There was a time when Jake thought they'd spend their life together.
He had been aiming for the end of 8th grade to make her officially his. Then they'd date through high school, winning those stupid awards like Cutest Couple. He'd win Most Funniest and she'd win Most Likely to Succeed. Then it would be Prom. She'd wear a shiny, tight black dress, he'd wear a white tux with a black tie. Her corsage would be a blue rose, to match her eyes. His parents would force them to pose for hours, taking picture after picture after picture until they have to practically run out the door to escape the flashes. He'd rent a limo, and along with Trixie, Spud, and their dates, would cruise around, causing chaos throughout town for a while before arriving at the hotel where the night will take place. There'd be some cliche theme like 'A Night Under the Stars' or 'Love in Paris', but it wouldn't matter because neither would be focus on the decorations; they'd be focus on each other. He'd rent a room at the hotel where they'd stay there all night. After Prom, it'd be graduation. Rose would graduate as valedictorian, Jake would pass. Then they'd go to different colleges; he'd stay in the city to continue with his dragon duties, and she'd leave to pursue her dream (whatever it would be). Sure they'd get into fights, miss each other, and have problems with their long distance relationship, but soon she'd come back after getting her degree and find a job. They'd move in together, and on their nearest anniversary, Jake would propose. Rose would (hopefully) say yes, then they'd get married at the boat house near Central Park where they went on their first official date. It'd be small ceremony with their family and friends invited, and the reception would be held at the same place Prom was. Their honeymoon would take place somewhere tropical like Hawaii or the Bahamas, whichever Rose liked the most. After two weeks, they'd come back to their apartment and continue living their life, at least until Rose announced she was pregnant. Then they'd have to find a better place to welcome their child. If it was a boy, they'd name him Johnathan for Jake's father; if it was a girl, they'd name her Lily as a nod towards Rose. They'd grow old with their loving family, watching their children have children until finally, they pass away due to their age. It was all envisioned in Jake's mind.
Now, they're lucky if any of them will live through tonight.
The American Dragon and the Huntsgirl who is destined to kill him. Fate, Jake decided, was out to get him. Out of all the dragons in America that could've been the American Dragon, it had to be him. Out of all the Huntslayers that could've been trained to kill the American Dragon, it had to be Rose. Out of all the people Jake could've fallen in love with, it had to be Rose. And because Fate had to be cruel to him, there was nothing Jake could do. All the power he carried with his title couldn't help him. Nothing in both the human and magical world could change their destiny. He had no choice.
Jake needed to treat Rose like any other Huntsgirl, and Rose needed to treat Jake like any other dragon.
It was clear they both understood their position. As they stood across the game field, both had a hardened look in their eyes. Jake cursed himself for his foolishness. He shouldn't of come to the Hunts Academy, but in his lovesick mind, it seemed like the right thing to do at the moment. He'd been hailed as a hero his entire life, so now, he actually wanted to be one when it most mattered. He wanted to be the knight in shining armor who saved his princess from evil and ride off into the sunset to their happily ever after, but what he didn't realize is their story doesn't have a hero; both were villains in each other's eyes, and villains don't have happy endings.
The Huntsmen were cheering, banging on the cage that kept both of them trapped and forced them to go through with Jake's fight, Rose's test. It was the classic rabbit stuck in a lion's den scenario; the only problem was trying to figure out who the rabbit was.
Jake still wanted to believe this was a dream, that Rose wasn't trying to kill him right now, but the moment Rose landed a blow on Jake's wing to stop him from flying, he knew he couldn't hesitate anymore. Who Rose was to him and whether Rose wanted to kill him or not didn't matter anymore. If Jake holds back for one more minute, he'd die. If Rose isn't hesitating to hurt him, then he couldn't hesitate to hurt her. Still, Jake couldn't bring himself to change from defense to offense.
Jake was the rabbit.
The moment Rose cut him on his leg deep enough to bleed profusely was when Jake landed his first blow on her, swiping his tail to hit her stomach and send her flying to the gate. Luckily, he didn't use all his force, so she got right back up and charged at him only a second later. After that, it all came natural to Jake. He turned into a robot, dodging any attacks Rose threw at him and attacking her whenever she gave him an opening.
