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Eagles are Turning People Into Horses: The Movie: II: The Horses That Used To Be People But Were Turned Into Horses By Eagles Strike Back: The Revengening

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After everything that goes down, Brian has a shitty little apartment that's his, and a route to work that he walks every morning that's his, and his own clothes that aren't duplicates of Lyle's, and his job as a barista which is also his, and he doesn't think about Lyle or Hannah or about how Lyle and his stupid friends – who, for the record, on more than one occasion hung out with Brian and pretended he was Lyle in group settings when Lyle didn't feel like doing group stuff – haven't even called to see how he's doing. And it's totally fine, because this is what Brian wanted.

At least, until he looks up one day after handing a customer her change and her caramel latte and freezes, because Hannah must have a clone-twin too, one who pulls her hair back and wears eyeliner and all black except for that ruby-red lipstick –

Hannah's clone-twin says, "Come with me if you don't want eagles to turn you into a horse."

Brian says, "what?"

And then the windows of the coffee shop where Brian works shatter inwards.

Hannah grabs his wrist and the next thing he knows he's being pulled out the emergency exit in the back, into the alley (what) and there's a black SUV waiting there (what) and Hannah shoves him into the passenger's side (what) and gets in the driver's seat and accelerates them so fast out of the alley that the SUV damn well fishtails (WHAT).

It takes Brian a minute to remember how to speak, and then he says, "Hannah?"

"What?" Hannah says, and apparently it is indeed Hannah and not some kind of clone-twin, but that doesn't actually clarify a whole lot about this situation.

"What the hell," Brian demands.

Hannah glances over at him. Her lipstick is the kind of shade that is probably even called "femme fatale." That is very worrying.

"Those were eagles," she says, as if that clarifies absolutely anything. "They were going to turn you into a horse."

"That's," Brian says, and then it clicks. "Oh. Okay, I get it. This is you getting revenge for that whole elaborate break-up scheme."

Hannah glances at him again, frowning this time. "No, this is me telling you that the eagles have found you and are trying to turn you into a horse."

"Okay, you can stop the car now," Brian says. "I get it. You're not going to convince me. I know it was kind of shitty of me to go along with Lyle's stupid plan to break up with you because of your laugh – which if you ask me isn't even that bad, which Lyle would know if he ever spent any time with you instead of sending me – but I'm getting off the point, which is – "

"The point," Hannah says, and takes a left turn so hard that Brian's head comes within a millimeter of a concussion against the passenger's side window, "is that the eagles have found you and aren't going to stop trying to turn you into a horse until either you defeat them or they win. It was all I could do to get here in time to save you."

Brian folds his lips together in resignation. "Did Lyle put you up to this? Is this a joke that you and Lyle are – "

"Lyle's dead," Hannah says abruptly.

" – wait, what?"

"Horses don't live as long as humans," Hannah says, with murky undercurrents of sadness. "Particularly when Eaglia has decided that they should be executed."

"Wait, what?" Brian demands.

So Hannah takes him to the cemetery, and walks him over to a gravestone that says "LYLE" in big, engraved letters at the top, and "He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, neigh, more present than the living man" below it.

"Okay, this is really taking it too far," Brian says, but he can't stop staring at the grave.

"I know this is hard to take in," Hannah says, and takes his arm to pull him around so she can put her hands on his shoulders, as if to hold him upright. "But Lyle wasn't wrong. Well, he was wrong about some of it – Eaglia had nothing to do with his family getting turned into horses and didn't even know about them, but it could very well have been one of the other avian factions – but once Eaglia started to suspect how much Lyle knew, he had to be taken care of."

"So…Eaglia turned Lyle into a horse?" Brian says.

"Yes," Hannah says. "And then when Eaglia's deadly thirst for vengeance was still unslaked, he had Lyle – the horse – killed. I'm sorry, Brian," Hannah says, and squeezes Brian's shoulder with one hand. "But it's just you and me now."

Brian looks at the grave again. "Does that say 'neigh' as in – "

"Of course it does, Brian, he died as a horse. What do you expect?"

Brian turns away, the weight of the rather incontrovertible proof in front of him – this is, after all, a public graveyard with actual graves with actual dead people – warring against the sheer ridiculousness of all of this in his heart –

"Okay," he says eventually, "not to beat a dead horse, but – "

"Brian! For the love of God, Lyle's grave is right there! Have a little respect."

