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The Domain is a tough place, and in order to thrive you have to be even tougher. The world is different and Luxe is an example of what war and violence can do to a sixteen year old girl. She loves the abhorrence of her city until the New Ones arrive.


​       In the Domain, you had to fight to stay alive. It was a reality that I had been comfortable with for as long as I could remember. You learned quickly to trust no one, rely on only yourself, and always be alert. Our city was thrilling and abhorrent and gruesome, but it was the the only way we knew how to live.
​The Domain was built after the nuclear war that left the world flat and dusty. I was told that there were once great buildings and city's with lights and music. They told me of frivolous things like movies and celebrities. People being famous for they way they looked or sounded. In our home, nestled deep in the hollow base of what was once a great mountain, the cost of fame came at a much steeper price.
​        It was sunny, and the heat reflected off of the red clay dirt beneath my feet, making my ankles sweat. I had shaven my head that morning in anticipation of the summer, but the lack of hair did little to keep my neck cool. People stopped and stared as I walked through the small but crowded market area. Food carts stacked with meat and rotting fish filled the air with a familiar yet putrid stench. Clothing vendors had the bloody and torn clothes that were stripped from the bodies of the dead, hanging proudly for sale. A crowd parted for me as I stepped toward them. I knew fame well
​At sixteen, I was the youngest citizen of the Domain to lead a successful ambush on our neighboring city of Ryot. I was also the first girl to join our army. I was respected, and mutually feared by my peers, which made my place in our society uncannily secure. My parents had died when I was only seven, and from that age, I had trained with my older brother Tiran to fight and survive the worst of conditions. He was gone too, but I didn't need him anymore. I was happy being on my own. I was completely content with my solitude, until the New Ones arrived.
​           "Luxe, you're wanted in Dartain's office.” Someone said meekly from behind me. I turned at the sound of my comrade, Neena's voice. She had long blonde hair that she kept pulled back away from her face. She was my age but beside me she looked much younger. Her frame was slender and frail while my muscles protruded proudly even at rest. She was weak, and I was strong. That made me superior to her.
​"Ok." I said cooly, stepping around her and running my hand over the brown stubble that covered my head. Dartain was our leader, and he loved to use me as an example of our city's strength. He said that if a sixteen year old girl could look as frightening as I did, then it would give the illusion that our grown men were even more inviolable. I felt that it had the opposite effect. Beside me, the men looked weak and I didn't fear one of them. I stepped into the cool, clean office and saw Dartain sitting alone at the long stone table that he used for meetings and negotiations.
​          "Luxe, my darling. Please come sit with me." He purred elegantly. He was fat, and short and unbearably cruel. I adored him.
​           "What do you need?" I asked with a sincere smile as I sat beside him.
​"I need your opinion. I love the way that dark young mind of your's works, and I have a slight conundrum." He said, seeming almost giddy. I nodded and leaned closer across the table.
​"We have been approached by a failing city in the far west called Stax. They arrived today and want to join our community here. From what I understand, they are impartial to the war between our city and Ryot. I don't know what their strength is like but it would give us the numbers we need for our next attack." He explained quickly as he rested his chin on his steepled fingers. I leaned back and thought about the risks of bringing a new group of citizens in. The war between our city and Ryot had been going on for decades, and showed no sign of ending. We were fighting for territory, and our last failed ambush had left us greatly lacking in warriors.
​"Yes, they should join us, but they need to be kept seperated from one another. If we house them all together we risk the chance of them uniting against us more easily. Give them no option but to integrate into our society and let me train the young ones." I said, fighting the twitch that urged my mouth to smile. I loved fresh blood. Dartain smiled widely and leaned across the table to take my hand.
​"As always, you impress me." He said. I allowed myself to smile and bowed my head gracefully.
​"I'll send a few of our men to meet them at the border and the young ones will be sent to the arena immediately. I'm sure you'll have plenty of fun my sweet girl." He teased as I stood. I was not sweet and we both knew it very definitely. I snorted at the strange sentiment as he escorted me through the door of the meeting room.
