Theirs was a meeting doomed to an early farewell

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Code Red

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(Soundtrack: Echo by Jason Walker)

It had roughly been quite the day for her. Healthy patients charged out of the hospital were thanking her over and over again for her help and support and kindness. She did what she could to offer reassurance: She was the best at what she did, after all. And she'd say that with no arrogance, admittedly, nor any modesty; however the situation that called for it varied her patience with herself to control her own pride.

There was one patient, though, that she had to attend to before she could call it a day.

NAME: Utatane Piko

AGE: 21 SEX: Male HEIGHT: 175 cmWEIGHT: 58 kg NICKNAME: N/A ADDRESS: 123 Broken Dreams Boulevard

CONTACT NO.: XXXXXXXXXXX BIRTH DATE: 08.19.92

Beneath it were notes she should take each time she checks up on him.

Rin reread what was written in messy writing on the file, mulling over what approach she should take. The doctor said, among the patient's symptoms, this was tough.

"Don't worry," she'd said, "I can handle this!"

Blithely, she knocked on the door, afterwards opening it and entering the room.

It's a white hospital ward, the elements within it simple and proportionate to not get the guests sleeping inside confused or dizzy: The curtains of the windows were drawn together so that not a ray of light would sneak in, although the fluorescents were doing the job well, except it was too hot for comfort. The bathroom was just to her left, an even smaller compartment with enough space to shower and sit on the toilet and brush your teeth at the same time. There was a bed at the corner of the room, and beside it a night table with a lamp.

Sitting on the bed was a pale young man. He seemed as though he'd been waiting for her.

"Ah, Mister Utatane, is the doctor done with you?" She offered the white-haired patient her best smile.

He only looked at her. Then, in a muted voice, "He was quick about it."

His voice crushed her heart: It was beautiful. The inflection was soft—deep. It resembled water from a mountain spring running over rock. She stood under the threshold stupidly, her tray swung to her right side crooked, focusing on the way the light bounced off his frost-kissed hair…

"He told me a nurse would be checking me up. Could that be you?"

"…Hmm? Oh, yes! That's me, I'm assigned you to duty—assigned to duty you—I mean I've been assigned to you. I'm your nurse." Whatever self-confidence she felt just thrown into a dark pit. Months of training and internship should teach her better.

She walked over to him as he merely looked at her, sullen. Upon closer inspection, his face had slightly tautened around his cheekbones, probably due to stress, the frown he wore suddenly appearing tight and dry from such bleakness, but had he not been so ill, he would've looked smooth and soft. She realised that he had a beaky nose and a prominent chin; sharp, jutting features of his body started to come out clearer from the obscurity before recognising what masculinity was left of him by the disease that stripped from him what health she couldn't picture him with now.

Mostly, she thought, placing down her tray on the table and absentmindedly picking up a sharp clinical instrument, he was sad.

Rin pierced through a small bottle with the needle green liquid into the syringe of the injection. She exerted pressure unto the tab and watched the surreal colour fill the glass.

A blush was clouding her face with redness the second she noticed the sick man on the bed was staring at her.

"I'll just want you to hold still," she said, holding the needle up.

Endless greyness was bored on her.

"You're supposed to take my temperature first."

"Huh?" She mindlessly laid the apparatus on the table—with a clatter—and groped for the thermometer. "Yes, of course—I'm sorry, this doesn't normally happen."

When she finally found the device, she turned to him, whom was tilting his head dispassionately to one side, his long hair shielding his other eye from sight. "You aren't new here, are you?"

"I want you to open—not exactly, I've been here for months," she said dismissively, not wanting to take it as an insult, as much as he made it sound like it was. She made a friendly gesture so he'd lower his jaw. "C'mon, open wide!"

His lips streaked down so low on his face that he looked childish: Then his mouth formed an 'O.'

She slipped it into his mouth.

"Now, that wasn't bad, was it?" Rin beamed at him: He didn't return it. The thermometer was just popped into his mouth, barely hanging in between teeth. She was cleaning the end of the needle with a cloth to pass time.

She didn't want to do anything else that might earn her an even sterner look from the man.

Rin carefully jerked the thermometer out his mouth. "Whoa, that's pretty hot."

She scribbled the numbers on the board, underneath the notes. "Might help if you get up from there and, I don't know, get ice cream for yourself, eh?"

It was intended as a joke; she wasn't surprised he didn't laugh, anyway. She meekly put the thermometer in the board before she massaged her thumb with alcohol on the forearm he bared by folding his sleeve, readying the injection.

Lightly inserting the sharp needle, she pushed the tab, observing the green fluid get sucked into the hole. When there was nothing left to pool into his system, she drew out the needle, placing a cotton ball on the small red dot that painted it with blood.

"That's about it, Sir." She packed up her equipment while standing up, making to the door, "I'll come back to you regularly—"

"When you do, make sure you know what you're doing."

Rin's fingers were pushed down hard on the knob, her body freezing.

For the first time in her while of staying in the hospital working, she had been offended—by a patient, no less. She imagined not even her boss could say something as harsh as that. And if he did, she'd make sure to prove her worth to him!

But…she stopped dead here.

"Uh," she forced a smile, "I do, actually."

