Another month had flown by – the box had still not returned with new supplies, and they were still no closer to finding a way out of the Maze. Everyone was antsy, but Minho's prolonged absence had set Emily on edge again; as her stomach grew larger, her patience grew smaller. She was teetering on the edge of another breakdown.
"Damnit, Minho, you're never here anymore." She hated how insecure and needy she sounded, but it reflected how she felt. "I thought you were going to be there for me. For us!" Emily was pacing around the porch of the Homestead, one hand on her lower back, the other supporting the underside of her considerable belly. The corner of Minho's mouth turned up at her discomfort; motherhood looked good on her, even if she was scowling at him. "What do you have to smile about?" she snapped, erasing the grin from his face and igniting his short fuse.
"Just what the hell do you think I'm doing, huh? I am killing myself every day out there trying to find a way out of this shuckin' place." Minho was exhausted, and cranky, and just wanted to go to sleep. It had rained heavily that morning, and he had reluctantly given the runners the day off. Minho had been working tirelessly to fulfill his promise; with the exception of the night the baby first kicked, this was the first extended period of time they'd had to spend together. Minho couldn't help the several times he'd nodded off in the middle of their conversation, but when she'd stormed out of their room, he managed to find the strength to follow.
"And what if there is no way out? What then, Minho?" He looked away, unable or unwilling to answer her question. She reached out and pulled his chin up so he could look into her eyes. "At what point do we say 'this is it, this is as good as it gets,' and try…" she swallowed back the tears that always seemed to be brimming just below the surface, "try to be a family?"
Minho jerked his head out of her hand. He knew he had no right to be angry with her, but she was giving voice to the fears that plagued his every waking minute. He clenched and unclenched his jaw. "I can't play house with you right now, Em, alright? I've got to get back to work." He had to find a way to get them out of there, to get them somewhere they could live safe and happy and free; that was his most important duty as a father, he rationalized.
He'd already lost too much of the day to run the Maze, but that didn't mean he couldn't review his previous work. He was halfway to the map room when he realized that his departure had been too easy; she should have put up more of a fight, piled on the guilt he so rightly deserved. He turned just in time to see Emily shuffling – more like waddling, though surprisingly quickly – through the open gates.
"Shuck…" he muttered, sprinting after her. It only took rounding a few corners for him to catch up to her. "Where do you think you're going?" he questioned, half amused, half terrified out of his mind for her.
"In case you've forgotten, I happen to know this Maze just as well as you do. And if you can't find this magical escape hole," she hissed, "perhaps I can."
He grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop. "Have you lost your mind? It's dangerous out here."
Emily yanked her arm from his grasp. "It's daytime. My biggest risk is twisting one of my ridiculously swollen ankles because I can't see where I'm stepping because of my ridiculously huge stomach!" she whined, crossing her arms – which now had to rest well above said ridiculously huge stomach.
The changes in her body had happened slowly over time, and Minho missed most of it. He was gone all day every day, and spent most nights locked up in the map room trying to coax out the secrets of the Maze. He was so desperate to carve out a path for their future, he was missing the present. He took a minute to appreciate all the changes she was going through.
Her large belly was obvious and he couldn't help but notice the swell in her breasts. But there were other, more subtle signs too. Her face was rounder and overall she just looked… softer. The lean muscles that she had cultivated over years of hard work in the Glade were still there, but she'd been forced to retire them for the last several months and they'd become less pronounced.
"What? What are you looking at?" she demanded, shifting from side to side, uncomfortable with the extra weight that altered her center of balance.
Minho didn't have time to answer before an all-too-familiar buzzing reached his ears. Shuck – since when did grievers come out during the day? He grabbed her arm and her eyes widened at whatever look he had on his face. "We need to leave. Now."
She didn't resist and allowed him to tow her along faster than she could move on her own, though not fast enough. The mechanical whirring was getting closer. They were in sight of the gates when the griever leapt down from the wall in front of them and Emily screamed. Minho pushed her to the side as the thing lunged forward.
Minho dodged underneath it and tried to draw its attention. "Hey! Over here, you fat angry slug!" He ran the other direction a ways, and the griever followed him a few steps; until it saw there was easier prey.
Emily had been attempting a silent crawl – either toward the gate or away from the griever, but succeeding in neither. She abandoned silence in favor of speed, pushing herself off the ground and making a break for it. She didn't get far before she was slammed against the wall, pinned by a giant metal claw.
