Evan’s hand for all that she is worth, him stepping closer to her as the house comes into view through the trees.

Thinking about the same walk they had getting Nea and David, she teased him, a lot, since he had just tried food that seemed so normal to Meg, and they walked with distance between them, awkward tension in the air that mixed with uncertainty and the unknown.

Now…now they are closer than ever, and with every step, she shuffles just a little bit closer, as does he, making sure they aren’t apart, and as much as it still feels strange, foreign, Meg wouldn’t change it for the world.

With him by her side, he gives her peace, which is something that even makes her laugh when she says those words to herself, but overall, Meg doesn’t feel so alone. 

She just hopes that maybe she’s making him feel just a little bit safer too, in any way that she can, not that she could ever protect him physically, but maybe…

Maybe just calming his mind and getting to know him, having him open up will make all the difference.

Glancing up at Evan, she wonders so many things about him, and so many questions crop up as the house comes into view.

She wants to know about his life, about his family, about him.

They haven’t had much time to talk about things that didn’t pertain to the trials or their lives stuck in that hellhole, and she wants to know simple things.

Now that they’re back, she just hopes that they’ll have time now to relax, rest, plan, and start to get to know each other more after a decade of being around each other without exchanging a single word.

“Hey Evan?” Meg says suddenly.

He squeezes her hand and looks down at her through the corner of his eye, waiting for whatever she is going to say next.

“What’s your favorite color?” She continues asking.  Even the simplest things she finds herself wanting to know.

Without hesitation Evan answers, “Red.  Like your hair,” he clears his throat, fumbling slightly.  “It has always been a favorite color of mine.  It reminds me of sunsets.”

Meg feels heat rise to her cheeks at his comment about her hair.

“Why sunsets?” She asks, consciously changing the subject away from her hair. 

“My mother and I would stay up and watch the sunsets together,” Evan answers almost immediately.  “It was the only time my father would be holed up in his study, and we could be left alone.  There were very few times we were able to, or that I remember, but the times we did watch, I remember quite vividly.”

Meg smiles.  “That sounds really nice, actually.  I was always more of a sunrise type of girl, myself.”

“Well, there is a ladder that leads up to the roof.  I was surprised you hadn’t found it in your snooping of my house,” Evan says, a smirk appearing on his face as they walk.

“Hey, I wasn’t snooping.  Not much anyway,” Meg defends herself.  “But, if there is a ladder to the roof, you can’t keep that from me now.”

“Did you want to go up there?”

“What? Like now?” Meg asks, her eyebrows high on her forehead.

Evan nods, his eyes crinkle on the sides as he smiles. 

At that moment, they both turn and see Meg’s friends all standing around the yard, still far enough away from the main house as to not want to go inside, but unsure of where else to go. 

“I suppose we should get them settled first.”

“Are there enough rooms in the house?” Meg asks, sure there probably are with the sheer size of it, but still not positive.  Honestly, she hadn’t explored it as much as she wanted while she was here, only seeing the downstairs area as well as the bedroom upstairs that she slept in one night.  She never even went into Evan’s old bedroom.

“Yes, but we also have a separate area where miners could come and stay should they have two or more shifts in a row and needed sleep.  There are small rooms, a bathroom, all the essentials.  It is up to your friends what they’re comfortable with.”

“Well,”Meg pauses, thinking about what they’d like the most, until another idea comes to mind. “Go ask them.”

“Me?” Evan practically coughs out.

“Yes, you.” Meg laughs, smacking him on the arm gently.  “Come on, we all need to figure we are on the same side.  Plus you saw how they reacted when you apologized, I think they just need to hear from you more, so go ask them yourself.”

Evan looks at Meg, hunched over slightly, a frown replacing his cheerful smile from a few minutes ago as he glances over at the group of survivors and back at Meg. 

“Fine.”

With a smile Meg pulls him along, fully aware that they are still holding hands despite being in front of five of her friends.

But by this point, she couldn’t care less.  They are back at the estate, safe for now, with Ace and Kate following them there soon, hopefully, and with the amount of people that have caught them being close these last few days, the thought of her friends seeing them hold hands is the farthest from her mind.

She just doesn’t want to let go.

“So, I guess we have a few different options where you guys want to stay since the estate is pretty big,” Meg starts, letting Evan take the lead after her.

“There is the main house that has a few rooms, or we have a private section of small rooms a bit across the property.  It is secluded-“

“I can go there,” David interrupts, not bothering to hear what else Evan had to say.  “It’ll be nice to have some peace and quiet, right?” He looks over at Dwight with an eyebrow raised.  “Right?”

“Oh-oh yeah.  That does sound nice.  I guess I’ll go over there too,” Dwight agrees, nodding his head that only makes Meg smirk in response. 

“I’ll stay there too,” Feng says, crossing her arms and looking at the ground away from everyone.  “I still don’t trust…everything here.”

David and Dwight exchange a look before David very dramatically rolls his eyes and frowns, but doesn’t say anything.

“You guys can have the small rooms, where are the big rooms at? I heard from Meg at one point there’s a fireplace? I want to be there,” Nea answers.

“Yeah, that sounds nice, actually.  I don’t really want to be far from everybody,” Claudette agrees.

“Alright, well just continue down the path and you should find the rooms.  I don’t know the condition of them, haven’t gone and looked, but if they’re bad, you can come back here,” Evan says, gesturing down around the house with one hand. 

“Got it,” David mumbles, already turning on his heels and walking in the direction Evan pointed without a second thought.  Dwight looks between Evan and David before nodding his head.

“Thank you,” he smiles, turning to follow David before hesitating and looking at Feng.  “Are you coming?”

Feng, still looking anywhere but at the survivors finally looks up and nods, following Dwight, leaving Evan, Meg, Nea, and Claudette to go inside the house.

As it was before, Evan leads the way with Meg behind him, pushing open the door, the condition of the house looking exactly the same as it did when they left, but somehow it feels a lot more like coming home, somewhere familiar. 

Maybe home is a bit of a stretch, Meg knows this, but it is familiar, and with her changed perception of the man that is now waving for Claudette and Nea to follow him as he takes them of a small tour of the house, she can’t help but be warmed by the old presence of the home.

“This is the living room, kitchen, dining room…” she hears him mumble to her friends like he did when they first got there what seems like weeks ago.  “That’s the study, don’t go in there.”

Meg smiles when she hears Nea scoff immediately.  “Why not?”

There is silence and she can imagine Evan sighing and closing his eyes so vividly, she wouldn’t be surprised if that is what he was doing from the other room.  Within the silence, Meg decides to go and join them on their tour and as she turns the corner, a laugh erupts from her when she sees Evan pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head just like she imagined.

“Why must you survivors be so stubborn? All of you,” he mutters as Nea lets out a loud laugh, which was quite the opposite of what Meg did when she was told not to go in.