"That's not what I – look, I get that Lyle broke your heart or whatever, and it was really shitty for him to break up with you like that," Brian says, stepping out of Hannah's grasp. "Not to mention the, like, five other girls he's done it to. But doing some kind of totally bizarre revenge thing isn't going to change that."

"You said he did this to other girls?" Hannah says, frowning with sudden interest. "Was it this same story? This same exact story?"

"Well, no," Brian admits. "This is taking it, like, ten steps farther than he ever did before. The first time it was shipping off to Iraq as an elite undercover operative, then he was a Secret Service agent who had just been reassigned, and then being deployed as a spy in a former Soviet bloc country that he couldn't name, and then it was a sudden Mars mission on a classified human-crewed space mission. The one before you was the eagles and the horses too, though."

"Why eagles? Why this time?" Hannah presses, taking a step back into Brian's personal space. "Did he come up with it himself, or did someone else suggest it? Was it Frank?"

Brian frowns. "You know, now that you mention it – "

"Get down!" Hannah yells, and then a few things happen at more or less the same time: there's a pop-crack noise that echoes through the graveyard, Hannah tackles Brian to the ground, and something whizzes by his face, barely missing him but going too fast for him to see it.

"They found us," Hannah says from on top of Brian, looking up in the direction of the – holy shit, was that a gunshot?

"Um?" Brian says, his panic making his voice go high at the end.

"Come on!" And then Hannah's hand is once again around his wrist, yanking him up, and they're running again. Brian catches sight of Lyle's grave, expecting to see a chunk of it missing or maybe a bullet embedded in it, but instead it's splattered with paint.

Paint guns, Brian realizes, they're shooting paintballs –

Which does surprisingly little to mitigate the terror of the situation, really, so he keeps running behind Hannah until they reach the SUV and she pulls the door open and just about throws him in bodily.

"Okay, what the hell was – " Brian begins as Hannah dives in the driver's side, and a paintball splatters against the passenger's side windshield, making Brian jump.

"Branding paint," Hannah says grimly, and throws the SUV into gear. "They're trying to turn us into horses. Just like they did to Lyle."

They peel out of the graveyard parking lot, the squeal of the tires giving her statement the weight that it deserves.

"Where are we going?" Brian asks.

"Somewhere they wouldn't dare use that branding paint," Hannah says. "The eagles are trying to reclaim their natural territory by turning people into horses, so if we go into the forests, they won't be able to use any of their weapons."

"…why not?"

"Because they wouldn't add to the very environmental destruction that they're trying to fight, obviously," Hannah says, and glances away from the road to give Brian a slightly disparaging look. "You really have a lot to learn, don't you?"

"Okay, seriously, you can drop the act, Hannah," Brian says. "I'm not Lyle, okay? I'm not the one who broke up with you, so this whole weird revenge scheme is totally wasted on me."

"After all of this, you still can't believe what's right in front of your eyes?" Hannah says, shaking her head. "Well, it doesn't matter. I'm going to keep you safe, whether you like it or not."

"Okay, well, why?"

"Because," Hannah says sadly, "it's the only thing I can do now. I have no family – Eaglia turned them into horses when I was just a little girl. But he kept me human and raised me as his own, a deformed daughter with too many limbs but no wings, too few feathers, and vocal cords that could only make the poorest approximations of the beautiful language of the eagles. I was the perfect human operative – I looked like them, I could talk like them, and once I'd studied them, I could even move among them. The only thing I could never quite master…was the human laugh."

"…oh," Brian says.

"Lyle wasn't the first human I was sent in to investigate," Hannah continues, ignoring him – or maybe just oblivious, trapped in her own world of past pains. "I was the best. Anyone who seemed to know a little too much about Eaglia and the eagles turning people into horses – I made friends with them. Got them comfortable around me. Forged bonds with them, only to wait until the time was ripe to surreptitiously mark them with the branding paint and make my escape, leaving tears and new hooves in my wake. But Lyle…Lyle was different. Lyle was the first person to make me feel like people could be worth something – like maybe I had made a mistake by obeying Eaglia all these past years."

"Oh," Brian says again.

"And now Lyle's dead and a horse," Hannah finishes. "If things had been different – but no. It's like the saying goes: 'if wishes were horses – '"

"Beggars would ride," Brian finishes for her.

"What? No," Hannah says. "'If wishes were horses, there would be even more horses than there already are, and there are a lot of horses because eagles keep turning people into them, so why would you even want wishes to be horses in the first place?' I thought everyone knew that saying."

