Minho, the only one who actually knew where the exit was, was in the lead. He had wanted Emily by his side, but Thomas convinced him that it was better if they stayed toward the back, in case they turned the corner straight into a griever. He reluctantly agreed, but kept glancing back to make sure he wasn't going too quickly.
The Maze was quiet; the pack of Gladers was traveling slowly, silently, so as not to draw attention, but still… they should have expected to encounter some grievers along the way. The nearer they got to their freedom without hitting any lethal obstacles, the more concerned Minho got about what would be waiting for them when they finally got there.
Most of the time, Emily was able to walk through the pain; she'd been through worse. As they got deeper into the Maze, though, the pain got more intense and started to come every few minutes. Thomas would lead her around the corner and she'd loop her arms over his neck, trying to stifle a groan between tightly sealed lips. Every time this happened, Minho would double back until he caught sight of them again; usually, there was plenty of time between when Minho noticed their absence and when he made his way to the back of the crowd of anxious Gladers, but Emily's last contraction had lasted so long that when he reached them, she hadn't had time to recover.
Her arms clutched at Thomas's neck as he supported most of her weight. "It's okay. Just breathe, Em." Emily resented being spoken to like she couldn't accomplish the most basic of human tasks – breathing – but found the reminder useful as she blew out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. The whole breathing thing became even more difficult as the stabbing pressure caused he knees to buckle. Her hands moved to cradle her rigid stomach, and Minho could hear her muffled groans, despite her head being buried in Thomas's shoulder.
"Em? Emily, what's wrong?" Minho asked, frantically running over to them. She stumbled away from Thomas's supporting arms and tried to smile, but she was sweaty and exhausted. "Are you okay? Do you need to stop? Should we turn around?" She was already shaking her head, but Minho was on full alert. "Clint!" he called, not wanting to take any chances.
Emily's eyes went wide and she clutched at Minho's arm. "Baby, I'm fine. Please, let's just keep going. We're almost there, right?" They had been walking for hours, so there wasn't much deeper into the Maze they could go. She knew time was running out for her to have the baby anywhere but the cold, barren ground between the griever-filled walls.
Clint jogged over, and his eyes filled with concern as soon as he caught sight of Emily. "Jeff!" he yelled, calling for backup.
"Damnit, I'm fine!" Emily screeched, desperate to divert the attention away from her obvious condition. Clint and Jeff shared a look just as a warm, pink trickle of fluid began streaming down her legs. "Shuck," she muttered, watching the earth darken beneath her feet.
"Is that –" Minho didn't even have time to ask the question before Emily pitched forward, crumpling to the ground and clutching her stomach; she couldn't have stifled her next scream if she'd tried. Her water breaking had released a flood of new – and unimaginably more painful – sensations. Thomas – the only one not standing frozen in shock – knelt down beside her and put what was intended to be a comforting arm around her shoulder. She shrugged him off as an immense pressure pushed down between her legs; the baby was shifting into place, preparing to enter the world she'd fought so hard to keep it out of.
Minho shoved Thomas out of the way and took his place beside her, only this time – instead of pulling away – she sank deeply into the embrace that was offered.
"When did you start having contractions?" Clint asked after the initial surprise had worn off. Emily was still doubled over on the ground panting, so Thomas answered for her.
"This morning," he muttered, obviously feeling sheepish. If Minho hadn't been holding Emily in his arms, he would have beat the crap out of Thomas.
"You knew?" he bellowed. "You let her walk into this death trap knowing she was in labor?" Minho still had his arms around Emily, who was now shaking with silent sobs, but began estimating if he was tall enough to sweep Thomas's legs out from under him so he could kick his ass from on the ground.
"Did anyone really want to try and survive another night trapped with the grievers?" Thomas shot back. "She didn't want anyone else to get hurt," he pouted, as Newt came up beside him and placed a calming hand on his lower back. Thomas leaned into his touch, just slightly, and relaxed.
"I don't… want… my child… to live a single day… in this godforsaken place," Emily added between ragged breaths from the ground.
Minho's expression softened. "I know, baby," he said, kissing the top of her head. This was so typical of them, each trying to out-self-sacrifice the other.
