Evelyn's vision filled with white spots and the coppery taste of blood filled her mouth as she tumbled to the ground. Between the wet thud of Derek's blows and his animal screams Evelyn heard Brandon moan pitifully. She could feel his energy fading, becoming weaker with each strike of Derek's fists. Evelyn pulled herself out of the flowers to find Brandon almost unrecognizable, his face a dark mask of cuts and blood. Some of that blood splattered across the white petals of the flowers at her knees, driving Evelyn's desperation past the breaking point.

And that's when she felt the presence. Curious of the fight, the creature had stopped its slow lumbering to test the air as it tried to understand what was happening in its territory.

Evelyn didn't know or care about what it was, but she could feel its power and ferocity. A ferocity that had the potential to be much greater than Derek's. Evelyn closed her eyes and reached out to it, forced her mind and will into its heart. Reacting to her power, it became obedient, and enraged. Evelyn didn't hear the sudden crashing as the beast tore through the forest and came to her, didn't notice the smell of burning fabric as her gem vibrated and pulsed with a fiery intensity. Her only focus was her magic, the only weapon she had against Derek's blind resolve.

"Never... again..." Derek muttered, pausing his attack long enough to pick the knife out of the flowers.

Evelyn caught the flash of steel in the dull light out of the corner of her eye. "No!" she screamed out as the knife came down. She doubled her efforts with the beast.

As steel pierced flesh Brandon's cry of pain was met with the roar of the charging bear. It burst violently from the underbrush, a massive black mass of fur and claws. Derek didn't have a chance to react when it charged into him, knocking him off Brandon as easily as a child pushes over blocks.

Derek was forced onto his back as the bear attacked. Its roars matched Evelyn's desperate screams as it pounced on top of him. Derek cried out in surprised and swung at the animal, but he stood no chance. One if its massive paws came down across Derek's face in a powerful blow, its claws tearing deep and ragged gashes across his cheek. Evelyn felt her stomach lurch as Derek's head snapped to the side and his neck broke in a sickening pop. Instantly the boy's body stilled and his arms dropped. As the bear roared out again Evelyn broke her bond with its mind.

The bear calmed, head swinging around to meet Evelyn's gaze. In that single instant girl and beast understood one another completely. It grunted once before running off and leaving Evelyn alone with the two boys, one dead, one nearly so.

Ignoring Derek's body, Evelyn crawled to Brandon's side. The knife was still sticking out of his side, its handle shaking with every struggling breath Brandon produced. Panicked, Evelyn took hold of the handle and pulled it out of his body in a single movement. Brandon cried out and his back arched off the ground as the blade slipped from his flesh. "I'm sorry," Evelyn cried, throwing it to the side.

"Evelyn..." Brandon said, choking with the effort. Blood poured thick and black from his mouth in the dull light, adding to the black mask that covered what was left of his face. Each breath became shallower as he somehow opened his eyes and forced his head to turn. "I... I..."

"Shhhh..." Evelyn cried, hot tears washing the mud from her face. "Don't try to talk. I'm going to get help."

"No help, too late for that..." Brandon coughed out, spitting up more blood. His hand came up weakly, and with a single shaking thumb he stroked her chin, leaving a sticky streak of blood. "You need to know..."

"No, no, no..." Evelyn cried. "Don't try to talk..."

Brandon forced a weak smile. "I... love... you..."

Evelyn took his hand in her own and pressed it against her own cheek, not feeling the hot mixture of tears and blood. "I love you too..." she cried.

Brandon's weak smile faded as his body began to spasm on the ground. What little breath he was able to take in became nothing but coughing and gurgling sounds as the strength remaining in his fingers gave out. Brandon's hand and arm went limp as his heartbeat stopped its racing and slowed. He was dying.

"Brandon! No!"

Evelyn dropped his hand and put both of her own over Brandon's heart. All at once the gem burst into life as Evelyn drew every piece of energy she could from anywhere she could get it. The clearing filled with electric humming as her gem illuminated everything wit and intense green light. Evelyn screamed, pulling life from flowers and trees alike, forcing it into and through herself straight into Brandon.

The flowers wilted and turned brown, leaves fell from the trees like dry, crumbling confetti. Brandon's body glowed with life as the light penetrated his cells and closed his wounds. Evelyn could feel herself fading from the efforts. The magic was like a liquid fire pouring through her system, draining her of energy and life. But still she worked, forcing her magic outward and back in, greedily consuming and redirecting every ounce of life her magic was able to grasp.

Only when the magic felt like it would burst the air itself into flames did Brandon's heartbeat return. His back arched and eyes opened as Evelyn forced a powerful bust of life into his chest, the singed cloth above the gem falling away in black, charred pieces. Unable to maintain her power, Evelyn's hands dropped to her sides. The light of her gem faded away, leaving the forest dark once again.

Slowly, Brandon opened his eyes again and turned to Evelyn. He smiled up at her weakly, mouthing words she couldn't understand. "What? I can't hear you," Evelyn whispered, taking his hand into her own.

"I said," Brandon whispered, "you ruined your shirt..."

Evelyn reached up with her other hand and felt her chest. The gem had burned away the fabric of her shirt and left a charred hole across her chest. She laughed weakly. "Damn, it was my favorite, too," she said. The world around her was starting to spin, and Evelyn was barely able to keep herself upright.

Evelyn dropped her hand and placed it on Brandon's chest, feeling his renewed life force. Sticky blood still covered his face, but all the cuts had healed and his face no longer looked swollen. Her fingers traveled to his side and explored the cut the knife had left in his shirt, finding nothing but smooth skin underneath. He was going to be ok.

"I love you, I really do," Evelyn whispered as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Anhour later Brandon managed to find the strength to slowly carry her out of the woods,using the green light emanating from the stone in his ring as a guide. Funny thing too, it had never done that before... 

Just out of sight a pair of green eyes watched himcarry her away. It wasn't until Brandon had managed to carry Evelyn out ofearshot that soft laughter echoed through the forest. The laughter of a fullgrown woman.

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