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Smoke stung her throat and burned her eyes as Sam tried desperately to make her way back to the clearing. Her military training had served her well up until this point. But now she was tired, panting, and becoming more than a little scared.
She tried to stay as low to the ground as possible as she ran, dodging trees and rocks. The fire had spread more quickly than she'd anticipated, and it was getting harder to see.
Lungs burning, breath failing, she felt herself slow down in spite of herself. Where the hell was the clearing? She cursed herself under her breath for going in alone. Jack had wanted to come with her. Why did she tell him no?
Because she had something to prove. Could he have been right?
She could barely see anymore. The smoke was full and dense, infiltrating her lungs with its acrid thickness. There was no clean air to breathe in. Sam coughed uncontrollably in a futile effort to clear her lungs.
I can't run anymore, she thought hazily, legs thick and heavy as tree trunks. They had ceased to cooperate with her, furiously demanding oxygen and not getting nearly enough. Her body protested as she continued on sheer will alone.
She'd made it another hundred meters of so when she tripped, the ground rising up to meet her and smacking her squarely in the gut. She lifted herself up a few inches and hovered momentarily, her muscles burning.
It wasn't getting dark outside, she realized with a mild start. It was her. She was fading.
Where was he?
Lying back down on the grass, Sam started to give up. Her mind clouded. I am weak, she realized in a haze. Jack had been right.
Regret, not at death, but at everything left unsaid, gnawed at her as she closed her eyes. She felt tears slip out from underneath closed eyelids.
The last thing Sam remembered was feeling two strong arms lift her up and cradle her. She sobbed with relief. Her consciousness was still fading, but the fear was gone. She didn't have to be scared anymore.
Jack had found her.