Janet Tied Her Kirtle Green is copyright ©2020 Naomi Boydston and is released under the terms of Strowlers Shared Cinematic Universe License and Agreement
Attribution: This work is based on Strowlers, copyright ©2018 Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. And reuses content from Tam Lyn, from long before copyright with.
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This is NOT canon.

I sit idling at the stop sign at the intersection of Carterhaugh and Miles Court until another car comes up behind me. It's black and has tinted windows and honks at me before it even comes to a stop. I growl under my breath but I let it pass, taking a turn around the block and coming right back to the stop sign. I continue waiting.

Tom's transport left the prison at 10, and he's scheduled to arrive at the ARC building to be burned at 1. I've been here the whole time just to be on the safe side, circling less and less as the roads empty out. It's approaching midnight now and I'm glad I filled the gas tank before I started my vigil. I remind myself that the tank will last longer than I need it to and it's okay if I treat this car roughly. Tom would cringe but Tom isn't here right now and I will do what I have to do. Criminals don't get fancy collars or schools where they learn to control the burning. At least not around here. Criminals are just fodder for the factories and everyone pretends it's for the best but I wont allow them to carve the intelligence from Tom's beautiful mind or the smile from his face. I would rather die. And if I don't time this right, I will. I need to be ready to go in an instant, so the car has to keep running.

Finally, I see the flashing lights and my heart leaps into my throat. A brown motorcycle shoots through the intersection without stopping. I swallow hard and reach out a trembling hand to touch the drying red rose on my dashboard, the one Tom gave me. I'll have to time this just right. I see a flash of white and floor the gas, screeching out into the intersection. I throw open the drivers side door and jump just as the white truck crashes into the passenger side. I roll and my green leather jacket takes most of the punishment from the pavement but something twinges in my left shoulder and I know I'll be feeling it later. There is a loud blaring sound and for a moment I think I've hit my head and my ears are ringing. But as I make it to my feet I see that it's the driver. He's collapsed over the horn. He slides off it as I stagger toward the truck and I realize he will not be getting back up. I swallow that thought, picking up speed.

I yank open the back doors of the van and gasp. Tom is lying on the floor unmoving. I drop to my knees at his side horrified, Did I do this? Did I make things worse? He would find this a better death than the burning, but... Oh god…

He blinks up at me, expressionless. Uncomprehending. He is unharmed but my relief is short lived. I struggle to pull him to his feet. He lets me, but he does not help. The little lights on the blocky collar around his neck seem to mock me.

I drag him from the truck and he slithers almost bonelessly out the back. I have to catch him. I feel my already aching shoulder pop and a spear of white hot pain tears through me. I grit my teeth. He looks right through me with dead snakelike eyes, a terrifying preview of what will happen if I fail him. I shiver.

"Come on, Tom!" I shout, "There's no time for this and I can't keep pulling you. Move."

To my surprise he obeys me. He starts walking straight forward. I turn him in the direction we need to go. He is moving slower than I would like but his long strides eat enough ground that I don't push it. I do keep one hand balled up in his shirt just in case. My right hand. My left arm doesn't seem to be working.

We barely make it to the sidewalk when he screams and falls to the ground twitching. I'm dragged down after him and the cheep prison shirt he is wearing rips loudly in my hand. As my knees hit the curb they begin to complain about this treatment. As I try to catch myself with my free hand, and my arm buckles under me, my left shoulder screams that my knees can wait their damn turn. But something pops again in my shoulder and I can move my fingers more easily. I don't have time to be relieved because I can see the skin on Tom's neck turning red under the collar.

"Shit shit shit!" I swear under my breath as I scramble for the tiny, specialized, and very illegal tool kit I'd hidden under my shirt. I'd hoped to keep it safe when I had to jump from the car but now it's stuck and panic makes me clumsy. I don't like how close we still are to the van, I'd planned to be at least out of sight before we had to do this. I finally get it free, still swearing, and almost drop it with my tingling fingers. I make myself take a deep steadying breath before I begin, despite the blisters starting to form on Tom's neck.

