Minho burst through the gates just as the sun was starting to go down. "I found it! I found the way out!" He was screaming at anyone and everyone who would listen on his way to tell his very pregnant girlfriend the good news.
"What? Where?" Everyone who heard him was asking, but most of them had never even stepped foot in the Maze, making it very difficult to explain just where he'd found it.
He found Emily frowning at her dinner plate, wanting desperately to eat it, but not having the stomach room because of the almost full-term baby squeezing against all her internal organs. Minho ran up to her, first giving a peck to Emily's cheek, then one to her protruding stomach. "We're getting you out of here," he whispered to them both, eyes sparkling with excitement.
"What!" Emily exclaimed, leaping out of her seat – knocking over the tray and bumping the table – and into Minho's arms. "You… is there…"
"A way out," Minho shouted, picking up his love and swirling her around once.
Rather enjoying the sentiment behind the sweet embrace, Emily tried to ignore the painful pressure the gesture put on her already crowded insides. Through her tears, she was grinning from ear to ear. "Where is it? When can we go?" Though there was no indication that the baby was coming, Clint said it could happen any day now, and based on how uncomfortable she felt, Emily figured the kid had to be running out of room in there.
Minho bit his lip, sharing her anxiousness about making their escape before the baby came, but he didn't want to take any chances. "Well, it's pretty deep into the Maze. It took me half the day just to run back here." Emily looked toward the gate, as if she were contemplating marching toward them right that instant. "We should wait," Minho continued, desperate to keep her from doing something rash. "Yeah, there's a chance of running into a griever during the day, but I've been there at night – trust me, it'll be much safer if we wait til morning." She was still staring toward the Maze. "We won't be able to move very quickly – it's a long journey even for a runner – but if we leave early enough, we can make the whole trip while it's still light." He was trying to make generalizations, but really Emily was the reason it would take them so long. Her stomach was so large now that it created a terrible strain on her whole body, and she easily got tired and winded. Minho knew it was a touchy subject and he was hoping not to offend her, but she had stopped paying attention to him altogether. "What? Em, what is it?" he asked, concerned.
"Minho… it's getting dark."
"Yeah, which is why we need to wait until morning. Get our rest." Minho didn't understand the sudden gravity in her voice.
"No, it's getting dark… and the gates aren't closing," she finished, turning to stare at him with wide eyes.
She was right, of course. The walls should have been shifting, but instead of the usual organic scrape of stone, an inhuman mechanical clanging reached their ears. Minho turned just in time to see the first of the grievers pouring through the small opening. "Get to the Homestead. Tell everyone to board up the windows and barricade the doors."
Of course Minho wanted to stay with her, but he also had an obligation to protect his fellow Gladers. Emily understood this, and they had both already started moving, coordinating with the other leaders to try and quell the rising panic and chaos – though they were right to feel it. Minho breathed a sigh of relief when Emily disappeared into their makeshift stronghold with about a dozen other boys following close behind.
Minho recruited Newt and a few others – the same ones who were recruited to the search party, the ones that still had griever venom inside them, giving a distinct advantage to their current head-on attack strategy – to be the Homestead's first line of defense. They formed a barricade around the crudely walled-up structure, slashing and fighting, unseen, until the grievers backed off for a moment of respite.
Wave after wave of the creatures came upon them. Even if they fought perfectly, bravely, aggressively, one of the monsters would end up on the roof or through a window. Though there were experienced fighters protecting those inside as well, every so often a primal shriek would ring out over the sounds of clanging metal and the cracking of wood. Minho couldn't bring himself to look at the fallen – he could do nothing more for them than he currently was, and if one of those cries had come from Emily… he wasn't sure he could keep fighting.
Inside the Homestead was not much better. The walls creaked and boards cracked as saws and spears tested each crevice of the home for weaknesses. Every so often a Glader would be pulled through a newly created opening, and there would be a mad rush to use any and every available object to plug the hole. The night oscillated between intense, adrenaline-fueled flurries of activity, and – almost worse – the tense silences between as they awaited the next attack.
Thomas kept an eye on Emily, but in all honesty, he seemed more distressed than she did. The sounds coming from outside were nearly unbearable, and she spent the whole night doing anything and everything to otherwise occupy her mind and hands – helping to care for the injured, comforting the sobbing young ones, shoring up their meager defenses when there had been a breach; then, when she was too exhausted to continue doing all these things herself, organizing others into groups to keep the place running in her stead.
At one point, Emily became so overwhelmed that she scurried to the back corner of the room – it was by no means private, but anywhere in the Homestead that was reasonably secure was full to the brim, and this was as close to being alone as she could get. She faced the wall, pressing her forehead against the rough wood and curling her hands around the underside of her belly. Everyone inside was barely hanging on, so she couldn't even imagine how exhausted the warriors outside must have been. They had been fighting nonstop for hours, and though the sun would be up soon, there was no guarantee anymore that the Glade would be safe then.
