Born in the Glade

Chapter 9

About halfway into dinner, Emily stormed into the dining hall. She refused to speak to Minho, or even look at him, but the righteous anger that had replaced her self-pity brought a little color back to her cheeks. Minho thought she was the most beautifully furious goddess he could imagine.

Emily slammed her dishes down and squeezed in next to him at the end of the table, and couldn't fathom why he was grinning so widely at her plate. She picked at the healthy rabbit food she'd forced herself to spoon onto her tray; she was never a big fan of carrots, but at the moment they were so offensive as to make her queasy. She forced down a couple bites before closing her eyes and trying to take deep breaths through her nose.

Minho noticed her distress and his smug lips turned down into a frown. "Are you feeling sick?" She wanted to still be mad at him, to snap at him for being an overprotective ass, but another nauseating wave of scents accosted her nose and she simply nodded, now also feeling lightheaded. His palm curled around the back of her neck and it felt cool and comforting against her flushed skin. When she felt like she could open her eyes without throwing up or passing out – which must have taken longer than it should have – she found his warm, dark gaze lingering on her with concern. "Let's get you out of here, alright?"

Emily nodded again and Minho walked around to help her get to her feet, never breaking physical contact. She was about to make some remark about how unfair it was that she couldn't even get out of a chair without help anymore when a sharp pain ripped through her abdomen. She gasped, and would have crumpled to the ground if Minho hadn't already had his arms around her.

"Hey, whoa, what is it? What's wrong?" Minho looked into her agonized face, and when she couldn't answer, tried to locate the source of her pain; he froze when he noticed her hand clutching her stomach. "Is it –"

His question was cut off when Emily cried out, piercing and primal, her arms shaking as she tried to brace herself against her knees. It was like her insides were being squeezed and twisted and rearranged like a balloon animal, and for several long moments she couldn't breathe, couldn't see, couldn't think. When the pain dulled to a pulsing throb, she tried to straighten back up using Minho – who looked as weak and stricken as she felt – for support. Her hands left a trail of bright red on his shoulder. "Minho –" she began, looking at the blood curiously, like she couldn't comprehend what it meant.

Minho, on the other hand, was all too aware of what was happening. "Get the Med Jacks!" he shouted to no one in particular, at which point the pins must have clicked into place and Emily's expression morphed from confusion to horror. A small crowd had gathered around them, but they all seemed paralyzed and unsure of what to do. He growled when no one moved, gathering her up in his arms and racing toward the infirmary.

Another crippling wave of agony twisted in her gut and Emily screamed into his chest, gathering his shirt into her tightly balled fists. "It's my fault. I did this," she whispered through panted breaths, not loosening her death grip on the fabric. Minho was focusing all his energy on running and not panicking. He didn't trust himself to speak. "I didn't want it. I didn't want our baby and now it's gone."

Minho's breathing quickened, having nothing to do with the physical effort he was exerting. It was dark, so he couldn't see the slick trail they were leaving in their wake, but Minho could feel the warm, coppery liquid blooming on his clothes, dripping down his arms, so fast that Emily almost slipped out of his grasp. If he thought too hard about it, he would gag. Minho ran faster.

He practically shattered the door to the infirmary, scaring Clint half to death. When Clint saw what Minho had in his arms, he might have scared the other half. Clint took a second to get his bearings before barking orders. "Put her on the bed. Jeff – get some towels and water." He grabbed a few tools that were sitting on the table just as Minho had laid her down.

Clint pushed up her knees and was getting a front row seat to her most private areas, which normally would have earned him a kick to the face, but Emily didn't even seem to notice the boy poking around in her. Worry lines creased the Med Jack's forehead. "When was the last time you felt the baby move?" he asked.

She was staring at the ceiling, emotionless. Her voice was as dead as her eyes. "This morning. Before –" Shuck. The baby hadn't moved since the griever attack. Why hadn't she told anyone? Maybe she would have – at least Thomas and Newt – if Minho hadn't barged in and gone all tough love on her.

Clint pulled up her shirt and inhaled sharply at the dark black and blue spots pooling beneath her stretched skin. Minho glanced at the bruises, but couldn't keep his eyes there. Clint couldn't look away; he pulled her shirt back down and ran his hands through his hair.

Minho was impatient as he waited for the Med Jack to take action. "Well… do something!" he demanded.

Clint grabbed him by the elbow and took him to the side, eyes still darting back to his patient. "Minho, listen to me. There's not a lot I can do here. I can't perform surgery – we don't have the equipment or the drugs; she would never survive." Minho shuddered at the idea – if the cut on Minho's leg sent his stomach rolling… "And even if we got the baby out, it's much too early; it wouldn't survive either."

Minho tensed up every single one of his muscles, shaking with the effort of trying to contain his rage and terror. "Then what exactly can we do?" he practically screamed.

Clint rubbed his chin and blew out a breath. "Emily should be fine. She's strong, and healthy. I was right before – she didn't sustain much damage during the attack."

Minho's eyes were wide with a hint of madness. "…and the baby?" he growled when there was no continuation.

