You people did this to me. This is going to be a threeshot. I'll write a scene that will be set just before the beginning of the epilogue written in The One, which will reveal what Maxon's "surprise gift" was from the first chapter, because that THING IS LITERALLY WHAT BOTHERED ME THE MOST ABOUT THE WHOLE STUPID ENDING.
I was nervous as I entered The Great Room, looking around for anyone familiar. Maxon hadn't come by since he left and I was worried, to be honest. What if he had changed his mind? He'd been so angry and hurt when he'd left my room…
But when I looked up to the platform, there was an ornate table with three chairs. Maxon was in the center with Kriss on his left, and they were talking animatedly about something, Kriss giggling behind her hand.
Maybe things had gone as south as I'd thought. The Great Room was packed and I tried to make my way to the platform, nodding and acknowledging those that acknowledged me on my way. As I sat I watched different groups, individuals that had made an impact on my life, however tiny, since I'd arrived here. My eyes lingered on Queen Amberly for a beat, watching as she played with her nephew.
I found Aspen to my right, slightly behind me, but he was distracted, scanning the room.
"You're sure it's over?"
I looked over at Maxon, surprised. His tone wasn't accusing, more worried than anything else I could detect. I gave him a smile, something inside me easing. If he was concerned, then maybe he hadn't changed his mind after all.
"Positive," I affirmed as quietly as I could. "Please don't do this to yourself. I love you. Trust me."
"Trust will have to be earned, I'm afraid," he sighed, tone almost teasing. He didn't mean it to be harsh, but there was a seriousness there that I took note of.
"I will do whatever it takes," I declared, sitting up straight in my chair, crossing my ankles. He didn't respond, only turned back to his conversation with Kriss, who didn't look upset in the slightest.
I stared at my lap, my hands tangling together in worry. He had said we would both know beforehand who was chosen, but I couldn't help but notice that neither of us was wearing a ring, and Kriss looked almost giddy.
Celeste caught my eye and cocked her head, giving me a questioning stare. I shrugged slightly and shook my head, letting her know I had no clue how this would go. She gave me a sad smile and mouthed it'll be okay. At least if I walked out of here with no ring, I walked out with friends.
Celeste still held my gaze for a second, so I saw the guard donning a red headband walked up behind her and put a bullet square in the back of her head, her body jerking and falling to the floor in a single, heart-stopping moment.
I let out a scream that was drowned out in the sudden explosion of screams and gunfire.
Sudden and loud confusion took over as everyone was in a rush to leave, the guards—our guards—springing into action, and the invaders trying to take out as many people as they could. To my left, Maxon was on the floor trying to calm a hysterical Kriss, while to my left, Aspen was expertly crouched in an offensive stance, trying his best to take out the assailants quickly. Time slowed as I tried frantically to pick my loved ones out of the crowd, but I'd lost sight of nearly everyone. There was too much going on and I was frozen in my chair, gripping the armrests.
I put the pieces together as a red-marked rebel stood before us on the other side of the table, that these guards had killed those claimed to have left their posts and wore their uniforms to hide amongst us. He smirked and lifted his gun. I knew I should run. Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to run, to duck, to do something. But I was frozen. I glanced at Maxon as the man aimed at him, catching his eye as he stared back at me.
I heard the man laugh and whipped my head around to see him now aimed at me. The gun went off, but suddenly I was on the ground, not in any pain like I was the first time I'd been shot. A heavy weight shifted above me and I looked up to see Aspen kneeling over me.
"Are you hurt?" he barked.
I managed a shake of my head, looking around me frantically. There were more men approaching us quickly, and Aspen grunted, standing up and taking aim. Thanks to him, no one was getting close to our platform.
I then noticed a very still form in front of me, and threw a chair out of my way in a rush to get to him. He was half under the table, breathing heavily and loudly, a spot of red blossoming near his left shoulder. It looked bad.
"Oh, Maxon!" I cried, scurrying over and balling up with hem of my dress. He winced as I pressed it into the wound. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
"America," he sighed, looking at me, his face deathly pale.