Clint and Jeff knelt on either side of Minho and Emily. "How far apart are the contractions?" Jeff asked, while Clint put his hands on her stomach.
"Shit," Clint cursed when he felt how low the baby had dropped. "We don't have long."
As if to make his point, Emily sucked in a breath and squeezed her eyes shut. Minho's arms tightened around her and he rocked them back and forth. "Just breathe. Just breathe, baby," he soothed. For some reason, the words didn't annoy her as much spoken in Minho's soft, deep timbre, and her panted breaths began to come out like little whines with each exhale.
Minho had never seen her like this; she was so strong – could handle damn near anything, physical or emotional – and yet here she was, falling apart in his grasp. Emily was petrified – the deep internal pressure was completely foreign and unfamiliar; there was nothing like it, and certainly no escape from it. She wouldn't wish it upon her worst enemy.
"Can you walk?" Minho asked when her breathing returned to normal.
"Y-yes," she replied, completely uncertain. But they had come so far, they were so close; and now that Minho was by her side, she would find the strength to make it to the portal.
Minho mentally kicked himself for being too preoccupied to notice that she was avoiding him. He had been so relieved to find out that she had survived the night, he had completely forgotten about the possibility that she could be having the baby. He was so busy patting himself on the back, thinking he was finally getting his family to safety, when he was really leading them into the worst situation he could imagine. Once again, he hadn't been there for Emily when she'd needed him most. "I'm so sorry," he confessed, pulling her up to her feet. "This is all my fault."
Minho delved deeply into the pit of self-loathing, and was taken aback when laughter bubbled from Emily's mouth. He looked at her like she'd lost her mind, and though she squeezed her lips together, her eyes still sparkled with amusement. "This," she explained, placing his hand on her belly, "is most definitely your fault." She giggled again as he rolled his eyes.
A clang and a scream rang out from the front of the group. "Grievers!" someone yelled.
"Nononono," Minho pleaded with the universe. "We're right there!" he exclaimed, banging his fist into the stone wall. He looked back and forth between the front line of the attack and the ailing girl in front of him. He'd made a vow to both; Emily needed him, but – though she'd be royally and rightfully pissed – she'd survive without him. Minho wasn't sure he could say the same for the Gladers currently defending against the mechanical monsters. Plus, with the griever poison still coursing through his veins, he had a unique and impressive advantage. "We're going to have to fight our way through," he said, passing Emily off to Thomas.
"What are you doing?" she asked, fear and panic rising behind her eyes. He couldn't leave her like this. He wouldn't.
Instead of answering her question, Minho addressed the boys surrounding her. "Clint, Emily needs you to deliver the baby." Then, turning to Thomas, "Thomas, she'll need you to help her through this."
"Minho, no." Sure, Thomas had been helping her out before, but she'd been doing all the work. Plus, though it was probably all the pain she was in, it seemed like he couldn't say or do anything that didn't annoy her. "I don't know how to do this. And she needs you, not me!" he shrieked.
"You've been doing a good job so far," Minho responded with bitterness, though aimed more at himself than Thomas. "And – no offense – but you're kind of a shitty fighter, Thomas. And, well, she's going to need someone if… well, in case anything happens…" he trailed off.
"Minho!" Emily cried, trying to run to him, but just then another crippling pain shot through her midsection, and instead clung desperately to Thomas for support. "Don't do this to me! I can't… I can't do this without you." She couldn't see him clearly through all the tears in her eyes.
Minho stepped forward and cupped her face in his hands. "I love you, Emily. And our baby. So much that I would do anything to give you both the life you deserve." He leaned in and kissed her deeply before bending down and resting his cheek against her stomach.
"Please," she begged, barely a whisper, threading her fingers through his fine, dark hair. Maybe if they'd just stayed in the Glade… she thought her labor would take much longer; she thought she had time.
"I'll see you soon," Minho promised and gave the baby a little peck, hoping it was a vow he could keep.
He ran into the fray as monster after monster piled up in front of the pack of Gladers. They, like Minho, would fight to the death to try and clear a path for their escape, for his child, for their future.
