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        My eyes open.

        My vision is foggy, and I can hear the distant whirring of helicopter blades. Shakily, I push myself up, my hand almost slipping on the hard, cracked dirt underneath me. I shake my head lightly to clear my vision and feel a throbbing pain, then press fingers to my temple instinctively. They slide on something wet, and I pull them back to look at them.

        They’re bright red, and dripping with blood.

        My heartbeat speeds, but I establish quickly that the blood isn’t my own. Bloody carcasses of dead soldiers litter the ground, and apparently I’d been using one of them as my pillow. The sickening smell and visions of blood seem to cause my memories to flood back suddenly, and I remember the war.

        Months ago, Resistance fighters decided to revolt against my mother, the monarch at the time. I’d hated the monarchy and wanted to fight with the Resistance, but I was torn between family and my own values. I’d decided to stay neutral, but my mother didn’t even respect that. I’d been forced into training with her army, the Legion, and forced into being one of them. But she didn’t ever send me away, off to war, with them. No, she’d never do that. Instead, she kept me as a sort of last resort.

        Both the Resistance army and her Legion were defeated during the war. It was horrible, a mutual destruction and a major setback for humanity--maybe the last one, ever.

        But alas, not everyone was killed. There are still a few survivors left, from both sides. And my mother has dropped me out here in this barren, battle-scarred wasteland, with nothing but a mission, and now I have to complete it to get home.

        I stand up shakily, cold biting at my bare arms, stepping out of the small trench that I’d been resting in. I pick up the gun of one of the dead soldiers, slipping it into the empty holster at my hip.

        “Hello?” I call out, my voice cracking as I search for any life.

        My only response is a gust of chilly wind whipping at my loose clothing and hair. I shiver, deciding to look for any salvageable items on the poor dead soldiers, both from the Resistance and from the Legion.

        I tread lightly over the bodies, trying not to vomit from the smell and careful not to step on any of them.

        Then I hear the crunch of a boot on human bones, and my heart stops. I know for a fact that I didn’t step on anyone, so someone else must be here.

        “Who’s there?” I ask shakily.

        I turn quickly, scanning my surroundings for the slightest irregular movement. My eyes catch on a tall, brown-haired man, hunched over in a useless attempt to hide.

        In a split second, I whip out my gun, aiming directly at his exposed chest.

        “Don’t you dare move,” I command, “or I’ll shoot you. Who are you?”

        “Please, don’t. I just want to help you, I swear. My name is Dan, and I’ve been watching you for a while. We’re the only ones left alive, please. I’m your only hope.”

        “I don’t believe you. You’re trying to kill me.”

        “Listen, I swear to God. Look, I’m going to drop my weapon, okay?”

        I’m impeccably still as he drops his own gun.

        “And you look cold,” he continues. “Here, take my jacket.”

        He stands up slowly, removing his worn black coat. I recognize it as one of the jackets issued to the Legion before they were deployed. I’m relieved to know that he’s on my side--or, on the side of my family, more accurately--but I know I can't entirely let my guard down.

        “No, don’t,” I protest, stepping back and dropping my gun down to rest at my hip but still keeping my finger on the trigger. “I don’t trust you.”

        He sighs with relief when I drop my gun, stepping toward me slowly. “I swear, I’m not here to hurt you. I just thought...well, if we’re the only survivors, we should stick together.”

        Survivor. I feel a pang of sympathy for the poor guy, obviously a soldier. One of the last few, too. He looks so helpless….

        I consider his offer, slowly slipping my gun back into its holster as my trust for him grows. At least he’s not part of the Resistance...which means he can be trusted, right?

        A cold gust of wind interrupts my thoughts, and I shiver involuntarily.

        “See,” he has the nerve to smirk, “you’re cold. Take it, come on.”

        I sigh, but accept his offer, and he drapes it over my shoulders. The warmth of the soft coat is incredibly comforting.

        “Thanks,” I mutter, and he smiles, though now his arms are bare. “You said your name was Dan, right?”

        “Yeah, and--” he stops mid-sentence, his eyes wide, and my fingers fly to my gun on instinct.