"…right," Brian says, and decides not to question it. The rest of the ride into the forest is awkward, to say the least.

The safehouse ends up being – and Brian can hardly believe it except he's seeing it with his own eyes – a treehouse. Just, a completely stereotypical and also kids'-sized treehouse, with a rope ladder hanging from its only entrance and everything. Hannah pulls two hiking backpacks out of the drunk of the SUV and shoves one into Brian's arms.

"We'll be safe here," she says. "Well. Mostly."

Then she climbs up the rope ladder, leaving Brian staring at the hiking backpack.

"Well," he says, mostly to himself, "I guess we're camping tonight."

Then he climbs up after her. She's already started laying out a sleeping back on the floor by the time he makes it up there – rope ladders, it turns out, are fucking impossible to climb, even though Hannah managed to get up it in no time – and she doesn't look back at him when he finally shoves himself through the entrance.

"We have at least tonight," she says instead. "After that, I don't know how long this location will be secure. There are other hideouts like this around the country, for people like us – the ones who know the truth, on the run from the eagles – "

"Hang on, why are you talking like this is something permanent?" Brian says, and that does make Hannah look at him.

"Be realistic, Brian," Hannah says, referring apparently to evil eagles, branding paint, and the transmutation of people into horses. "They know who you are. They know where you're likely to be. They can track us. I might not have been able to save Lyle, but – at the very least, I can save you."

"Save me from what?" Brian demands. "Are you still trying to convince me that Eaglia's after us?"

"No," Hannah says. "This isn't Eaglia's style. He doesn't do the big confrontations. This," she says darkly, "is one of the other eagle warlords operating in this section of the country, and I think I know who."

Brian takes a moment to process the phrase 'eagle warlords,' and then manages to ask the natural follow-up: "Who?"

"Baldy," Hannah says grimly.

"Baldy," Brian repeats.

"Yes, Baldy." Hannah finishes rolling out the sleeping bag, and turns her full attention to Brian. "Before, at Lyle's grave, I asked you a question and you didn't get a chance to answer. Was Frank the one who suggested eagles to Lyle?"

Brian shrugs. "I mean, I guess. They were kind of having a brainstorming session, you know, just hanging out and playing Call of Duty, and Lyle was trying to figure out how to break up with Amanda because she used too many different kinds of product in her hair and he thought that made her shallow, and Frank said something like, dude, what if it were eagles? Turning people into horses? And then they all laughed." He frowns. "It's kind of a weird coincidence, now that I'm thinking about it."

"It's no coincidence," Hannah says. "Eaglia isn't the only one who has operatives embedded in humanity. Frank is one of Baldy's."

"Okay, I have to ask, is Baldy supposed to be…" Brian falters at Hannah's blank look, but rallies to continue, "…you know…a bald eagle?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Hannah says. "Bald eagles are the jokes of the eagle world. Even Eaglia, who isn't even a bald eagle but a haliaeetus lowbudgetus, had to fight the stigma from other eagles thinking he was a bald eagle by being more vicious and bloodthirsty than the rest of them. Baldy is a martial eagle who happens to be prematurely losing his feathers."

"Of course he is."

Hannah continues. "I knew Frank was an operative from the moment I met him, and I knew he'd made me, too, but I thought he was there for the same reason I was: because detailed surveillance on all of humanity had revealed that Lyle knew more about eagles than he should. But if Frank was the one who told Lyle about the eagles, then that changes everything."

"Uh, how?"

"Because it means that Frank wanted Lyle to be found. That Baldy wanted it to happen. And that can only mean one thing." Hannah looks out the small window in the treehouse, staring broodily into the sunset. "Lyle was never their target. He was just a convenient goat."

"I thought he was turned into a horse, not a goat."

"I mean a patsy. They just needed someone to blunder around being obvious, and Lyle fit the bill. And that got them…me. And more importantly, I got them Eaglia."

Brian frowns. "Okay, you lost me."

"Once they knew that Eaglia had an operative watching Lyle, which of course they did, they could follow me and I could lead them right to Eaglia. And for all I know, I did. I haven't contacted Eaglia since I realized I couldn't live with myself. And now…" Hannah looks away from the sunset, down at the floor. "Now I know that I'm the reason Lyle was turned into a horse and then killed."