“Come on Nea, this is his house.  If he is being gracious enough to let us stay, we should respect his boundaries,” Claudette speaks up.

Evan’s eyes fly open as he looks at Claudette.  “Thank you,” he says, his words sounding genuine. 

“Thank you for letting us stay.  Although I am not the most…” she hesitates, holding her left arm against her, “comfortable being here…after everything, I appreciate the shelter.  This is hard for us, and this must be hard for you, so thank you.”

As Evan stares at her, his mouth falling open just slightly at the genuine kindness of Claudette, Meg’s chest begins to swell with happiness.

She hasn’t seen much of Claudette these last few days, and for her to speak up and begin to show the old Claud, is enough to make Meg want to run over and throw her arms around her, happy that she is okay.

But she doesn’t; She watches as Claudette speaks to Evan as though he were any other person, and it is incredible, really.  If not a little amusing the way Evan’s face flurries through about five different emotions in a matter of seconds, not sure how to react to Claudette’s kindness before he realizes Meg is standing there and looks at her as if to say ‘help me’.

“Come on, Claud.  You’ve petrified the poor guy.  Just show us to our rooms and we will get out of your hair…well,” Nea catches herself with a snort.  “We will leave you two alone.” Nea flashes a glance at Meg who only rolls her eyes at Nea’s comment, knowing full well what she is insinuating. 

If Evan had the capacity to blush, Meg thinks that this would be the time his face would turn all shades of red, but instead he clears his throat and puts on his serious face, his own sort of mask, as he nods and turns without a single word, beckoning them to follow up the stairs.

Taking a few steps faster, Meg catches up to Nea and shoves her with her elbow before shaking her head, amused at the comments Nea said that managed to somehow lead Evan to not saying a word.

Out of all the times Meg and Evan have gotten into arguments, or bantering as friends, she has never seen him so at a loss for words as he was standing in that hallway, and of course leave it to Claudette and Nea to do that to him.

She can only smile though, knowing that it is possible and it is nice to know that maybe her friends are coming around to the idea that Evan is on their side, not that they needed a lot of convincing now.

And now that they are all staying in this house for some indefinite amount of time until…

Well, until what? Meg doesn’t know for sure, but she knows they will be here for awhile, and she’s happy to see that there won’t be as much tension as she thought.

Evan shows Nea to one room and Claudette to another - one with a lot of books.  Just a few days ago she was following him around this house just the same, feeling trapped, awkward, and all around stuck, and now, she knows she is right where she should be, and somehow with most of her friends by her side.

For a moment she wonders about the others she hasn’t found yet: Yui, Jane, Adam, Ash, Jeff, and all the others…

There are eight of them together now, but there were so many other survivors, and with the number of killers around them increasing, she wonders if they’re out there somewhere too.

Are they around here? What makes this place so special as to have everyone within fifty miles of each other in small towns in Washington State?

Swallowing brewing questions that make Meg’s head pound uncomfortably, she puts them away for a later time, maybe a time she can discuss with her friends, but right now as Claudette thanks Evan again and shuts her door, she is alone with him once more, and a warmness flows through her chest and down to her fingertips as she buzzes with excitement.

“So, now the roof,” she says, jumping up on her toes excited to watch the sunset.  It reminds her of the times she would climb on the roof of her and her mom’s old single level home, but this house is huge, and to get a vantage point so high is exciting to her.

Evan only smiles down at Meg and crosses his arms.  “Well that’s no way to ask nicely,” he teases.

“I have watched you give two tours of this house, and not once did you ever mention a ladder to the roof.  Either take me to the roof, or I want a new tour guide,” Meg says, crossing her arms mirroring him with a smile.

“Seeing as I’m the only one available, I suppose I can take you,” Evan says, turning and gesturing his head to follow.

Meg’s chest tingles as she follows, feeling like this moment is strangely intimate as he leads her to a room down the hall with a small looking hatch on the ceiling and a ladder carved into the wall. 

After a few tries, Evan gets the hatch open and waves for Meg to go up.

“You want me to try that ladder first? The centuries old ladder that hasn’t been used for a few lifetimes?” Meg asks, gawking at him.

“I’ll be here to catch you if it breaks, unless you feel you can catch me instead.”

That thought alone makes Meg bark out a laugh and for a moment, she has to stop and think about what is happening.

He seems very cheerful, which isn’t like Evan, not one bit, but who is she to complain that he seems strangely happy?

Hasn’t she felt the same way ever since they stepped foot back into the house? She has admitted as much to herself, but to her it is because this seems safer, away from Jed Olsen or Herman or death or decay or…anything negative. 

For Evan though, now there are people here who hate him, and he made it pretty clear that this house holds no precious memories for him, so the fact that he seems just as content as Meg is a mystery, one that she thinks she knows the answer to, but won’t say.

“Okay so,” she begins, grabbing the first rung of the latter, “promise you won’t let me fall and crack my head open?”

“I promise.”

With a deep breath, Meg takes the ladder up, and due to her injured arm and stiff hips, the climb is slightly awkward but thankfully with only a few creaks and groans from the house and from her own bones, she makes it up safely as a gentle breeze whips through her hair. 

They aren’t at the highest point of the roof, but this is less slanted than the other section so Meg can stand comfortably, not feeling like she is going to lose her balance as she looks around, the view taking her breath away.

She didn’t think it would be much with the amount of trees surrounding the area, but from up here, the tree line looks distant and far as she can see the tops of the trees stretch on, meeting the sunsetting on the horizon. 

She can’t see the town on the other side, the view isn’t that tall, but the way the sun melts into the trees makes her feel like the house is far from any civilization, anything to bother them or harm them, and she can’t help her mouth fall open at the view of it all.

Wow.

The sky is shades of pink and red, with brighter red cloud wisps in the sky, and as much as Meg says she loves sunrises with the hues of purple and orange, this is just as spectacular.

Meg hears the creak of the ladder as Evan comes up to join her, taking a seat beside where she stands, not that it makes much of a difference with his height. He comes up to her chest sitting beside her as she stands, gawking at the magnificence of what she sees.

“This is one of the reasons why red is my favorite color,” Evan speaks up, looking just as lost in thought as Meg peels her eyes away from the sunset and looks at him.  The amused look he had on his face with his smirk and mischievous eyes is replaced by a small frown, and his brow furrowed just a bit, a look Meg often sees on him, as he stares forward.

“And what’re the other reasons?” She finds herself asking, finally taking a seat beside him and staring out into the sunset. 

Silence fills the air around them for a few moments and Meg thinks he isn’t going to answer, until he speaks up, though not answering her question right away.

“Do you want to know what I first thought the very first time you appeared in a trial with me?” Evan asks, and Meg’s initial instinct is to say no, not ruin the moment, don’t bring her back to the trials.

