“And if you could send me a burrito with that as well, Calum, that would be mighty fine.”

Lainey halted outside the suite entrance, weary from the climb up the staircase. The heavy manila folder in her arms rested against her chest as she leaned against the locked doors and listened in on the inane one-sided conversation taking place inside- almost as if Miranda was praying to a deity, except praying didn’t involve a long laundry list of ingredient requests for a whole dinner.

When Miranda’s fervent whispering crescendoed into a rant about how soft drinks made his stomach hurt from the pure sweetness, Lainey shifted the folder to one arm and stood up straight. She knocked the door once, making Miranda shut up in paranoia, and another before the rustling of his getting up was audible and he unlocked and opened the door.

“Hello… Lainey? I think that’s your name?” Miranda regarded the woman and her payload with hazy eyes. “What are you up here for? Anders already went to his appointment, and I have no other obligations for the rest of the day.”

“May I come in? I brought you a present.”

Miranda snapped to attention at the mention of a present, and he moved to allow Lainey inside. Immediately, the sheets on the floor caught her attention, as did the mattress that blatantly showed signs of the bed being thrown apart the previous night. She cautiously lowered herself into a bare patch of floor, opening the Manila folder in her lap as Miranda perched on the edge of the mattress.

“You asked for these a while ago. Or it at least seems like a while ago.” Lainey handed the top sheet to Miranda, who eagerly took it into his hands. The farther down the page he scanned, the wider his smile got until he resumed a detached demeanor and returned the page to the folder. “Your legal files came through this morning. I had to suppress the news before Anders could catch wind of it.”

“Thank you so much, Lainey.” Miranda leaned forward with his arms stretched out wide, and Lainey set the folder to her side before accepting the embrace. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

“Well, even though your face remains mainly blank, your heart rate has gone up, your eyes have softened, and you’re trembling.” Lainey patted his back and pulled away, returning the folder to her lap. “I would take that as gratitude.”

“How do you know?”

“I was on the fast track to major in psychology before Anders derailed me and sent me speeding towards biochemistry.” She sighed and ran a hand through her wild hair. “Unfortunately, this train doesn’t really have the resources to back up at the moment.”

“Oh…” Miranda peeked at the window hole, framing wispy clouds in the still broken frame, before taking the hefty folder into his hands. “I was praying that something good would happen.”

“Now, Miranda-”

He set the folder into his own lap and opened it before brushing Lainey’s outstretched arm away. “Birth certificates, registration forms for government services, maps of possible places to travel to-”

“Miranda!” Lainey snapped her fingers, regaining Miranda’s attention. “Listen here, okay? You can’t just take off immediately. You have to plan and make sure that you’re self-sufficient enough before making a run for it.” She put a hand on her heart. “You only have one chance to get out of here alive, Miranda.”

“I understand.”

“Do you really?” Lainey stood up. “Do you understand how high the stakes are? If you take one wrong step on the rope to independence and stumble into the welfare system, someone will alert your FIANCÉE Anders, and you’ll be brought back here while my job and my life go on the line. And you know what that means? You stay under lockdown for most of the remainder of your life, and Anders makes the decision of whether or not I should be drugged and stuffed into a body bag.”

Miranda’s gaze traveled up Lainey’s body, resting on her steel-gray eyes. He clenched one fist and wished that his body wouldn’t betray the shivers down his spine as he whispered, “are you serious?”

“I’m risking everything I have by coming up here. There could be-” she gestured around the room- “tons of security cameras and wire taps in here. Anders could be planning how to frame my murder as a suicide right now. What could I possibly gain from lying? Entertain me.” Miranda sat wordless, and Lainey took a deep breath and sat back down. “Please be careful, Miranda.”

“I will.” Miranda closed the folder.

“That’s good to hear.” The suite doors clicked shut behind Lainey as she departed, and Miranda shifted off of the mattress and slid the folder underneath. It was nowhere as secure as a safe, but it would have to do.


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