"Okay, this has gone far enough," Brian says, and pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. "I get that this is your revenge or whatever, but I'm just – this is getting ridiculous." He scrolls in his contacts to Lyle, and hits the call button.

Hannah sits up straighter in alarm. "What are you doing?"

The phone rings a couple of times, and then someone says, "Hello?"

"Lyle," Brian says, "there you are – "

"Brian, dude, is that you?"

Brian blinks. "Nick?"

"I've been looking everywhere for your number, man," Nick says on the other end. "I've got some bad news that you're never gonna believe – Lyle got turned into a horse and then he died, and Frank straight-up disappeared. I have no idea what's going on, but it's completely unbelievable. So much so that I'm starting to think that I may have dropped acid without realizing it, because that's more plausible than what I have literally seen with my actual eyes."

Brian stares at Hannah, his phone still held to his ear, and then says, "Nick, I'm going to have to call you back," and hangs up.

"Okay," Brian says, in what he thinks is a reasonably calm voice, "so Nick's in on it too."

"You can keep telling yourself whatever you want," Hannah says to him, "but I'm the reason you're in this mess, so it's up to me to keep you safe." She reaches into the far corner of the treehouse and grabs another sleeping bag, which she shoves into Brian's arms. "It's been a long day. You must be tired."

"So we're just supposed to camp here?" Brian says.

"Unless you have any other ideas that won't get us turned into horses by eagles, yes," Hannah says, and while Brian wants to argue, the disquiet feeling nagging at the back of his mind won't quite let him.

He rolls out his sleeping bag next to Hannah's, and accepts the power bar she hands him, nibbling on it pensively.

"You're thinking too loud," Hannah says when he's about halfway through his dinner.

"I guess I am," Brian says, and then sets aside his power bar for a second so that he can face Hannah directly. He reaches out to take hold of both of her hands – she was already done with her own power bar. "Hannah," Brian tells her, very seriously, "I want you to be completely honest with me, okay? I'm not going to be angry or upset no matter what your answer to this question is."

"Okay," Hannah says, frowning slightly.

"The question is: are you fucking with me?"

Hannah rolls her eyes and pulls her hands out of Brian's. "I'm not Lyle, Brian. This isn't some grand revenge scheme. This is real life. There's no ignoring the fact that eagles are turning people into horses. We just have to learn to live with it."

Brian sits back against the wall of the treehouse, stunned into genuine thoughtlessness – he can't even begin to translate his incoherent emotions into thoughts, let alone speakable sentences right now.

"It was never my intention to get you involved," Hannah continues, her voice gentle. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Brian says, without even taking a moment to think about it. "If I had to be stuck in a treehouse with somebody, trying to outrun a bunch of crazed birds, I'm glad it's you."

Hannah's expression, which has been constantly stony all day, softens just for a second. Then she flings herself down onto her sleeping bag, rolling onto her side away from Brian.

"We'll need to get an early start tomorrow," she says. "Try to get some sleep."

Brian does try. The results are, at best, mixed. It doesn't help that he keeps wildly yo-yoing between the deep conviction that this is all some kind of elaborate prank, maybe even just as much on Hannah as on him, and the growing concern that it might not be – that like Hannah said, this might just be life now. Treehouses and that black SUV.

Well, and Hannah. Treehouses, that black SUV, and Hannah.

Could be worse.

It's barely dawn and Brian has slept almost not at all when Hannah sits bolt upright, still wrapped in the sleeping bag, and says, "They're here."

"What?" Brian says muzzily, trying three times before figuring out how to sit up without pulling his arms out of the sleeping bag (the solution is to use every last ounce of strength that his ab muscles have, which is not a lot).

"Whoever's been following us," Hannah says. "It could be Eaglia. It could be Baldy. Hell, for all I know, it could be someone else entirely." She finally looks away from the entrance to the treehouse to look at Brian. "I guess there's no more running," she says grimly.

"So…what?" Brian says. "Also, how the hell can you tell?"

"Do you hear that?" Hannah says, and Brian nods, understanding.

"No birdsong," he says.

"What? No, of course there's still birdsong, did you even listen? But you can hear the eagles' tanks and heavy artillery coming through the forest."

She pulls herself out of her sleeping bag, and Brian says, "Did you say tanks?"

She did say tanks. Brian sees them himself as soon as they climb down the ladder. It's – okay, holy shit, this can't possibly be a joke because there are tanks, legitimate tanks, actively moving and rolling up behind –

"Frank?" Brian says, watching the shadowy figure emerge from the fog. He's wearing green camo and holding a bucket labeled "Branding Paint" in one hand and a paint roller in the other.

