When Harley took the job, they weren’t particularly enamored with the idea of living amongst monsters, in captivity. All of their life, people repeated the same things—Supernaturals were dangerous. Sure, you could have a Supernatural as a neighbor when you were young, but you certainly wouldn’t play with them. You couldn’t spend any time at their house or their parents might try to spirit you away, feast on your flesh, steal your things.
As Harley got older, the rules changed. Not even young Supernaturals could be trusted. Incidents of thieving or fights at the school were always linked back to those kids—and why was there any reason to disbelieve? Harley’s younger brother got in a fight with one of them and the scar over his eye would never fade, still pink and gnarled looking from a scratch thrown at him. Nine years old. Harley thought they would never forgive.
Harley agreed to sign the papers, five years later. They were afraid, sure, but what did fear matter when you had a father in a coma and medical bills to pay? And five years dulled the anger of their brother’s injury. Supernaturals had no bite anymore, locked in the facilities. Harley sometimes thought it was better off that way.
And then the chaos of the escape.
The touch of a hand that was so cold and clammy it could have only belonged to a corpse. The frantic pace they rushed out of the cage. The stark and blinding horror of the guard dead in blood and following his killers.
Somehow, Harley activated their tracking device and slipped into their jacket pocket.
The next few days were spent scrounging devices and tinkering with them to work. Discussing plans to escape, somewhere where they would have dignity. Where they wouldn’t be afraid. In those days, Harley wanted to ask all sorts of things: Don’t you know you’re the ones who make people afraid? Can’t you control your powers?
But there was also genuine kindness. In taking shifts to watch over each other. Staying in contact while they split up. Joking around with each other.
There was love.
Harley had forgotten, for a moment, that they were supposed to be afraid. In between the laughter and the familiarity, Harley realized the truth, and the truth was there was no reason to hold on to that fear. In truth, Harley had forgotten what it was like to be part of something—working odd jobs to save up for the hospital and trying not to fail their classes, they never had someone to look after them. And these people did, not even knowing Harley, not even knowing that Harley had signed up to track them down.
Once the tracker was activated, you couldn’t deactivate it. “To prevent cowardice. Those Supernaturals can be beguiling.” The Director’s red lips pursed in distaste. “But you won’t sympathize with those creatures, Harley. You’re strong.”
Harley was strong. Strong enough to fight back against the people who kept tailing them, facility-sent guards who only won out when they cornered Harley five to one.
Tommy had died. No, Tommy was murdered.
And the fear returned. Why fight for someone who killed an infant, killed someone innocent? It was like their brother coming back bleeding and bleeding except instead of a scar he was just gone. She deserved to be captured and locked up. She had betrayed not only Harley’s trust, but Emmeline’s too.
Leda was never meant to get caught up in it.
Harley wasn’t there. All Harley did was throw their tracker into the river. They didn’t see the torture: Calliope, torn up from hooks; Leda, limp with shock and numb terror.
Harley never thought they would care, not about someone like Calliope. But she didn’t deserve that—neither did Leda, whose gesture of goodwill was what led to her death. And Harley was responsible.
Their anger was real and savage and bitter. And it was laced with guilt—a secret they could never say, leaving them an outlaw amongst outlaws, a betrayer of all their trust.
(Later when Harley felt the cold reach of shadows locked inside them, gripping the knife with their own hands, they thought that maybe this was what they deserved. This way, maybe what was left of Pod 17 could still go free.)