Thomas came up behind her just as her back shuddered and a weak cry escaped her lips. "It's gonna be okay, Em," he tried to soothe, though he didn't even believe himself. "We're gonna get out of here."
She nodded, not believing him either, and whispered, "Just give me a minute?" Thomas gave her shoulder a little squeeze before turning around to help move a dresser in front of the still broken front door. For just a moment, Emily let herself fall apart; she covered her mouth with her hand and screamed softly into it, knees nearly buckling. She braced herself against the wall, doubled over and shaking with fear, anger, grief; she closed her eyes and took two deep breaths before straightening herself up and marching back into battle.
The night was long, and they lost about a dozen boys – a loss that weighed heavily on all their hearts. But as the sky began to lighten, the grievers slowly slid back into the folds of their Maze; a melancholy tone permeated their once safe haven as each remaining Glader began to bring order back to the disaster zone. As soon as the last monster disappeared behind the stone walls, Minho rushed inside to survey the damage, afraid of what – and who – he might find.
Emily was leaning heavily against the shredded couch, gingerly massaging her lower back and looking like she could sleep for three days. "Emily!" he called, almost giddy with relief, and leapt over to her. "I love you," he whispered, wrapping his large hands around the back of her neck and pulling her face toward him for a tender kiss. "Are you alright?" he questioned, just realizing how much she was using him for support.
Her eyes were closed, but all Emily could see were the terrified and helpless faces of the victims she couldn't save. "We need to leave, Minho," she insisted, letting out a pleasurable moan as Minho took over rubbing gentle circles into her back.
"I know. And we will. But let's get some rest first?" he suggested, seeing how she winced and let out a low groan with each step. They were all exhausted, and Minho suspected that their journey to the portal would not be an easy one. With the daytime attacks in the Maze, and now the nightly invasion of the Glade, the grievers were a constant threat; not to mention the fact that their escape route was located directly across the grievers' stronghold. Their best chance was to get rested, then, should the need arise, fight their way out; it didn't matter whether it was night or day anymore.
She thought about it, assessed her overused and aching body, and nodded; Minho held her arm as she stepped over and through the piles of rubble and shattered furniture of their home. Emily smiled when she saw Newt sprawled out on the floor with his head in Thomas's lap, seeing the beginning of something perhaps neither of them yet realized. The other boys had also drifted off to sleep right where they sat, but Minho and Emily decided their last moments of rest would be in the bed that held their greatest memories.
Emily let out a broken sob as they waded through the splintered remnants of the crib that had been so carefully crafted with such love. Minho hugged her close and whispered, "It's okay. Just means we're close. We are so close, Em." He was so close; soon all of this – the anxiety, the hurt, the loss – it would all be worth it. Minho sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to pull Emily with him, but she just stood there – debating whether trying to retrieve a now unrecognizable memento of the gift was worth the effort of bending down all the way to the floor. "We can build another one," he insisted, tugging at her arm again.
She nodded absently, this time allowing Minho to guide her onto the mattress beside him, though her heart felt like it had dissolved into as many pieces as the tiny bed. They curled up in each other's arms, closing their eyes for the last time in the Glade.
The sun was high in the sky when Emily woke up. Instead of feeling more rested, her muscles felt as though they had been tightly coiled the entire time. The pain in her back had gotten worse – tighter and more concentrated – and she had to take a few deep breaths before the pressure loosened enough for her to think again. Clint's vague description of how it would feel when she went into labor flashed through her mind, and she feared the dull ache from the night before was more than just overexertion.
She wanted to awaken Minho, to get everybody moving and get out of this damn Maze. But he was dead asleep, and if she interrupted the rest he so desperately needed, he'd know something was wrong. And if Minho even suspected she was having the baby, there was no way he'd lead them into griever territory, even if it might ultimately lead them to safety. She decided to keep her mouth shut and wait for him to wake up on his own.
Emily tried to go back to sleep, but no position could relieve what felt like a tight band squeezing around her torso. After a while, that band snapped like a whip – a sharp pain that started on her side, followed by aftershock spasms that rippled through the rest of her stomach. She could ignore the first two times it happened – write it off as cramps after hours of overworking her seldom used muscles – but when her stomach tightened again, she couldn't stop her tears from spilling over. They had finally found a way out of the Maze, but it had come at a huge price – the Glade opening up its gates permanently, allowing all hell to break loose at any time – and Minho wouldn't hesitate to pay it again if he discovered her pain. He wouldn't let her leave, and she couldn't let them stay.
Her sobs must have jostled the bed more than she realized, because Minho, even from his death-like sleep, pried his eyes open and shifted up onto his elbow, holding her face in his hands. He thought she was feeling guilty for everything they'd lost last night – which she was, though that's not why she was crying – and tried to comfort her. "Hey, it's okay. We're going to get out of here, and everything's going to get better. It'll all be worth it."