"Don't you." It wasn't a question, though he made it sound like a demand.

"If you want me to hang around a bit," said Rin slowly, biting her lip, "I wouldn't mind. But our schedule's going to be pretty off, so I'll just see you tomorrow. Bye~"

Without waiting for another icy look, she exited.

After closing the door, she sighed and leaned against it.

What…a dick.

"Can't you just get someone else to take care of him? He's so blunt and—annoying!"

"You're our only hope—his only hope."

She wouldn't be relishing his good health.

Perhaps she was used to hearing nice things from her patients…and this particular one was tenaciously malicious. Yes, she'd decided that everything he does when she's inside the room is belligerent, and he'd expect her to quell him, annoyingly enough.

"You're getting worse."

She said it flat out to him, no emotion, and no giddiness like yesterday, or the day before—nothing. The same thing was given to her by the patient.

"You don't say."

Can I strangle him?

Rin merely nodded slowly at him in affirmation to confirm, not to him, but to her own that he was a sardonic chauvinist. She plopped down a chair, making herself comfortable in the cool room. Not that it was cool; it was incredibly lame and dull: White walls, no paintings, curtains velvet like sisters. She'll have to begin her examination again.

For the past week she's been going into his room and asking him questions she'd been forced into inquiring him, extract even the least sensible answer from him just to make sure he was still alive. She'd been trying to tell the doctor that his constant and forever reply was a laconic and dull, "I don't need your help."

Right now, an examination wasn't what he'd need. An explanation was, and he concurred to that less.

"Your body's exhibiting strain from exterior stress, and you're only here by yourself," she remarked, disbelieving it. Then, in her mind, he's so obnoxious he can't even stand himself? Pushing back a laugh, which didn't go unnoticed by the man, she continued, "It's either you're not used to the environment, or you need some fresh air."

She noticed him, as if on cue, flinching. "I'm fine inside. I might get a stroke out the garden."

"It will help if you'll stop acting like you're gonna die every breath." Rin's voice was harsh and steady. For a fraction of a second, he looked as though his self-pity and irony was drained from his face, along with what remained of his colour. She honestly didn't know if she should feel proud of herself or ashamed—he scowled so fast she didn't have time to decide how to react.

"Whatever."

He moved to face the wall, more to avoid conversation than her eye, scoffing. Rin sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear, about to write on her daily report—

Until she found something.

Her eyes bulged: There was something hidden underneath his pillow.

It was blue. It looked like a…notebook? No: A sketchpad.

Now, what would a Scrooge like him be doing with something like that?

"You're into drawing…?" Rin asked curiously, sneaking a hand to snatch it—

—and then he wheeled around instantaneously to protect what's his.

"No!" he snarled voice hostile; a wave of clean water washing down the stream. "It's not for drawing. Not—anymore."

Rin stared, holding on to her clipboard.

He scowled again—embarrassed.

"I'd like some space, if you'd give me some."

She didn't need to be told twice: She wanted out as much as he did.

What was that?

He'd immerse himself in his pad of paper ever since.

The most she could get as answer from him would be a curt, "yes" or "no." The nerve! Not even a 'thanks' for his meals! As he'd ordered, she got him his favourite—Belgium white chocolate and coconut milk! This had gone on for weeks on end—as Rin could keep track, three. He would disregard her, and for the rest of the day he'd draw something on his notepad like there's nothing else in the world.

To see him so focused, so determined—his eyes so full of passion, brilliant hues of cypress distance—aggravating that he couldn't stay that way for long. Indeed, nothing rattled her as much as watching the moment disappear from his face—the entirety fading into darkness she was so sick of seeing. If light could take the dimness's place—it was a memory too beautiful to neglect, and always remember and miss at the emptiness borne.

He was busy scribbling things he didn't show her by himself.

He was flaunting his ability to not look like a conceited asshole.

He was ignoring her.

"Can you look at me?"

The white-haired patient's eyes were jutting left to right at every detail he was so absorbed in writing. And then he closed the pad, laying his pen down. Rin raised her eyebrows at it: Pilot.

"I'd rather not, you know."

"I'm not sure what sarcasm's a symptom for, but I'm sure as hell catching it," Rin snapped back. There it was again—the thing that caught her from continuing: That severely paradoxical glow in his eyes: A glint in his eyes that reflects the sun's rays that went through the infrastructure, only appearing at his possible delight from being shown up by her. A hole in the black greenness that was never present unless he seemed almost gleeful.

Rin shut her eyes. "St-stop that."

For once, he looked sincerely surprised. "Stop…what?"

"I don't know—but it bothers me when you do that."

"I don't think I'm doing anything."

"Don't move—there. You can't see it, but I can."

He was taken back. Honestly puzzled and lost, he sat up straight on his bed, lying on his upright pillow. Rin might've sounded crazy to him. She couldn't blame him!

She finally got the attention she didn't think she wanted from him, preceding to forge a connection with him. She had to be on the same level with him here.

"Are you…happy when someone argues with you?" she asked slowly, as an adult talked to a child, understanding the wider world the kid lived in.

Instead of a straightforward and arrogant "no," he contemplated: Probably asking himself if he should tell her—or if it wasn't worth enough to not tell her. Greyness was blooming into transient silver.