        “Um--” I start, impatient, but he shushes me urgently before I can finish. I hear the whirring of helicopter blades, and Dan’s frightened expression grows.

        “We have to go right now!” he commands. “Run!”

        “What?!” I ask, but he just grabs my arm and starts to drag me along, forcing me to run with him. I can hear the helicopter getting closer, and Dan speeds up, still looking incredibly scared.

        Suddenly, he shoves me sideways, and I fall roughly into a concealed sort of cave. Dan follows close behind me, breathing heavily, and barely moves until the helicopter is far out of our earshot.

        “What the hell?!” I yell, not even slightly ashamed at my outburst.

        “Look, I can’t let them find me. Or you, either, I suppose. We’re both in danger.”

        “That was the Legion! They could’ve saved us--taken us away from here!”

        Dan furrows his eyebrows. “Are you kidding? If that army finds a Resistance fighter, they’ll kill them on the spot.”

        My heartbeat speeds, and dreaded realization dawns on me. “That shouldn’t matter to us….”

        “You’re not with the Resistance, are you?” he asks, masking his emotions well.

        “No. I’m far from it, actually, Dan.”

        He sighs, slumping back against the cold, stony cave wall. I replay his name over and over in my head, now thinking that it sounds sickeningly familiar.

        “I can see why you thought I was one of them--er, one of you. That jacket wasn’t actually mine, I just took it from another soldier. I’m sorry, I should’ve clarified.”

        I just sigh, refusing to meet his eyes as my mind races at a million miles per hour.

        “But, look,” he continues, lifting my chin gently with his finger. “This doesn’t mean we have to be enemies, right? We’re the only ones, and I don’t know if I can make it alone. We can run from them. We can hide. I’ve avoided them for this long, anyway.”

        I finally look into his deep brown eyes, and I know I have to give in.

        “Yeah. We don’t have to be enemies, don’t worry. I’ll stick with you.”

        He breathes a sigh of relief, and opens his mouth to say something else, but I can’t help myself. I have to ask.

        “Dan…what’s your full name?”

        “Daniel James Howell, why?”

        My breath catches in my throat, and I have to force myself to breathe. No, no, it can’t be. Please, no.

        “Is everything alright?”

        I blink, forcing myself to snap out of it. “Yeah. Everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

        He simply shrugs, obviously not thinking much of it. “Okay. And by the way, I never got your name. What is it?”

        “Kelly,” I say, forcing a smile as I stick out my arm. “It’s nice to meet you, Dan.”        

        He grins back, shaking my hand. A small pain flares up in my heart at his surprisingly warm touch. “It’s very nice to meet you, too.”


        Is our secret safe tonight        

        And are we out of sight

        Or will our world come tumbling down?


        “Kelly, Kelly, get up!”

        I awaken with a start. Dan is shaking my shoulders, and I hear the sound of a helicopter getting closer.

        “They’re landing to search, we have to go right now!”

        Still half-asleep, I grab my few belongings and stumble out of the cave with Dan. He slides his arm over my shoulders and grips my arm protectively as we hide behind a dune, waiting for a good time to run. The gesture makes me feel safer, and I almost feel the urge to nuzzle into the crook of his arm and take a nap.


        Will they find our hiding place

        Is this our last embrace

        Or will the walls start caving in?


        “Now, let’s go!” Dan whispers quickly, and we bolt across the wasteland to the safety of another dune. We repeat this pattern until we find another resting place, similar to our last one...and the many before that. Running for our lives has almost become a nightly occurrence, as we’ve been fugitives for at least a couple of weeks now.

        “We made it,” I say breathlessly, and he nods in grateful agreement. I yawn, and he opens his arms drowsily, inviting me to crawl into his embrace.


        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) But it should have been right

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) To let our hearts ignite

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) Are we digging a hole?

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) This is out of control


        I look up at Dan before I fall asleep. His arms are wrapped around my torso as he leans across the wall of the cave, drifting in and out of consciousness. I smile to myself and brush a stray piece of his wavy, chocolate hair out of his lightly closed eyes.