​When I arrived in the training arena, more than fifty people stood waiting, all under the age of eighteen. They looked at me skeptically as I approached, but I knew their judging eyes would soon change from criticism to fear, and then hopefully respect.
​"I am Luxe and from now on, you will do as I say." I shouted as I approached them. An older boy huffed loudly and I couldn't help the evil smile that instantly covered my face. I reached forward and grabbed his arm forcefully, pulling him to my side.
​"What's your name?" I asked softly. He wrenched his arm free and stepped back.
​"Wren." He answered, giving me a defiant look as my fingers shot out quickly to once again wrap around his wrist. I pulled his arm back and twisted it behind his back. He laughed loudly as I kicked his legs out from under him and dug my knee into his back as he fell, shoving his face into the dirt.
​"You will do as I say." I repeated through my teeth. He shook his head and sighed loudly.
​"Alright." He conceded, still smiling cockily. I released him and stepped back so he could stand. He didn't scurry away from me like the others usually did once they'd been put in their place. Instead he looked me up and down then stepped slowly back into line with the others. His confidence infuriated me. He had no idea who I was or what I had been through. He didn't know what kind of force I could be against him and he had no concept how dispensable he was to me or our city. I took my anger out on everyone else as I pushed them through their first day of training as citizens of the Domain. I used every tool in the arena until half of them were injured and the remaining half were too weak to continue. I finally sent them away as the sun was setting, and began my own training regimen. I started by running laps around the large open space in the center of the arena. I was fueled by the adrenaline of training the New Ones, as we has lovingly named them. They were scared and raw, like little puppies. They had no idea the monsters we would create out of them. On my third lap I recognized the sound of footsteps running behind me. I stopped suddenly and turned to see the over confident boy, Wren, matching my stride from a few feet back.
​"You didn't have enough?" I asked angrily. He stopped and shrugged. Sweat was soaked through his shirt and I could tell by the way he was breathing that he was more than tired.
​"How old are you?" I asked, as I stepped closer to him.
​"Eighteen. How old are you?" He asked breathlessly. I narrowed my eyes and studied him. He was at least a head taller than me and he had dusty brown hair that was long and unruly. His eyes were the exact color of his hair and they seemed hard and unforgiving despite his generally happy attitude.
​"Sixteen." I finally responded. He nodded and crossed his arms across his chest.
​"You're awfully young to be so barbarous." He determined, as he looked me over.
​"You shouldn't speak that way to me." I warned, stepping even closer to him. He raised an eyebrow and looked down at me.
​"Where I'm from, I was like you. I was the asshole that got to treat everyone else like dirt. So trust me, you don't need to play this game with me. I already know how to win." He said, his eyes narrowing to match mine.
​"I have to be an asshole if I want to survive, and apparently you weren't a very good one because you ended up here." I spat, glaring up at him and wishing desperately that we were the same height. He looked down at me with such ferocity that I thought he would hit me. I wanted him to hit me. Instead he took one step closer so our chests were nearly touching, then in an instant he leaned forward and pressed his mouth to mine. I was too shocked to react for a few seconds, but once I recovered, I stepped back and punched him as hard as I could across the jaw. He fell to the ground and began laughing.
​"You're insane!" I shouted down at him before planting a well deserved kick to his ribs. He groaned but continued to laugh. I stood over him and clenched my fists, wanting nothing more than to drag him by his stupidly long hair into a ditch and beat him senseless. I finally turned and walked away, rubbing my mouth aggressively to cleanse it of the memory of his lips against mine.
​Once I was out of the arena the final edges of my shock wore off and rage filled it's place. How dare he disrespect me in my own training area. How dare he seek shelter with us and then undermine me in such a way. I knew my face was reflecting the turmoil brewing inside of me because I could see the fear on the faces of the people who fled from my path. My feet were stomping so hard that little puffs of dust rose around them until I finally reached my home on the outskirts of our city.
​It was only once I stepped into my home and pulled the sliding metal door shut, that I felt my curiosity pique. I paced slowly at first, then picked up speed as my normally complacent mind raced. Why had he kissed me? Was he trying to embarrass me, or trying to compliment me? Did he actually want to kiss me? I stopped myself as my reflection in the metal door revealed my adolescence. For the first time in a very long time, I was acting my age, and I was ashamed. Instantly my sense of self preservation kicked in and I began doing anything to think like my brother would have in that situation.
