Emily and Minho had come to a tenuous truce. They had both decided to put aside their own feelings and do what was best for their child. For Emily, that meant switching jobs, taking it easy, and avoiding the Maze. For Minho, that meant spending the majority of his time in the Maze, looking for an escape.
Over the next several weeks, Minho worked himself to the point of exhaustion. He was through the gates the moment they opened wide enough for him to squeeze through – dragging Thomas, his new running partner, in tow – and spent most nights locked in the map room, desperate to fulfill his promise.
This left Emily alone much of the time. She worked in the garden with Newt, but compared to the excitement and physical exertion required of a runner, it was rather mundane. However, today was a special occasion – it was her and Minho's three year anniversary. She doubted Minho would remember, which would make the romantic dinner she had planned all the more surprising. If she could tear him away from his work long enough to celebrate…
She had insisted Frypan teach her how to cook something amazing, but after two ruined attempts and one small brush fire, he demanded she leave the kitchen. Supplies were running low and everything had to be rationed, and her sentimentality was wasting valuable resources.
Despite the sour face she wore when she was kicked out, Emily was rather relieved to be out of there. It was hot and she'd been standing far too long. She fondly remembered the days when it was easy to not only stand all day, but to actually be running. But now her belly was growing larger, causing her back to ache and her feet to hurt and making her dangerously off balance and clumsy… thus the fire.
Newt found her sitting on a tree stump, scowling in the general direction of the dining hall. "Frypan kick you out?" he asked in amusement. She narrowed her eyes and nodded, but Newt knew if she'd really wanted to do it herself, no one could have stopped her. "Well, we may not be able to make a chef out of you, but perhaps a thief?"
Emily didn't know what he was talking about, but she snorted at the idea of trying to be stealthy. "Have you seen me lately, Newt? I wouldn't be able to sneak up on a blind elephant!" She tried to pass it off as a joke, but she really was getting frustrated with all the things that were steadily getting harder to do.
Newt studied her for a moment. "Too bad, then. Because I heard there was a small amount of chocolate saved away. You know, just in case…" Honestly, he didn't even know why the council decided to set aside things like that. As far as Newt was concerned, they should enjoy it while they could, live each day like it was their last… because someday it would be.
He knew he'd gotten Emily's attention when she sat up a little straighter, like she was already poised to make a break for the secret hideaway. "You know, Newt," she began, practically purring, "you've always been my favorite council leader." She smiled a mischievous, almost seductive grin, and leaned back so that her stomach stuck out further. "And, well, the baby has never had chocolate before." Emily licked her lips, remembering the last time the sweet ambrosia had graced her taste buds. She was trying to play on his sympathies, but he wondered just how far she'd go. When Newt didn't give up the location of the sweets, she leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "And neither has Thomas. I'm sure he'd be most apprecia-"
Emily's convincing was cut off by Newt yanking her to her feet, dragging her off to some back corner of the Glade. She chuckled in victory. The supplies were chained up in the back of the council room, where the goods could be kept dry and cool. They each took a couple squares of the chocolate… and maybe a few rolls and cheese cubes – all items that were coveted and had not been distributed since the box had stopped coming up.
Newt helped Emily set up a makeshift table in her bedroom, spreading out the impressive array of edibles. They had even absconded with candles and some fancy plates and silverware. Emily was just placing the last fork down when it dropped from her hand. Her breathing quickened and she froze in place.
"Emily, love, are you alright?" Newt asked, making his way over to her. She nodded and finished putting the utensil in its proper place, but he could see her hands shaking. "What is it? Are you ill?" Even though the morning sickness had gotten better, it didn't go away completely, and certain smells still made her nauseous. And they were certainly enveloped in a bunch of unusual aromas.
"I'm fine," she insisted, shaking off whatever fear had paralyzed her. "Minho will be back soon. Could you make sure he…?" she didn't finish the question. Newt was aware of how many nights Minho – and Thomas – spent locked in the map room. She wanted him to make sure Minho found his surprise.
