Author's note: Hello, all you wonderful people out there! This is my first published fanfic, a little one-shot that I wrote while bored on an eight-hour car ride. This story is a song-fic, based on the song "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy. (Lovely stuff.) This takes place the morning of the Happy Jack incident, obviously while they are at Happy Jack. (And pretend that they had found out when Connor's unwinding was.) As I said before, I'm relatively new to this stuff, so go easy on me. Read, review, and enjoy!

Disclaimer: Honestly, do you think that I'm Neal Shusterman? I'm a teenage girl who would probably be decapitated if she tried to write the brilliance that he does. In other words, I own nothing but this story.

Risa gazes out over the horizon, watching the slow twinkling of the early morning stars as the trees of the pine forest sway with the breeze. She can feel Connor's steady heart beat against her, his familiar, muscular arms wrapped around her, keeping her close. She lays on her back on a tall, grassy hill completely forbidden to the unwinds, her head on his chest, dewy grass underneath them. It has taken her far too long to admit to herself her feelings concerning him. And now, it is too late.

The place where they now lay is that which sentenced them to the end of their lives. On this peaceful day in mid-February, she knows the Happy Jack staff will come for him. Connor. Her Connor. Never mind that his stay here had been slightly over a week; he was a troublemaker, or so he was seen as. The other unwinds had looked up to him, seen him as a symbol, a hero. So, they chose to take the easy route: end his short life before he could cause any real problems. Fast, convenient, and done with.

Risa imagines the future they were so close to achieving. They could've taken over the Graveyard if the Admiral was too ill to return; they were well liked and respected. They could have continued his work, continued to liberate the damned, unite unwinds across the country and do some good for the world. And she would have Connor by her side: her friend, confidant, partner in survival, constant, touchstone, her- well, not exactly boyfriend. Lover? No, that's not right either. Her almost lover. The one person she had loved and trusted completely. Who would soon be ripped out of her life forever. I should've known this was doomed from the start, she thinks. I never should have let myself get close to you; this world isn't exactly low risk. But I couldn't help but fall for you, just because you were always there for me.

As much as she wills the tears not to come, she feels them silently flow down her cheeks, forming a small wet spot on the shirt of Connor's garish, blue Happy Jack uniform. Her body wracks with sobs.

"Are you all right?" Connor asks her softly, breaking the long period of silence between them.

"No," Risa says, anger lacing her teary words. "Why would I possibly be all right? You're being killed later today, and I can't be far behind you. You... you are the last good thing left in my life. They can't do this. They can't take you too!" she chokes out.

"Shh, shh," he whispers. Gently, he wipes the tears from her swollen eyes, brushing the dark, wavy hair out of her face. "They're going to take me, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. But I can show them that they can't kill our cause, even if they kill me. That our message will live on, that these kids won't stop fighting until we end unwinding forever. But I'm scared too," he adds in a murmur. "I don't want to die." His voice cracks on the last word.

They stay there in silence for a time. Risa has no idea whether it's seconds or minutes or hours that they lay there, trying to stifle their tears, thinking of the day to come. Finally, she sits up as the watery orange of the sun begins to appear over the hill.

"I'll never forget. You or our cause. I'll keep fighting, as long as I can. I'll never forget, and I'll make sure no one else does," she whispers, putting every ounce of her strength into the words.

"Thank you," Connor whispers raggedly, leaning in to briefly brush her lips to his own. "And someday, when pieces of my brain matter are scattered all over the world, some little brat who doesn't deserve it will remember about this. About this beautiful girl telling me she'll never forget me."

"We should probably walk back to our dorms now," Risa says, standing up and stretching her legs. "The staff'll be suspicious if we're not there by the wake-up."

"What else could they possibly do to us?" Connor asks seductively, standing up and moving in close to her.

Before Risa can come up with a genuine response, he steps forward, wraps his arms around her back and kisses her. She responds enthusiastically, taking his face in her hands and pressing her body to his. She allows her form to melt, losing herself in his embrace, and for the briefest moment, tries to forget everything. Everything except the boy she stands here kissing. Risa doesn't know why fate would take him, so young and afraid.

Finally, reluctantly, they break apart, lingering slightly together as the sun rises over the scenic horizon. If nothing else, it is beautiful here. Risa looks deep into Connor's wide, brown eyes, those wonderful eyes that she knew from early on would not deceive her, that she could trust.

"Goodbye," she murmurs, murdering any surviving tears.

"Risa..." he starts weakly. "I will always love you," he says, starting the trek over the hill. "Always."

Goodbye, my almost lover, Risa thinks silently. And then he was gone.

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