The crowd was going wild, losing their minds when they first saw blood. They were savage, practically begging to see the American Dragon slain, and Rose was one of them. In all of their previous encounters, she had never hesitated to fight him. Back when she didn't know Jake was the American Dragon, she was the first to attack, just like now. She used every technique she had, all her strength and skill just to be an official Huntslayer. This fight was just like before things got complicated, so how come it seemed Jake was the only one who couldn't go back to the way things were before the Ski Trip?
He held back on every punch, kick, throw, and attack. He couldn't damage her, no matter what she was, but every time he held back, he acquired a new wound. His wing was damaged, so he couldn't fly, he could feel a few of his fingers were broken, one or two of his ribs were probably bruised, and he was bleeding from a few flesh wounds. Rose didn't look so good herself. Her suit was cut up in different places from cuts she got indirectly. A good chunk of her mask was gone, still, a stranger wouldn't be able to tell who was under that mask. A nasty bruise was already forming on her cheek from being thrown into the wall the first time. It was then Jake realized how serious this fight was getting. At this rate, one of them would really be killed by the other.
As Jake blocked an entourage of punches, he recalled their conversation in the gate when they were being raised to their cage. Jake was still in his human form, hoping to get through Rose. She'd been ignoring his advances throughout his and Spud's time in the academy, but now, there was nowhere to hide.
"Rose," he called, only to get shut down by her hand.
"Jake, we aren't in school anymore," she said coldly, looking at him in the eye. Her mask was on; she was Huntsgirl, not Rose. "You can't try to be that pathetic human who charms his way out of everything. You have to be the American Dragon. We aren't in the human world where our biggest worry is our appearance and reputation."
The truth in Rose's words hurt Jake more than any injury could have, but he still tried to convince her one last time. "But isn't that why we're fighting now in the first place?" He questioned, "For me to keep my appearance and you to live up to your reputation?"
He saw something flash in Rose's eyes, but as soon as he saw it, it was gone. "I won't hold back."
Jake's hope deflated. "Then neither will I," he said somberly, changing into his dragon form as the floor rose up. Their eyes stayed locked the entire time. Now in the ring, it seemed Rose kept her word, so Jake needed to keep his.
Rose made the mistake of jumping behind Jake and opening up mid-air in an attempt to grab his dragon frame. Leaving herself wide open and vulnerable, Jake turned swiftly and hit her with his injured wing. It hurt him, but he didn't distract himself with the pain. Instead, his tail moved in and swiftly wrapped around her neck, squeezing it and lifting her up to his height. He looked at her straight in her eyes as he chocked her, watching the air leave her body. She didn't struggle, probably realizing how futile it would be to do so as it would only waste her energy and get her nowhere. Her face started to turn purple, but Jake was too distracted by her baby blue eyes to notice. He could see the pleading look in them, but it wasn't for her life. It was something Jake couldn't understand until he looked around him.
Huntsmen had their body pressed up against the cage, screaming; screaming for Rose to get out, screaming for Jake to kill her. It didn't matter to them. All they wanted to see was blood and someone die. That was what they were promised, so that was what they demanded. This wasn't humane. Rose wasn't one of them. She wasn't one who would sit front row and scream to see one of her own die. Rose was a Huntslayer, but she WASN'T one of them.
The noise of the banging cage, the spectators screaming, and the beat of Jake's pounding heart was deafening, but still, nothing could be louder than Rose's pleading.
He could almost hear her say it. She was begging him to do it, to end her life, to put them both out of their misery, but instead of squeezing her throat until her neck broke, Jake loosened his grip on her, enough for Rose to take a sharp breath and swing her legs up, kicking him in the face.
Jake let go of her, clutching his nose that was surely broken. He quickly looked back up, just in time to see three Roses slide away from him. He was disoriented; the kick must of given him a concussion. He tried to focus, but the strain he was putting himself through and the noise his sensitive ears were hearing caused his head to throb. He looked back at Rose's direction just to see a spear being tossed into the ring on Rose's side. Jake felt his heart drop. That was it. He was done. If Rose used that, there's no way Jake could stop her, not with how out of it he was. It was something Rose seemed to realize as she threw herself towards it. She stood quickly, pointing the spear towards Jake and charging. She was coming in three different directions. Jake just put his hands up defensively and held his breath.