The closer she leaned in, and the higher up he looked at her—she realised that his other eye was a different shade. No, it's a different colour. Rin was certain—his right eye was a soft and warm green, like cypress tree: His left was a vibrant and electric blue, the tint of royalty.

They were both equally impossible tones of colour.

"I…" he began, "I detest people who look at me like death holds me captive."

She didn't ask for that.

She was getting somewhere though.

So you prefer people fighting you? A question she didn't choose to sound, as it'd likely be ruder outside her head. "You don't like others to pity you?"

His lip curled—he wasn't frowning. That wasn't technically smiling—wow. He looked good without a pout.

"Kind of." He pulled his blankets up higher. "I wish they'd treat me normally. It's repulsive to be treated like a weak stray."

It sort of made sense, too… He'd naturally be tired of hearing the same redundant, forced things his family would speak about with him. That confirmed her suspicions of him. Even his happiness was ironic.

Rin was starting to understand him. A small little connection with him: One that he shared with nobody else, if he behaved the way he used to with her with everybody. She felt obligated.

Feeling as though she should at least share something to him, she said, "You remind me of my dad. He'd do things his way. If you don't follow him, he'll be dead pissed."

"Sounds like great daddy material."

"I wish," Rin chortled, smiling at a decent memory. He didn't seem like his attention would remain at her for long, so she kept up the topic. "I didn't like him very much."

This seemed to tug his interest: He looked at her with an expression almost qualified for wild.

"He's…unique, alright. Nothing could ever be a match for him—he's this great man, helping people, serving the community, all the rotten baloney." Words were fluent for her, sentiment carried like a wave. "…It's like I's the only one who saw through that.

"He's the type up for competition, any. Although he wouldn't even try if he couldn't do it right the first time. He didn't want to lose, so he'd prefer to give up." Rin grimaced. "I tried overseeing that stupid attitude—it's real hard, especially when he and Mum fight over everything, and he's got the upper hand only because his vocal chords are like amps—I couldn't get how Mum lived life sympathising with a guy full of crap like that. It took me a while to get fed up with my father's bull till I spoke up for Mum. He'd been shouting insane; I stood my ground, defending her. I used to be Daddy's Little Girl—not then. You should've seen the look on his face—completely priceless, but had you been in my shoes, scary."

Rin grimly reminisced how she felt back then.

The patient scoffed.

"That's stupid. He's stupid."

Was he agreeing on something with her?

"Tell me about it. After that…We never spoke to each other straight again. I lived through my adolescence without a supportive father, a dad to show off my medals, a pops to watch action movies with…a daddy to make her feel like she's the most beautiful girl in the world."

She didn't look up immediately from her trance, tear-jerking as her story was, but when she did, pale different-coloured eyes narrowed in empathy for her. In that moment of time, he wanted to forge a heavy link with her, a spark in her he wanted to fuel, a beginning he had to rouse to the birth of a friendship.

"…Thank you," Rin blurted out.

His gaze intensified into astonishment, then hardened.

"Finally learned some manners?" He said it without distaste—no disdain from before. It was sarcasm, only without the tone of rejection. If anything, he sounded nearly sheepish.

"No." She smiled: Really, this time. A genuine smile, the first she's given a patient in her six months of working—not one that'd reassure somebody, only a simple, happy smile. "It's for listening."

She didn't need him to chain that statement. Her work for today was done.

Rin was almost at the door when he said, "I might take you up on that stroll offer."

Her fingers were warm on the doorknob as she paused pushing it down to open the door. She turned to him, beaming pleasantly.

Was this still the cocky jerk she examined every day? "I'd like that."

"You're…"

Rin raised her eyebrows. His lips quivered in hesitation. As though gloom expelled itself, he shook his head.

"…never mind. Forget it."

You could just tell me, Rin said in her mind: Chose not to. Her smile gone, she faked one instead.

She didn't want him to know his condition was deteriorating…

He had chosen the park to go to.

A rather particular, curious suggestion, especially when he said it as though he had no other place in mind. She was surprised: Rin didn't like being judgemental, but in Piko Utatane's case, you simply learn the hard way that you cannot trust your instincts with him, and a severe head-cramming was what it'd take to be prepared for the inevitable that was his jaunty comebacks.

Rin didn't know if she enjoyed his suffering as much as she should have if she still felt the same scorn toward him; nonetheless she was assured that she didn't hate him enough to appreciate the thought of him wearing dreary white button-down drabs in the sunlight riding a wheelchair. Who was she to judge?

"Put this one on."

She was Rin, of course. And Rin judges more than she could abstain.

"Why can't I just go out in this?"

An hour of his day outside was spent ironically inside while they argue out what he was supposed to wear—more like when Rin would suggest one thing, he'd straight contradict and she'd rationalise reasoning him for another. What a difficult young man.

"Because I say so, now get on with it."

He said nothing else, merely as he disliked pressing the matter.

The walk to the park couldn't have gone any duller—for the most part he replied to her in the least effort he could manage, for keeping up a conversation was usually his weakness; or strength, if silence was his preference.

How painfully dismal it was to want silence so much.