But she can’t bring herself to say no, not right away, as she swallows a growing lump in her throat.  Does she want to know? She knows now that Evan, as well as the other killers do have mind and brains and thoughts of their own, but knowing they had opinions even during trials feels weird, foreign, like it’s breaking every single rule that Meg thought she knew about the trials.

“Sure, but don’t ask what I thought of you.  I don’t think you’d like it,” Meg says, trying to make light of the sudden heavy topic Evan brought up.  The sun sets more, making the sky turn a shade of dark maroon.

“I wouldn’t expect any less,” Evan says with a quiet chuckle before continuing.  “But the very first thing I thought about was your hair.  The color.  I had never seen anything quite like it.”

“What? There were no red heads back in your time?” Meg asks, calling him out on whatever bluff he’s saying.

He smiles and looks at her through the corner of his eye.  “There were red heads but your hair is…” he pauses.  “It’s quite beautiful.”

“Oh,” the smile on Meg’s face from teasing him fades as she feels her cheeks burn and turn the same shade as her hair.  “Thank you.”

“Of course.”

There is a beat of silence that almost suffocates Meg so she decides to speak, fill the empty space that seems too heavy all of a sudden.

“I used to hate my hair, actually.  Not that I hated it myself, but I used to be teased about it when I was younger.  Blamed my mom for it, of course.  She had the same color hair as me and…” Meg blinks back a few tears that sting her eyes bringing up her mom.  “But now I think about her a lot when I see my hair.  It feels like a connection, no matter how small.”

Evan takes this opportunity to lean back just a little bit and rest his arm around Meg’s waist, pulling her closer to him gently.  Willingly, she scoots closer until their bodies are touching, side-by-side, and slowly, Meg leans her head on Evan’s arm.  Between the feeling of him beside her, and the setting sun, exhaustion slowly starts creeping through Meg’s bones.

“I would thank her myself for giving you such lovely hair if I could,” Evan speaks up quietly.

“Thanks,” Meg laughs, the absurdity of the statement being enough to distract the sadness that threatened to pool over at the loss of her mom.

The thought alone of Evan and her mom meeting is enough to make her laugh.  What a strange colliding of worlds, of times, of…everything, and as much as Evan has become important to her, she doesn’t know if that is something she would ever want.

She is a different person now, a completely different person than she was when she last saw her mom, and although Meg knows now that it isn’t Evan’s doing, he was a part of all the horrible things that happened to her, and to ever think of the three of them sitting around her mom’s small living room, talking, getting to know each other…

Her brain can hardly comprehend such a thing, so she quickly tries to think of something else, anything else. 

And for some reason, her mind wanders to the house in Chimacum, the dark dank dirty house with three bedrooms upstairs that Nea thinks were only two…

“I have a question,” Meg breaks the silence once more, changing the subject to a question that had been on her mind, had they not have had to go to the hospital before she could ask.

He hums in acknowledgement, an indication to go on.

“This seems…random, I know.  But, do you remember how many rooms were upstairs in that house back in Chimacum? Where…” her throat closes as her breath hitches, not wanting to take her back to the way Jeffrey, the Clown groped and touched her and made her feel so violated… “Where we found my friends?” she settles on saying.

Evan looks away from her scowling and she can practically see the gears in his brain look for an answer.  “I…I wasn’t paying too much attention to the rooms, but I would guess at least three.”

“There were three? Are you sure?” Meg’s heart leaps into her throat with the confirmation she needed.

“Why?”

“Please, just, you know there were at least three?”

Evan’s scowl somehow deepens on his face, lost in thought, slowly nodding as he continues like he wants to get all the details right.  “There was the one you were in, the one across the hall and…yes there was another one at the end of the hall.”

“That’s what I thought, but Nea was trying to tell me yesterday there wasn’t another room and I…Evan, she’s my best friend and I don’t know why she would lie, but there were three rooms.  I know it.”

“That’s odd,” Evan hums, looking back to the now darkened sky.  “I’m positive that there were clearly three.”

“Odd,” Meg repeats slowly.  By now it is pretty much completely dark as the sun finally set, and it casts a cold chill in the air around them.  With a shiver Meg sighs, both comforted by Evan’s confirmation but unsettled with not knowing why Nea would lie, or only see two rooms.

But then again, it was hectic and there was so much going on, maybe she didn’t bother to check the other room, or didn’t see it.

Yes.

That has to be it, Meg tells herself.  She can’t let herself think anything else.

“It is getting late,” Evan comments looking around once before looking over at Meg.  “I think I’m about ready to get to sleep.”

“Same,” Meg sighs.  “It’s been an exhausting few days.  It’ll be nice to just sleep.”

With that, Evan stands up first and holds out a hand, gently helping Meg so she is standing beside him, and with one last look around the darkness, she lets Evan guide her back to the small door and helps her down before climbing down himself. 

As they walk down the hallway, Meg’s room comes up first and as she slows down, she can’t help but try to quiet the feelings of disappointment that brew in her stomach.  Almost as though Evan reads her mind, he slows down with her until they are both standing outside of her room, motionless.

“Thank you for showing me that.  Now I get why you’d want to be up there all the time.  That was gorgeous, I can’t even begin to imagine being able to see that every day? Like…wow!” Meg starts rambling, overcome with just how freeing it felt to be up there, the feelings not quite hitting her until now. 

When she came from a place where all she was was trapped, no matter what she did, being able to feel like she was on top of the world meant everything to her. 

“I really can’t wait to see a sunrise from up there,” she mumbles mostly to herself, smiling up at Evan.

“You’re more than welcome up there anytime,” Evan responds, lifting up a hand and tucking a stray hair behind Meg’s face, his fingers lingering on her cheek.  That very act has become almost normal for them, but it still sends shivers down Meg’s back just like it did the first time. 

Meg stands in the doorway as Evan takes a step forward, too close, always too close.  She looks up at him, her blue eyes searching his for something, some answer to what is happening.  She doesn’t find it, but as she is about to turn around and go in her room, he caresses her cheek, drawing small circles along her skin.

“I’m thinking we could go back up there in the morning? We should still have some of those donuts left in the cupboard downstairs if Nea doesn’t find them during the night,” Meg whispers through raging nerves, leaning into Evan’s hand, cupping it within her own.

“We?”

“Well duh.  We can make some coffee and have donuts and go up there.  That is if you wake up early enough,” Meg suggests, poking his upper arm. 

“That sounds pleasant.  I suppose I can make time for that.”

“Just don’t oversleep.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Evan finishes, finally taking his hand away from her face and takes a step back.  “I should let you get some rest though.”

Meg’s smile fades, her body missing the closeness of him but she knows he’s right.  It’s late, and they should get some sleep.  She almost asks him to stay, but for some reason she can’t bring herself to say it, despite the fact that they did share a room, and a bed, last night, but here, in his house?

She misses the opportunity and figures she should try to get some sleep on her own.  After all she hasn’t had any alone time to herself in what seems like weeks now. 

“Goodnight, Evan,” she says.