Clint squeezed his shoulder, and Minho wanted nothing more than to rip his sympathetic arm right out of its socket. "We'll just have to wait and see."

Minho hated dealing in uncertainties, and he couldn't stand to be in that room any longer. He knew it was selfish, knew that he shouldn't leave her. But he couldn't help it when his legs sprinted out the door, carrying the rest of his body with them and practically tackling Thomas and Newt to the ground. They took one look at his crimson-hewn appearance and rushed into the room he'd just been so desperate to leave. Shuck, he was a terrible person.

He hadn't known where he was going until he dove into the lake. He watched in fascination as the blood was lifted from his body, absorbed and dissipated by the water, as if it had never existed. Soon, his olive skin turned red from Minho's constant scrubbing – where he could still feel the offending stains – his clothes nearly worn almost threadbare for the same reason. He swam lap after lap, desperate to escape this nightmare; he could make the journey a thousand times, but he'd still end up exactly where he began and no further from his problems.

When his arms began to burn and his legs could no longer keep him afloat, Minho crawled his way to the shore and put on his damp clothes. The stars were beautiful that night, and he lay by the water staring at them until they danced and drew pictures before his tired eyes. The air immediately surrounding him was displaced as someone plopped down beside him.

A comfortable silence settled over them and it was several minutes before Newt spoke. "Thomas is with her now. She won't speak to him; to anyone, really." Minho focused so intently on the lights in the sky that he thought he might go cross-eyed. "It's because she doesn't need anyone. No one but you," he said pointedly. Not accusing, just stating a fact.

"Newt, I can't," Minho started, his voice almost breaking. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I can't lose them."

"You know, you're strong, Minho." Minho shook his head; he was hanging on by a thread. "Yeah, you are. But she's stronger. Which is why – if she loses this baby – you'll put your head down and power through it like you always do. It would be hard, but you'd survive." Newt turned to look at him with his large, blue eyes. "But she won't."

Minho propped himself up on his elbows, suddenly alarmed. "What… what do you mean?"

"You've been gone a lot – I know why, and I don't blame you," he added quickly, after receiving a glare from his conversation partner. "But it means Thomas and I… well, we've kind of been picking up the slack." Newt sighed and ran a hand through his curly mop. "She's terrified, Minho. Every day. She's afraid we'll be trapped here forever. Afraid you'll leave her again. Afraid that we'll run out of food, or our houses will burn, or the Creators will just randomly decide to pull the plug on this whole bloody experiment." Newt grabbed Minho's arm, but he already had his absolute and full attention. "But most of all, more than anything… she's afraid of being a mother."

"But… why?" Minho couldn't understand. All those other things sounded much more horrifying to him than taking care of an infant.

"For this very reason! She feels responsible for every single person in this Glade. How do you think she feels knowing that she can't protect the life she created, even for the nine months while it's still inside her, even before it enters this world?"

Minho thought about it, all of it. Their lives there were far from easy; there was constant uncertainty, fear, death, anger. It was a dangerous place; they didn't know how they got there, or how they would get out, and the Maze took its toll on each of them. But there were good things too – friendship, loyalty, strength, honor, love. This was the only life Minho was given, the only life he'd ever known, and he might as well make it worth living.

Newt took a breath, about to continue his little speech, but Minho stood up. "I'm not so afraid of losing something that I'm not gonna try and have it." He stalked through the woods and over to the infirmary, where a light still flickered inside.

Thomas stood at the door, watching Emily, biting his nails with worry lines engraving his forehead. Minho tried to brush off his instinctual irritation with the boy.

"Let me see her."

Thomas nearly jumped out of his skin. When he collected himself, he looked pissed, though his innocent, puppy-like features kept him from ever looking truly menacing. "Seriously? After that crap you pulled back there?" he accused. Minho deserved it, but he didn't care; he was on a mission. "She won't listen to anything you have to say, and I don't think –"

"I don't give a shit what you think." Minho knew her better than anyone; he was there for her in her first days in the Glade. She had been angry, and terrified, and completely overwhelmed – much like she was now. He knew what she needed, and it wasn't words or time or solitude. "Either you step aside and let me through that door, or I reserve a spot for you in the bed next to her, and go in anyway."

Thomas frowned, but got out of the way of his fuming friend. Minho glared at him for good measure before stepping over the threshold.

Emily was curled up as tightly into a ball as she could get with her rounded stomach in the way. Her once sharp and mischievous eyes were blank and distant; she didn't even look up as Minho walked in. In the early days, they'd had no shelter, no beds, no privacy. Nothing to bear the weight of their inescapable and oppressive riddle of an existence except the soft grass and each other.

So much had changed since then, but the motions he went through next were quite familiar. Minho walked around the bed and climbed in behind her. He shimmied up against her, pressing his chest against her back, and enveloped her in his muscled arms. He didn't know what he expected her to do – pull away, scream, beat the living shit out of him – but she responded to him the same way she always had.