Nevertheless Rin determined to open him up, if a bit, and no other day would be better. At times she'd purposely steer him toward the crowd in the park, in hopes that he'd respond to them. That didn't end so well, though: Dogs would jump at him and lick his face, and he'd yell in protest; the kids playing with water guns accidentally sprayed on his face, at the least cleansing it of the slobber; a little girl with pigtails seemed affronted when Rin only asked if red was her favourite colour and took it out on the poor patient, whose foot never felt the same.

He decided the bench underneath the shade the tree provided would be the most apt spot, as hardly anybody passes by there.

Rin helped him unsteadily cripple to the seat, where he sighed in annoyance.

"Has anybody any respect to keep their hands for themselves?" Rin said, glaring at an unknowing kid passing by. "You would've thought she was bionic—"

"Uncouth is youth," he stated, with no contempt. "It is only wasted on the foolish that grow too late to see the answers to the questions they couldn't as children."

"Y'know, questions aren't meant to be answered." Rebutting was weak against him: She received a steely gaze.

"It's obvious," his eyes narrowed, staring off into the distance, "that you don't see the darkness that dwells in one's heart, engulfing the being in the shadows' avarice."

Rin blinked: His calm outburst was absolutely poetic.

Who was this dude? Rin stood her guard, defiance bubbling. "That's because that's what you only wanted to see."

She expected him to retort again—yet he looked curiously thoughtful. He was reading on what she was babbling: He was actually listening, understanding her words. Rin took her time to let the image sink in, see him in a different perspective: A pale young man her age, lithe, considerable muscles shaping up his arm, sharp chin, long legs, eyes that see through your soul, speculating on your details. Except…

…They were sad, lonely, dejected.

He turned to her, colour and pensiveness swimming in his viridian orbs.

"What good are you after in seeking a light in others when it can just be blown out?"

He was so serious. She couldn't blame him, after all: His life was at stake, and naturally hope must've been the first he resorted to before it failed him. No, Rin thought, he let hope fail him.

She suddenly felt heartened to hear her mind stand up for what she thought was right. She spoke to him. "Light kills darkness."

His face was unreadable. "And darkness kills light."

"Would you prefer living in the light, or dwell in the darkness?"

He smiled weakly, feeling pathetic: The first genuine expression she squeezed out of him.

"Me? I stay in the shadows."

Rin's eyes widened, his remark leaving her pondering. "Are shadows no different from darkness?"

"That's what most would believe," he replied. "They're more different than you'd think. There aren't shadows if there isn't light: There aren't any in the darkness, though, because only light casts them." He moved his hand into the sunlight and gestured the dancing shadow. "It's more related to light, see?"

Rin stared at the dark outline he was making, going past her lap. Experimenting, she raised her arm; her hand covered a large portion of his shadow, creating an even bigger spot that hovered skimming the surfaces.

"It dies in an instant if darkness looms," she murmured. She felt him watching her warily.

"Yes…Light chases it away, too." He did something she'd never expect he'd do: He touched her hand—held it, and gently put it on the space between them to show what he meant. Surprisingly, his hands were soft above hers; cold, yet her body heat spread, sending warmth through his skin. She diverted her eyes from their hands before getting locked in his steely searching gaze.

"You're smarter than you seem."

"Don't I?"

His hand slipped from hers, and for one second she thought she missed the coldness he offered. He tilted his head to one side, one eye—jade—squinted, looking very perplexed.

Rin uneasily sat, hoping he wasn't finding a fault in her he should note aloud.

"How should I call you by?"

That's right… He didn't even know her name.

"I'm Rin," she started, adding, "Hi, Piko."

"Rin…" He tested the word, letting the name roll on his tongue—tasted sweet. He…Piko fished out something from his knapsack.

Rin nearly gasped: His sketchbook.

He opened it, hiding its contents by turning its back on her. His pen was tucked safely in his right breast pocket, specifically sown for the purpose, so should he ever look for it, it'd be nowhere else. He wrote something on the leaf of the pages.

Rin fidgeted in her seat, wondering what on earth he could be doing there. Just then, his eyes surfaced from the pages to look up at her.

"Um, what do you exactly do with that?"

Piko's lips pursed. He leaned easy on the bench, closing his eyes, his right hand stretched out to hold the notebook. Unexpectedly, he handed it to her.

"Thank you…" Rin reached out to it, touching its cover, until he jerked it from her grasp effortlessly. "Hey!"

"Bit impatient, are we?" he said, lids not fluttering.

"You're testing my patience every time you blink." Rin pouted.

Piko raised his eyebrows; slowly his eyes opened. "Maybe it's because you can't wait to see my eyes?"

"Oh my God—you made a joke!"

"Ouch?"

Rin held up two fingers, amazed. "That makes two now!"

Another miracle was made: Piko let an amused smile curve his lips.

Satisfied, he gave her his sketchbook, which she gratefully accepted.

First she held it in her palms, interested at the weight, after, traced her fingers through the smooth cover, the feel of the thing in her touch so mesmerising. No wonder he'd never let go of it: It could get stuck unto your fingers from its own gravity.

"It's really…unique."

"Why don't you see what's inside?" said Piko in a strange voice. Rin knew she'd been granted permission in the first place, but she was more drawn to its exterior, feeling the freezing cover. Was it because it was he who held it?

