'Til DeathBy Belatrix Carter
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He had intended to die on his feet, at least. But in the end he failed
at even that, and when the first shot took him in the arm, he fell.
Somewhere, through the haze of pain, the part of him that believed in
not giving up was urging him to stand and face his death as he had
faced his life, with a snarl of defiance. But getting up would have
meant moving, and the rest of him knew that he was exactly where he
wanted to be, where he had waited so very long to be.|
Blake's heart lay beneath his cheek. Still and quiet, now and forever, but in his memory he could still hear it beating, still feel Blake's life pulsing under his fingers, under his lips. He could still feel Blake, warm and strong and burning with too much passion for one man to contain.
This was the only pace he had truly lived, and this was where he would die. He closed his eyes and waited.
Gunfire sounded around him, above him, everywhere but where he needed it to be.
It stopped. He was still alive.
He slitted open his eyes, and saw nothing but death around him. Dead troopers, dead not-troopers. *No*. He would *not* be cheated like this! No last minute heroic rebel sacrifice was going to stop him from paying his final debt. That would be more irony than even he could bear.
He realized suddenly that his arm was bleeding. Heavily. Relief rolled sweetly through him as he repositioned the limb, allowing his blood to flow and mingle indivisibly into Blake's. Yes, this was more appropriate, anyway, to bleed his life away in his lover's arms, payment in kind for what he had taken.
He lay there for a long time, listening to the phantom beating of Blake's heart, and the slowly faltering beats of his own, and eventually he became aware of something else, a hard, round something digging into his cheek where it pressed against Blake's chest. How foolish, how ridiculous, how *obscene*, to allow himself to become distracted by mere discomfort now. But the longer he lay there, the more it grew in his consciousness, until there was room for almost nothing else left in his mind: not his pain, not even the awareness of Blake lying dead below him. Intolerable.
He must know what it was that had so intruded on what should have been the one, single, perfect moment in his life, needed to hurl it violently from him, whatever this thing was that had dared to come between him and Blake at the last. With his good hand, he probed beneath his cheek, found the secret inner pocket in the padded vest, pulled out the object that Blake had carried next to his heart, and held it before his eyes.
It was a ring. A wedding ring. And on the inside, etched in ornate lettering, an inscription: "I have always trusted you."
*Avon*, Blake's heartbeat echoed in his mind, *I was waiting for you.*
The spasm in his chest far outweighed any merely fatal pain in his arm.
Far, far away, he could hear voices coming towards him. He fumbled the ring onto a numb and nerveless finger of his wounded hand and groped blindly for the gun as the footsteps grew closer. Pressing his face once more to Blake's body, he laid the barrel to his temple.
"I do," he said, and pulled the trigger.
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