By some miracle, he was able to grab the stick, and so there they were, both in a tug of war for possession of the thing that could mean life for one and death for the other. Jake kept his eyes steady on center Rose, trying to convince her one last time. They both don't have to do this; neither of them had to die in order for the other to live.
"Rose," Jake whispered, hoping his feelings would go through to her. Jake wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Rose nod her head sideways, mouthing 'no'.
They stopped moving, both of them using an equal amount of force against each other. Rose's hand slid down onto Jake's dragon one, gripping it slightly before moving lower to the bottom of the spear. Suddenly, a ball of green energy shot from the spear, going through the iron and hitting the wall behind it as well as the emergency power. During the confusion, Rose took the spear from Jake seconds before it exploded. Smoke filled the arena the same moment the lights turned off, and a different kind of ruckus took place.
Jake summoned the Eye of the Dragon, and although he was out of sorts, he was still able to find Spud through the smoke. He ran as fast as he could (since flying was out of the question), grabbed him, and escaped through the bars but not through the hole in the wall. Huntsmen were probably running towards it if they haven't reached it already. He ran to the tunnel where the Kraken he fought earlier came out of. Thankfully, it was empty, and with a few more punches to a couple of walls, they were in the room they arrived in.
"Spud, you think you can teleport us back?" Jake asked, barricading the doors with whatever he could lift at the moment. He was tired, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to help them escape an army of Huntsmen, let alone fight them.
"Uh, if you gave me a minute," Spud said, focusing on the system in front of him.
"Well you only have a minute, Spud," Jake said, still barricading the door. It'll only be a few minutes until they find them, but Spud was true to his word. In a minute, Spud was able to set the transporter on a timer, and less than five seconds later, they were back on the rooftop they were last night, Gramps and Fu Dog already waiting for them.
Jake had never been more happier to change back to his human form. Once Gramps had attended to his external wounds, Jake was allowed to turn back to go to the hospital. It was a few hours later that he was diagnosed with a bruised rib and a mild concussion. Nothing life threatening, but at the time, it did. He went over that diagnosis all night long (since he wasn't allowed to sleep). It wasn't life threatening; none of his injuries were life threatening. Maybe he'd gain a few scars, but other than that, there was nothing else. He had never been in danger, not with Rose there. Rose had been holding back from the moment they'd stepped into the arena; it wasn't only just Jake. The only difference was Rose had a plan, one that needed to seem realistic, and at that moment, Jake probably wouldn't of been able to pretend to hurt Rose. Not after being away from her for so long. Jake wasn't the only rabbit in the den.
But now that he'd escaped, Rose was left to fend off the lions by herself.
"How you doing, man?" Spun asked, walking into the room.
Jake replied, "I'm doing alright." Spud took a seat next to him on his bed. Jake had been allowed to go home on the agreement that he needed to be supervised constantly. Jake sighed, the ice pack on his rib starting to burn. "She helped us."
"I know, man," Spud agreed. "I mean, I know I might've said some things about her before, but she really did have our backs."
"I can't leave her there," Jake said, catching Spud's attention. "They'll be after her for letting us escape. We can't just leave her there."
"Nah, they won't be." Jake's eyebrows furrowed. "I read somewhere that weapons are not allowed on the final test, and anyone who tosses one into the ring will be destroyed by that weapon, so they'll be looking for me and ignore her."
Jake was unconvinced, though. "It doesn't matter. She'll be punished in some way, and I can't let that happen. Not after she just saved both of us."
''Exactly, man. She risked a lot to save us. I don't think she wants us to go back into the lion's den," Spud said, causing Jake to sigh.
Spud was right. No matter how much Jake wanted to save Rose, he couldn't. The tables were turned, and this time, it was Rose saving Jake. His time will come; he'll just have to wait for the right moment. And Rose was definitely worth waiting for.