Chapter Fifty

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May moved quickly and with purpose.

With Gaten hoisted in one arm and resting on her hip, she breezed through the kitchen and fished through drawers until she found a pair of scissors. She perched the boy, still hiccuping through tears, on the edge of the counter and carefully wedged the blades around the plastic tie that bound his hands.

"Hold still for me, okay?" May said in her best auntie voice. It came to her without trying.

With a quick snip, the tie came free. She took a moment to massage the angry red lines that dug into the poor boy's wrists, then gathered him back into her arms and made for the stairs. As far as May was concerned, all bets were off now — she didn't know what to expect, nor who she could trust, so she had to be prepared for anything. She hurried up the stairs and into the room she and Em had briefly shared, kicking the door shut with her foot and depositing Gaten softly in the middle of the mattress.

Her eyes landed on her Star cannon, laying uselessly on the bedside table. Irritated, she snapped it up and pulled it on. It was her terrible luck that she would have left it behind when she needed it most.

Still, a wave of relief swept through her once she finished securing the cannon's straps. She flexed her fingers and ran her opposite hand along the smooth metal casing, feeling the slight constant vibration of the energy it held emanating from inside the chamber. Next time she saw Wyndam or Melanie, she wouldn't be caught unprepared. Next time, she would be ready and they would be sorry.

She would make sure of it.

The sound of Gaten's sniffling pulled May from her vengeful fantasy. She looked down and found the young boy staring back at her through tear-swollen eyes. His face was still wet and blotchy, and he had drawn his arms and legs close to his body like a tight little ball. May could tell by the way he eyed her that he still hadn't decided if he could trust her or not.

"Hey, honey," May said, crouching slowly beside the mattress. Gaten flinched away anyway. "My name is May. I'm going to watch over you until your mommy and daddy get here, okay?"

Gaten's bottom lip trembled. "I want my mom."

"I know you do. You've just gotta sit tight a little while longer — she's on her way."

May glanced at the window and sighed, wishing she had a way to contact WIND. Gaten whimpered and buried his face behind his folded arms. It took everything May had not to reach out and hug him, but she knew better than that. She was a stranger, and this child had been through enough at the hands of those.

"Gaten, are you hurting anywhere?" she asked softly. It took a moment, but eventually he answered with a small shake of his head: no.

"You're sure?" May pressed again, not that she didn't believe him but because she wanted to be sure herself. The boy nodded without looking up. "Okay, I'm glad to hear that."

Still, he did not stir. While Gaten hid, May watched him through a growing haze of disbelief. There he was: the child for whom she and Em had sacrificed so much for. In some ways he had come to feel like a mythical figure to May; not quite a boy so much as a priceless treasure to be recovered. Then again, May supposed, that's exactly what he was to Connor and Rue, and she knew without a doubt that she would have fought just as hard to save him had he been her own son.

But he was also still a boy, and a frightened one at that.

"You know, I have a nephew," May said. "His name is Omi. I think he's a bit older than you but I'll bet you two would like each other. He's a lot of fun."

Gaten lifted his head enough to peer at her, but he didn't speak. May simply smiled back at him.

"Are you hungry? I could make you something to eat if you'd like."

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