A/N: Alright, I know I said 2 more chapters but I lied. This is it, sadly, until the sequel comes about. As I said, it's time to introduce these other elements of angst and conflict that will set the stage for the sequel. Please don't flame me for not getting these two into a lovey-dovey relationship as of now. With that said, please drop a review. I've picked out a random title for my sequel since the camps were so divided on names. I won't reveal which I've chosen but I'll say this much: if you're familiar with Ed Sheeran's music then you should know ;) Please review once you're done!

PS: Once again, a HUGE thank you to all my great readers out there—the ones who sign reviews, leave them anonymously, or just read. It means so much to me that you all pay such attention to my work and if I could send you each a personal thank you, I would!

It was nightfall when Hal awoke, Lourdes asleep beside him on her stomach, her dark hair fanning out around her in a manner that reminded him very much of a halo. He sighed heavily as he sat up. There was a slight pain in his temple, much duller than it had been when the wound was actually open, but present nonetheless. But it was a good kind of pain, the one that reminded him he was still alive, still breathing, still fighting.

What's next, Hal? Find a way out of this mess, get the two of them back to camp, and continue in this great struggle for survival. But he knew that wasn't what the question meant. What's next for you and Lourdes? This was the trickier question, the one that he lost sleep over. What was next for him and Lourdes? What would come once they made it back to camp? Would she still feel the same way? Would he still feel the same way?

It was easy enough to forget everything out here, away from everyone else. For these few short days, he'd been able to let go, reminisce, and almost relive some of the pre-invasion days. It was easy enough to forget what happened. It was easy enough to forget Karen.

Karen Nadler was and always would be Hal Mason's first love, of this he was certain. And just four days ago, if anyone had asked, he would have said he still loved her. But now, after all he'd been through, after witnessing Lourdes' capacity to love, to fight, to protect—he suddenly wasn't so sure. Perhaps if it had been a clean break, he wouldn't have been so conflicted.

But it hadn't been a clean break. Karen had been taken because he failed to protect her. She was harnessed because he couldn't protect her. And wasn't that the story of his life? His mom had died and he wasn't there to protect her. Ben had been taken, harnessed, enslaved and he couldn't protect him either. And those who weren't taken or killed had something taken from them. Matt lost his childhood, his dad lost his wife and a son. What would Lourdes lose that he couldn't protect her from?

He was powerless. The thought hit him quickly, without warning. Powerless. Really, what could he do? Kill a few skitters? More would just show up. Shoot down a beamer? Five more were ready to take its place. Save a few civilians? If he even managed to do that, dozens more would die. And if Lourdes were to find herself in danger, would he be able to save her? It had been pure, dumb luck that he'd shown up on that porch in time last night. And if he'd learned anything from this invasion, it was that pure, dumb luck shouldn't be relied upon. Not with their odds. And he couldn't live with himself if something happened to yet another person that he cared about.

That he cared about…It was, perhaps, the first time that he acknowledged to himself that he sincerely cared for Lourdes. These past four days had shown him how valuable her companionship was, how he couldn't bear to lose it, lose her.

And even worse, he'd lost it back there in that house. He had beaten that skitter within an inch of its life, set the whole damn house on fire out of blind rage. He didn't even know what he'd done until afterwards, when he could inspect the damage. He'd seen red throughout the duration of the events. And now Lourdes was scared. Scared of him. You're no good for her, Hal. You'll only endanger her. You're too reckless, out-of-control.

He felt weighed down now, a slow, sad feeling building in the pit of his stomach. Because he was right. If anything, he was a detriment to Lourdes. She deserved better. She deserved to be happy, free of worry. He would only have the opposite effect on her. He would only endanger her, give her reason to fear, reason to worry. And he cared about her too much to let that happen. So now came the hard part—to break away from her. If you love something, set it free…

Lourdes awoke and rolled over, observed Hal for a long moment as he sat, obviously deep in thought. She wondered what he must be thinking about. His family, probably. His brothers, his dad…the people you pulled him away from, Lourdes. Guilt hit her for the umpteenth time since their ordeal began. He should have been back at camp, watching out for Matt, ensuring no one hassled Ben for the spikes on his back. Ben, especially, needed Hal, even if neither Mason brother would admit it. Instead, Hal was here, looking after a scared little girl who was probably just a nuisance to him anyway. You've never been anything else to him but a bother.

