Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

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Life without Finny is like winter: bare, stripped of life, an insidious chill that roots into Gene's body and freezes him from the inside out. It's not the kind of winter Finny loved, with carnivals and snowmen and the delicate lacing of frost in Finny's golden hair; it's the kind of winter that makes Gene remember Finny hobbling across the icy grounds, tucked into himself and looking smaller, broken.

Life without Finny isn't life at all.

Gene sleeps uneasily and dreams of colorbursts and the finality of hearing the words Your friend is dead. He wakes with wet cheeks and a gaping hole in his chest. Whenever he hears the term heartbreak, he thinks only of Finny's crippled limb, wrapped up and dragging behind, holding him down to the ground when he should have been able to fly. Maybe that's what Gene's heart is, now: dead, useless, a hindrance tying him to an earth he's ready to leave.

He never dreams of the wild, happy times. Maybe his sleeping mind doesn't think he deserves to remember. But he can't help remembering in his waking hours, all the same. An echoing laugh barrels at him as he walks down the street; two boys push past him, consumed in their own youth and laughing vitality, unaware of its frailty. In the arrogance of the young, it is as if nothing and no one else exist except themselves and each other. Life is ripe, theirs for the plucking.

Take it now, while you still have the chance, Gene wants to call after their rapidly receding backs. You are young, blissful in your stubborn ignorance. Soon the world will thrust its way upon you, and then you will be lost.

His throat aches with the pressure of unvoiced words. It seems his entire existence can be written in the things he has never allowed himself to say.

Gene goes through his days with a sort of numb determination; sunlight and the life outside his house's walls are merely a brief respite from the darkness of night and his dreams.

He examines it like one of those logic problems he'd puzzled over in school:

Finny was life, unbridled and free in its golden wildness.

Wherever he is now, he is still life, cannot possibly be anything else.

Therefore, life without Finny is impossible, cannot possibly exist.

All that remains now for Gene is the waiting.

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