It's tricky and fiddly and it takes longer than I would like but when his collar finally pops free I chuck it as far down the street as I can. His body relaxes and he groans. But when he opens his eyes and looks at me, he smiles like I'm the only thing that matters in the universe.

"Janet…" he breaths.

Sitting up, he pulls me into his arms. My heart melts. I forget my fear. I forget about the weeks of planning. I forget where we are. I forget that we need to move.

I forget to listen for the returning motorcycle.

Arms still around me his body jerks. I feel an inhuman growl rumble up from his chest and he pushes me away roughly. I try to hold on and his shirt rips the rest of the way off but not before I get a good grip on his arm. Over his shoulder I see an Agent, still on their brown motorcycle, with an arm stretched out toward us. No. Towards Tom.

"Tom!" I shout, grabbing his chin and making him look at me. I can see the whites all around his eyes. He growls at me, shaking off my hand. I barely have time to wrap my arms around his chest before he tries to surge to his feet. We fall to the pavement in a tangle of limbs and my shoulder howls but stays in it's socket.

Of course, I think pissed, they're taught that emotion is the enemy. What else would they throw at me?

"Tom, listen!" I shout as I struggle to keep him from running back to the arc agent and his own destruction. "You are stronger than them! You are the strongest person I know, okay?"

The agent changes tactics and Tom's attention turns to me, that feral growl raising the hair on my arms. "You can fight this!" The air is driven out of my lungs as he slams me into the ground but a wind begins to blow around us and I know it's his talent whipping it up. I cling to him gasping. I refuse to fight back and just hold on.

"Tom," I wheeze when I get air back into my lungs, "Tom, you know me. Otherwise I would already be dead. Come on! Think! Remember DC? Remember the tunnels under the bank and the getaway car in the river? Remember the rose garden where we found each other again?" His body shakes with the effort, but he stops fighting, just for a moment. "Do you remember what you told me? I asked why you met up with me when you had all the money already. Remember?"

The wind gets wilder but it doesn't touch the two of us. His hands are around my throat now, fingers trembling. But he doesn't squeeze. He hasn't stopped growling but the fury has leached out and it's taken on a worried whine. I reach up with the hand that isn't clamped around his wrist, as futile a gesture as that will be if the agent wins.

"You told me you were there for the same reason I was," I let my voice get quieter now that I have his attention and I don't look away from his wild eyes. "You said I should have been trying to hunt you down or turn you over to the local authorities. But I didn't and you came. I told you that wasn't an answer and asked why. You shrugged, smiled, and told me you came because against all reason…- " I let the pause hang in the air. It stretches out long enough I feel my stomach begin to knot up.

"I… Trust you… With my… Life..." He forces the words out through a grimace.

"Yes!" I smile, relief and love and reckless hope filling me up. "And then you asked why I hadn't turned you in and I said that I trust you with fifty thousand dollars." His whole body shakes like a leaf but I feel the moment he breaks free of the arc agent's control. He whirls around coming up on one knee and all the raging wind focuses down into a single stream, aimed straight at the motorcycle. The agent dives behind the truck at the last second but we get the time we need. I scramble to my feet and drag him behind me. It's only a few more meters to the little grey car I prepared for our escape. I bundle him into the passenger seat and climb across him to the driver's side, unwilling to let go of him until the car is moving and I know we are going to make it out of here.

He lies collapsed in his seat for several minutes, shaky and pale. But he's here. He's alive and unbroken. I won. I feel a grin spread across my face.

I merge onto the freeway and he stirs. I glance at him, the most I can do while driving. He's looking at me, exhausted shadows under his eyes, but with that familiar crooked grin. I can't help it, I laugh from sheer joy and relief.

"Holy shit, Janet! That was... Holy shit. Have I mentioned that I love you?"

"You have, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded."

He shivers and I remember that the heater is broken in this car. Carefully, one arm at a time, I shrug out of my green jacket and pass it to him. It's too small but he wraps it around his shoulders as the mile markers grow between us and our past.