Epilogue

I stood across from Derek, alone in the room. Several minutes had already passed and we hadn't spoken a single word. Outside, the crowd was growing, just as silently as we stood in the room.

I swallowed hard and turned away from him, going to the weapons on the table and picking up a knife. Derek walked over, taking the knife from me and pushing the second gun to me, taking the first one himself. I glanced at him, but he kept his eyes on the gun as he broke it apart, inspecting every piece of it, before he put it back together. He took the gun he slid to me and did the same before he handed it back to me, this time meeting my eyes.

"This is the end," he said softly. "There's no way out of this."

I stepped back from the table, flicking the safety off the gun and turning towards the crowd outside.

"We can't go out like this," I replied, my eyes on a small child, her thumb in her mouth as she stared up at us. "They are making an example of us and we must set our own example."

"They won't let us both die," he said. I looked at him and shrugged.

"There's no harm in trying," I whispered. "It's going to be you that they let live, you know that, right? They can create dozens of me by next year, but it takes a special person to be able to kill dozens of people every single day. It has always been you."

Derek shook his head. "Belle—"

"No," I said sternly. I took a deep, shaky breath. "I told you that I do not need you to look out for me, Derek. This is the best thing, okay? If I live and I step out of line once, they will shoot me. You will have more of a chance. You can still make this work."

"The people are too afraid," he replied, taking my face in his rough hands. "It's over, Belle."

I closed my eyes, swallowing the lump in my throat. "You are the mastermind, not me. You created the Hunt. You'll find a way to end it once and for all."

He rested his forehead against mine, closing his eyes as a tear ran down my cheek. "I'm just one person, Belle."

"All it takes is one person," I whispered. "One person could change it all. There are still enough people left who believe it can work, Derek. Be the leader that they need. Be the one who makes all of this worth it." His glassy brown eyes met mine as the tears flowed freely down my face. "You can do it."

He swallowed hard, kissing me softly, then harder, pulling me against him as he tangled a hand firmly in my hair, keeping me to him. A sob tore through my body as I buried my face in his chest, letting the tears and the sobs come. His heart was racing in his chest as he stroked my hair.

I wrapped my arms tightly around him as the click of the hammer sounded in the silent room. He kept one arm firmly around me as he pressed the gun against the side of my head. I squeezed my eyes shut, tightening my hold on him.

You are never ready for death. Never ready to let go. I knew it had to happen. It had to be me who went, but that didn't make it any easier. Death was never an easy thing to face.

I drew back, wiping the tears from my eyes as I looked at him. I sucked in a deep breath and nodded, giving him one last sad smile. He stroked my cheek lightly, kissed me once more, and then pulled me against him again. His body tensed as his finger found the trigger.

And then it was over.