"NOO!" Minho screeched, ducking a blow from one of the creature's other appendages. By then, the other Gladers had heard the commotion and gathered with weapons ready; they could see the nightmare playing out before them, but froze at the threshold that Alby had always forbidden them to cross. They stood in stunned silence, unsure what to make of a daytime attack, much less how to defend against one.
The griever lowered a blade over Emily's heart and Minho pounced. He sliced the monster's arm off with its own blade, and the inhuman cry it elicited was enough to snap the others out of their dazed hesitance. They charged, all attacking at once. The sounds of clanging metal became indistinguishable from the screams of pain, coming from both man and beast.
Minho's only concern was for the mother of his child. He slashed and thrusted, ducked and dove, all while trying to keep an eye on her. Several times a lethal instrument would inch dangerously close to her defenseless form and his heart would stop beating, but every time another Glader would throw himself in front of her and fight back the griever. He lost her a couple of times in the fray, but noticed that she was slowly, carefully making her way to the gate. Good girl.
The fight was over quickly, the griever taken apart piece by piece, struggling and slashing until the very end. They had all survived, though not without taking significant damage – both physically and psychologically. The Med Jacks had set up a makeshift ER just outside the gates. They'd taken a quick look over Emily, but she appeared fine and they had more serious wounds to tend to, so they didn't chase after her when she scurried off.
Minho tried to follow her, but Clint put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Where do you think you're going, tough guy?" he asked.
Minho had to bite back his initial irritation. "I have to check on Emily," he said through gritted teeth as she disappeared into the Homestead.
"She looked like she got the least of it," Clint said, not without sympathy. "You, on the other hand, are a bleeding mess."
Minho looked down at himself. Shuck, Clint was right. Both arms were covered in a mixture of blood and griever goo. His leg – which had a nasty gash – was killing him and his head felt like a bongo drum. He brought his palm to his head and rubbed soothing circles into his temple, which didn't relieve the throbbing.
"I think you've got a concussion," Clint concluded. No shit. "And that leg is going to need stitches." Minho grimaced; he'd take another griever over a shuckin' needle any day. Still, the sooner this was over with, the sooner they'd release him. He looked to the darkening sky and blew out several deep breaths, trying desperately not to focus on the sharp pinpricks that meant his flesh was being sewn back together.
Clint had just finished wrapping a bandage around his thigh when the walls began to shift again. At least they wouldn't have to deal with any more grievers tonight. As soon as the fabric was tied, he hobbled off after Emily.
When he opened the door to their room, he found her perched on the end of the bed, fists clenched, with both Thomas's and Newt's arms encircling her. Shuck, did they never have anywhere better to be? Minho noted that the boys looked completely unscathed, and briefly wondered what they'd been doing during all the excitement.
"Get out, Minho," she said, refusing to look at him. That's when he noticed she was digging her nails into her palms hard enough to draw blood, and he promptly ignored her command.
He ran over to kneel in front of her. "Hey, are you alright?" he asked, though he already knew the answer.
Her eyes flashed to his. "Am I alright?" Her eyebrows shot up in a look of almost comical incredulity. "No, Minho, I am not alright. I can't run. I can't sleep. I am tired, and I'm… weak," she spat the word like a curse. "People could have died today. Because of me. Because for some sick reason, they think this… thing inside of me is more important than their own lives!"
She was feeling frustrated, and guilty. Minho understood all too well. He reached out and squeezed her knee. "It's not a thing, and it is important. It's a baby. Our baby," he reminded her. In all honesty, when Minho had first began telling her how much he wanted to be a father – mostly in an attempt to quell her fears – he couldn't be sure he was telling the truth. As the weeks passed, though, and he felt the baby move, kick, respond to his voice, he really did fall in love with it.
"No, it's a parasite that neither of us wants, and it's going to get everybody killed!" Emily's worst nightmare had almost unfolded before her eyes, and – the worst part of it – she was defenseless to stop it.
Minho knew she was emotional right now, that she was scared and just trying to cope with everything, but he couldn't help his temper flare. She had just called their baby a parasite. "You don't mean that. Why would you say something like that?" She crossed her arms over her chest, a sign that she was about to shut him out again. "Please, Em. Don't do this to me. Tell me what's wrong," he begged.