“Goodnight, Meg.” He smiles down at her, a smile she is beginning to realize she really quite likes…

And with that, she slowly closes the door and looks around the dusty room.  Nothing has changed, much like the rest of the house, but sudden nerves and anxiety crash into her like a tidal wave as she grips her chest, trying to calm her suddenly racing heart.

The bed is still unmade, dusty, and the rising moon starts to cast odd shadows around the room, and as much as she is happy to be back, the thought of being in here alone is almost too much for her.  Before she can think, she swings around and opens her door, seeing Evan still on the other side facing her like he didn’t want to leave her as much as she didn’t want to leave him.

“You…you can come to my room, if you want,” he mumbles, uncertainty straining his voice. 

Does she want to?

Yes.

Should she?

She doesn’t even have to think about it as she nods and grabs his hand, already leading the way further down the hall with Evan right behind her.  All she knows is that she liked sleeping next to him, even after only doing it once, and it gave her a sense of security, of comfort that she has long since felt and she wants it back.

She wants to be next to him. 

Maybe it was time for her to admit that there are deeper more…complicated feelings for him that she feels, but mentally shaking her head to herself, she thinks that is for her to think about another time.  She just wants to sleep and she wants Evan by her side.

Once they reach his room, she lets him go in first, opening the door for her to come in, and after they’re both in there, the air seems to somehow get thicker, more dense as Meg looks around, seeing the bed and suddenly feeling just as self-conscious as she did back at the hotel despite this time both of them agreeing to sleeping in the same bed. 

Evan crosses the room and opens a dark wardrobe on the wall opposite of her pulling out a couple of shirts and pants. When he turns around, he looks just as lost in thought as Meg feels, staring at the clothes and then back at Meg almost like he forgot she was there somehow.

Clearing his throat he closes the distance between the two of them and holds out a pair of pants and a shirt.

“I figured the clothes we’re wearing now have seen better days, and you may want to change before bed.  I’ll go change in the other room,” Evan says, not giving Meg a chance to say anything either way before he walks out of the room, leaving Meg alone once more.  Although his hasty exit wasn’t quite what Meg was expecting, it definitely is a nice thought to get to change into something that hasn’t been soiled with sweat and dirt and blood.

It also gives her a chance to look around the room without Evan standing there, so she quickly peels off her old clothes and bunches them up in a rather large bundle and slips on the “fresh” clothes.  As old and dusty as they smell, anything is better than what she has been wearing at least.  The clothes are just the same, too big for her and nearly fall off, but she doesn’t mind the comfort it brings.

Tying her shirt, and cuffing her pants, she takes in a deep breath finally looking around the room, taking in her surroundings.  Everything looks almost the same as her room she slept in, seeing a large four poster bed, a few bookcases, a wardrobe, and a large window on the opposite side of the wall, but as the light shines in, a small glass frame on a table catches her eye. 

She walks over and picks up the picture, curious as to what it could be or what could be so important to keep in his room, and is surprised to see two men, probably father and son with the way they look so much alike, standing side-by-side. 

Before she can really look, there is a knock on the door followed by Evan’s voice, “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, I’m decent,” Meg answers with a smile as the door opens.  She goes back to looking at the picture as he comes in and stops a few feet from her, and now that she can get a good look at the son…

“Wait…is this you?” Meg asks, her mouth open in shock.  “How is that even possible?”

“What?” Evan asks, taking a step towards her before realizing what she was looking at.

“You were so small…you had so much hair…”

Evan frowns and snatches the picture away from Meg’s grip.  “Don’t rub it in.”

He stares at the picture for a moment before throwing it in the trash bin beside the table.  The piercing sound of shattering glass bounces off the walls as Meg looks between Evan and the trash.  She knows his anger isn’t directed at her, not one bit, but she can’t ignore the feelings of guilt that she pointed out the picture when he maybe even forgotten about it himself. 

“Evan…” Meg sighs, walking over to him and putting a small hand on his forearm getting his attention directed towards her again.  “Okay, I probably shouldn’t have pointed out the picture.  You had it in here for a reason and-”

“Complicated reasons,” Evan interrupts her as he rests a hand on her shoulder, brushing her hair gently onto her back while continuing, his voice softer now,  “but I don’t need it anymore.  I don’t need to be reminded of him, not now.”

“So I guess you’re stuck with me for company without that picture there,” Meg jokes.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Evan says, gently running his thumb on her shoulders, soothing every bit of nerves she has by being in here. 

The two share a moment just looking at each other before walking towards the bed almost in sync.  Meg is the first to crawl in, her body aching to lay down, as Evan sits down on the bed beside her almost as though he’s worried she is going to change her mind at any moment.

She won’t though, she knows that, but Evan simply sits there, looking down at Meg as she lays on her back staring up at him as he raises a hand and brushes hair off her bruised shoulder that peaks out of her shirt.

“I’m so sorry this happened,” he whispers, his deep voice cracking slightly from just how quiet he talks. 

“It’s okay.  It wasn’t your fault-“

“I should have been there,” he interrupts, taking a knuckle and gently drawing a line from her shoulder to her neck with the back of his finger right over her pulse point.  If he pressed down, she knows he would be able to feel her pulse pick up as she tries to put on a reassuring smile on her face.

“You did everything you could, okay?” She reaches up and grabs his hand.  She tells herself it’s to prevent him from feeling just how fast her heart is racing, but she knows it is because she just wants him close.  “We are okay now, right?”

He is silent for a moment too long; a moment that Meg won’t allow to last any longer.

“Right?” She repeats, more insistent this time as she squeezes his hand.  “You said it yourself, we are safe here.  You fought me tooth and nail about that, you can’t go taking it back now.”

This makes Evan’s small frown straighten out as his eyes meet hers. 

“I would never hear the end of it, would I?”

“Nope.”

The side of Evan’s mouth tugs into a crooked smile as he brings Meg’s fingers up to his face, his lips.  He doesn’t kiss them, but she feels how smooth his lips are against the back of her hand as he blinks, letting his eyes stay closed for a few seconds before lowering her hand and raising his legs onto the bed, finally laying down next to her.

As Evan is fully on the bed, he doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arm around Meg’s waist and pull her closer to him, not roughly, but there was a sense of possessiveness that made Meg let out an involuntary quiet gasp as he pulled her to him.

Usually he was always hesitant, hovering his hand or arm above her before committing to grabbing her hand, but this was something completely different, and she would be lying if she said she didn’t sort of enjoy it.  At first she appreciated the hesitation, him giving her the option to say no, to move away, but now, after everything, she’s glad that he knows his touch is okay, welcomed. 

As they both settle deeper into the lumpy mattress, Meg leans forward resting the top of her forehead against Evan’s chest, inhaling deep letting his smell fill her senses.  He smells like sweat and trees but overall, it is so undeniably him, and that alone has become comforting.  She remembers a time not too long ago where he smelled like blood and metal and death…but that wasn’t Evan.