She couldn't pretend she wasn't intrigued by its contents, either. Like metal drawn to magnet, she opened it.

Clean, small penmanship manoeuvred Piko's skilled artist's hand to write paragraphs of a long context, and just above the paper, on the back of the cover, was her name. Other than that…

To her astonishment, he was gifted at drawing.

On the very first page had been a face of gorgeous lady: Rin could imagine such a woman, be jealous of her, envy the way her hair would bounce in the wind, feel like she'd see her wink anytime. But—she's miserable. He did a very good job doing the details, capturing the emotion. If she must say, the woman could just start leaking oil from her eyes and run down her chin right now…

"Who is this…? Is she—"

"She's a stranger in a paper," Piko replied impassively.

"She's stunning." Rin traced her fingers on her outlines. The Lady's sketched at the right margin of the text in neat and crafty handwriting, both beneath a header darkened and shaded emphasising its significance that read, 'Guillaume's Gallery.'

Fascinated, Rin read the text that covered most of the page.

She was halfway done reading when Piko spoke up.

"It's a story." Rin looked up. "A romance about a couple that wasn't meant to be."

"Isn't it always?" she charmed. He shook his head: No.

"This isn't the same." He scooted nearer; Rin so taken aback she almost edged away, yet found comfort in the proximity. "They'll never be together, and I strongly hinted they have no chances." He flipped the pages: More talented drawings, though he didn't look like he's leafing through to show them off. He stopped at a page wherein a fairly handsome man was sitting on a chair, serenely focused in front of a painting. Rin wondered how Piko, seemingly depressed, could find borderless imagination to think up and make out such attractive people. "The man here—he's Guillaume, Swiss painter, famous. The woman," he looked for another page that depicted the beautiful woman again. She wasn't sad now; she was smiling, except trapped inside a portrait. The handsome man was kneeling on the floor, crying. "She's a dream's figment, a painting—his. Call her what you will, she's never not his."

Piko retreated to a few leaves back: Pictures of the woman were drawn there. Guillaume was surrounded by darkness. "Each day he's grown more attached to his painting, adding in realer details he thought will suit her more. He'd adorn her painting with roses. He'd put her in a gold frame. He'd fawn over her for cycles. Still—the more lifelike she looked, the deeper in love he fell for his own creation."

Rin watched his face contort into different expressions as he talked of his tale. He was into this… Truly, a masterful anecdote of impossible love with an ending ill fit for such a compassionate man. "That's what you mean by no chances?"

"Yes."

"So you wrote this to stress hopelessness?"

Piko blinked. "If that's what you think."

"What if he met somebody who looked exactly like her?" Rin said, indignant. She refused to believe that his expertise lay exclusively in the matter of angst. "What could happen then?"

He scrunched up his face, considering her idea. His hold on the notebook eased as he let his thoughts drift; Rin's eyes wavered to his hand, empty, laid out on the space between them, wondering if he'd let her…

"I'll never know until I try," he finally said, making up his mind. Piko smiled at her. "That's one thing to think about—cough!"

He hunched over, coughing out of the blue. Rin impulsively stood up and massaged his back, fear mounting inside her.

"Piko? Piko! Calm down—let's get back to the hospital—we've been out too long!"

She referred to the orange skies. Time passed by fast: Piko hadn't taken his scheduled medication yet. His chest was being jolted backward, as though an invisible force was pushing him.

He's having a fit!

"Y-yes—cough—we—shah—"

"No, don't talk!" She helped him back on his wheelchair. "God—I hope there's a taxi nearby."

He hugged his notebook, mad with paroxysm.

Rin panicked, her heels smoking as she sprinted, driving Piko, to the sidewalk. "Don't black out—stay strong—"

Piko hurled forward brutally. Rin sobbed, stopping.

"Don't do that!" She rubbed his back, her other hand rose to call a vehicle. "Fight back—no—"

He was blacking out…

"Waugh…Rin…"

Her voice rang out… "…State Hospital! Floor it…!"

Rin…

Doctor Len kneaded his temples. Rin exhaled, fixing her eyes upon the window, where the moon's rays peeked into the room.

"I trusted you when I gave you this job," the surgeon said, blue eyes glimmering. "I still do. Anybody else would've given up on Utatane on the spot—admiring, Rin, very."

This was one of the reasons why she was too spoiled in the hospital: Her boss would never forget to shower her with flattery. She wasn't stupid to think there wasn't something more to this, though.

"It was reckless to propose a stroll, the same. The others warned you of the accidents to come—I suppose it's my fault that I cleared their misgivings, isn't it?"

"No, it's mine, entirely," she blurted. "I forgot the time—"

He smiled bitterly. "You're giving yourself less credit than you deserve. I hate to say it, but nothing's gone good with him, Miss Rin. Every day his condition worsens. I blame myself for having the lack of power to do more to save him."

"What's the matter?" Rin paled. "He can't be healed?"

"We're doing our best." He rested his chin on the palm of his hand, eyes not leaving her face. "We've the best doctors here. I promise you, anywhere else, he'll be far worse off—and in the hands of nurses unlike you…"

This was going nowhere. "I get that you're trying to flirt with me and all—but I'm busy worrying my life over this guy."

