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My Promise to You

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“Ray.”

Zack’s voice is strained, breath huffing out in loud bursts as they run.

“Zack, hurry. They’ll catch up if we stop now.” She can barely feel the cold night air against her exposed skin, or the heat draining slowly from her bare feet as they pound into the grassy dirt below her, too focused on escaping.

She glances back to Zack who’s trailing behind slightly, concern etching her features as she takes in his current state. He’s grabbing at his torso, attempting to keep his open wound from widening and wincing with each step. With how much blood is currently seeping between his fingers, flowing out to stain his clothes and the ground beneath him, it’s a wonder she didn’t realize how serious it was before. She stops abruptly and turns back to face him; he pauses after catching up.

“Ray, I don’t think we can outrun them.” She can hear the pain in his voice, a quiet anguish in its undertones. As if to punctuate the truth of his statement, Rachel can hear the wailing of sirens in the distance, the shouting of voices as their search party slowly grows closer. Zack coughs suddenly, roughly, and blood seeps from between his clenched teeth. He spits it out roughly.

“We can, we just have to hurry. I can fix you once we’re safe.” She anxiously reaches out for him, grabbing his arm and tugging but he refuses to budge. Or maybe he isn’t able to.

“No. Can’t risk it.”

Her brow pulls together, confused at his sudden and uncharacteristic pessimism. Her gaze searches his face for any sign of humor, but finds only anger and despair in his expression.

He looks away, turning to try and mask his pained expression from her gaze. “I won’t get another chance to fulfill our promise.”

The wind rushes by Rachel, causing an involuntary shiver to race up her spine. Her eyes widen at his statement, and though she wants to deny the truth in his words, she knows she can’t. Her mind works furiously to figure out a means of escape that she could ensure would end in their favor. She comes up with nothing.

She finally nods at him. They had only just reunited, but if they were going to be caught and torn apart again, then she agrees it would be better for Zack to kill her now. She wonders why her heart feels so heavy at the thought of getting just what she had wanted for so long.

In the relative quiet of the night, now that she’s paying closer attention, she can clearly hear his labored breathing, punctuated by the sound of tree leaves rustling around them, and how every movement causes him to grunt painfully.

Zack wraps his free arm around her, and Rachel relishes in the sudden warmth, burying her face in his chest and grabbing at his hoodie. “I’d rather end it now than let them catch us again.” He tightens his grip as he speaks, voice soft as he pulls her closer.

She hums noncommittally, wishing they could stay how they are now, but they both know it won’t last long. The physical reminder of their limited time still rising in volume by the second; they’ll catch up soon.

“So what d’ya say, Ray?” She leans back from their embrace a little to look up at him, nodding in affirmation and trying her best to smile, though it seems as if neither of them are really able to. Eventually she gives up.

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can make a good expression right now,” she tells him honestly. Her eyes find his in the dark, locking onto his intense gaze even as her vision begins to blur. “Please, Zack, just kill me.”

He hesitates after that, reluctant to let her go but ultimately forcing himself to doing so, shifting his scythe into a better swinging position with some difficulty. She waits in her spot, and even though he sees that unwavering composure on her face, her tense frame and heavy breath give away her true feelings.

Zack swings; he can feel when his scythe pierces Ray’s flesh, as easily as any other kill, yet somehow it was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He waits for the satisfaction, the pleasure he normally feels after slicing into flesh, but it never comes. Instead he watches, frozen, as she falls to her knees in front of him, clutching the wound he had made, and finds himself overcome with nausea as his eyes begin to sting suddenly. Each heartbeat feels more painful then the last.

Seeing her crumple to the ground completely snaps him from the shock of his own unnatural reaction, crouching down beside her and grabbing her up, holding her against him. She’s still alive, but he can see the life leaving her body and he doesn’t know why it hurts so much, doesn’t understand why there’s a lump in his throat or why he feels like he’s about to cry. He hates it, though.

Rachel’s eyes focus on Zack’s face where it hovers above her and everything else fades away. When her eyes meet his, she’s surprised to see the sadness swimming in them. Wasn’t he supposed to enjoy this? She thought ruefully. This was of course immediately followed by the question of why she wasn’t happy either.

When she looked at Zack though, it made her want to stay, made her want to live so that they could do so together. Her whole life she’d been lonely, with no one willing to listen to her or treat her like anything more than a nuisance. Zack gave her those things she’d been lacking, and she wishes they could stay like this for a while longer.

Her brain stutters on her thoughts, returns to it, and her body tingles, though whether at her realization or because of the blood loss and numbness settling into her skin she can’t say. She closes her eyes. It’s too late to go down that path, but she has the thought anyway. Oh, that makes a lot of sense now, I must—

“—love him.”

“Huh?” His voice pierces the silence, rough and broken, but her brain doesn’t register his question and her eyelids feel so heavy that she can’t do more than open them slowly. When she looks up at his face, he looks scared, unsure.

She doesn't want him to give her that look, tries to put on a reassuring smile. “It’s okay, Zack.”

“What did you just say?” he continues in a hurried tone, sounding desperate. He pulls her closer to him, eyes attempting to search her face for his answer. It’s then that her foggy brain finally catches up and she realizes she must have said that out loud.

“Zack.” She draws his attention back to her eyes, an abnormal warmth in them, and her smile this time is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. It’s everything he’d ever wanted and all the things he always dreaded, wrapped up in a single package and he can’t look away.

Rachel feels no embarrassment or shame when she declares, “I love you.”

His reaction is immediate, the first tear streaking down his face as his heart makes a painful lurch beneath his rib cage. It’s that same moment that her eyes close, her grip on his blood-stained jacket loosening. She doesn’t move after that.

“Raaay,” he croaks out through the lump that has formed in his throat, watery vision unable to focus on her still form. He has no idea what he would’ve said though, not that it would’ve done much good. So he just sits there, not even willing to consider doing any more than cradle her body close to his, glad that at least she isn’t here anymore to watch him fall apart.

Zack ignores the dizziness until he can’t anymore, gently setting Rachel’s body down even though he feels like he’s about to collapse. He lies next to her, face to face, and grabs her hand in his. He feels exhausted, drained, but doesn’t want to close his eyes just yet.

“Idiot. Why’d you have to got and tell me that,” he complains halfheartedly, sluggishly. Their blood seeps into the earth, mixing into a single pool beneath them. Zack looks at her until his eyes refuse to stay open for a moment longer.

With his last breath, he exhales out his response to an audience of none, “Me too, Ray.”