​ Tiran wouldn't have been thinking about a girl or what her actions had meant. He would have been planning an attack, or a new strategy. He was always planning. I sat down at the table in my small kitchen area and unrolled a large canvas map that he had always used when he discussed fight patterns and new vantage points. It was old and worn and splattered with dried blood from battle. I ran my hand over the spot where our land sat and tried to imagine what a peaceful life would be like. No violence or war. No senseless death or tyrany. Nice families in their nice homes with no one threatening them. I opened my eyes and smiled. It sounded terrible. ​It had been two weeks since we had been ambushed by the Ryot warriors. We normally waited to retaliate for a few months so we could recuperate but my own selfish need to be proactive drove me to come up with a new plan. It was the next morning as I was discussing my idea with Dartain, when I discovered exactly why Wren had been so forward with me. Dartain sat at his desk in his lush office, and I stood in front of him with the map spread out before us.
​"You see this valley? We've never utilized it. We can sneak in during the night, raid their supplies, then attack before anyone suspects anything." I said proudly. I was only happy when I was training or discussing a new attempt to dissolve our enemy city. Dartain smiled but did not look at the map. I raised my eyebrows as I waited for an answer.
​"Luxe, you seem a little over ambitious today. Did you not quench your blood lust with your new recruits?" He teased. I smiled and crossed my arms as the memory of the New Ones crying out in pain filled my heart with joy.
​"Oh, they have no idea what I have planned for this evening. Unless I have better plans." I said suggestively as I pointed aggressively to the map. He laughed and patted my hand.
​"In good time, Darling." He cooed. I grit my teeth in frustration as a knock on the door to his office interrupted us.
​"I have something else to discuss with you first." He said quietly before calling the person in. The door opened slowly and Wren strutted proudly over to us. I was shocked that he didn't have at least a bruise from my punch the day before.
​"I believe you've met Wren. He was the combat leader in Stax and I think you might be able to absorb some knowledge from him." He suggested. I looked back at Dartain with a horrified expression. He laughed and hung his head.
​"Luxe, you can't win a war alone. Even the best warriors have someone to discuss ideas with. I don't understand all of this strategy like you and Tiran always did, but he will." He said, holding the map out to me. I took it, ignoring the rise of emotion I always felt at the mention of my brother, and turned back to a very satisfied looking Wren.
​"Use the meeting room if you want, just let me know what plan of action you decide." Dartain said waving us out. I stared helplessly at Wren's smug expression for a moment longer, before storming past him. I heard him sigh as he turned to follow me.
​"You don't know the Ryoters. They have far more resources than we do, and if we want to make the biggest impact we need to drain their supplies." I argued as Wren chewed lazily on his fingernail.
​"I may not know them, but I know how this works. When you attack someone on their land in the middle of the night you are losing the advantage of light plus territory. They know their land better than you and they always will. Do it during the day, but disguise yourselves. Sneak a few people in, destroy what goods you can and then ambush." He suggested, sitting forward to look over the map. I slammed my hands down on the table and stood quickly, making my chair fly out from under me and crash loudly against the floor. Wren didn't flinch. He just smiled up at me as I paced.
​"This is still my home and I'm still in charge. I make the decisions and you can either agree or find some other city to destroy." I shouted.
​"You're a moody little thing aren't you?" He said with a laugh. I stopped walking immediately and turned to glare at him.
​"I'm not moody and I'm not little." I hissed. Being around him was like beating my head against a wall. I was used to being feared and respected. Wren thought my livelihood was a game and I was going to prove to him that I was not to be played with. He was still laughing from my last comment when I lunged at him. My hands grabbed his neck roughly as my body weight threw his chair backwards. His eyes widened in fear as his body crashed to the floor. I was instantly satisfied with his reaction.