The doctor sighed. "…As you wish. But that won't stop me from escorting you to his quarters."

Rin had said that she'd be fine on her own; he insisted, and she denied no more for experience taught her he'd follow her anyway. He was polite enough to not talk about matters that unnerve her: Rin only wished he'd not force himself on her too much.

They were outside his door when Len—Doctor Len—tucked a few strands of her hair behind her ear.

Rin couldn't help his openness cracking into her thoughts: Just how he liked it. She bit her lip.

"It's a shame to have hair hide your pretty face," he whispered softly, wistfully, gaze intense. She could just melt on the spot. He didn't lean in, because he knew if he did, she'd faint. Instead, he told her, "My door's still open if you change your mind."

"Yeah," Rin managed, surprised she sounded strong. "I'd remember."

He didn't leave immediately as she expected him to, although she's determined to keep her mind off this: She opened the door.

Piko was where he should be: Although, there was something wrong with the room.

However odd it could've been, his curtains were drawn—and not together. Amazingly, it was bright, where he stayed. Whatever little light screened from the moon absolutely filled the whole room with its rays: Radiance sprang in every corner of the room, sucking the grimness Rin was feeling a little while ago.

The pale white-haired man's hair looked like moonlight. He was staring out the window, deep in thought—clutching on to his notebook. He didn't even look when the door opened.

Doctor Len nodded at Rin. "I'll leave him to you."

Giving her a pat on the shoulder she wished she had the sufficient naivety to believe was reassuring and not of a misled affection, he left.

Rin knew a meaning that lied in there more than business, and averted her eyes from his retreating figure.

"Hey, so how's it going?" She closed the door behind her.

He didn't look at her. It seemed as though he was compensating something. Rin made it to the chair, sitting down.

She was supposed to check up on him—that's all, but his evaluation was getting longer each day simply because of her will to converse with him. Rin was about to open her mouth and say something, and then he interrupted.

"My mother came to see how I was doing."

It's bleak, dry and crisp: Like an arid lake. He gestured to the door, through which his mother went departing before she came.

Apparently, the matter meant a lot to him: He started the talk. Usually, he'd just pipe up after she does, and previously only answered to questions stubbornly, curtly.

She didn't answer.

He continued. "She was crying. I don't like it when she cries." Pause. "Mother blamed herself that I inherited this disease. I told her to stop, it wasn't her fault, she wasn't even aware…And…"

Piko stiffly stirred underneath the covers to let Rin see his face.

Rin felt the clipboard slip from her clasp as her heart went along with it. Without something to keep busy with, her fingers clutched on her uniform while she observed the man before her: Extreme sentiment flooded out of Piko's face through his eye sacs, his brows digging so low creases were visible on his forehead, his mouth twisted into an angry glower as though a snarl would come out of it anytime, baring his gritted teeth. His eyes betrayed two things his face never could—his left a swirling, sick emerald; his right icy electrocuting chalcedony. She'd never seen him so expressive—he'd normally disguise whatever of his feelings were left with an apathetic façade, more than occasionally abstaining from socialising…She wished that the first time she'd see him so full of emotions was would be when exalted, not…

"Is…is it wrong—that I comforted her…?" His voice was broken, him looking so lost. He ran his fingers through his hair, coughing slightly—or sobbed. Rin was paralysed.

Oh, she ought to say something! "N-no…You did the right thing…" she croaked.

"It isn't!" he cried, exasperated. "She's my mother—my mum—I just—"

He took a gulp, frozen deer-in-the-headlights eyes staring straight into her soul. "I did it f-for myself…She was crying—the sight repulsed m-me."

Piko was horrified with himself—and so was Rin, who couldn't make a sense out of this.

"I didn't know—I-I—my mother—o-of all the p-people—she should've u-understood, r-right?" His voice was crippling. "N-no—I should've understood her—shouldn't I? Panicked—she was so strong…She couldn't have cried because o-of me—she couldn't—"

"What's wrong?" Rin exclaimed.

"I was in critical condition, okay? She'd b-been informed that, and she told m-me. I wasn't s-surprised—it'll happen—s-someday, right? I knew. Then—then—I hated h-her…o-one second I did—for feeling s-sorry for me." His voice was venom, burning with self-abomination. "I only c-consoled her because I c-can't stand to s-see someone so w-worried …And she was fooled—thought I was a good b-boy…when I was doing it for myself, t-to save the sight o-of my mother d-devastated over m-me…Her worthless son w-who's gonna die…"

Next thing she knew, he was lying on the bed, weeping.

It's horrible: Having to watch somebody collapse in a heap of misery right in front of you, knowing words you'd catch wouldn't be enough. He crumpled on the bed, writhing, sobbing, ruins of his indifferent mask dissipating.

Trembling, Rin held out her hand. She wasn't scared he'd lash out, but that he'd return to his shell, closed and solitary, craving loneliness.

She was quaking crazy: It worsened the nearer she got. When she was finally close, she caressed his back like a mother bravely, running it everywhere it hurt. Her touch soothed him somehow. Each muffled breath sent shivers down his spine, rocking his body, and Rin had to make extra effort calming him down. Eventually she had to take off her sandals, slip in the covers to give Piko the comfort he avoided for years, pretended he could live without, knew deep inside he deserved.