Thomas and Clint had to pry Emily away from the scene and around the corner, farther from the flying weapons, but they were still within earshot. She screamed, both in frustration and agony, and slid to the ground.
"Emily, I need to check your progress," Clint said, already moving to spread her legs apart. She slapped his hand away and crawled along the ground until her back was against the cold stone wall.
"Stay away from me-AH!" her warning morphed into a groan as she curled in on herself, breaths coming out as hisses – like a frightened, feral animal – between her tightly clenched jaw.
"Emily, look at me," the Med Jack ordered. "Focus on your baby. You're going to meet your child soon – yours and Minho's." He thought the mention of Minho would snap her out of it, would give her the motivation to do what she needed to do. Instead, she seemed to withdraw even further in on herself. "Thomas," Clint turned to him, attempting a new approach, "this baby is coming – soon. I need to know what we're dealing with."
Thomas was still reeling from the rapid change of events. They had almost made it to the portal, to freedom, then all hell had broken loose. Even Newt was in the battle, though he had the same advantage as Minho, thus having much better odds at survival. His gaze shifted to the terrified girl writhing on the ground next to him; Minho and Newt could handle themselves, but Emily – she needed him.
"Emily," he whispered, leaning over and brushing the long, sweat-soaked hair over her shoulder and out of her face. She flinched, but didn't withdraw from his touch. "Emily, listen to me. You're going to have a baby now." Emily shook her head and let out deep moan, but her hand reached out of its own accord, desperate for something to cling to. Thomas grabbed it, taking the opportunity to pull her to a seated position. He settled himself behind her so that his back was against the wall, and Emily was against his chest.
Clint scooted forward and pressed her knees apart, a question in his eyes. Emily gave a resigned nod and leaned her head back to rest on Thomas's shoulder, looking up at the sky. It was the same generic blue it always was; it looked so normal – a jarring contrast to the horrific scene it canopied. "I don't want to do this," she whispered mostly to herself, though Thomas answered.
"You're not alone. It'll all be over soon." Suddenly, she grabbed both of his hands in hers and screamed loud enough to drown out the battle that was ensuing just around the corner. "Close your eyes!" Thomas demanded. Her stubbornness must have dissipated with the pain, because she obliged. "Breathe in, and breathe out," he coached through several breaths. At the peak, all her muscles tensed and she arched against him. "Hey, I'm right here. I'm right here. Almost over. Almost over."
He repeated the phrases until she relaxed back against him. "Emily, the baby's coming. I need you to push," Clint instructed, resulting in Emily clamping her legs shut.
"MINHO!" she cried, flailing wildly. "Minho, I need you!" she called until her body shook with the onslaught of another contraction. She screamed and sobbed and cursed; she did everything but push. Clint tried to pin down her legs in a position that would allow the baby to come out safely, but she kept kicking and squirming out of his grasp. She continued to wail even after the vice around her midsection loosened. She was overwhelmed, coming apart at the exact moment she needed all her concentration.
"Emily," Thomas whispered in a calm, even tone. This was happening, right now, whether she wanted it to or not. "Close your eyes and take my hands." Her eyes were already closed, and it was Thomas who had to seek out her grasp, but she didn't pull away. "Listen to the sound of my voice. Focus on the feel of my hands in yours." It took a few seconds, but soon her breathing slowed and she squeezed a little tighter. Good. A small whimper escaped her mouth as another contraction began. "We are not going to panic, alright?" She was still trembling, but no longer thrashing about, so Thomas nodded to Clint, who once again pushed her knees apart. "Now, I'm going to count down from ten, and you are going to focus on bringing your child into the world, okay?"
He didn't wait for her to respond, just started counting. Emily's chin fell to her chest and she bore down, grunting and whining as her tissues shifted to accommodate the baby's head. It was the worst pain she had ever felt – it burned and it ached and it stung, everywhere and all at once. Her throat was raw from the primal sounds that ripped from her throat, but she didn't even notice them. There were only two things that existed for her anymore – the overwhelming agony, and the endless cycle of counting.