She nodded and rolled gently to the side. Minho sprang up and went around to her side of the bed, pulling her up, first to a seated position, then hoisting her to her feet. "Alright, then we should go. Let's go," she insisted, already hurrying to the door. Minho, who still had hold of her hand, pulled her to a stop.
"Hey, we're all anxious to get out of here, but what's the rush?" They were all uncertain and a little jumpy, but he hadn't seen her move that fast in weeks. He was actually surprised she could get to the door that quickly.
Emily tapped her foot and looked around the room, trying to come up with a rational explanation. "I just… what if the grievers come back? We need to get out of here!" She was trying to keep calm, to act normal, but her hysteria was starting to bubble over. They needed to get moving and get out of there while she still could.
"We will," Minho insisted, confused and suspicious of her sudden haste. "But let's go get breakfast; you'll need your strength." Emily managed to bite back a frustrated growl, but couldn't stop the heaviness in her footsteps as she trudged along behind him.
Luckily, most of the other boys seemed as antsy and on edge as Emily did. They wanted to avoid another griever attack, and everyone wolfed down their breakfasts. Emily dropped her fork when another pain rippled through her stomach, generating more than a few glances as the clang rang out through the tense silence.
Before anyone could speculate or ask her anything, she pushed her plate away and, with some difficulty, stood up. "I can't stay here another minute. I'm getting my stuff and getting out of here. Right now." She waddled away toward the Homestead and the few intact supplies she'd need to take with her.
Minho wanted to give her some space, to let her process her grief from the night before and her fear of their uncertain future. Thomas, however – being much better at reading emotions, and definitely not ignoring the red flags popping up in his mind – followed after her.
"Emily?" he called, racing up the stairs. He walked through the splintered door and found her hastily stuffing things into a backpack. "You know Minho or I could do that for you," he commented, leaning against the door frame. "In half the time." She didn't even turn to scowl at him – which was cause for concern, since her constantly tired and aching body always had her in a foul mood. Thomas walked over and wrapped his long fingers around her forearm, calming her flurry of activity. "Hey," he said, "it's okay. We've still got time."
Emily shook her head and her bottom lip began to tremble. "We really don't," she whispered, emerald eyes sparkling with mounting tears as she returned to putting items in the knapsack.
Thomas furrowed his brow and cocked his head. "What do you mean? What's wrong?" Suddenly she stilled, and her hands dug into the bed as she leaned into it for support. "Em?" he questioned, sitting on the bed to face her when she didn't answer.
Her eyes were closed, concentrating on taking rhythmic breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth. It was worse than the last one, but still manageable. Unfortunately, breathing through the contraction took all her focus, and she wasn't aware of how much time had passed since it had seized her. It was probably only thirty seconds or so, but long enough to get Thomas's attention. "I'm fine," she insisted preemptively.
Thomas wrinkled his nose; he hated when she said that. It usually meant that she was nowhere near fine, but refused to admit it out of stubbornness. "Emily, if you don't tell me what's going on right now, so help me I will tell every single person I can find what I just saw," he warned, though he was considering doing that anyway.
Her jaw clenched and her eyes darted back and forth around the room, weighing her options. Thomas crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows, waiting for her to give in. Emily sighed, gently massaging the tight muscles on the lower curve of her protruding stomach. "It's nothing, really," she tried to explain. "Just, you know… a contraction or two," she mumbled, looking down.
"Shit, you're having the baby!" Thomas squeaked, more of an exclamation than a question. Emily put her hands up to shush him, afraid someone might hear.
"Nonono," she whispered, trying to get him to match her tone, but Thomas looked like he was about to bolt for the door. "It could be false labor again! Clint said that could happen. And it's probably that; I mean, it's still a little early," she rambled, unsure if she was trying to convince Thomas or herself. Her pain certainly didn't feel like practice.
"Emily… this is insane. Walking… all day… grievers… baby!" he couldn't even form a coherent argument, but what he managed to get out was still valid.
"Please, Thomas," she begged. "If you tell anyone, if we stay here… more people are going to die. Even if it is real… I can't… I have to…" she looked away and bit her lip.
Thomas sighed and put his arms around her. Emily turned to face him and cried into his shoulder. "I know, I know," he said, rubbing his hand up and down her back. This had always been her biggest fear, and now it was compounded with the danger it posed to her fellow Gladers, her family.
"Will you- will you help me?" she asked, eyes wide. Thomas knowing about her condition was a risk, but if this turned out to be the real thing, Emily didn't know if she'd be able to handle it on her own.
Thomas rubbed at the back of his neck and blew out a breath. He'd overheard Clint say that first time labors could take hours – days, even – in which case they could once again be trapped in the Glade at night, with Emily still not having had the baby. "If Minho finds out, he's gonna kill me," he said, conceding to the girl he'd always had a soft spot for.
She hugged him tight before turning and zipping up the stocked bags as Thomas ran to rally the troops. As soon as he was out of sight, Emily felt her abdomen tighten again and she cursed under her breath.