She nestled herself into all his crevices, tucking her head under his chin and entangling their legs. He swept his arm over her waist, pausing briefly to explore the unfamiliar swell of her abdomen, and cradled her trembling arm in the crook of his elbow. Their fingers intertwined – whether out of habit or need, neither knew – and once again Minho was struck by just how perfectly their bodies fit together.

In that moment – finally, truly together with no secrets between them – she was not afraid to completely fall apart, because she knew that when she had the strength to once again put herself back together, she could find all the pieces waiting in the unfailing arms of the man that she loved.

Though hearing her sobs and feeling her tears rain down on their locked hands broke something inside him too, Minho was strong for her. He held her as she shook; they were all trapped in this nightmare, but she felt alone and trapped in her own personal maze within the Maze. He couldn't even begin to imagine what she was going through.

Eventually, they both fell into a restless sleep. When he awoke – which could have been minutes or days later – he was on his back with his arm draped across Emily, who had turned to face him and was laying half on top of him. She had a leg draped across him and her large, soft stomach rested against his lean, taught one. Without thinking, he took his free hand and rested it against her belly.

He glanced down and realized that Emily was awake – and staring at him with such intensity that he froze. Her eyes were red-rimmed and cautious, but almost hopeful. "Sing for me?" she questioned, voice weak and groggy.

Minho ran his fingers through her hair and blew out a deep breath as she laid her head back down on his chest, knowing that he would oblige. He was a terrible singer, but his words were special, words that had surpassed the veil of forgetting. "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine," he began, his own tears threatening to spill over and join the ones with which she was staining his shirt. "You make me happy when skies are grey." He began rubbing little circles into her stomach, putting as much love and conviction behind the words as he felt. "You'll never know, dear, how much I love you." Minho paused and his hand stilled. He took a shaky breath, and the last line came out more like a whispered prayer, "Please don't take my sunshine away."

They stayed like that for a while, finding comfort in each other's arms. Minho couldn't repeat the words again, but continued humming the little chorus until his throat was raw. He was sure Emily had fallen back asleep until she gasped and shot up to a seated position.

"What? Em, what is it?" Minho asked, searching for signs of distress. Her eyes were bewildered and unfocused, looking either far into the distance or deep within herself. He couldn't tell if she was in pain and several tense seconds passed; she inhaled sharply again, clasping her hands over her mouth as if stifling a scream. Silent tears streaked down her cheeks and Minho was starting to panic. "Emily, please!" He didn't know what to do, or even what was wrong.

She finally locked into his desperate gaze, and, as if in answer to his pleas, took his hand and guided it beneath her belly button. When he didn't react, she pressed his palm deeper into her flesh. She still couldn't form words, but raised her eyebrows in expectation. His heart raced in anticipation at the implication of the gesture.

At first, Minho didn't feel anything and he knit his brows together in concentration. Then, so quick and so light that he thought he could've imagine it, there was a little thump against his fingertips. "CLINT!" he bellowed, bringing the boy sprinting through the door, along with half the Glade.

The Med Jack took in the scene before him and rushed over to the bed. "What happened? Are you bleeding again? Are you in pain?"

Emily shook her head vehemently. "I… I…" Minho was making similar sputtering attempts at speech, but neither of them seemed able to get out a coherent thought, and Clint was getting worried.

Thomas rushed over and knelt down beside the bed. "Please, Em. Tell us what's going on."

Emily's gaze fell on each of the boys gathered in the room. Her heart swelled at the looks they were giving her; Minho was right, this baby was all of theirs. She looked back at Clint. "The baby's kicking," she choked out between sobs, breaking into a huge grin.

"What?" everyone in the room seemed to ask in unison. She nodded, tears flowing freely. Suddenly, Minho wasn't afraid of sharing this intimacy with the other Gladers; they were his family, too, and the two most important people in his life would not be alive right now without them.

Minho replaced the hand he had on her stomach with Clint's, allowing him to feel the gentle movements. "Well I'll be damned," he said, surprised. The Med Jack really must not have been holding out much hope for the child, and Minho hugged his treasures even tighter.

A chorus of cheers erupted through the infirmary, calling into attendance whichever Gladers were not already there. They planned a huge feast that night to celebrate, but Minho and Emily chose to remain tucked away in bed together. Minho thought he could be content if the last thing he ever saw was the way Emily looked when she spoke to their child. She was radiant, gentle, and her smile glowed with a sense of peace and purpose.

Minho hadn't even realized he was holding his breath until she leaned forward and placed a tender kiss on his lips. "Thank you," she whispered, resting her forehead against his. "For knowing me better than I know myself," she answered the question that hadn't even yet formed in his mind.

Emily lay back down on the bed, pulling Minho with her. They fell into the same positions they had taken just the night before – her back against his chest, their legs intertwined – only this time felt completely different. Instead of breaking into a thousand pieces, they seemed to meld together into one being, greater and stronger than anything they could ever be individually.

His hand rested against the small flutter in her stomach that remained a constant comfort. She covered his hand with hers and sighed contentedly. For once, something precious had been given to them instead of taken away. And Minho was going to fight like hell to keep it that way, to get them out of the Maze.

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