"Hello, Brian," Frank says. "We've been looking for you."

"So you're the one who was after Brian," Hannah says. "Tying up loose ends?"

Frank shrugs. "What can I say? Baldy likes his tracks covered, when he leaves them. As an eagle, he's usually flying, which doesn't really leave tracks at all."

"Did you also kill Lyle?" Hannah asks.

"No," Frank says. "You killed Lyle, the moment you turned him into a horse. Before that, we had plausible deniability. We could've left him behind with nobody any the wiser, but instead you and Eaglia just had to get revenge, didn't you? You turned my best friend into a horse!" Frank looks at Brian and adds, "No offense, dude."

Brian shrugs. "I was just his clone-twin – I never thought I was your best friend. Just the guy who occasionally played as a fourth on Mario Kart and sometimes stepped in when he had already gotten into his pajamas but you guys were giving him shit for missing too many bro nights."

Frank points at Brian with the paint roller. "I knew he was doing it! I knew it! But no matter how many times I confronted him he kept saying I was being overdramatic! As if I'm overdramatic!"

Brian just stares at him.

"Eaglia made me turn him into a horse," Hannah says. "I didn't even stop to think that maybe what I was doing was wrong, even though I – I loved Lyle. One time he pushed my hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear."

Brian winces with his whole body. "Actually, that was me. Lyle was in the middle of a raid in Call of Duty."

"Oh," Hannah says. "Well, he still said the l-word that one time when he was drunk."

"…yeah, that was also me."

Hannah turns to face Brian, a look of wonder and hope on her face. "What about when we went to the county fair and he won me the fried goldfish? When we went to see that gory horror movie and he got so scared that I put my arm around him and held him until the end credits rolled? When he let me be the big spoon?"

"That was all me," Brian admits. "Lyle was kind of…well, he spent a lot of time in his boxers hanging around the house, to be honest."

"That was you?"

"Okay, this is getting ridiculous," Frank says, rolling his eyes. "Maybe we should just kill you both now and get it over with."

"What is this really about, Frank?" Hannah says, turning back towards Frank. "It wasn't enough to ruin Lyle's life – now you're coming after me?"

"Oh, you know what this is about." Frank points the roller at her again. "Don't play dumb."

Hannah frowns, and Brian says tentatively, "Is this about her laugh…?"

"This is about the ginger ale! I know you drank my ginger ale, you unfeathered son of a bitch!" Frank yells. "It was in the fridge and it was mine and you drank it anyway without even asking! Who does that?"

"Uh," Brian says.

"I didn't drink your stupid ginger ale!" Hannah yells back. "I don't know why you're so obsessed with that ginger ale, but I didn't drink it. I don't even like ginger ale. Nobody likes ginger ale. I was raised by eagles and even I know that it's like yellow Gatorade – you drink it when you're sick even though you don't really want to because nothing should taste exactly the same coming back up as it does going down!"

Frank keeps yelling, yanking both the paint roller and the bucket back and forth as he gesticulates wildly. "Oh, sure, you can try to pretend you're all innocent and sweet, but I know better! We both know better, don't we? You can't just go around drinking people's ginger ale and lying about it, Hannah! There are consequences for your actions!"

"Jesus Christ, fine," Brian interrupts loudly, "I drank the ginger ale, okay?"

Frank freezes. "You what?"

"I drank the freaking ginger ale!" Brian says. "Lyle had just gotten to the end of Prisoner of Azkaban in his Harry Potter reread so he sent me out to get tacos with you guys, but it made my stomach all rumbly and gross, so I drank your ginger ale. It worked," he adds. "I felt way better after that. But if it's so important to you, dude, I'll just buy you a new one. It's just ginger ale, man."

Frank starts to laugh, a low, evil, maniacal laugh. "Oh, is it?" he asks past the chuckles.

"Uh, well, from the way you're laughing, maybe not…" Brian says.

"That ginger ale was laced with branding paint," Frank says. "Eaglia may have succeeded in turning Lyle into a horse first, but he was supposed to be doomed by his own obsession with putting sriracha on his tacos. Luckily, Eaglia took care of that loose end for us…and you just took care of the other." He points the paint roller at Brian. "Fly, my pretties! Fly!"

"Brian!" Hannah shouts, and grabs Brian's hand just as the eagles descend.