That was the Trapper, someone who is dead, and this is Evan.

  As she inhales deep, Evan lazily runs his fingers on her back, tracing long lines along her spine that sends pleasant shivers through Meg’s whole body as they lay there together, the world far away from the two of them.

“I will keep you safe, Meg Thomas, even if it’s the last thing I do,” Evan says softly, his voice vibrating deep in his chest that she feels while leaning against him.  The sound of her full name coming from him is different, and if she thinks back, she thinks it’s the first time he has ever said her last name out loud. 

She doesn’t even remember telling him her last name…

But she doesn’t dwell on that, not one bit, as she inches closer, wanting to melt into his body and his warmth and closes her eyes. 

She meant to reply, meant to say something, but the pure happiness she felt in that moment was almost too much as she quickly falls asleep, wrapped up tightly in the arms of someone she used to want to get away from, and now never wants to leave.

 

 

The next week goes by without any incident, with much anxiety to the survivors and Evan.  At every turn, every second, every moment they wake up, they all expect something to be wrong, someone to be gone, or someone waiting to kill them. 

It is an odd sensation to wake up and realize that no, actually, everything is okay, everyone is alive, and as far as Meg is concerned, no one is around to kill them…yet.

The ever looming threat of Ghostface and now, Herman, the Doctor, is on her mind, but with each passing day, the thought of them somehow flows farther and farther, and no one dares to bring them up like a curse.  If they forget about them, maybe the threat will go away, maybe they won’t have to worry, and maybe they can just move on.  Multiple times, Meg is tempted to bring up Herman and why Evan hates him as much as he does, but as the days pass, she never finds a good time, not wanting to ruin the facade that everything is okay, and she knows she can always find another time to ask later.

She tries to rationalize the increasing relaxation to herself that it’s being at the estate with her friends, outside of the trials, outside of anywhere harmful, and that helps, but she can’t seem to get rid of the quiet buzzing in the back of her mind that as comfortable as they are, something isn’t right.

Being in the trials, the campfire, the realm, it seemed to give them all a sixth sense for danger, as that was essential during their time there, and maybe Meg just doesn’t know how to get rid of the paranoia in the back of her mind, but every day she feels like there are alarms going off in her mind.  Most of the time, they’re quiet, like a distant alarm clock, but other times Meg feels like her whole body is on fire and she needs to run, get somewhere else, get to safety…

But they are safe.  At least that’s what Evan has said, and that’s what her friends say like a mantra reassuring her as much as they’re reassuring themselves. 

It did help when Ace and Kate were able to leave the hospital, with no Herman Carter or Jed Olsen following them, and with some sort of miracle, Kate seemed well enough to be discharged which lifted everyone’s spirits knowing that she is okay and they are all together once more where they all hope will be safe.  After a day or two of tense silences, awkward interactions between the survivors, excluding Meg, and Evan, things begin to shift as the group falls into a sense of normalcy they haven’t felt in years.

Seeing Nea and David sparing in the front yard, Ace and Kate playing poker, and Claudette humming to herself as she plans out a small patch of land that used to be a garden that she could make her own, it all just feels…nice.

Then at the end of the day, Meg and Evan somehow have gotten into a routine, a routine that she never thought she’d ever experience with anyone, let alone Evan.

At around ten o’clock, they both go upstairs, brush their teeth side by side with very old toothbrushes they found - Meg needs to remember to pick up more new ones from the store next trip - and they both go into Evan’s room and curl into his large warm bed side-by-side, fitting against each other like puzzle pieces until they drift off into sleep.

The very real possibility of something happening between her and Evan increases every night that they spend together, his arm wrapped around her waist so tight pulling her against him, as she nuzzles into him, making sure there is no space between them, and sometimes, Meg isn’t sure if she wants something to happen.

The way her friends look at her once they emerge from his room in the morning the few times they’ve been awake before them make her blush and want to ignore their questions, until even their questioning lessens as though it is something totally natural and normal for them.

Meg and Evan.

They’re friends…and Meg feels safe with him, and why would she give that up for anything?

But…now that they sleep in the same room, the same bed, cuddling, never parting, even Meg has to realize that is more than anything she has ever felt with someone.  Even in the day time when they are together, she finds that Evan’s hand is often resting on her thigh, or back, or he has his arm wrapped around her like that is the only natural place for it to be, and sometimes, she reaches out for him, missing the way it feels for his hand to be in hers.

And although this has become something normal for her, for them, she hasn’t let her mind wander completely to the fact of why she likes it so much.

No.

She lets herself pretend it’s normal, it’s natural, for what they’ve been through.  Human touch is a miraculous thing, she tells herself one day, and maybe they are both just that touch starved that having someone else there is comforting enough for them.

But that doesn’t explain how her heart rate picks up when he looks at her from across the room, that small smirk on his face that creates that small dimple in his cheek, or how she finds herself wondering what he’s doing, or how he is when he’s not with her. 

She even began rooting for him in the poker matches between him and Ace - not that she’d ever tell Ace this.  He’d be heartbroken.

So instead of thinking about how Evan makes her feel, and how he should NOT be making her feel that way, or the feelings she doesn’t dare to admit to herself staring right in her face when she goes to sleep every night, she focuses on one of the things that seems to be out of place in this seemingly increasing normal day-to-day life for them. 

It started out small, nothing Meg thought was out of the ordinary but as the day’s passed, she couldn’t help but be concerned.  The only thing in this peaceful life they begin to lead that makes Meg nervous is Feng, and she hates how her stomach churns and her mind starts whirling when she looks at her friend, or at least the person she hopes is still a friend.  They went through so much, and as much as Meg wants to admit it, she isn’t forcing her here, Feng can leave, but she doesn’t want her to.  Not so soon, not after everything.

But…as the days go by and everyone grows more relaxed, Feng only tenses up.  At first she sat with everyone, floated from group to group, seeing if anyone needed help, joined in the conversation when she could, but often there were times that Meg noticed she simply…disappeared.

The first time seemed like a fluke as Meg wanted to ask her something, something about some game she heard Feng talk about once, and the girl was no where to be found, which was odd. 

Meg went around and asked everyone and was only met with a shrug and a sigh, resorting to the possibility that Feng was simply out on her own, as she often was in the realm.  It wasn’t anything different…

But with everything going on, and the fact that they aren’t in the realm made it seem odd to Meg, and as much as Nea and David tried to tell her it was nothing, she didn’t believe it.  So when Feng showed up again, Meg couldn’t help but inquire, ask where she had been.

“Hey, Feng,” Meg called out as soon as she saw her friend emerge from the trees after looking for her for what seemed like hours.  Feng didn’t even seem to notice or hear her as she stared at the ground, wringing her hands in front of her walking more like a zombie than anything.  “Feng?”