Finally, Hal noticed her brown eyes fixed on him.

"What were you thinking about?" she summoned the courage to ask. He seemed taken aback by the question.

"N-nothing," he said quickly. "Just…stuff…"

"Stuff…" she repeated, looking back to the ground of the barn. "So did you figure out a way out of here?" she changed the subject.

"Well if we could find two more tires, we could get that El Camino back up and running…the only other thing I could think of is to wait for your leg to heal up more and try to walk it back to camp…"

She thought a moment. If only her leg could heal—she was no doubt a nuisance to him at this point. "I guess we'll have to wait it out then. Or maybe we could salvage the tires off a car on the roadway?"

Hal considered it. "Maybe. But there's no way we could do it tonight—I'm sure the skitters are around looking for whoever busted up their buddy." The tone of regret was completely undisguised from his voice.

She didn't know how to respond, so she didn't. "I…guess we should just wait then. Should we eat?" Lourdes glanced to the wheelbarrow in the corner, still stacked with provisions. "I mean…we can't light a fire or anything but I'm sure I could figure something out…"

Hal shrugged. "I guess…don't strain yourself. Just…pick something that's fine on its own and doesn't need heating up."

"O…kay…" She rose slowly, moved to the lantern hanging on the door and relit it before heading to the wheelbarrow. She took two cans of corn and brought them back, letting Hal cut the lids open with his knife.

Their shadows flickered across the floor in the dim light of the lantern. "Thanks," she said softly. "For everything. I wouldn't have made it these past few days without you."

Hal looked uncomfortable all of a sudden. "Yeah…don't mention it."

The rest of the meager meal was eaten in silence. She felt like she should say something, anything. But she couldn't muster up the courage to speak. The air had changed between them. It was immediately perceptible to her. Hal was being cold. He probably misses camp, his family, Karen. How could I have been so stupid as to think that this would change anything between us? I'm still just the same, scared, meek girl.

The knocking on the door was sudden, jolting both of them from their thoughts. Hal was up in seconds, the gun already in his hand. He signaled for Lourdes to duck behind the El Camino and she fled, leaping behind the vehicle and peeking out from behind its chrome bumper. Like the coward you are.

Slowly, Hal slid the door back, pointed the gun outside first. "Who's there?"

The voice that replied was shockingly familiar—high, delicate, a little cold sounding. "Hal?" He immediately recognized it as Maggie's.

"Maggie?" he was astonished but so, so glad to hear the familiar voice.

"Oh my God, you're alive!" came her response. He slid the door back more now, revealing the blonde woman.

"How did you find us here?"

"Us?" she questioned, looking around the barn expectantly.

Hal motioned for Lourdes to come out and she complied, offering a shy wave and ducking her head.

"Me and Lourdes—we've been holed up out here for the past few days. Kicked a couple of skitter asses. Both of us." His voice had a note of pride in it, slipping out though he tried to disguise it. Stop it!

Maggie nodded, looking at Lourdes somewhat indifferently before turning back to Hal. "I was out foraging for supplies, spotted smoke and thought I'd check it out. You're lucky: I was about to leave when I saw the barn and thought I should take a look. Heard you moving around inside."

"We uncovered a mess of supplies up at that burnt out house. You know, before I burnt it out," Hal told her. "Plenty to bring back to camp if we had some way of rigging up this truck to run. It's missing its two back tires…"

Maggie pondered a moment. "There's a pretty late-model truck abandoned less than a quarter mile from here. Passed it on the way in. I think the tires might fit…"

Hal nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah! Maybe." He turned to Lourdes now. "Wait here? We'll be back soon." Lourdes nodded and the two left her there, in the building.

She heard the motorcycle start and roar off back towards the main road. An unsettling feeling fell over her. That's it. It was all over so quick. One minute they'd been planning, still unsure of their future and the next, some stroke of luck had sent Margaret straight to their doorstep. Or maybe it was Providence.