He'd quiver; she'd coo, stroking his snow-shimmery strands, dig her face into his chest as he'd cry into her hair. Her hands would make their way around him, he'd struggle, and she'd know he's too delicate for touch, soothing him with words instead.

They stayed like this for a while, hugging.

Hours passed, maybe minutes—either way, it felt longer than it should.

Rin felt him stir. He hiccupped—or coughed.

"She doesn't show it, but she's afraid I wouldn't live to see another sun rise when I was a kid," he confessed, the abandonment in his voice replaced by consideration. Rin nodded, nuzzling his chest.

"Your mother must really love you," she breathed.

"She does." He sounded like he meant it, and it being a fact was a pain suffocating him into detesting confusion to merely look for accusation. He knew blame had nothing to do with dealing with the consequences, but couldn't help it, for he'd been doing it for so long he couldn't resist it.

Rin thought about how lonely it must've been for his family…How must he feel about that all his life? She might've lost her consciousness thinking all that; her fingers slipped in between the gaps that define his, slowly.

She awaited anxious movement—yet nothing.

"I…told her about the story I was writing," Piko admitted softly, voice like silk-wrapped steel. "She liked the twist…I thought about what you said."

"You did?"

"It's like my story is far from over." He mumbled on, smiling into her hair: Rin thought it better to feel him smile than see, though couldn't help yearning to. He proceeded. "Remember Guillaume? It goes like this: He did meet a woman, Melissa, incarnated to resemble everything his painting looked. He and she spent a lot of time together, and, gradually, he forgot about his painting."

"…That sounds like a weird ending," disclosed Rin.

"It isn't one. I wouldn't write a conclusion of such sterile tedium." He snapped boringly. "One day, he realised he wasn't really in love with her—he's infatuated. The painting and she were very much divergent. She didn't glow when she's happy. There wasn't a light in her as bright as hers. Every inflection he thought she'd use in her voice if she was true was different from Melissa's. Every expression he imagined she would've had if she existed was everything he didn't see in her.

"To Guillaume, she was perfect, and she had flaws he couldn't correct as simply as…" Piko moved, their positions shifting: He lifted her chin up gently, to show her his midnight Sirius and his dark emerald eyes. "…a stroke of his brush."

He leaned in, light soft supple lips grazed against her forehead. He just stole her bones away, rendering her weak, powerless, vulnerable. Her heart was fluttering, wings beating faster than how he pulled her up from the bed by the hand, his touch cold and freezing, directing her shaking legs to the door.

She was walking—she couldn't feel it. She was swaying, lolling, in the mercy of Piko's will to make her stand.

His figure was that of an angel's in the dark.

Rin felt like a little girl in his arms, staring into his bright gem eyes, stumbling on her toes over a boy.

Lowering her arms, Piko cynically smiled, reading her mind. "I'm not the angel you think I am. I'm a prophet of doom."

Precisely like that, it dawned on her as his eyes dimmed, his emotions obscure. "Just like him, you think your love is fake, but in his case it's because his painting and the woman look alike." She summarised whatever she understood, determined to find out what he was telling her.

And then, "You're afraid of being incapable of human feelings."

Piko darkly chuckled. "I'm frightened."

"It doesn't have to be that way—Guillaume can change—he doesn't have to lock himself up just for a stupid portrait—if he can have a good ending, why can't you?" She sought for the dim passion absent in his eyes…despite falling out. "He can love somebody else—someone real! Someone he can actually be with—"

He grabbed her by the shoulders, staring deep into her liquid sapphires.

"In the story, the painting was a shadow, the woman was darkness, and Guillaume was light. I'm not light. I'm…" He caressed her cheek, looking at the door, through which the doctor had left. He looked solemnly sullen. "…the shadow."

"No…no, you said it yourself—shadow isn't darkness."

"It isn't light, either. It can watch it quietly, wanting it…"

He shoved her out the door, not forcefully enough to hurt.

"Yet never touch it."

"Piko!"

He shut it.

Rin uselessly banged her fist on the door.

Before the wooden partition slammed into her face, she caught a tear splitting from his eye.

Piko's surgery was today.

She undoubtedly did everything in her power to research about his predicament, and could find as much as a shred of hope in none. When she stepped into the hospital to check in that morning, they'd said that her patient was currently facing an operation because he was having another one of his fits.

Their brief conversation taught her that he was on the fourth floor.

She only made it when he was already strapped to a recliner surrounded by seven to eight doctors and being led into the Emergency Room.

He was wearing a mask, looking paler than usual, limp and frail on the bed.

"Piko!"

Rin pushed her way to the centre of Piko's vision. The doctors didn't like her being there.

"What's she doing here?"

"Don't die on me! Don't!" Rin seized the covers of the bed as Piko inhaled. "You still have that story to finish! You still haven't met your mother—"

"Kagamine, I'll have to ask you to—"

"I only need a minute with him—" She was being pulled away from the crowd. Piko had a pained look on his face that broke her heart in a million pieces. "What about the ending? Guillaume needs Melissa—forget that painting—"

"Don't you get it? You're Guillaume, Rin—you've fallen deeply in love with a living corpse—something that shouldn't exist in the first place." Clouds of hot breath surfaced and stuck to his mask as his eyes welled up. "As I remember, you yourself told me he didn't have to be with a stupid portrait—he can be with someone else—someone real—"

"D-damn you, Piko!" she cried, hysteria building up. "I don't want this—I never did—I want you!"

