Author's Note: Welcome to IWESTS! This is the sequel to Holding, but they can definitely be read as stand alone stories. This is purposely vague, but it's just the prologue so don't freak out (although I would love to know what you thought in the reviews). I know I said I was going to wait until Valentine's Day to post this, but you can thank wolfofstark, who is this story's cool aunt. She hyped me up and made me do it. This is a SYOC, and if you want to send in a character, all the info is on my profile. I may add more spots, so if you're unsure, just PM me :)

For a moment, there was nothing.

It was a strange enigma that in a world determined to fall to hell there was even a brief second of peace. The merciless wind had ceased to howl, no bullets ricocheted towards aimless targets, and not a soul spoke. There were no frenzied movements, no exclamations of pain, or a single curse to the victim's god of choice. Just an empty, ominous silence.

He'd made peace with his fate that morning. Nothing waited for him on the other side of the day, so he clung to the singular moment of relief with a ferocity that almost shocked him.

Across the empty field, his eyes locked with the hardened, cold gaze of another. He took a deep breath in and waited. It was a simple chain of events, one that he had set into action too many times himself in the last few months: pull of trigger, rush of bullet, end of life.

In his preparation for the end, he didn't notice the speck of black that was slowly growing in the early morning sky. But when he saw the Illéan crest on the side of the aircraft, his heart skipped a beat.

For the first time in days, he allowed himself the thought: they could make it, they could go home.

All the helicopter had to do was beat the bullet.

But it didn't, of course, and when the rush came, it was so much worse than he'd ever imagined it—because the bullet didn't hit him.

The silence was over. Hell had returned in all its fury.

Blood exploded from the site of impact, and his eyes widened in shock as he turned to the man next to him. Boy, really. Not yet twenty-five. An entire life ahead of him.

An entire life that was being stolen.

The boy stumbled, and he caught the bleeding body in his arms, though he felt paralyzed. Another rough pair of arms grabbed him. The blonde man standing before him looked so much like someone he'd known years ago. "We have to go!"

"Go." The boy coughed, blood spattering the snow. "You have to." A short distance away, the helicopter nearly crash-landed, mere minutes too late.

The arms tugged at him, but he resisted. "I'm not leaving you," he growled.

The exasperated blonde beside him returned a volley of bullets in the direction of their pursuers. "Whatever we're doing, we need to do it now!"

"Go." The injured boy shoved at him. "You have to—" He gulped as the blood began to pool in his throat, choking him. "You have to tell her—"

He shook his head. "You're going to tell her," he countered. His eyes were hot, and his vision blurred as the cruel realization began to settle on him. He tried to ignore it. "We're going home," he insisted, and although it caused the bleeding boy to gasp in pain, he pulled him to his feet. "Help me!"

With a last flurry of shots, their golden-haired companion caught the injured soldier under his arm, and together, the trio stumbled towards the helicopter. The door slid open, and a woman helped to pull them in. Before the door had even shut again, she ordered the pilot to take off.

Sweat, blood, and muddy snow dirtied the floor of the helicopter as they lowered the dying—please, God, not dying—man to the floor. The other two fell to their knees. The three had been together through a lot, and now, without the guns and adversaries to distract him, the flaxen man's face was streaked with tears.

"It's going to be okay," the blonde insisted.

He nodded his agreement, even though it was becoming hard to ignore the pallor that had grown in the young face. "No," smiled the youth, "It's not."

All they had left to give was words. They assured him it was going to work out, promised to do whatever he requested, begged him not to die. But when the boy's breathing stilled, that was it. An unfinished life ended. A long string of heartbreak and sorrow begun.

The remaining man put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. He wasn't sure if it was supposed to be comforting, but it was only painful as the blonde man was overcome by his own grief. Yet the grip reminded him that he was alive. He could feel. He could act.

And he could promise. He swore to himself, to God, to the dead body of one of the best men he'd ever known—he was going to make them pay. He was going to burn their entire country to the ground.