Minho could hear her cries from around the corner – all the Gladers could. Their fight was eerily silent in comparison; the only noise to fill the air was the clash of metal on metal and the occasional griever death cry. Both sides had lost warriors, but when Newt single-handedly dismembered a griever that had been stalking from above, waiting to ambush their weakened front, the tides turned. The creatures didn't retreat, but they began to doubt, hesitating just long enough for the Gladers to gain the upper hand.
Soon, there was only one monster left. Minho wanted desperately to race around the corner to appease Emily's distressed cries, but he couldn't leave his faithful comrades, who had put their trust in him, followed him, and risked everything on his behalf. "Let's do this, shuckface!" he screeched, charging at the beast head-on. The other Gladers followed suit, surrounding the griever and wasting no time in attacking.
The griever was dismembered quickly, but before it had even exploded its inner goo, Minho and Newt took off to see the ones they had been fighting for.
An almost inhuman scream reached his ears, and for a moment Minho was terrified that another griever had found them. He became more terrified when he realized the sound was coming from the love of his life. "Emily!" he cried, rushing over, but stopping a few feet from where she was propped up against Thomas. "I'm here, baby, I'm right here," he said, though she didn't appear to hear him.
"Come on, Emily, push!" Clint was trying to encourage her, but she wasn't listening to him either. It was only when Thomas began whispering in her ear, counting backwards from ten, that her features furrowed together in intense concentration and she pulled her knees back. Minho watched in fascination as the crown of the baby's head stretched at her opening, revealing a swath of dark hair.
"I can't! I CAN'T anymore!" she yelled, pounding her fist into the ground when she was opened to the widest point. "Please," she sobbed, begging everyone and no one, seeking relief that would be found only by finishing the herculean task at hand. Thomas had resumed counting, but even that wasn't enough to get her to continue. She needed Minho.
Newt had already taken a place at Thomas's side, and Minho realized he had been frozen in place. "Shuck," he muttered, wondering why he hadn't already knelt to Emily's side, taken her hands in his, and been the rock he'd promised her he'd be.
Minho got on his knees and took her face in his hands. "Emily. Emily, look at me!" She pried her eyes open a tiny slit, but they popped wide with confusion and wonder when they were greeted with Minho's radiant smile.
"You… they… you're…" she stuttered, frantic eyes darting amongst her immediate surroundings. She hadn't even noticed the battle ending, and suddenly she was surrounded by all the people she loved, the people she needed in order to get through this.
"…going to have a baby!" he finished for her, excited. Her answering smile turned into a wince as the moment of euphoria passed and another wave of agony crashed over her body. "Pushpushpush!" Minho encouraged, grabbing her hand.
Emily cried out, trembling from the force with which her body was trying to expel the baby. Her eyes never left Minho's warm, dark gaze, even the few times he snuck a peek at their child's entrance into the world. The head was out; Clint told her to stop pushing, but her body acted out of instinct – the urge to bear down like a reflex that she couldn't control. Then Emily gasped with sudden emptiness, her whole body tingling with relief as the newborn's cry replaced her own.
"She… she's perfect," Minho choked, tears flowing freely down his cheeks. "Told you it was a girl," he laughed, unable to take his eyes from the bewildered newborn. "Em, look," he instructed when she didn't immediately concur.
Emily wanted more than anything to see her daughter's face – to see if she had her eyes and Minho's mouth, his long legs and her dimples. She wanted to see these things – desperately – but was having trouble keeping her eyes open. When she couldn't form words, Emily tried to lift her arms – to cradle the daughter she'd fought so long for – but they felt heavy and cumbersome, and would not obey her.
Emily started to feel very cold and began to shiver. Though the cacophony of concerned voices dulled to a distant hum, she managed to pick out Clint shouting, "She's still bleeding!"
Minho, who was now holding their daughter, brought the baby over to Emily just as her eyes fluttered shut. She only caught a vague outline of the tiny human, but even as she drifted into unconsciousness, Emily was content in knowing that Minho would always have a piece of her to hold, to cherish, to love.
"Hang on, Em," Minho pleaded, though from too great a distance now for the longing and desperation in his voice to reignite the ache in her heart. He placed a gentle kiss on her temple, and the last thing she remembered was a feeling of weightlessness as she was lifted off the ground, a gentle breeze caressing her expended and waning body as they ran, beckoning her to freedom.