"Don't try to talk," I told him through my sobs.
"Break my heart as many times as you'd like," he said weakly. "It will always be yours to break."
"Stop it," I gasped. "You're about to break my heart right now. You'd better live. I already told you, I will never be okay without you."
He frowned. "You'll be okay, someday. You're strong. And I'll love you until my very last breath."
"Please don't," I choked. I bent to kiss him, his hand lightly tangling in my hair. "Don't give up, I love you. Please don't give up yet."
He took another unsteady breath and I nearly screamed as someone slid beneath the table with us, calming slightly when I recognized Aspen.
Aspen and Maxon argued briefly over would he would get out of the The Great Room next, but it ended with Aspen dragging me out from under the table, urging me that the quicker he got me to a safe room, the faster he could go back for Maxon. He left me with a gun, alone, in a safe room, and who knows how long I'd fought to get out of there…
I woke next in a hospital bed in the medical wing, cleaned up, stitched up, and lying on a cot. My body ached and stung, but I pushed myself to my feet and down the hall, stopping at the bed Aspen was in briefly to rejoice over his survival and thank him for saving me.
He explained to me what happened, the Southern Rebels getting in, but that the Northern Rebels were our saving grace. Well, most of us. I lamented over the queen's death, saddened at the thought.
"Maxon is king," Aspen breathed. "He's recovering in his room."
To add onto the shock of the day, or maybe I was just so shocked from everything else, that I wasn't surprised when Lucy came barreling down the hall and into Aspen's arms, crying into his chest.
So I left them to whatever privacy they could get and headed quickly for the king's rooms to see the one person I wanted to see alive and well. I braced myself to be turned away as I approached the rooms to see six guards lining the walls. People hurried in and out of the open doors like worker bees and I suddenly worried if I would just be in the way.
Maybe if I started screaming he'd hear me and let me pass, similar to our first meeting…
"He's been waiting for you, my lady," one of the guards interrupted my thoughts, extending and arm to the doorway. My heart beat loudly in my ears.
Despite the heavily gauzed chest, the arm in a sling, the casual cotton shirt, and lying wounded in a large bed, he looked so much like a king, holding up papers in his right hand to an advisor, listening to an explanation of it.
"Your majesty," I breathed, falling into a low curtsy to announce my presence to him. I glanced up to see the light in his eyes, a smirk on his face.
"Set those papers there," he told the advisor. "If everyone could please clear the room, I would like to have a word with the lady."
Everyone rushed around me to exit as quickly as they could, the double doors shutting behind me. I wanted nothing more than to run to him, to dive into his arms. I was sure he still loved me, still wanted me to be his wife, but I needed confirmation, I needed him to say it to me, just one more time, to make it real.
"I'm sorry about your parents," I said softly, daring to approach the bed.
"It doesn't feel real," he admitted. "I feel like they're still here, just out of sight. Like they could walk into the room at any second."
"I know what you mean."
He gave me a sympathetic smile. "I know you do." He reached out to me and took my hands, guiding me to sit on the edge of his bed next to him. He quietly explained how his parents had passed, his mother protecting his father.
"I want to show you what I'm working on," he breathed when he finished, clearly grasping to change the subject. "Get the papers out of that drawer." He showed me his plans to eliminate the castes, going to far as to explain in detail how he planned to achieve it. I was in awe. He did all of this because of me.
I was reading some of the text, barely understanding the political jargon, when he shifted, letting out a breath of a wince, and reached back to hand me a box with a ring nestled inside. "I've been sleeping with this thing under my pillow. Do you like it?"
I inspected it, dumfounded. It was gorgeous.
Maxon's face softened and he sighed. "Will you always doubt me? I think it's me who should have trouble trusting you, to be honest. Not the other way around…"
I let out a garbled laugh, tears spilling down my cheeks. I barely heard the speech he was giving over the sound of my heart beating in my ears and my joy singing in my head.
"America," he said firmly, grasping my hand with his good one. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," I managed before leaping forward to kiss him, letting all my emotions bleed into the kiss just as I could feel his.