Chapter 30 | Daxten

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My head feels as though it's splitting in two, my eyes feel as though they've been doused in gasoline and set alight. Everything hurts. Everything's dark. I begin to remember the last few minutes and I'm surprised I'm still alive.

      His voice pulls me out of some kind of coma. It leads me out of the darkness. It relieves me of the head-splitting pain I'm enduring. He cures me from sleep when his head rests on my chest. That's my favorite place for him to be, right there above my heart.

      I move my head up and blink rapidly so I can see his face. 'Brando?'

      His smile consumes his entire face. He cries as he laughs. He makes me cry and laugh too. I'm relieved to see him in one piece, right here with me. We're still together, through everything we're together.

      Not even a free-falling plane will take him away from me.

      I sit up and he throws his arms around my neck, hugging me tightly. He almost chokes me, but I don't care. I put my hands on his back and pull him closer.

      'I'm so glad you're alive,' he tells me. Even with his mouth so close to my ear, he has to speak over the noises around us.

      'I'm glad you're alive too,' I reply. I bury my head in his shoulder and take in his scent. I inhale him and allow him to fill my lungs. I don't want to look up or move away from this moment. If this could be it, forever, I'd be happy. But I know what's coming.

      I lift my head as he moves back slightly. Just behind him, I see Nick, slumped against the back wall, a pool of blood forming on the ground.

      'Is everything okay?' I ask Brando, moving my eyes from Nick to him. Brando looks behind him. He appears shocked when he sees the blood. His hand reaches for his mouth.

      'Is he... dead?'

      He must be. He isn't moving and that pool of blood is getting bigger. The blood is running in our direction, crawling along the floor like a serpent heading for Eve.

      Brando notices and begins to help me up. Our balance is all over the place, but I lean on him and he leans on me. We work together to escape.

      We manage to pull ourselves to the cabin. He leads me by the hand, grabbing onto the walls and using his incredible strength to pull me along with him. We push past fallen luggage. Brando grabs onto the second last row, by the window, just a couple of rows behind his original seat.

      Before I can move much further, a hand grabs my arm from the last row. Next to a man in the aisle seat is Leah, sitting in the middle, strapped in. She's leaning over him, so she can touch me, to let me know she's there.

      Mascara has streaked her cheeks, but she isn't crying anymore. She smiles at me, though she gives me a knowing, sorrowful glance.

      My heart catches in my throat at the sight of her. I wish I could get her out of here. I don't want this for her, or anyone on this plane. It's not fair. She's been through enough and she doesn't deserve to die.

      Brando keeps a tight hold on the seats in front without letting go of me. I grab Leah's hand as I hold onto Brando.

      We exchange warmth. I lean over the man. His eyes are closed, bracing himself.

      'I'm so sorry,' Leah tells me, her voice cracked.

      I cry. 'Don't be.'

      'At least we get to see our mom again.'

      I smile at the thought. 'We've missed her. Do you think she'll be waiting for us?'

      'With open arms. She'll be so proud of you, Daxten. I'm proud of you.'

      'Thank you, sis. She'll be proud of you too. I love you so much.'

      'I love you too.'

      I lean over and kiss her forehead. She squeezes her eyes shut, allowing more tears to fall. I pull away and we smile, one last time. I don't say goodbye and neither does she.

      I can't stop hoping that at the last minute, the plane will pull up and we'll be fine. We'll land at John F. Kennedy International Airport and go through customs and retrieve our luggage. We'll complain about the wait time before hailing a cab to take us home.

      I move forward with Brando as he tries to get into the row of seats. The angle of the plane prevents us easy access. I pull myself up so that Brando and I are level. I move so I can try and squeeze past the armrest, but the plane dips sharply and knocks us both to the floor.

      I clutch the leg of the seat as Brando holds onto my hand for dear life. We lie on our stomachs, exhausted from everything we've tried to do so far. I feel myself giving up.

      I move my body so I can face him. He holds onto my hand with his other hand on my wrist. I may not feel strong, but I have strength enough to keep him from falling back down the plane.

      We stare at each other as if we are floating on a life raft, lifting our heavy heads up from the floor so our eyes remain connected. The blaring noise around us begins to die away. It feels like there's just the two of us now.

      'It's cruel to bring us together... just to tear us apart,' Brando says. I can tell how hard he is trying to keep himself from breaking down completely.

      I try to reassure him with a smile, a look, a touch. 'It would have been crueller if we hadn't met at all. I mean it when I say I'm glad we met, Brando. I can never, ever imagine my life without you in it. You've changed me completely, for the better. I feel lucky to know you. To love you and be loved by you.'

      'I do,' he cries hysterically. My own barricades are braking. My bottom lip is heavy. He makes it so hard for me to keep calm. 'I do love you, Daxten. So much. You're right. I'm so lucky to have had the chance to spend time with you. It was short, but every minute was worth it. I just want one more day...'

      'I know,' I tell him, squeezing his hand. 'This isn't the end. We're going to be together for all of eternity. You just watch. I'm going to love you until the end of time itself. I'm going to be by your side for as long as you'll have me.'

      'I want you forever. Never leave me. Never forget me.'

      'I never could. I love you, Brando Hallward.'

      'I love you too, Daxten Lowe.'

      I keep staring at his beautiful face and I feel lucky that this is the last image I'll see before I die. I pull myself forward to kiss him, to feel his lips one last time. Our mouths meet.

      The pain doesn't come when everything disappears.

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