        “Night, Dan,” I whisper, reaching up to peck his cheek with my lips. The fact that we’re from opposite armies chills my heart, but right now I’m too tired to care.


        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) It could never last

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) Must erase it fast

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) But it could have been right

        (It could be wrong, could be...)


        “I’m going out to find food. I’ll be back soon.”

        I hear Dan whisper, and I open my eyes sleepily. He smiles, leaning over me, and kisses me goodbye. I sigh contentedly.

        “Make sure you come back, okay?”

        He brushes aside a strand of my hair before he stands up. “Don’t worry, I will.”

        Then he’s gone, and I’m left alone in the cave, unable to go back to sleep without his warm embrace. I draw my knees to my chest, thinking about our newly blossoming relationship. It’s forbidden, definitely, but that doesn’t matter to us. We’re just two people, two people who really care about each other.

        Everything about him makes me happy--his personality, kindness, admirable bravery. I learn more about him every day, and all of it amazes me. I hated the fact that my mother had to send me here, and even despite the looming threat of my mission, being with Dan almost makes it all okay.

        God, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I love him.


        Love is our resistance

        They'll keep us apart and they won't stop breaking us down

        Hold me

        Our lips must always be sealed


        “I got some crackers and a bit of water. Half of a canteen. And, I got lucky enough to find some berries! Don’t know if they’re poisonous, though, so maybe don’t trust them.”

        He sits down next to me, our knees brushing lightly. Poisonous berries. It would be so easy….

        “Do you want me to try the berries first?” he offers. “If I don’t keel over and die, they should be alright. And if I do, well….”

        He picks up one of the berries. They’re nearly dripping with red juice, sickeningly similar to blood. My mission. I hate myself for not even moving as he rolls it around in his fingers, considering eating it.

        “No, don’t!” I protest before he can bring it to his mouth, washing all thoughts of my mission from my mind. “They’re not worth the risk.”

        “Yeah, you’re right.”

        He sets down the berry and wipes the juice off of his hands, though it leaves a pinkish stain. I can’t even tell if I’m relieved.

        Don't worry, I tell myself. You can still complete your mission. Just...later.

        I lean my head back against the wall and shut my eyes tightly, wishing with all of my heart that this mission was given to anyone but me.


        If we live a life in fear

        I'll wait a thousand years

        Just to see you smile again


        “I got you something else, too.” Dan says quietly, almost embarrassed.

        I furrow my eyebrows, looking up from my poor excuse for a “meal,” as Dan pulls out a carefully crafted, small ring of metal. I can see delicate engravings all over it, too tiny for me to read from this distance.

        “It’s beautiful,” I breathe, and he smiles.

        “I’m glad you like it.” Dan gently slips the ring on my left ring finger, and I look up at him quizzically.

        “No, I’m not proposing,” he laughs. “It’s a promise ring. This ring means that I promise to stay with you until my dying day. I promise to protect you, whatever it takes. And most importantly, I promise to love you, no matter what other people think of us.”

        My eyes glaze over at his incredibly heartfelt words. “Dan…I don’t even know what to say.”

        He smiles, taking my hand. “You don’t have to say anything. Just know that I love you. Whatever happens in this world, I’ll always love you.”

        “I love you, too,” I say, tears filling my eyes as I passionately throw myself into his arms.


        Kill your prayers for love and peace

        You'll wake the thought police

        We can't hide the truth inside


        “Well...we’re out of food.”

        It’s been a few days since Dan gave me the promise ring, and we’re sat together in our cave, as usual. I’m in between his legs, with my back to his chest and him leaning back against the wall.

        I turn and look up at him as I respond. “It’s fine...I mean, I can go without eating today.”  

        He sighs, looking pained. “We didn’t eat yesterday, either. And your stomach’s been rumbling for hours.”

        “It would definitely be nice to eat, but I can go without it. Don’t worry.”

        He stands up abruptly, causing me to have to steady myself quickly. “No, I can get some food. There’s a camp just past those dunes, I can just steal some food from them.”