"Tell me the truth, Minho – do you really want to have a baby? Here?" She knew he didn't, which was why he spent all day in the Maze. Newt and Thomas looked at Minho expectantly – like they, too, weren't sure what his answer would be. What did he have to do to convince these shuckfaces that he was freakin' happy about this?
"Well, it's not ideal, but yeah. I really do." And he meant it.
"Don't lie to me!" Emily screamed. She wasn't hearing him, and he couldn't understand why.
"Emily," Minho began, his calm voice lingering in stark contrast to her histrionics," listen to me – yes, I was scared at first. Still am. But… damnit, some days this kid is the only thing keeping me going, you know?" His voice began to rise with the depth of emotion behind his words and he took a calming breath. He was unloading on her, which was not good for either of them at the moment. He needed to keep it together. "But now? I want this, Em. I want it so bad… I mean, don't you?" Minho thought surely this was an easy question, and grew concerned when she didn't immediately agree.
Emily averted her eyes and squeezed onto Newt's hand. "I tried to get rid of it," she whispered almost inaudibly. There it was, the truth that she'd been so desperate to keep hidden, now being flung at Minho like a sharpened knife.
If her goal had been to hurt him, to burden him with a bit of the shame and resentment she usually kept locked away, then she succeeded. Minho snatched his hand away like it had been burned. "What?" he asked, sure that he'd heard her wrong.
"That night you spent in the Maze." Technically, she had never actually attempted it, but the fact that she even considered it, held the vial of poisonous herbs in her palm, caused her to hang her head in shame. "And then you had some crazy epiphany in there and came out being super-dad!" Minho could almost laugh at the thought; everyday he felt like a failure, and everyday tried to be strong and confident… for them. Minho had put all his effort into that persona, but he now realized that was the exact opposite of what she'd needed. She'd needed him to be open, vulnerable, honest; to be just as terrified and unsure as she was. And for a long time he was, but he'd pulled himself together, worked through his fears and insecurities; obviously, she hadn't. "I never wanted this, Minho. I never wanted to have a baby here." She paused, and Newt and Thomas hugged her tighter. Neither looked surprised at the news – the little bastards must have already known. "When I… I couldn't do it myself, I begged Clint to take it out of me; he said it was too risky, that I'd probably die too."
Minho shook his head, unable to comprehend what she was saying. "Y-you were scared. I wasn't there for you back then…" he drifted off, recalling that just hours before, she had once again accused him of that particular crime. "You're not… you don't still…" he couldn't finish the question.
"I am a prisoner in my own body, Minho! I have no control over my life. When people look at me, they don't see me anymore."
It wasn't an answer, and yet it was. Emily had worn this shameful truth as a veil for so long that Minho believed it was obscuring her true feelings, even from herself. He stood up. "You're wrong. I know you, and I know you love this baby," he said definitively. "But you're also right. People don't just see you anymore." He leaned in close; he was at eye level with her, but she still wouldn't meet his gaze. "They see a future that doesn't involve the Maze, or the Glade, or the Creators, or the grievers; when they look at you, they see hope." Minho stood back up to his full height and loomed over her. "So yeah, people risked their lives for you today. And they would do it again in a second, because that baby," he pointed to her rounded stomach, "isn't just yours, or mine; it's all of ours," he concluded, spinning his pointed finger in a circle that encompassed the whole Glade. "So stop acting like some wounded animal; this is not something that's happening to you… it may very well be the only good thing to come out of this shuckin' place!"
Minho knew he was being a hypocrite; he hadn't known at first if he'd wanted the baby either, and he wasn't even the one who had to sacrifice his work and his body for it. Still, he'd seen the way her arms curled naturally and instinctually around her growing stomach, how she ate more vegetables even though she hated them, how she absently hummed soft lullabies as she worked in the garden. He noticed these things, but she hadn't, and the fact that she still believed she didn't want his child was too much for him.
Minho could hear Thomas and Newt whispering something as he stomped out the door, but he didn't bother to listen; he'd said his peace, and she'd either believe him, or she woudn't. It was time for the evening meal, and Minho hoped that stuffing his face with greasy food would fill the pit that had formed in his stomach; he hoped that he hadn't been too harsh with the woman he adored; he hoped that, one way or another, he could give his child a future that was safe and happy and free; but mostly, he just hoped Emily would join him for dinner.