She couldn't help but feel a little disappointed at how easily Hal forgot everything that had happened between them. But what did you expect? The first kiss was out of sympathy, the second because he was just so anxious…they meant nothing and you should've known that from the beginning.

But nothing could change the effect Hal Mason had over her. No matter what they were to one another, he would always be this shepherd-like figure to her: protective, watchful. And she was more like a sheep: meek, timid, vulnerable.

It was a long, lonely half hour before Hal and Margaret returned, two tires being dragged behind the motorcycle by fallen telephone wires. Hal excitedly affixed them to the El Camino, letting out a whoop of joy and high-fiving Maggie when they fit almost perfectly.

That's the kind of girl Hal needs. Someone who's tough and brave. Someone who can watch out for him like he watches out for you. Hal needs a strong woman. And you aren't strong…

The ride back to camp was fairly painless with him driving and Lourdes in the passenger seat. He was grateful she didn't say anything on the trip back. Any conversation would just make it harder for him. Maggie had explained that the skitters hadn't been present in nearly a day. Figures. You probably scared them off when you beat the shit out of that red-eyed one. But they'll be back. And they'll probably want revenge on you. One more reason why he couldn't afford to be around Lourdes.

The El Camino rattled as it hit each pothole and bump in the road, the supplies in its bed shaking from side to side. But the provisions were plentiful and would last the camp for days. It was surreal. After four days with only Lourdes, the thought of going back to camp was both inviting and daunting. For four days he had forgotten and now he would be forced to remember all over again.

The 2nd Mass greeted the group with elation, with the exception of Pope who Hal noticed glaring peevishly at him until Maggie shot him a dirty look. As he disembarked from the driver's seat of the truck, he searched the crowd for his dad, disheartened when he wasn't present though he did notice Ben and Matt weaving through the throng of people, trying to reach him.

"Your dad hasn't made it back yet," Maggie said, reading his mind. "But we haven't stopped looking, Hal."

"Thanks," he murmured in reply, crossing to the other side of the El Camino and helping Lourdes out of the truck on her one good leg.

"So I guess this is it," he said to her. She looked to him, a mixture of gratitude and sadness flashing across her face. Suddenly, he didn't want to part with her, didn't want to let her out of his sight even if they were in the same camp. He just wanted her near him. But he couldn't. He couldn't afford to put her at risk like that. Not after what had happened to his mom, to Ben, to Karen. Not after what he'd done to that skitter the previous night. It was too dangerous. He was too dangerous. So he just watched as Lourdes smiled wanly and turned, walking away slowly. He had to let her go. But somehow, he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd just let the greatest thing in his life…walk away…

A/N: That's it. The end. Sorry for all of ye happy story lovers. Good news is, there is a sequel in the works. Bad news is, Hal and Lourdes remain apart until then. As you can see it's been brought into line with the 2nd season now—opening up the possibility for Jamil/Lourdes and Hal/Maggie, even though I don't like either of those couples. In any event, I'm aware that the resolution may have been a bit weak but I wanted to plant Maggie into Hal's mind a bit, too. So I hope you enjoyed and will follow me once the sequel is up, too. I'll let you all know via Twitter (at EbiPers). Thanks so much for reading these eleven chapters and for reviewing them—it was a beautiful way to transition into this fan forum and I appreciate the warm welcome. This story is dedicated to all of you lovely readers!

PS—If you guys ever write a Hal/Lourdes fic or any Falling Skies fic for that matter and would like me to check it out, just say the word. I won't regard you as spammers don't worry!

And for those into the whole 'story playlist' thing, here's mine for this story:

-Brave by Nichole Nordeman

-Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne

-I'm With You by Avril Lavigne

-Payphone by Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa

-Skyscraper by Demi Lovato

-Princess of China by Coldplay featuring Rihanna

-The A Team by Ed Sheeran

-Bird's Song by Ingrid Michaelson

-Don't Forget by Demi Lovato

So that's it for this story! Peace and love to you all and the sequel will be up shortly! What do you say? One more review on your way out?