        I recognize the camp he’s talking about, and my eyes widen. “No, you can’t go there! That’s a Legion camp! If they find you, you know they’ll kill you.”

        “And we’ll die of starvation if we don’t eat soon,” he says, clearly having made up his mind. “I’ll be fine.”

        “Dan, let me go instead! They won’t kill me, I was on their side!”

        Well, that’s not exactly true, but I haven’t told Dan about my mother yet. He thinks I was just another Legion fighter. I’m afraid that if I tell him now, he’ll leave me, and I can’t have that happen.

        “Look, Kelly, they’ve seen me with you. We’re both traitors. If they find either of us, we’re dead."

        No, they wouldn't kill me. They can't. Not for the sake of my mother, but simply because I have a mission that I need to complete.

        “Besides,” Dan continues, “I promised to protect you. I won’t break that promise.”

        I think about my mission, my mother, everything. If I let him go now, they could find him. Most likely, they will. I could complete my mission without even having to lift a finger. I could go home.

        “I’ll be back before you know it. I love you.”

        He kisses me before he leaves, long and passionate. I could stop him at any moment, but against my better judgement, I don’t.


        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) But it should have been right

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) To let our hearts ignite

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) Are we digging a hole?

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) This is out of control

        I fiddle with my ring impatiently as Dan’s footsteps die off in the midst of whistling wind. A billion thoughts run through my head, and I press my fingers to my temple, reminiscent of my first day here in this hell.

        I think about my loneliness on that first day, and I know I would be dead right now if it wasn’t for Dan. Forget about my mission. Forget what I’m told I have to do, I know I have to follow my heart.

        And my heart is telling me that I love him. I love him, and I just sent him off to die.

        “Oh God, no, what was I thinking?!” I say aloud, panic laced throughout my voice.

        I stand urgently, pulling Dan’s Legion jacket around my shoulders. I check that my gun is tucked safely next to my hip and rush out of the cave, breathing heavily.

        I have to stop him; I have to save him.

        I bolt as fast as my legs will carry me toward the camp, and think about running from cave to cave with Dan nightly. Everything I see reminds me of him, and I know it will break me if I lose him.

        I reach the camp, panting, and search it recklessly. Dan is nowhere to be seen, and the camp looks relatively empty.

        “Hello?” I question. “Anyone here?”

        There’s no response. Dan is gone.

        “Dan!” I yell, not even thinking about the dangers of notifying others of my existence and focused simply on finding him. “Dan!”

        I scream his name repeatedly, unable to accept the fact that he’s actually gone...and it’s all my fault. I collapse to my knees, sobbing.


        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) It could never last

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) Must erase it fast

        (It could be wrong, could be wrong) But it could have been right

        (It could be wrong, could be...)


        But then I feel the warmth of arms wrapped around me, and I can hear Dan’s gentle shushing in my ear.

        “Kelly, don’t worry, I’m here, shh.”

        I sob into his shoulder, gripping desperately at his shoulders.

        “I th-thought you were dead!” I manage to get out, and he rubs my back comfortingly.

        “I’m here, I’m right here. It’s okay.”

        He cradles me in his arms as I calm down, as if I’m as fragile as a newborn. My sobs eventually stop, as my mind slowly accepts the fact that he’s not really gone.

        “I’m so sorry. I never should have let you go,” I say, finally looking up at him as a stray tear rolls down my cheek.

        “No, no,” he insists gently, “you don’t have to apologize. I’m fine.”

        “I love you Dan.” I’ve never felt anything this true in my entire life. “I couldn’t live without you, ever.”

        “I love you, too, Kelly. You won’t have to live without me; I’m right here.”

        Love is our resistance

        They'll keep us apart and they won't stop breaking us down

        Hold me

        Our lips must always be sealed

        Our moment is interrupted by the harsh sound of a gun reloading, and I look up, frightened. Dan tightens his grip on me as we see a horde of Legion fighters all surrounding us, fully armed. Their faces are stony, lifeless, heartless, as they aim their guns at us. My heart shatters in that very moment, and I know this is the end. I wasn't strong enough to complete my mission, and now they’re going to complete it for me.

