Title: Kaleidoscope of Red and Green
Genre: Romance, Angst, Tragedy
Summary: "They're just colors in the sky. But they'll never, ever define who we are," she says, with more wisdom than he can ever expect. And maybe, just maybe, she's right.
Her picture, framed in sterling silver, has long been a permanent fixture on his desk. Every time he sees it, he thinks of placing it face-down and locking it in a drawer. Forget the dead and move on. But her spirit, captured so freely in the photograph, always stops his hand. He can't put it away, not when it is the only reminder of her happiest moments.
A shiver runs up his spine. The windows are closed, the heater is on, the winter cold is shut out. He only knows warmth and comfort, yet her body lies ten feet beneath ice, snow, and frozen dirt. He remembers what she had once told him, years ago, when things weren't complicated and they were alive enough to anticipate their own deaths.
"If I die, I'd at least want to go in the spring," she says to him.
"Because I want to see the flowers bloom. I want them to be my last sight."
No amount of flower arrangements will ever make up for her wish. He knows, but what is he to do? Inject her with formaldehyde? Preserve her in ice? It is not a treatment he would want for himself, much less for her. It would have been a foolish idea. She had wanted to let go, tired of all the suffering, and he sure as hell can't stop her.
She'd been so innocent, didn't care who he was, didn't care what happened. She was there by his side, and no amount of lying on his part would budge her. He couldn't understand why. She was a smart girl, lived long enough to know the consequences of her actions. But still she insisted.
It was his error to make. He should have fought her harder, should have been stronger, should have been diamond instead of the steel that her passion managed to melt. He was weak, and now he regrets it.
"You do know what will happen, don't you? It isn't safe. You have to go," he says.
"My place is here," she says, her face serene, unaffected by the anxiety in his eyes.
"Then I'll make you go," he promises, starting to let go of her hand.
She tightens her grip. "Don't."
And her eyes are pleading, so vulnerable, her open face filled with trust.
So he has to hold on, too.
Was it the right choice to make? He can never tell. It keeps haunting him, dark and frightening, nights of storms whipping him right out of bed, sending him to the very depths of hell. An innocent girl tainted by the touch of a snake – he hates himself for it.
He tried to convince her. He tried to make her go. But she didn't, and now here was the result! She left behind a broken man with only a framed picture of her. It wasn't, it isn't fair.
"I don't love you," he tells her fiercely.
"Then why do I always see it in you?"
He shrugs it off. "I'm an excellent actor, and you know that. I don't love you. Now go."
Tears fall down her cheeks.
"I'm not asking you to return my feelings. But if you're surrendering, I'm not.
Give me a chance to love you. That's all I ask."
And he can't say no.
Blast it. He'd reminded her of their differences many times, over and over, but she never listened. Stupid girl, messed up head, staying with him despite all his warnings.
The most shameful part was that he allowed it to happen.
"You're green, I'm red."
"Cool and passionate," she teases him. They watch the sunrise, red bleeding through the trees wreathed in green.
She points at the sight.
"They're just colors in the sky. But they'll never, ever define who we are," she says, with more wisdom than he can ever expect.
And maybe, just maybe, she's right.
His honor was damaged, beyond any hope of repair. His world was gone.
"Do you like kaleidoscopes? Funny how random chance creates beauty."
He frowns. "Really? I always thought they were tasteless."
"Because a Janus invented them?"
He does not reply.
She looks up at him, then tilts her head to the direction of the stars.
"Only good people are destined for the stars," she says.
"But the best thing is, all of us are headed for them."
"So what are you saying?"
She smiles. "That there is good in lots of things."
It hurts when he hears her voice saying his name. Like the brightest point in his mind, glowing brighter until it explodes and everything disintegrates. He closes his eyes.
"I want to go now."
"You told me you'll wait for spring," he reminds her frantically. She can't leave him, not in the dead of winter. Not in the biting cold when he remembers her beside him, an open flame.
She sighs. "I can't keep this up anymore. You and I both know that."
He stares at her, memorizing her face. Then he looks away, at the wasteland outside the foggy windows, barely discernible under the moonlight.
"I love you. You know that, don't you?"
She reaches up to hold his cheek and he finds it hard to look into her green eyes.
"I love you too," he says, knowing just how true and deep it is, even if she doesn't.
She closes her eyes, breathing softly. "This is the end for me, if not for you, Ian."
"What do you mean?"
She opens her eyes. "Wait for your time. You still have a life to live.
I don't want to take that away from you just because I'm leaving. I have to be selfless."
"Why are you always the martyr?" he exclaims angrily. "There's no reason for me to stay!"
"Yes there is," she whispers. "Live for me. Live for us. I'll always be…right…beside you."
And then those green, green eyes glaze over and his red, red pain overcomes him.
And when those green, green eyes glaze over and his red, red pain overcomes him, everything is a blur. No feel, no touch, no hear, no smell, no taste. Only black-and-white grief absorbing his multicolored world. The bright hues recede: once a kaleidoscope of red and green, now only a past set in austere grayscale.