"Sure thing," he replied, giving her a tentative smile. The slight tremor in her voice made Newt wary of leaving her alone. But she was right – Minho would be home soon, and those two understood each other better than they understood themselves, so he figured she'd be in safe hands. Emily sat down at her place setting and Newt gave her head a little pat as he made his way out the door.
She tried to ignore the odd feeling that twisted her insides, but when it happened again, she crawled onto the bed, their romantic dinner forgotten, and prayed that the feeling would go away.
"What's all this?" Minho asked as he entered, eyes lighting up at the delicious appetizers that peppered the table. Emily was sitting on the corner of the mattress, hunched over with her eyes closed. "Emily?" he questioned, kneeling in front of her and cupping her chin in his hand. "What's wrong? What is it?"
"Minho, I –" her explanation was cut off when she sucked in another breath, hands flying to her stomach. She was certain something was wrong and her eyes took on the glassy sheen of unshed tears.
"Let's get you to –"
"NO!" she cried, throwing herself into the middle of the bed and curling into a ball. "It's fine. I'm fine." She kept repeating the phrase, trying to convince herself more than Minho. If she went to the infirmary and they said something was wrong, it would be real; if she stayed there, she could ignore it and assume everything was fine.
She was shutting down, and shutting Minho out. He didn't know what was wrong and she was starting to scare him. "Emily, I really think –"
"I said no, Minho! I just… need a minute." Emily closed her eyes and focused on breathing, slowly, in and out, one breath at a time. When she opened her eyes again, Minho was gone, and Newt and Thomas were sitting on the edge of the bed. "Where –"
"To get Clint," Newt explained. As soon as her eyes were shut, Minho had raced out the door and down the steps. He didn't want to leave her alone, and luckily Newt was talking with Thomas just outside the Homestead. He sent the two of them to watch her while he went to the infirmary to fetch a Med Jack.
"I'm fine," she pouted, sounding more stubborn than certain.
"I'm sure you are," Thomas assured her, earning a warning glare from Newt. Bad things happened all the time in the Glade, but, against all odds, Thomas was an optimist. It was why Newt had taken a shine to him initially, and what kept drawing him back. That and Thomas's long, lean body and dark, innocent eyes.
"What happened?" Clint queried, barreling through the open door with Minho hot on his heels, as he searched for signs of pain or distress.
Emily looked between Thomas and Newt, then Minho and Clint, opening and closing her mouth several times before anything came out. She didn't want to give voice to her sudden alarm, not here with all these people, not now when they were supposed to be celebrating. She pushed herself up to a seated position and sat cross-legged, letting her palms rest on her knees and keeping her head down.
"Come on, Em. Talk to us." Thomas, always wanting to talk things out.
Emily looked up at Clint and took her bottom lip between her teeth, feeling exposed and uncomfortable. "I… it's like…" she fumbled for words, frowning when she couldn't find the right ones. "Something feels weird," was her only conclusion. She looked down and picked at some lint on the sheets, embarrassed at not knowing what was going on with her own body.
"Where? What does it feel like? Does it hurt?" Clint pressed, still unsure what exactly he needed to do for her.
She shook her head. "No. Doesn't hurt." She took her hands and cupped them under her stomach, looking up at the ceiling and taking a few breaths. When she felt the odd sensation bubble up inside her again, she clamped her jaw shut – trying to keep from crying – but couldn't suppress the small whimper that passed between her lips.
"Emily, I can't help you if you don't talk to me," Clint reasoned. She shook her head, still unable to find the right words, and simply brought his hands to her stomach. His eyes narrowed, then widened in recognition and he laughed, relieved, at the light flutters and pops that danced beneath his hand.
"What is it, Clint?" Minho demanded, wondering at the Med Jack's odd reaction.
"That's the baby kicking!" he announced with another chuckle. "Perfectly normal."
Clint had already delved into a lengthy explanation about when Emily could expect to feel what, so he missed the wide-eyed expression of terror that had overtaken her face; she couldn't have looked more horrified if Clint had told her she was carrying a bouncing, baby griever. "Emily –" Minho began, but she shot out of her bedroom like it was on fire, Minho tearing after her.