        The night has reached its end

        Dan and I share a look, and I can see heartbreaking sadness in his beautiful cocoa-colored eyes. We share a million unspoken words in that look, and the soldiers hold their fire, almost as if they can sense our undying love.


        We can't pretend


        But I know they won’t wait for long, and Dan senses it too.

        “Run,” he whispers, the most powerful whisper I’ve ever heard.


        We must run


        We stand up in unison, incredibly swiftly, and join hands. If we’re going to die, at least we’ll die together.


        We must run


        I run with Daniel James Howell. I run for everything I stand for, and everything I’ve ever stood for. I run with him for the last time, and we both know that. We’re crying as our boots pound into the rough, cracked ground, and emotion nearly overwhelms me.


        It's time to run


        The first gunshot shocks me out of my emotional daze, and a bullet whizzes past my ear. I whip out my own gun, turning around for a split second to fire back. One soldier crumples to the ground, but something else falls with him.

        “My ring!” I exclaim, stopping in my tracks as my eyes focus in on that tiny piece of metal lying in the dust behind me.

        “Kelly, no!” Dan yells, barely weaving out of the way of another bullet, but I’m too stupid to listen. I fall to my knees and scoop the ring into my hands and then onto my finger safely, where it belongs.

        Then I look up.

        Dan gasps, pained, as three bullets hit him at the same time. His gorgeous eyes widen with surprise as he falls to the ground, blood spreading across his shirt at an alarming rate.

        The firing stops abruptly.

        “No!” I choke, rushing over to his side and cradling his cheek as gently as I can manage.


        Take us away from here


        “Dan, n-no!” I stutter, shaking uncontrollably, and take his pale hand. I squeeze it, probably too tightly, but I need to hold on to any part of him that I can.

        Dan manages a smile, but his mouth is gruesomely bloody. He coughs, and more of the bright red liquid exits his dying body.

        “No, no, please!” I sob, staring urgently into his eyes, which are slowly glazing over.

        “Love you,” Dan manages, before coughing again, his body struggling to retain consciousness.

        “I love you so much. I’m sorry, just please, please….”

        His hand goes limp.


        Protect us from further harm


        I throw my head back and scream into the mockingly bright sky, overwhelming pain engulfing my body. I collapse with sobs, shaking Dan’s lifeless form, hoping that it isn’t true. This can’t be happening. I can’t accept this.

        “No, no, no,” my voice breaks, and I force out another broken, pained scream, tearing my vocal chords to shreds.

        I lay myself over his bloody chest, holding him tightly, not wanting to let go. The love of my life is dead.


        I’ve completed my mission. Dan Howell, the last remaining lieutenant of the Resistance army, has been killed. I can go home now.

        No, I refuse to call it my home. My home is with Dan, wherever he is. And he’s gone.

        I can see the Legion fighters jogging over to me. I don’t have much time left with him.

        I kiss Dan’s forehead, staining my lips with dark, crimson liquid, and force myself to stand up shakily. Dan’s blood drips from my clothes. I shrug off the Legion jacket, the one he gave me the first day we met, and drape it over his body.

        “I’m so sorry….”

        Then the Legion is there, dragging me away from him and into a helicopter as I sob uncontrollably. They’re all congratulating me on a job well done, and saying how clever it was to pretend to befriend Dan to complete my mission. I know, in my heart, that it was so much more than that.

        I can’t make myself protest as they set me down inside the helicopter. A couple of nurses rush over to me immediately, checking for wounds, but I know they can’t fix the most painful one of all: the one in my heart.

        The nurses leave after a bit, each of them talking into headsets frantically. I slump in defeat, looking down at the promise ring on my finger. Dan kept his promise, and I have no choice now but to keep mine.

        I told Dan I couldn’t live without him, and I’m not going to.

        I pull my gun out of its holster slowly, keeping it out of sight of the Legion fighters. I put my shaky finger on the trigger, my breathing speeding up.

        “I’m coming, Dan,” I whisper. “I’m going to see you again.”

        Before the Legion can react, I hold the gun to my head, and pull the trigger.