​He grabbed my hands and pried them forcefully off of his neck. I reared back and slammed my forehead against his. He groaned as his skull made a sick cracking sound against the ground. He recovered quickly and used his legs to catapult me off of him. I flew backward and landed a few feet away. I watched as he rose to his full height and towered over me. The humor in his face was gone, and in its place was the eery focus of a predator. I didn't fear him, but something about his stance was extremely unnerving.
​"Get up." He growled. I stood slowly and felt my body flex in preparation for his attack.
​"If you don't want my help, just tell me next time." He said with his jaw clenched shut.
​"I don't want your help." I said immediately, as I tried to relax my body. He just shook his head and turned to leave. I watched him and tried to find happiness in the idea of no longer sharing the room with him, but I found myself needing to elaborate on my behavior.
​"I don't understand you." I said quietly. His hand was outstretched to open the door, but he stopped immediately. I watched him relax slightly before turning to face me.
​"What is there to understand ?" He asked with a furrowed brow.
​"You are supposed to be this combat leader but you seem to make a joke out of everything. Including me." I explained. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly but he let it fall.
​"I've had a very dark life, Luxe, just like you. I've seen too much death, and caused too much death. We both know that this world we live in won't get better anytime soon, so why not enjoy ourselves a little while we can?" He asked with a shrug. I studied him but I couldn't tell if he was being serious.
​"You have no idea about the darkness I live in." I said under my breath. Instantly images of war, death, destruction and desolation filled my head. He stepped toward and the look he gave me, made my skin crawl. He was pitying me. I held my hand up to stop him from coming any closer
​"We will try your strategy as long as the majority of our soldiers are from The Domain. I don't trust you, and your warriors are weak." I said, crossing my arms across my chest. He nodded and stepped closer despite my attempt to keep a safe distance between us. I found myself staring shamelessly at his mouth. No one had ever kissed me before and his close proximity reminded me of his bold move the day before.
​"Wren, why did you kiss me?" I asked, instantly embarrassed by how vulnerable I sounded. He laughed then, making my blood boil. He was making fun of me again.
​"Forget it." I groaned, pushing his shoulder roughly as I walked past him.
​"Luxe." He said my name with so much authority, it startled me. I turned and looked at him expectantly.
​"Just because you're scary, doesn't mean you aren't pretty." He said, looking at me with a stern expression. I let his words sink in before turning and rushing from the room. I ran as fast as I could until I was out in the open. I needed to feel the heat of the sun beating down on me, and the unevenness of the gravel beneath my feet. I needed to be far away from Wren and his odd way of thinking and acting. I was standing in the center of the market area when I saw Neena. She was flirting awkwardly with one of the New Ones from Stax. He was one of the young ones I had trained and I had a hard time seeing how Neena could find him attractive. He was very short but muscular, and carried himself with an attitude of self pride that agitated me instantly. She laughed loudly and swirled her long hair around her finger.
​Instinctively I reached up to my bald head and wondered for a split second what it would be like to have long hair like I did as a child. Tiran had always shaved my head in the summer months to keep me cool and make it easier for me to manage while training. I had never had time to worry about how I looked or what boys thought of me. No one had ever told me I was pretty before.
​"Neena!" I shouted her name harshly. She jumped and turned to look at me. I raised my eyebrows expectantly as she said her goodbyes and scurried over to me.
​"Yes?" She asked once she was by my side.
​"You need to be careful with the New Ones. We don't know yet that they can be trusted. Do you understand?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at her. She turned to look quickly at her friend then back to me.
​"We were just talking." She defended herself meekly. I rolled my eyes and silently prayed that I would never act as young and naive as she did.
​"That isn't talking, that's something much more and you know it." I accused, shoving my finger aggressively into her shoulder. She nodded but I could tell that she wanted to say more.
​"Tomorrow at noon we are going to launch a counter attack on Ryot. Tell the others to meet in the arena tonight to discuss our strategy. Don't involve the New Ones." I said, before walking briskly past her. It was just as I stepped onto the road that would take me away from the market that I felt his eyes on me. I turned slowly until I spotted Wren leaning casually against a food cart with a curious expression on his face. He was watching me intently, and didn't seem the least bit embarrassed that I had caught him staring. I wanted to charge at him and pummel him to the ground. I wanted to grab the heaviest thing I could find and beat the nonchalant look off of his face. Instead I turned and walked away, doing my best not to wince as the pain from our small fight made my back scream. He was strong, maybe even stronger than me, but I still had to prove that I was in charge.