There was silence and something immediately didn’t seem right, didn’t feel right, so she ran up to Feng, calling out her name once more and only than did Feng notice her.  Her head flies up as she looks at Meg with wide eyes; eyes filled with questions and panic and fear; eyes they often saw on each other during the trials.

“Feng? What’s wrong?” Meg asked, reaching out to Feng, only to have her flinch away.

“Nothing! It’s nothing.  I’m fine,” Feng stuttered out, swatting Meg away as she continued walking towards the old guest rooms.

“You sure don’t look fine.  Where were you? What happened?” Meg probed, trying to get the girl to tell her where she went.  “I’ve been looking for you for hours now.  We didn’t know you left.”

“I was out.  Can’t I have some time to myself?” she snapped, causing Meg to recoil slightly. 

“Well I’m sorry that I was worried,” Meg snapped back, her tone harsher than she meant.

“You don’t need to be worried about me,” Feng said, her tone a lot less confrontational this time, realizing just how rude she was before.  “I’m sorry.  I’m still just…getting used to things now, I guess.”

The corner of Meg’s mouth pulled up into a sympathetic smile.  “We all are.  I know.  Just…don’t shut us off completely, okay?”

Feng reflected Meg’s smile with one of her own as she nodded, “Okay.  I’ll try.”

But after that encounter days ago, Meg hasn’t even talked to Feng once, or seen her around her friends.  She often sneaks off early in the morning and comes back late at night, but the more Meg harps on it with her friends, the more they try to reassure her that it’s fine.

“She has always been like this.” “She might be looking for a job or something.” “She’ll open up when she’s ready.” Her friends say, so Meg drops it by the sixth day of Feng disappearing during the day, wanting to just enjoy the time she now has in this new world. 

On one particularly sunny day, Meg walks into the kitchen and sees Claudette outside, small planters in hand that they got from the store, and she figures that she is finally going to be starting her garden.  Meg smiles, happy that her friend is feeling better, and although she hasn’t quite opened up about what happened back at that old house in Chimacum, Meg knows her friend will tell her one day, but for now, she’s healing. 

Claudette used to tell stories of her small planters she had growing up with a bunch of flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruit, and they always said they wanted to try and help her start one in the Fog, not that it was even possible, but the thought itself helped.  They were going to have a community garden, and Adam and Claudette would be in charge of it, the two of them being the most knowledgable on how to grow plants and not kill them, unlike most of the other survivors.

They never got to have that garden, and thinking about Adam creates a black tar pit in Meg’s stomach, so she pushes him from her mind as she remembers something else about gardening she almost forgot about.

Diving into some of the kitchen cabinets, she tries to look for the herb starter kits Evan bought from their first trip to the store, remembering that he also wanted to learn how to garden.  This would be such a perfect opportunity for the two of them to get along and for Evan to really talk to Claudette because, after all, who doesn’t like Claudette?

“Can I help you look for something?” Evan asks, his voice cutting through the silence and causing Meg to jump and bump her head on the top of the cabinet she was practically crawling inside at that point.

“What gave it away that I needed help?” Meg asks, backing out of the cabinet and rubbing the back of her head, sheepishly looking at Evan, wanting to surprise him with her idea.

“Intuition,” he responds, a smirk playing across his face. 

“Well if you must know, where did you put those herb kits you got last week?” she asks, standing up, still rubbing the sore spot on her head that throbs and feels warm under her touch.

“I left those outside, near the old garden.  Did you think I’d just put them in the kitchen?” he asks with another laugh.

“No, I was just in the cabinet for fun,” Meg replies rolling her eyes with a smile.  “But I had an idea that I wanted to run by you.”

He raises an eyebrow and waits for her to continue.

“Well, Claudette was always into plants and botany, and she’s been really down lately too with everything, and I was wondering if maybe you both would want to plant those.  I bet she knows how and she could teach you.”

“Oh,” Evan’s eyebrows shoot up his forehead.  “That sounds…nice.  Do you think she would be willing to teach me a thing or two?”

“Of course,” Meg says, already grabbing his hand to pull him outside.  “It’s Claudette.  She loves helping, you’ll see.  You’ll really like her, everyone does. ”

Evan follows along willingly and as soon as they get outside, Claudette greets them with a warm smile.

“Hi, you two,” she says as she looks over at them, shielding her eyes from the midday sun with one hand, and balancing a few planters on her hip with the other.

Meg quickly explains to Claudette about the herbs and asks if she would be willing to teach Evan as though he weren’t standing right beside her the whole time like a child waiting for permission to step forward and help.  Claudette’s radiant smile beams on her face the more Meg talks, and after she’s through asking, Claudette doesn’t hesitate to wave Evan over.

“Of course I’d help! Herbs are really fun and really useful for a lot of things, actually.  Food, medicinal purposes, therapeutic purposes, it would be nice to have some on hand.  Here, take this shovel,” she starts instructing Evan who, at first, doesn’t step forward towards Claudette as she begins to explain the different groups of herbs and the scientific names for the ones Evan picked out.  It isn’t until Meg gives him a little shove that he seems to come to once more as he frowns and takes the small trowel in hand, and due to his size, it looks more like a kid’s toy than anything.  But he seems to listen intently, nodding every so often and planting where Claudette says to plant. 

Meg watches with a big goofy smile on her face for a bit until the heat from the sun begins to make her clothes stick uncomfortably to her skin with sweat.

“I’m gonna head inside,” she says, already turning around with one last look at Evan who seems to really be enjoying himself now.  “You kids have fun,” she adds at the end.  Evan’s head flies up with a scowl at the mention of ‘kid’ that only makes Meg laugh, remembering how much he hates Ace calling him kid, which he has done the whole week.

As soon as Meg heads inside, she gets herself a bottle of water and sits down at a small table in the kitchen looking out the window.  Beside the house she can see Claudette and Evan talking about plants, and she tries not to get distracted at the way the muscles in Evan’s back move beneath his shirt or the way he wipes beads of sweat from his forehead or…

“Hey.” Nea’s voice catches Meg off guard with a start as she turns to face Nea who walks into the kitchen.

“Hey.”

Nea comes over to Meg at the table and kicks her feet up, casually leaning back in her chair that is only met with a disapproving sigh from Meg.

“You know Evan said to keep your feet off the table,” Meg says with a playful smile knowing full well that Nea won’t listen regardless of who is telling her.

“Yeah, and so did Claudette but they’re not here are they?” Nea laughs as she leans back in her chair and puts her hands behind her head.  “And speaking of which, since it’s just the two of us, what’s going on between you and the big guy?”

“Nea,” Meg sighs, looking away from Nea and definitely not looking outside at Evan, “We’ve talked about this so many times.  It’s nothing.”

This only makes Nea laugh as she stomps her feet on the ground and leans forward on the table.

“We both know that’s a lie.  You’ve been sleeping in his room every night, and anyone with eyes can see how you two are together.  Come on.  It’s me, you can tell me,” Nea says, leaning on her hands and giving Meg a toothy smile that just makes Meg frown.

