The park was full of playing children and their watchful parents. A group was playing soccer in the small field while another tore through the jungle gym.
Morgana shared a smile with Rebekah. They were taking turns pushing Hope in the infant swing. Right now it was Rebekah's turn. Morgana was standing next to her, arms crossed and nonchalantly looking around every so often.
Grendel suddenly jumped on her shoulder and growled. Morgana froze and followed his gaze, tapping Rebekah's arm.
There was a starling perched behind them, watching them. Its gaze was a little too intense to be a normal bird's.
Morgana glanced at Rebekah. She looked unnerved. Morgana raised an eyebrow and looked back at the bird.
It was now joined by the rest of its flock. All of them were sat on the jungle gym, watching with the same unsettling stare.
Grendel growled, and Morgana shared a horrified look with Rebekah. She grabbed Hope out of the swing, set her in the baby carrier and speed-walked to the car.
Rebekah pulled her phone out as Morgana situated Hope in the backseat.
"It's me," she said. "We have the baby and we're on the run. Esther found us. We're safe for now. We've lost her bloody starlings, but I have no idea where to go."
Morgana smiled at Hope and ushered Grendel inside. Hope adored him. Morgana shut the car door and walked around the car.
"Do not tell Hayley!" Rebekah yelled. "Esther's too smart for that. The only advantage we have is that she thinks the baby died. Text me the plans."
Seeing Rebekah duck into the car, Morgana followed suit.
"Alright, you take her inside and I'll put up a barrier," Morgana said as Grendel hopped on her shoulder from the car.
Rebekah walked inside the diner. Morgana checked to make sure no one, not even any birds, were looking before she began. She called on the elements in turn, using them to put up the invisible barrier.
"Earth, I call upon you to protect I and my friends inside against anyone and anything that wishes us harm. Air, I call upon you to make it invisible to anyone who looks on it, so that we avoid suspicion. Fire, I call upon you to burn that which dares come through without permission to warn them of the consequences should they proceed. Water, I call upon you to drown that which persists without permission. I thank you for blessing me with the gift to ask for your help, and I thank you for blessing me by doing so."
Barrier set, she walked inside. Rebekah was sitting at a booth. Elijah was holding Hope, a huge smile on his face. He glanced up at Morgana, and she smiled.
She sat on one of the barstools. Grendel kneaded his paws on her shoulder. She looked at him and frowned. His eyes were narrowed at Elijah, and he kept glancing at the doors to what Morgana presumed was the kitchen. He wasn't making any noises, though. Either he wasn't too worried about it, or he didn't want Elijah to know he knew something.
"I can't imagine the joy of spending every day with her," Elijah said, sitting down.
"It's quite lovely," Rebekah replied. "It feels so human."
"Yes. Some would argue the most human of experiences."
"I know I have to give her back to Hayley when the time is right, but she's made me realize how much I want that child of my own that I know I can't have.”
"It's a lovely dream. Unfortunately it's one that's just beyond that reach, considering the curse of our existence."
"Seems Esther's attacking with her usual fervor."
"Yes, Mother tortured me for days with memories I thought I'd buried long ago. Then she made me an offer. To make us all mortal again."
Whoa. How the hell could that work?
"You see, Mother believes that by placing us in new bodies, we can then reclaim some kind of purity. We can begin families of our own again. And I have to confess, this invitation, however cruel in delivery, had a certain...appeal."
I'll bet, Morgana thought.
Rebekah reached across the table and took Elijah's free hand. Morgana narrowed her eyes slightly as Rebekah's face dropped.
"You needn't worry," Elijah said. "We're safe."
Rebekah glanced at him and smiled, but it almost seemed forced. Hope started crying, so Rebekah stood and grabbed the blanket.
"Looks like this little one needs her diaper changed," she said.
Elijah handed Hope to her, and she went for the bathroom.
Morgana winced and shot a look at Grendel. His claws were out and digging in her shoulder as he kneaded.
"Is something wrong?" Elijah asked.
"The birds have made him restless," Morgana replied. "Even with a barrier spell up around the place he's still not comfortable."
"Morgana, could you bring me the bag?" Rebekah called from the back.
"Coming," Morgana replied. She got off the stool, grabbed the bag and headed in the direction of Rebekah's voice.
She hissed and glared at Grendel. "What is with you?"
She walked through a set of doors and froze, biting her lip to keep from gasping.
Bodies and blood were everywhere in the kitchen. It seemed the only one who'd been spared was the waitress, and since she didn't seem to notice what was back here, she must've been compelled.
Morgana swiftly turned around and stepped outside. Elijah was still at the booth, his back turned to her. She looked to her right and saw Rebekah standing there holding Hope, shock written all over her face.
Morgana glanced at Grendel. His fur was fluffed out and he was tense. So that's why you're in such a mood, she thought.
Rebekah gestured for Morgana to follow her. They walked back over to Elijah like nothing was wrong.
"Well, she is all sorted and ready for an adventure!" Rebekah announced. "Aren't you, my love?"
Elijah stood and watched as Rebekah put Hope in the carrier.
"It's difficult to believe we were this innocent once," he said. "We mustn't let the world ever hurt her."
Rebekah rubbed his arm. "You're right. We mustn't."
She quickly snapped his neck. Morgana watched, mouth slightly open, as he fell to the floor. Grendel immediately relaxed and hopped on the table next to Hope.
"So," Morgana said. "What now?"
"Now I call Klaus," Rebekah replied.
Morgana nodded. Rebekah pulled her phone out. Hope began whimpering, and Grendel started purring. After a moment, Hope quieted down. Grendel continued purring.
Morgana smiled and sat down, scratching behind his ears. "You've grown fond of her, haven't you?"
"Nik, it's me," Rebekah said. Morgana looked up. "Something's wrong. Elijah slaughtered a dozen people whose only sin was their terrible taste in food. I mean when have you ever known him to kill when he could otherwise compel? It's the kind of act that will draw our mother's attention."
Pause. "I broke his neck to keep her safe, but I have no idea what to do now."
Pause. "Of course." She seemed confused.
Another moment passed and she put her phone away and picked up the carrier with Hope inside. Morgana stood and Grendel hopped on her shoulder. "Where are we off to?"
"A safe house in Arkansas," Rebekah replied.
Morgana cracked her knuckles. "Alright, I'm gonna check the area and take down the barrier."
Rebekah nodded, clearly still unnerved. Morgana went outside and called on Earth. She closed her eyes and spread her hands out. Not sensing anything out-of-place, she took down the barrier and went back in the diner.
"Coast is clear," she announced.
Rebekah handed Hope to her and put Elijah's arm around her neck to lift him up. Morgana called on Air to help support him, and they situated in the car.
As Rebekah started the engine, Morgana thanked Earth and Air, and they began the long drive to Arkansas.