​I thankfully didn't see Wren at the training that evening, or at our meeting. It wasn't until we were packing up and preparing for our short but treacherous journey across the desert that he showed himself. He brought with him two New Ones, one of them being the boy Neena had been drooling over in the market. I tried to pretend that she wasn't bouncing excitedly beside me as he approached her.
​"Nice of you to join us." I teased as Wren stood beside me. He didn't smile or tease me back like I expected. He just nodded and went about preparing to depart the city. The journey would take us three hours by foot, and once we reached Ryot, Wren and I were going in alone to destroy and scavenge as much of their supplies as possible until we were noticed. Then the others would swoop in and we would ambush them. Wren didn't speak once as we walked side by side through the thick brown sand. Neena on the other hand couldn't stop chatting to her friend. He just smiled as she yammered on until finally I shouted at her to shut up. It was embarrassing for a warrior to behave that way. When we finally reached Ryot, the others stayed behind while Wren and I slipped across the border undetected. We were both wearing dark hooded tunics that helped us move along in the shadows of the mid-day sun. I tried to see his face but it was lost in the darkness of his hood.
​"We are going to have to communicate if we want to get through this successfully." I finally snapped after we reached the alley that would lead us to the main storage and supply area. He turned to me and lowered his hood.
​"I'll go first. You stay here and keep a look out. See? Communication." He said sarcastically. I grabbed his arm as he moved to walk away from me.
​"You don't get to talk that way to me. I'm your superior here, and that means I go first and you stay here." I spat. He folded his arms and leaned against the wall to my left.
​"Go ahead princess." He teased, a slow smile growing on his face. I could nearly see the smoke as it billowed from my ears. We were on a dangerous mission, that he had planned, and he was still making jokes. I couldn't help the animalistic roar that escaped my lips as I jumped at him. He leapt quickly to the side so I collided with the towering brick wall behind him. My forehead began bleeding immediately as it had taken the worst of the hit. He leaned down to help me up but I smacked his hand away. I pulled myself to my feet and used my sleeve to wipe the blood from my face.
​"You need to control your temper." He warned.
​"My temper is my favorite feature. Besides, it's gotten me out of a lot of tight spots." I said, peering around the corner at the large containers that were lined up.
​"Let me go. You stay here and stop bleeding, okay?" He said, holding his hands up in surrender. I narrowed my eyes but nodded in agreement. It was only seconds after he stepped out of the alley that I head the sound of feet rushing towards me. Bullets started buzzing past me as I rushed for the end of the alley toward where Wren had disappeared. I ran as close to the wall as I could, but a bullet shot through my shoulder before I could dive behind the wall. I had been shot plenty of times before. The pain was familiar but not any more bearable. I screamed in anguish as I pulled myself to my feet and looked around the space for an exit. Someone grabbed my hand and began leading me quickly toward the containers that were gathered in the center of the dirt. Instinctively I ripped my hand away and ran off in the opposite direction.
​"Luxe!" I heard Wren calling me as he followed my sporadic movements. I realized then that he had been the one leading me to safety, but my mind was too unfocused from the pain to make sense of things. I could hear the Ryoters as they filed in between containers, looking for us and screaming unintelligibly. I collapsed against a container and pressed my hand to the bullet wound as blood poured freely from it.

"Luxe." Wren gasped my name as he caught me and pinned me to the container. I saw him clearly then, and recognized the worry lines that creased his face. He pulled his tunic over his head and tore it quickly. I fought to push him away as he pulled my own tunic over my head and tried to tie a bandage over my arm but in my weak state he was stronger than me.
​"Stop fighting me for one damn second." He growled as he tied his torn clothing in a knot over the wound. The bleeding slowed but didn't stop.
