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Tree Time 2

231.04.11 | 9:18 p.m.

Newt felt uneasy. “Hey.” He laid an arm around her, trying to comfort her.

She stiffened, hunched up like a gargoyle and about just as soft and trusting. He could feel her shiver.

“Look, I… I'm sorry. For what I said. I mean, it's fine if you found your group...” His words made her aggressively shake her head and cry even more.

Are you together? You and Gally?” he asked.

Again she shook her head, her face still hidden in her arms.

You don't know where you belong, am I right?

She shrugged.

Look, we can call a Gathering, if you are not happy with your squad!”

She shook her head again.

Then what do you want to do now?”

She shrugged.

Newt sighed. “Talkative, are you?”

She showed no reaction other than a heavy shiver, which caused him to draw her even closer to himself.

Okay”, he said, “I will not leave you alone. Tell you what: either you talk with me or I stay with you up here and comfort you as best as I can.”

This time she lifted her head and croaked: “---.” She cleared her throat and tried again: “Just leave me alone. I… I've messed it up. I can't escape, I can't contribute…”

Hang on”, he protested, “but you do! Builders are important to our community. Every job is needed. And from all I hear or see you're doing a very good job.

Her immense tension suddenly dissolved, and she sagged. Hoarsely she said: “Yeah. Buildin' us a home here. Havin' it all nice and cozy in the Glade. With a yet unsolved Maze with dangerous Grievers all around us.” No anger nor sarcasm was in her voice. She sounded… lost. Forsaken.

Newt did not know what to say. She couldn't be a Runner, yet that was all she wanted. His gaze fell on her hands, and he started. “What's this?”

“Nothing I wanna talk about.” Oh. But she knew what he was talking about.

“Bite marks again?”

“None of your business.” A bit harsh, but not the fury he had known her to be.

Now he was really concerned. “Kat! Something's wrong! You are not fine, don't you lie to me!”

She shrugged. “So. And what am I to you that you should care?”

“...” Oh shuckin' hell, what could he say?

Silence. She nodded, as if he had confirmed what she knew already.

“Everything.”

Now it was out. Newt was grateful for the now almost complete darkness that hid his face.

Kat said nothing.

“Alright, sorry, I...” Newt tried to draw back his words, but at the same time Kat said: “Sorry, what was that?”

Now Newt's face glowed deep red in the dark, he was sure. “I'm sorry, I did not want to...”

But Kat interrupted him again, her voice low: “Same. You are also important to me. I don't want you to come to harm. Out there.”

Newt's jaw dropped. He could not find the courage to look at her, so he just stared into the dark.

Then he said: “You mean, you...”

“I like you.”

This came so unexpected that Newt was only able to ask: “Like – like “like”?”

She laughed quietly about this expression, but she took some time to think about this before she answered: “I feel happy when you are around. And I miss you when you're not.”

He couldn't answer. He couldn't speak at all. He only took her hand, gently stroking the bite marks. “Don't harm yourself anymore, Kat. Think of how sad it makes me.”

She nodded, reluctantly.

“I… I like you too, Kat.”

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