“It’s nothing.  We…well okay.  I don’t know.  I like being around him, and we all know what he did, but he makes me feel safe, ya know? For some reason…”

Nea narrows her eyes and purses her lips.  “Is that it? You feel safe?”

“Is there supposed to be something else?” Meg asks, avoiding the very obvious question Nea is hinting at.  She has asked her before, and Meg believes she is telling most of the truth, but when she opens her mouth to try and explain more, anything, they hear heavy footsteps followed by a set of lighter ones come down the hallway and into the kitchen.

Claudette comes in first, wiping her hands on her jeans, followed by Evan looking particularly pleased with himself in that moment as he comes to sit by Meg, leaning slightly back in a chair.

“How was it?” Meg asks, changing the subject, sighing with relief that something came in to distract from the conversation she wasn’t ready to have with Nea. 

“Good! We got most of the plants in the ground and they’re looking good,” Claudette says, washing her hands in the sink before coming over to join the other three at the table.  “Evan here really knows his stuff when it comes to herbs though.”

Evan’s mouth turns upward in a small smile that makes Meg grin from ear-to-ear.  He looks so proud of himself, even at that one compliment.

He just looks so…happy.

“You taught me some valuable things to.  I look forward to being able to learn more from you,” Evan says, already reaching towards Meg’s hand like it had a mind of its own as he looks at Claudette.  “Thank you, truly.”

“You’re welcome.”

“See? What did I tell you?” Meg says, interlocking their fingers together unconsciously as soon as Evan’s hand finds hers.  “Everyone loves Claudette.”

As everyone begins to talk, mostly Claudette and Evan gushing about plants, Nea and Meg nod along, not particularly caring but supportive of their passions.  After awhile there is some rustling as the front door opens as Dwight comes in, grocery store bags in each hand.

“I was thinking of making some homemade pizza tonight, guys.  I mean, if that’s okay with everyone here,” Dwight announces without any prompt as soon as he sets his stuff down. 

Meg almost forgot they were gone but as her stomach begins to growl from hunger, she’s silently thankful that Claudette and her sent them on a grocery store run earlier.  They all thought it would be quite the hassle to get everyone to the store just to get things, and David and Dwight seemed to jump on the offer once it was mentioned, so no one questioned it.

Dwight sets down his bags, a few in each hand, on the kitchen counter while David comes in behind him, slamming the door with his foot, carrying an obscene amount on each of his arms like it was some display of strength. 

Nea sits at the small table in the kitchen, leaning back in the chair with her feet on the table, despite Evan’s constant “no feet on the table” talk and Claudette’s icy “Where are your manners?” scolds. 

“Since when did you know how to make pizza from scratch? With the dough and everything?” she asks, eyeing the ingredients Dwight begins to pull out from the plastic bags until he stops, his mouth falling open and eyebrows knitting together.  “I…you’re not serious are you?”

“What? Nea asks, looking from David glaring at her, Meg trying to hold in a laugh, and Claudette crossing her arms at her.  “What am I missing?”

“I used to work at a pizza place.  That was my first job.”

“Wait really?” Nea asks, her feet falling from the table.

“Did you think I just wore that stupid pizza stuff for the fun of it?”

“I mean, who doesn’t like pizza?”

“Enough to wear a pizza box backpack?”

Nea’s mouth turns downward as she raises an eyebrow and shrugs.

“Hey, you had that elf outfit too-“

“That was from another job too!”

“Oh, so you didn’t just dress like an elf in your free time?”

“Nea,” David finally chimes in, his voice deep as he shoots daggers with his glare at Nea.

“Yes, fine, I’ll stop.  We all loved your various job outfits, Dwight.  So what’s going to be on the pizza?”

Everyone falls into idle chatter as Dwight begins to prepare the dough and pizza, rifling through the cabinets in the kitchen, not before asking Evan, of course.  But when Evan murmured something along the lines of “I hardly ever cooked in here.  Go for it.” Dwight took that as a sign that it was okay to look for what he needed and prayed that it was there.

The women at the table begin to talk about past jobs while Evan sits and listens, not particularly contributing much, but to Meg’s surprise, he seems invested in the conversation nevertheless.

While the four talk, David and Dwight prepare the food, or rather, Dwight prepares the food as David simply gets in the way, but the way Dwight laughs at David’s forcefulness at “helping” makes it obvious Dwight doesn’t mind. 

After awhile, the pizza is in the old fashion oven that Evan had to help Dwight out with, and everyone seems to split into their own little groups waiting for the food to be ready, and wanting to get some air, Meg stands up to go outside, Evan following her lead.

Sitting down once they reach the porch outside, Meg can’t help but think of the time that they sat here and drank coffee that chilly morning before everything…

Although that was a particularly decent morning, she has enjoyed making new memories here in this house, and it seems to have a brighter atmosphere filled with positivity and light rather than how she felt here before. 

Finally being able to be with her friends in a normal setting is something she never thought she’d ever be able to witness, and it is something she often wondered and fantasized about back when they were stuck at the campfire, and as she sits on the porch, listening to David and Dwight banter back in forth, their voices muffled through the closed door, she feels at home.

“David, what’re you doing?”

“I just wanna see if it’s ready.”

“It’s been in there for five minutes.  It’s not ready.  Get away from the oven.”

“What will it hurt if I just take a peek?”

“You’ll let out the air! Just get over here.”

After their bickering quiets down, Evan lets out a quiet ‘hm’ before speaking.  “Your friends, the two men, they’re really close aren’t they?”

Meg pauses for a moment, blinking at him with a blank expression on her face before bluntly saying, “Evan, they’re gay.”

Evan sputters and chokes on his own saliva before collecting himself at Meg’s blunt admission. 

“Oh…Oh! Oh?”

She bursts out laughing at various toned ‘oh’s’ that come from his mouth as his very old fashioned mind tries to process what she just told him.

“It’s okay, at least in our time.  It’s normal, and I swear to God, Evan, if you say one thing homophobic right now, I won’t hesitate to beat you up myself.”

“I- no it’s fine.  I think that’s great, actually.  I, well, I knew a few buddies who were as close as your friends seem to be, though in my time it wasn’t out in the open.  That’s…incredible.”

“Oh.” That takes Meg by surprise, thinking back to his very sexist remark he made on the first night they spent in the house.

“Cleaning is a woman’s job” he basically said.  So she expected him to have some choice words about Dwight and David, but it is refreshingly uncommon for him to be so open, not that she’s complaining.

“My closest acquaintance up until…” Evan pauses, setting down his water he grabbed earlier.  “Well until I got taken, he had a friend he lived with.  They were always together, always hanging over each other.  He followed him around like he was his world, like how I see your friends look at each other.  I often wondered but, that wasn’t something you’d bring up back then, not to anyone.”