​"Let's go." I said, pushing him again. He stepped back and then in a moment of extreme boldness, scooped me up and began running with me hanging over his shoulder. I was mortified. I used my uninjured arm to punch him and pull his hair. He didn't make a sound. He just kept running until we we burst through the border on the opposite side of Ryot from our entry point. He threw me to the ground and bent over to catch his breath.
​"Someone gave us up. Someone told them." I growled, trying with my one arm to stand, and groaning loudly as pain sliced through my body. There was no way the soldiers could have collaborated that quickly without an advance warning that we were coming.
​"I know." He said, looking up at me. Something about the clarity in his face made it very hard for me to think that he was the one who had betrayed us, but as soon as he stepped toward me to try and examine my injury, I wished it was.
​"I'm fine. Leave me alone." I hissed, swatting him away.
​"Luxe, you're not invincible. It's ok to let another person take care of you." He said, as if that was actually a viable option.
​"Yes I am, and no it's not. My brother taught me how to heal myself, so I wouldn't have to rely on him or anyone else. He knew I would be alone one day, and he trained me well. When we get back, I will clean this and stitch it and move on with my life." I said, backing away from his grasp.
​"What happened to your brother?" He asked suddenly. The question shocked me, but for some reason I felt most comfortable when I was in pain so I heard myself begin carelessly answering him.
​"He died in battle nearly two years ago. He raised me after my parents died when I was a child, but he never babied me. I was raised in training arenas and running along side him in battle. I killed for the first time when I was only ten." I said, as we began walking slowly back toward the rest of our group. I could tell I was still bleeding because my head was starting to swim slightly but I knew I had plenty of time to get back to The Domain before it became a real problem. I also knew that Wren was keeping a slow pace to keep my heart rate level. Any good warrior knew that when you were bleeding the worst thing you could do was panic. Your heart would start pumping your blood faster and in turn you would bleed out faster. I smiled involuntarily at the memory of Tiran mending my first bullet wound and how badly I had bled from my own foolish anxiety.
​"So that's what it takes?" Wren asked, pulling me from my memory.
​"What?" I asked, looking up at him. He smiled large toothy grin and took a hold of my chin.
​"Talking about killing someone, that's what it takes to make you smile." He said with a small chuckle. I smiled again because he was right. I was good at killing and I was even better at not being killed. As he released my face, I saw something in him that I hadn't seen for a very like time. I saw a friend. It probably had something to do with how pain made me feel more relaxed. It was as if I traveled through life always anticipating the next attack, or my next injury. I anticipated the pain so much that when I finally got hurt, I could breathe a small sigh of relief because the waiting was over.
​We finally saw our party up ahead. They waited patiently with concerned expressions as we approached them. I slowed to a stop but Wren kept moving. He pushed through the crowd of anxious warriors until he was standing directly in front of the boy who Neena had been so captivated by.
​"Etan, you know why I'm standing before you, don't you?" Wren asked in a voice that even frightened me slightly. Etan raised his chin defiantly and gave Wren a cocky grin. Wren pulled his gun from his holster and without a second of deliberation used it to shoot Etan in the head. His body fell lifelessly to the ground as Neena screamed foolishly. His blood was splattered on her face, as she looked at me for an explanation.
​"Traitor." I said slowly as I realized why Wren had just killed one of his comrades.
His face was twisted and angry as he looked at the other New One he had brought with him.
​"Who else?" He demanded. The short sentence did more convincing than I had expected. The boy began spouting off names of the others who had been planning to help Ryot in exchange for a higher ranking place in their community.
​I knew that by the way Wren escorted him back to the Domain that his confession wouldn't save him, just as I knew that the other New Ones who he had named didn't stand a chance. We made our way as quickly as possible back to the Domain, but I could tell I was slowing down as my vision closed in slightly. I had begun the journey back by leading our group and I had quickly become the end of the line. I stared down at my feet as fatigue took over me. We were still an hour away but my mind was drifting as blood continued to seep from gun shot wound. I noticed a pair of feet join mine and I looked up to see Wren walking beside me.
​"I'm fine." I said immediately.
​"I know. I was just getting bored up there. No one is bleeding to death or anything else exciting so I thought I would join the party." He said in all seriousness. I laughed, which was a strange sensation for me. It was so strange in fact that a few people turned to be sure it was me who had made the sound. Wren's mouth curved up into a small smile.
