The final installment in the adventures of Evie and Owen. Read the whole story here.
“It’s been over a week.”
“No sign? Nothing at all?” Jessamy’s voice cracked on the last word.
Evie stirred, trying to get the cottony taste out of her mouth as she struggled to open her eyes. Jessamy was talking to the surgeon.
“None. His heart rate and temperature haven’t been steady—but that’s to be expected. He could still get any sort of normal infection in that arm; we were working with the roughest possible instruments. But I think,” he sounded as if he was trying to convince himself as much as Jessamy, “I think he’ll be okay. He won’t turn into a stumbler, anyway.”
Evie could feel the wrinkles of the blanket imprinted in her cheek as she lifted her head. One of her hands was numb and she looked down to see Owen’s long fingers curled tightly around hers. His hand was limp last night when she held it. She tried not to breathe. The steady beeping of the monitor reassured her and Evie’s eyes moved up from his fingers to the stump lying on his chest, then to his face.
“Hi,” he mouthed, no sound escaping his lips.
Evie tried to say something, but her throat caught and she put her head back down on the rough blankets. She felt his fingers press hers every so lightly—she could tell it took all his strength and she raised her head.
“Tears, Evie, love?” he asked weakly. “Tears for me?”
Evie shook her head, biting her lip and willing the tears to stop.
“You’re nothing but trouble,” she said unsteadily. “Knew it the first time I saw you.”
Owen’s other arm stirred and he winced, glancing quickly away from the stump. He swore.
Evie released his hand and half-rose from her chair, “Does it hurt? Let me—”
Owen grabbed her wrist with his good hand, mindless of the ropes of IVs that ran out of it. He pulled her towards him, his hand running up her arm to cup her cheek as he drew her face down. She tasted the salt of her tears on his lips.
Owen’s legs were steady as he suffered Evie to buckle his pack across his chest. She shoved him gently as she felt his lips against her ear and hid a grin at his hurt expression. She rolled an eye towards the crowd standing behind them and he returned the expression.
“Never thought I’d see that again,” Owen brushed a finger across her cheek.
“What?” Evie asked, trying not to blush.
“That smile,” Owen winked at her and she ducked away from him.
“Worse with one hand than you were with two,” she hissed, sidestepping the swat he aimed at her.
“Owen,” Gregg stepped forward and clapped Owen lightly on the shoulder. “Sure you won’t stay?”
“No, Gregg. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll all head out, too. If I learned anything from Vegas, the tweakers are adapting to the cold. Staying here won’t keep you safe for long.”
“I ’ppreciate the thought, friend. We got a good setup here—weapons, food, the goods. I think we can wait it out a while longer,” Gregg looked as confident as he sounded.
“Stay safe,” Owen shook Gregg’s hand.
“Evie,” Gregg awkwardly offered her a hand.
“Thank you, for everything,” Evie shook his hand, holding his gaze.
He looked away, “It was nothing. A favor for a friend.”
Evie nodded, sharing a grin with Owen at Gregg’s embarrassment.
“He don’t want anyone to think he’s got a soul, that one,” Owen whispered as they went to thank the surgeon and his aides.
The old Jeep was loaded with supplies, weapons, and ammo; all the goodbyes said except one.
“I can still come with you,” Jessamy said, checking the straps on the bundles tied to the roof. “I can pack in a few minutes.”
Evie smiled and shook her head, “No, you should stay here—if it’s what you want.”
She watched as he glanced over his shoulder at one of the young women in the compound walking along the perimeter of the makeshift bunker, rifle resting easily on her shoulder. Jessamy flushed and then grinned at her. His face turned purple when she pulled him into a hug and he fought to regain his composure as he shook Owen’s hand.
“You’re a good shot, Jessamy. I owe my life to you just as much as any of these doctors,” Owen said quietly.
“Take care of each other, yeah?” Jessamy said, looking back and forth. “Try to remember the tweakers are the ones you want to kill, not each other.”
Owen put a hand to his machete, “I’ll be good if she is.”
Evie put her hands on her hips, “I hear there’s still some courts up north. I can still get that divorce, you—”
Owen cut off further threats—encouraged by the whoops and catcalls of the men and women in the yard—until Evie ducked out of his embrace, trying to ignore the burning in her cheeks. They got in the Jeep and Evie put it in drive as the compound gates swung slowly open. She glanced once in the rearview mirror and stuck a hand out the window to return Jessamy’s wave. She looked over and caught Owen’s gray eyes on her, a smile spreading across his thin face.
“Where to?” he asked.
“Where you wanna go?” she replied, watching him fumble to open the map with one hand and hold it steady with his other wrist. She stopped the car and took a deep breath against the emotions that tightened her chest.
“I’ve never been to Canada,” she looked at the snow-cloaked landscape.
“Canada,” Owen shifted the map, swearing as part of it tore.
“Don’t slow me down,” Evie said, struggling to maintain a serious expression.
“Girl,” Owen looked over at her, tipping her chin up with two fingers. “I’ve been chasing you for years. Now that I finally caught up, ain’t no way I’ll let you go.”
* Title thanks to my favourite Dilettante and the Canadian National Anthem.
Writing soundtrack for this post: Last Train Home by Ryan Star
12 thoughts on “The True North Strong And Free*”
It’s not a happily ever after, but it’s a good ending. I vote for “True North Strong and Free” (it’s a lyric from the Canadian national anthem)
When I have a moment I’m going to go back and read it all, now that it’s finished.
You’re my title hero. I didn’t want the typical happily ever after, but I wanted there to at least be hope. Of course, they could drive a hundred miles, flip the Jeep and die in a car accident–you never know.
Or get eaten by hungry Canadian stumblers, who will first cover them in maple syrup before they eat them with a side of bacon (we just call it bacon, darling).
You’re right—although I’m sure the Canadian stumblers would ask politely before commencing their feast.
Welcome to Canada. Apparently up here, the stumblers are all waiting politely at the hospital for their treatment.
Canada has been busy building a wall to keep out all the North Americans and their crazy, government-induced plague. But, it they were in Canada, I’m sure they would be waiting politely.
That is all.
Also, I like the mix of action, plot, and relationships in your story. I think this Born series I’m reading is a little too heavy on the dramatic relationships. I dislike love triangles 95% of the time and the one in this series is a bit ridic.
Yay for happy sighs!
Thank you! I’ll admit I’m a sucker for cheesy TV shows all about tangled relationships, but when I’m reading I agree with you—too much of that and it just reads like Twilight fan-lit. I’ll have to look into that series though, I don’t think I’ve heard of it!
Ahhhh. Happy Friday, lovebirds! Go forth and prosper. 🙂
I didn’t kill everyone! I’m almost sad to let them go, but I’m sure they have plenty more unwritten adventures ahead and it’s time to say goodbye.
I was so unprepared for that to be the ending! It fit, and it certainly left me wanting more and imagining where they might head next… but I saw the signs pop up and was so unprepared!
You may have guessed that several of the last few posts were me wavering, having a Joss Whedon/GRRM moment where I thought maybe there should be some death and destruction. So, the ending was a little bit of a surprise even to me!