“I can’t even imagine how tough that would be, “ Meg starts saying.  “I mean, there are still places where it is frowned upon, for stupid reasons, but we’ve come a long way, though there’s still a bit farther we need to go as a society.  Although,” she laughs, “who knows how it’s like now.  I’ve missed the last ten years, it could be all changed by now.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day where a man being with a man is acceptable.  That…I wonder what else has changed.”

“A lot.” Is all Meg has to say to that, not knowing even where to begin as Evan chuckles beside her.  “But wait,” a thought comes to her mind. “At the hospital, when they were sleeping close and looked all disheveled and I was freaking out, you looked like you understood! Did you have no idea why I was looking at you like I was?”

“No, but it’s not an unusual occurrence to where I have no idea what is going through your mind.”

“You could have said something,” Meg says, playfully smacking him on the arm.

“You seemed really happy about whatever it was, and that’s not something I wanted to ruin,” Evan replies looking over at her with a playful look in his eyes.  “I quite enjoyed seeing you genuinely happy.  I’m glad I’ve seen that look on you more these last few days.”

“Well, what can I say? I guess being around you makes me happy,” Meg smirks.

Evan falters, clear in his confused expression that whatever he was prepared to hear wasn’t anything close to what Meg said. 

“I doubt that to be the case.  You have your friends back, and I know how much they mean to you.  It’s been nice getting to know them through your insistence of putting me in situations with them,” Evan replies while reaching up and scratching at the back of his head. 

This catches Meg’s eye as she really looks at his head, something she doesn’t necessarily spend her time staring at, but now she notices a slightly darker shadow over his head with what looks like hair growing in.

“Wait, Evan…is your hair growing back?” Meg asks, scooting closer to him while staring at what used to be a shiny bald head, with absolutely no hair on it.  “It is!” She answers her own question looking at his head closer, which to her delight makes Evan laugh.

“I guess so.  I only noticed this morning, and now my head won’t stop itching.  If I knew that it would be this annoying to get my hair back, I would have preferred to stay bald,” he mutters, still scratching at the back of his head.

“Are you wanting to grow it out? Like how you had it in that picture?” Meg asks, referring to the picture she found of him and his father, and her stomach flips thinking about him having hair again.  It seems so…not like him, but if she were being honest with herself, she really liked the undercut hairstyle. 

“I might.  What do you think?”

“I quite liked the hairstyle you had before, actually.  Not that the bald doesn’t suit you.  Really brings out with eyebrows, ya know,” Meg says, having to pause as she makes herself laugh at Evan  frowning at the eyebrow comment.  “But really, either way looks nice, but,” she reaches up and touches his head, feeling little soft peach fuzz beneath her fingertips, “I think hair would be a nice change.”

“Then that’s settled.  I’ll grow it out.”

 

 

That night, Meg can’t sleep.

She doesn’t know why, but no matter how tired her body feels, she can’t get her mind to simply stop running, and even after an hour of laying there with Evan’s arms around her, she feels no closer to sleep than when she first got into bed. 

Visions of Ghostface and the Doctor and even the Clown all flash before her when she closes her eyes even though there have been no signs of any of them for the last week since they’ve been back and have made the estate their home.  She doesn’t want to believe it’s a sign, so she tells herself it’s just her own paranoia resurfacing when things are getting almost too comfortable. 

Despite her trying to will herself to calm down, she knows she won’t be able to sleep, at least not yet, so she decides to get some air.  With one last deep breath, she begins to untangle herself from Evan’s warmth carefully as she can as to not wake him.  It’s rare that he is asleep while she’s awake, and although he usually stays next to her until she wakes up, he is always awake by the time she opens her eyes in the morning. 

But tonight, for some reason Evan fell asleep before her, and she doesn’t want to ruin it, or want to wake him up either, so she holds her breath as she lifts his massive arm and places it on the bed where she once lay as she gets up slowly.  The bed creaks with her weight shifting but Evan makes no sound or move to tell that he is awake.

With a sigh of relief, Meg exhales slowly and creeps out of the room, wanting to get some air outside, look up at the stars, and just have some alone time.  Although the last week has been more than she could ever want, with Evan by her side at all hours of the day, and having seven of her friends around, it is hard to get time alone.  And as much as she loves being by Evan and her friends, she misses time to herself, and going on runs by herself, but there is still that anxiety that bubbles in her chest every time she thinks about going for a run or stepping foot off the property alone.

Jed Olsen and Herman are both out there, and although she still has no idea if Herman is a threat or if he simply left them alone so easily, Jed is still very much out there and made it clear he knows exactly where they are and he will be back.

She has caught herself a few times over the last couple of days becoming lax and not thinking about the threat that could await them.  There’s also that tiny thought in the back of her mind that she has tried to silence since that moment she woke up in those woods in Issaquah.  What if this is temporary? Or an illusion? Or something worse? If the Entity let them out, it could take them back just as easily, couldn’t it?

But more often than not, Meg didn’t have to try to keep those thoughts at bay, they just simply seemed to vanish from her mind until someone would say something about the campfire, or their other survivors, and the room would get quiet until someone, usually Ace or David, somehow changed the subject once more.

It has been nice to just live in the moment as best as they can, and right now, Meg wants to have her alone time, safely, and look up at the stars.  Climbing onto the roof, the cold night air gently blows through her hair and makes her shiver slightly as she takes a seat, looking over the dark woods. 

The full moon illuminates the sky and area around the estate well enough to where some movement catches Meg’s eye just at the tree line, and as she squints more, she thinks she sees Feng walking, or more like pacing, just beyond the trees.  Her white shirt reflects stark in the light despite her other dark clothes, and for a moment, she stops and turns so she’s facing into the forest once more.

What is she doing?

After Meg has asked Feng where she was a few days ago, she slowly began to realize that Feng probably did need her space, and that was fine, but since then, she was constantly leaving and coming back at weird times and never said anything to anyone until now, now she seems totally recluse from everyone.

And as Meg watches her what looks like talking to herself in the forest, she really wants to know what’s going on.  As she stands up, Feng tenses up and turns around like she knows Meg is watching her.  Neither of them move for a few seconds before Feng briskly walks out of the forest and back towards the guest house.

Should she go after her?

Meg’s eyes flicker back to the spot Feng stood in the forest and with a flash, she thinks she saw other movement.  Something else, a flash of white like a lab coat but…

Maybe it was the darkness playing tricks on her.  She has always had good eyesight, but even where Feng stood in the trees was pretty far away, and in the darkness, her mind could easily make up something, right?

She hopes.

Meg turns her head in the direction Feng walked and she can’t see her anymore, so she’s probably just going to sleep.

With a sigh, she looks around, not feeling the same comforted freedom she felt when she was up here with Evan, so she decides to go back inside, trying not to think of Feng and the flash of white in the woods.

She can always talk to Feng tomorrow…

There is always tomorrow.

 

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