​"So if I want you to smile I need to talk about killing people, but it's only when your own life is in question that you will actually laugh. You are dark." He said, wrapping an arm around my waist and hoisting me slightly to help me walk. I was too tired to argue or push him away, and it was actually kind of nice to be helped.
"It seems that way." I muttered as my eyes drifted closed. I could feel my feet moving but I didn't have the energy to see where they were taking me. In an extremely uncharacteristically trusting moment, I allowed Wren to guide me until I slipped into unconsciousness. Dartain's voice was the first thing I heard when I woke up. It was low and full of malice.
​"Kill the New Ones. Kill every single one of them. Bringing them here was a mistake." He hissed to someone. My eyes flew open and I shot forward to a sitting position. I was in the medical building and by the lack of light from the window to my right, I knew that I had been asleep for a while.
​"No!" I croaked, fighting to untangle my legs from the blanket that had been wrapped around them. A bandage was taped over my throbbing shoulder.
​"Luxe, please rest." Dartain sighed, as he turned to face me. I usually broke out of the medical building far before I was supposed to, so Dartain and the soldier beside him seemed to expect my violent reaction.
​"Don't kill him." I said, finally freeing myself and standing.
​"Don't kill who?" A voice asked from behind me. I hung my head in shame as I recognized the cocky laugh that followed the question. I turned with red cheeks to see Wren leaning against a wall in his typical casual pose. He winked at me, somehow managing to add insult to injury. Dartain cleared his throat, making me turn back to face him.
​"Luxe, there are traitors among us, which is why you were ambushed. Wren suspected that some of his men had been less that honest which is why he devised the plan to take just a few of you in first. He saved a lot of our soldiers from being lost today, and for that he is excluded from my wrath. I won't sit and pick out the enemies among us, so if it's alright with you, they are all being executed this evening. They need to know that we show no mercy for acts of treason." He explained.
​"Ok." Was all I said. I was shocked and confused by my reaction to the possibility of Wren being in danger. I hadn't concerned myself with another persons well being since Tiran had died. Dartain and his soldier stepped out of the room, leaving me alone with Wren. When I turned around he was standing directly in front of me.
​"You didn't want them to kill me did you?" He asked with a mocking expression on his face. I raised my fist to hit him but stopped, delighting in the small flinch I saw cross over his face. I smiled and sat back down on the bed.
​"For some reason, no, I didn't." I answered. He sat down beside me and examined the bandage over my shoulder. Two other scars from similar injuries marred my arm, and he ran his index finger over them lazily. I looked up at him and felt a strange surge of femininity at the way he looked at me.
​"It's a shame." He said under his breath.
​"What's a shame?" I asked, surprised at how small my normally boisterous voice sounded.
​"It's a shame that you shaved your head. I bet you have beautiful hair." He said, running his palm over my scalp. I grabbed his wrist and pulled his arm away from me.
​"You don't seem very upset that your friends are dying tonight." I pointed out.
​"A lot of people in this world can't be trusted. There has to be punishment for betrayal." He said before sighing loudly.
​"I don't trust most people." I agreed.
​"Do you trust me?" He asked, looking over at me. I smiled slightly as I debated my answer.
​"I do." I said, looking up at him. He smiled back but I grabbed the collar of his shirt roughly before he could get too cocky.
​"Don't make me change my mind." I growled. He nodded before leaning forward and pressing his lips to mine. It was a short kiss but still longer than the one in the arena. He smiled when I didn't push him away.
​"I don't get a broken nose, or a bloody lip for that?" He asked with a surprised chuckle.
​"Not this time." I answered giving him a small smile. For the first time in my life I felt vulnerable. I felt nervous and unsure and unstable. I felt foolish and young and carefree, and I loved it.
​In the Domain, you had to fight to stay alive. Wren's presence in my life had changed a lot of things, but he couldn't change that. Our world was still full of violence and as far as I could tell, it always would be. I would still have to fight. I just wouldn't have to fight alone.

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There's more where that came from!