"Everything you fought, you must submit to. Everything that has come to you without thought in the past must now be controlled. Your poles are convoluted; your actions, crude. ...I stand weight in the regard that temperance may be your only freedom."

--f. Ed.v; gu. Lyoneve, Pro/o G.S.

- - - - -

I believe in you, lover.

I believe in your sweet/hard/cold lies, even as my boots slip in the ice-slicked mud coating the forest ground and I struggle to keep running through it. Even as I hear air raid signals blaring far in the distance, and gunshots even closer, I believe in you. I believe they're not aiming for me, and if I believe it long and hard enough I start to feel like the world is falling away around me, the war dripping down like a scenery canvas.

If I listen hard, I can still hear you. I can ignore the snow and the freezing rain spitting down from the sky, running down my neck and soaking through the SS uniform you lent for me, and recall photograph-flashes of you clutching tight to me in the subdarkness, fingernails digging into my chest while we both tensed with the sound of every passing car. Where we spread out maps and battle plans and fucked just to feel alive, and tried not to think about how someday it would come down to killing each other or killing ourselves.

The bark of a dog interrupts my thoughts, and I throw myself down into the snow, shivering-- still and waiting. It feels surreal, and even though I realize that's just my mind plunging itself further in denial, I ride the feeling until the dogs pass, both the bloodthirsty Shepherds and the Nazis.

I stand too quickly, and suddenly I find myself face-to-face with a German guard clutching a Sauer 38H, just like yours. Unlike you, he shoots me without a second thought— the first bullet spins off the side of my chest, grazing a rib, and the second pushes through my shoulder with only a moment's sickening resistance against the skin and muscles and tiny bones it blows away. I'm still conscious enough to see my blood spraying across the snow. I don't know if it's the cold or if I've finally gone into shock, but I don't feel anything—

—and then I do, all in one quick rush like fast forward or action after a long pause. It feels like thousands of tiny hot knives are tearing through the bullet hole I know is there and the guard watches me as I go down on my knees and I wonder if he's going to kill me here or if I'm to be interrogated, and will I cry betrayals at the last moment or plead in silence for my life, or will I live and escape (of course I won't because nobody ever does, but somehow you trained me to believe that everything's going to be okay, and I'm insane for it because there's a gun-cold cylinder pointed at my heart and that's a clear sign things are not going to be okay, but, God forgive me, I trust you—)

Bullet. 7.65mm, nickel coated military-grade from a .32 ACP cartridge. Exit wound at nine-hundred-fifty feet per second. And darkness. Cold, obliterating darkness.

Specs? Hell's fucking frozen over—

- - - - -

2318 hours.

I shoot awake, dizzy with nausea and covered in a thin sheen of sweat. I don't trust myself to move, so I lay stone-still and listen for anything, for the tiniest of incriminating sounds in the painful silence. My heart jackhammers in my chest, loud enough to block out everything.

Behind me, Valentin stirs. "Ach. Go to sleep, Clair. The infiltration—tomorrow. Sleep."

"I...had a dream that I was shot."

"What?" He moves closer, worried, and runs a hand over my shoulders. "Again?"


"It's just nerves," he reassures. "Once you're out there, you won't have any time to worry about being shot. It's like instinct."

"Of course it's like instinct to you. You're—"

"I know what I am."

"Why are we doing this?"

"Because we have to." He doesn't sound annoyed. Maybe he knows I'll die out there and this is the last night he'll have to reassure me. "Because of the future. Everyone's future. If you don't pay attention to the future—"

Then the present will eat you alive.

"Trust me."

I did, you bastard, and it got me shot.

"Shit, Clair. Trust me." He leans in and kisses the back of my neck.

"We're both going to die, aren't we?"

"At least we won't die like cowards."

"Oh, thanks. You know that's just the warrior talking."

I can feel his smile against my skin.

"In the end, that's all we are."

- - - - -

a/n: Size 11 Sylfaen, a bottle of Coke and a pocket encyclopedia. Quote at the top is © me. Beta'd by the amazing Trishy nasty dash dress dot net slash clandestine. She writes wrestling-slash. Hell yeah. My present-tense has always been this stilted and slightly absent, in case you were wondering, and is COMPLETELY NOT my beta's fault. There also used to be a longer, fight-scene ending to this, but hey, fight scenes outside of science fiction aren't exactly my forte. Ehh. If you need something to dice into tiny pieces... ::raises hand in volunteer::