Newt thanked Clint for his patience; the Med Jack just shrugged and headed back toward the infirmary. Newt sunk down onto the short side of the bed, keeping his feet on the floor but falling backward until his head landed on the mattress. Thomas mimicked the movement and lay down beside him.
"What just happened?" Thomas asked, recognizing the panicked look in his best friend's eyes. Thomas himself was tickled pink that he was there for this; he was like an overly excited puppy. "This is amazing! I mean, this is amazing, isn't it? Why aren't you smiling? What did I miss? What's wrong?" Thomas asked a dozen questions before pausing long enough for Newt to answer any of them.
Newt stared long and hard at his friend. Thomas had been there for Emily in the beginning, but ever since he became a runner, Newt had been her primary means of support. But who did Newt have to lean on? "Thomas, I am going to tell you some things. I know your natural inclination is to ask questions every five seconds, but can you please try to listen?" he begged, desperately needing to confide in someone.
Thomas nodded, ready to do his best to keep his trap shut. And so Newt told him everything – how the Glade used to be in the dark days, and thus how Emily and Minho found strength and security with each other; how many Gladers had been lost as they experimented with possible escape methods; how Newt had tried to take his own life after he lost the first boy he'd ever loved; and finally, how truly terrified Emily was of her impending motherhood, and the drastic actions she'd almost taken to mitigate it.
Thomas recalled her desperate pleas with Clint the day she'd found out about the baby. He'd assumed her reconciliation with Minho had been enough to hold her together; but, like Thomas, Minho was rarely even there in the Glade anymore, much less there for Emily. "What can we do?" Thomas finally asked after Newt had fallen silent.
"Why do people keep asking me that?" Newt sighed, rising from the bed and dusting off the lint that had collected on his trousers. "She's scared – we all are – but I think she loves that baby." Thomas smiled; he suspected the same thing. "One day she's gonna realize it. May not be until she holds that little one in her arms, but she will."
Newt sounded so sure, so calm. Thomas couldn't help but be in awe of his compassion and empathy and understanding. He jumped up and flung out his arms, wrapping Newt in a giant hug and lingering just a moment longer than necessary before pulling away. "I'm starving," Thomas said, rubbing the back of his neck and clearing his throat, slightly embarrassed. Newt grinned and gestured to the untouched buffet that was spread out before them. Thomas clutched at his heart and gasped dramatically. "We wouldn't dare!" he challenged.
Newt's eyes sparkled with excitement. "You won't be saying that once you have a taste of that chocolate."
When Emily had left the Homestead, she found herself stumbling through the woods, her once nimble feet bested by roots and shrubs, completely out of practice. She had mentally prepared herself for the worst – that something really was wrong with the baby – but was completely taken off guard by the crashing realization that the thing growing inside her was alive and well, a person in its own right. She began to hyperventilate and sat down against the nearest tree trunk, resting her sweaty forehead in her palms.
"Emily?" Minho called after her several times before following the sounds of her desperate and ragged gasps. "Emily!" he shouted, alarmed at how quickly her mental state had turned. She looked like she might pass out, and Minho was glad she was sitting down.
"I can't… I can't… I can't…" She repeated the mantra with every exhalation, which eventually just turned into uncontrollable sobs. Minho held her against him, offering whatever warmth and comfort he could against the cool night air. He thought she'd be relieved by Clint's assessment – Minho certainly was – but it seemed to be having the opposite effect and he had no idea what to say to her.
Emily chastised herself for her overreaction. Of course she knew there was a child inside her; she knew that it could move and hear and feel. She knew all these things in the most abstract sense that, aside from the slight enlargement of her midsection, were quite easy to forget about. It was how she'd gotten through the last few weeks, kept the rising panic at bay. But one tiny kick had broken the dam, and now she couldn't quell the waves of anxiety that flooded over her, threatening to drown her.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, hating herself for her weakness, for her fear. Minho neither accepted nor rejected her apology; he knew it wasn't for him. Her bloodshot eyes found his and threatened to spill over again. Minho waited. "I guess it's real," she said, placing both hands over the spot where she could still feel those bubbly movements. "There's… really a baby in there."