Suddenly, there are just fuckloads of eagles. Seriously. Eagles everywhere. The sky is blacked out with feathers, and the roaring of constant cawing blocks out the rush of blood in Brian's head. Hannah pulls him through the storm of birds, running in a direction that Brian can't even make out because, holy shit, so many eagles.

"We have to make it to the car!" Hannah yells at him as they run. "If they turn on the seismic transducer, you'll be turned into a horse!"

"We'll never make it!" Brian shouts back, and pulls her to a stop. The eagles circle around them in a convenient cylinder, giving them just enough space to have an actual conversation while staying close enough to maintain the narrative tension. "Hannah – I'm the one who drank the ginger ale, not you. You can still make it out of here."

Hannah shakes her head. "I'm not leaving you, Brian. All this time I thought that I loved Lyle, but it was you all along."

"I love you too, Hannah," Brian says, and gently cups her face with one hand. "That's why I can't let you stay. Also, part of me is still pretty convinced that this is all bullshit, so."

Hannah reaches her hand up and holds Brian's neck, tugging him closer to her and pulling his head down until their foreheads gently touch.

"Together," Hannah says. "We'll do this together."

The eagles circle around them, closing in, and beyond the thunderous roar of their caws, Brian can almost hear –

"Do you hear something like two hollow coconut shells being smacked together?" Hannah says.

And then a horse – a proud, majestic roan horse that is an actual horse and not CGI because the second movie got a bigger budget than the first but not by that much – gallops through and parts the waves of eagles, and rears up in front of the couple, sweat glistening on its flanks which are clearly not a costume.

Hannah and Brian say together, in astonishment: "Lyle?"

Lyle neighs in affirmation, and Hannah and Brian look at each other for a moment, laughing in surprise and joy at this unexpected and inexplicable blessing.

"We're saved," Brian says. "We can just ride Lyle out of here to the SUV, and then he can run beside us while we – "

"Brian," Hannah says, and gently touches Brian's cheek with her fingertips. "There's not enough room on Lyle's back for both of us. I'm sorry. I have to do this."

And then, with strength that Brian never would have guessed she possessed, Hannah lifts Brian up bodily and flings him over Lyle's back.

"Keep him safe, Lyle!" she cries, and slaps Lyle's flank. "Giddyup!"

"Hannah!" Brian screams. "No!"

But Lyle is already galloping away, and there's nothing Brian can do to stop him. The scenery rushes by, and after about a quarter of a mile Brian is finally able to shift himself so that Lyle's spine isn't digging into certain very sensitive parts of Brian's body every time he moves.

"Lyle, turn around!" Brian yells, but even he can tell that the sound of it is lost in the wind. "Lyle, we have to go back! Hannah – "

And then there's a loud boom from behind them, and a rushing onslaught of shockwave and dirt that nearly knocks Brian off of Lyle entirely; Lyle gallops faster, trying to outrun the fireball, and they make it to the edge of the forest just in time for the explosion to dissipate behind them.

"No," Brian says, looking back at the blackened wreck of the forest that they just escaped, as what happened begins to sink in. "No! Hannah!"

Lyle stops and neighs sadly. Brian slides off Lyle's back and begins to run back in the direction of the explosion – in the direction of Hannah – but Lyle cuts him off, neatly trotting in between Brian and his target. He nickers softly, morosely, and Brian's legs go boneless underneath him and he leans heavily on Lyle, burying his face in Lyle's back.

"Hannah…" he whispers.

The dust is still settling when Lyle suddenly whinnies, and Brian looks up. Somehow, miraculously, emerging out of the smoke and debris –

"Hannah?" Brian says, barely able to believe it.

"It's done," Hannah says, wiping dirt off her cheek with the back of her hand – which actually only adds more dirt, since her hands are filthy with detritus, just like the rest of her. "Frank is gone."

"How did you – " Brian begins, and then stops himself. "You're alive."

"I'm alive," Hannah agrees, and finally reaches Brian. She stops about a step away from him and looks him right in the eye. "And I love you, Brian."

"I love you too, Hannah," Brian says, and Hannah closes the gap between them to pull Brian down into her arms for a passionate kiss.

Lyle snorts and bumps Brian's shoulder with his head, and Brian and Hannah break the kiss and laugh. They stand there, together and somehow alive, as the sun continues to rise behind them on a new day that will make just as little sense as the last.

THE END