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NOTE: Edited A/N at bottom 6/1/2011.

He struggles to keep up with her, taking large, awkward strides to keep pace with her breakneck run. Her hand tightens around his forearm, urging him forward because they don't have any other choices. The soldiers wearing gas masks and toting AK-47s have left them with no choice but to flee.

She pulls him into a furnace room on the basement level of the research facility, swinging the door shut as soon as he's inside. Their pursuers won't be able to hear the heavy metal door slam; painfully piercing alarms drone out all other noise, though once they are cloistered inside of the furnace room, the alarms are slightly more muted.

This is it. The end.

One quick survey of the closet-sized room tells her there is no hope for escape. No windows, no air ducts large enough to shimmy through. The only door leads back to the hallway where she knows their enemies are searching. It's only a matter of minutes before they're found, before they will feel the bite of the bullets.

They are both taking in hard, shallow breaths, trying to replenish the oxygen lost during their sprint. The adrenaline pumping through her body makes her focus on the one surety of their situation: there is no time. They can't wait for the extraction team that is on its way. This will come down to a fight for survival. Given that they have no weapons and their pursuers have semi-automatics, the chances for success are nil.

But only she is fully aware of how dire the situation really is. That is why, in a barely audible question, he asks, "What now?"

She shakes her head because she doesn't have an answer, doesn't have the words or the strength to tell him that there is nothing to be done. After two years of traversing the world, completing dangerous missions, it's all come down to a few final moments in a stuffy furnace room with her best and closest friend, a man who has guided her through so many other challenges, both professional and personal.

If it were only her, she could accept the imminent demise that's coming. She can accept death for herself, but she can't accept death for him. Not him.

She tries to come up with a plan, scrambles to figure out some scenario where he gets out of this alive even if she doesn't.

With no other options, she steps forward and places her hands firmly on either side of his face, angling it down slightly to her own. The touch is calm and deliberate even though her heart beats furiously in her chest with the fear of what's to come. Her nervous energy and unexpected touch seem to spur something inside of him, and even without eye contact, it is enough to communicate the hopelessness of their situation without saying a single word. He knows. He just knows.

His hands come to rest on either side of her face as well, the tips of his fingers burrowing into the edges of her hairline to draw her closer.

The world implodes as their lips crash together.

But this is not a kiss. It is not simply an expression of affection or passion or love. It is not a farewell. It is not an unspoken confession. It is all these and more.

Every moment they've ever spent together and every second they may never share combine in this one act. All the words they've ever said—all the ones they haven't—come spewing forth without sound. They do not need to utter the words "I love you" to feel it, to understand it, to believe that it is true. Three words can't compare with the language they are speaking with their bodies, with their mouths.

No kiss is more honest than the one given and received before certain death, when all hope is gone and time is brief. This kiss—full of hot, desperate energy—is a transference of souls.

And it is still not enough. Having their lips touch, having their tongues stroke against one another is not sufficient. Their hands roam, grip hair and arms, hips and backs with that same desperation. They need to be closer, to become one in their final embrace.

She slips the cuff over his wrist and around a metal pipe on the wall during the climax of their kiss. It locks in place with a resounding click that she swears they both hear over the drone of the alarms, even though it isn't possible.

She pulls away from him suddenly, almost as harshly as they came together. He yanks on the metal ring violently, rattling both the handcuff and her resolve to go through with her plan.

"Why?" he asks.

It is his bewildered, enraged tone that gives her the strength to continue. She has an answer for this question.

"Because they didn't see you," she says. It's the one comfort she has left. "Don't do anything stupid."

Her parting words are laced with tears, but she fights to hold them back because there isn't much time now, and she needs her mind unclouded. The handcuffs won't hold him very long, though that isn't her intent. They just need to restrain him long enough for her to draw attention away from the furnace room, away from his position. If she can distract the enemy soldiers until the extraction team arrives, he will have a better chance at getting out.

"Dammit, you can't leave me here!" he roars.

She picks up a loose metal pipe about the size of a crowbar, hefting it in her right hand to get a feel for the makeshift weapon. She pokes him in the chest with it. "Keep quiet. Don't make me knock you out."

"You're walking into a death trap!" he exclaims, still straining against the handcuffs as she turns away.

She can't bear to look over her shoulder at him, to see his face contorted with anger and betrayal. Or worse, with tears reflected back at her in his eyes.

With her hand on the hallway door handle, she says in a soft but firm voice: "Don't come after me."

This is a CA collaboration challenge with Beth-Geek Chick! We'll be trading off chapters and writing approximately 1,000 words per turn. Pretty much anything goes, so expect some twists and turns. ;) It's going to be great!

Review with comments, thoughts, or suggestions for us to play with. Thanks!