The words should have been happy, should have reflected the unique and wonderful experience of a mother feeling a new child come alive inside her for the first time. Instead, Emily sounded resigned, burdened. It was unlike anything she'd ever felt, and suddenly she was responsible – wholly and completely – for another life; she was… someone's mother. And that scared her more than the Maze ever had.
Minho understood the fear she was experiencing, even felt it himself sometimes, but he needed her to see how much he loved her, to know that he'd be there for her and their child, to believe that they could make it through this together.
"I want to show you something," Minho said suddenly, eyes alight with anticipation. He pulled Emily to her feet and dragged her halfway across the Glade to the map room. The other runners had long since gone to bed, so the room was dark and she couldn't see anything when he opened the door. Minho flicked on the light and softly clicked the lock shut behind him.
Emily gasped and her hands flew to her mouth in surprise. In the center of the room, surrounded by years of drawings and graphs and notes, was a small hand-crafted crib. She tiptoed over to it and silent tears streaked down her face. The sides were carefully assembled with a series of notches and holes, the bottom was woven together with soft ropes, and the legs seemed to sprout from the floor, twisting along the corners in a beautiful oak tree design.
Minho shimmied up behind her and wrapped his arms across her waist. "Happy anniversary," he whispered, kissing her cheek as she ran her fingers along the smooth wooden edges.
"Minho, how did you… when…?" Her mind was still reeling from the sweet gesture.
"I had help." All the guys had pitched in – Thomas and Alby helped with construction, Newt did the artsy work, and even Chuck gathered the supplies. "I'm hoping we won't have to use it," he began, before realizing how that sounded. "B-because I'm going to find a way out!" he quickly explained, though she already knew what he meant. "But just in case, you know, I thought…"
Emily twisted around in his arms and took his face in her hands. Minho sighed and leaned his head down against hers, nuzzling her golden locks and inhaling the sweet, slightly floral scent that always surrounded her. She smelled like earth, like life; sometimes she felt like the only real thing in his world, which – paradoxically – made her presence all the more surreal.
Emily was a head shorter than him, but Minho was completely under her control. She guided him down into one of the chairs, while she remained standing. Minho let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and twisted his head in her grasp, kissing the palm of her hand. His lips nibbled at her wrist, then traveled up the length of her arm as he pulled her closer. His hands explored her waist, molded to her curves as they traveled down and sunk into the soft flesh of her thighs. "God, I've missed you," he sighed, resting his forehead against her chest. They may have occupied the same space – at least some of the time – over the past several weeks, but it hadn't felt like they were truly together.
Emily weaved her fingers through his fine, dark hair and placed a gentle kiss on the crown of his head. For a moment – just a moment – she could envision a world where they could be happy. They'd have a house in the middle of an endless field of wildflowers, with Newt and Thomas as their neighbors. Their son or daughter would grow up in a world without walls, without grievers… without fear. In that moment, imagining the future Minho was working so hard to provide, Emily could be calm; she could be free.
Suddenly she felt little champagne bubbles inside again, as if the baby was sharing in her fantasy. Emily hadn't allowed anyone but Clint to touch her stomach, and only because he had to; the motion felt too familiar, too vulnerable, too honest. But suddenly, Emily wanted to share this experience with the other person who had made it possible. She brought Minho's hand to her stomach. "The baby's kicking," she said through a fresh set of tears.
Minho drew his head back and looked up at her, then back down at her belly. He brought his face within inches of her body, as though being closer would allow him to see their child inside her. "Hey, kiddo. I'm your dad," he choked, stroking his hand back and forth in awe over the little bump beneath her belly button. He could have been content to stay there like that forever, holding his two loves in his hands.
Emily situated herself on his lap, both of their hands still resting on her little baby bump. He brushed his lips across hers, and when she deepened the kiss, he spread his other hand across her back, pulling her even closer against his muscled frame.
That night – the first in too long – they made love to each other, and Emily slept curled up in Minho's arms. He felt so solid, so real. There were so many things that still terrified her – to want, and then to lose – but the warmth and joy he enveloped her in was enough to fill her with renewed strength. Minho would redouble his efforts in the morning to get Emily and his child out of the Maze, but for now, they didn't need a way out, they just needed each other.