"Excuse me, Ma'am. You a relative of his?" A burly doctor she only knew by surname stood between her and Piko. She didn't focus on the surgeon, but the doors behind Piko which were being opened by other nurses. "I'm sorry, you'll have to wait until—"

"I'm a nurse here! I need one sec—Piko!" She ducked and took a stride below his big arm in time to read what Piko was mouthing her, solicitous, expressive.

'Don't worry.'

Next thing she knew, she was being dragged away from him. She did her best to fight back—her struggles died away before she recognised the fatigue weighing her down as she was led to a seat a few halls from the emergency room.

Rin was…waiting. That's all there was to it. After days of losing track of time, wanting to get close to him as much as possible, acquiring various methods and handing them out to the doctor in enthusiasm knowing there's a chance to fight his illness, one last stroll out in the garden that lasted more over than half an hour, wishes leaving untied knots, peace was a while far too foreign and uncommon it's almost unwelcome to her. She was closeted in the blank space of relapsing seconds, amidst minutes that made up eons to come, components of time that weave the precedence yet to come.

She wondered how much longer it'd take—it's suffocating her. At the same time she thought about the last of what he said, trying to unearth the message she was too blinded by the moment to see.

Piko dedicated his story to her…Yes, that's certain. She's the clueless protagonist, Guillaume, enthralled by the beauty of his masterpiece, enough to overlook everything else. At one point, Rin did learn to feel something for the dying young man, guiding him to find goodness he didn't think to before. She helped him learn meaning in life.

She heard footsteps approaching, yet she was numb all over.

"…We did what we could, Rin."

Rin sighed, holding back tears, nodding. The figure in front of her spoke in a soft voice.

"I'm sorry. His body was just too weak for the surgery…" He traced a finger on her lips. "But he asks if you could see him."

She mutely stood on her two feet with a little help from Doctor Len. When she looked at him, the first thing in her mind was: The darkness—Melissa. He's whom Piko meant. Right now everything reminded her of her ill-fated friend.

Doctor Len left her alone when she was at the ER, where she stood in front of, staring at the bold red letters before she opened the door.

Piko was in the bed, the dextrose next to it. He looked like he's…

He breathed.

"Hey…"

Rin sighed in relief, her eyes stinging.

"Hi." She closed the doors, her vision obscured due to the unfamiliar water in her eyes. "H-how're you holding up?"

"…Better than…expected."

Rin heard the machine alerting her of what little time she had left with him, counting his heart-rate getting slower each passing moment.

There was a chair beside his recliner. Nervously, she pointed at it. "M-may I…?"

He nodded pathetically, eyelashes sooty. The sight made a part in Rin thrash.

She slowly made her way to it, and once sitting down she stared at her hands shaking in anticipation.

His voice was a melting glacier.

"…You don't look too good…" he murmured, forcing his lips. Rin chuckled sorely; how awfully Piko of him.

"You got the words right outta my mouth." She was fairly surprised how strong she sounded, and hated herself for it.

"I don't doubt that…"

He frailly held her hand, grasping it with the remaining strength he could muster. His eyes revealed an unequivocal sensation: Admiration. "I always…liked how your skin glows…mightn't've been obvious…"

"Nothing's obvious w-with you around," Rin managed, biting her lip. "You big jerk."

"In any case…I'd like it if you congratulate me…"

Rin conjectured this was one of his vain moments again. "You're finished with the story…?"

"Almost done…" It was like a gasping breath. The monitor showed his slow, uneven heartbeats. "I'm having trouble with the ending…It's been on my mind…for quite some time…"

"That's w-what you worry about now?" she whispered, clasping his hand with both hers. He shook his head inflexibly.

"…To be honest, I was kind of…concerned about the operation…too…" He ruefully opened his eyes wider to look at her face more clearly. "It's your fault, you know…"

Rin felt a sob slip her lips as she pulled herself together for him. "A-and why's that…?"

"Y-you come to see me…talk with me…help me take my medicine…be a pain in the ass…" He half-laughed at that and Rin smiled sadly. "…make my life feel worth more than just sitting on bed all day waiting for this…" His eyes emanated a faint glow, fleeting. "…my life's all scripted…by me. I do this, I do that…I die…When I was younger I couldn't wait to die only to rid myself of the suffering of seeing my family so torn up about me…I wanted to be happy, yet melancholy was too much to bear. I realised early in life I couldn't have one without the other, so I just…stopped feeling. Forgot what there is to life…"

There was vocal distance as he talked. And then he softly stroked her cheek with his right hand, his thumb wiping the tear she held for so long.

"…I'd been a bad person. I rejected everybody's affection t-to stop myself before anything horrible happens…when I become too fond…I'll care enough to leave them." He rose from his seat slightly. "After that…I met you. I may've been sick, but your bubbliness was contagious. It's like radiance bounces everywhere from your direction…You're golden, Rin…You're the light that led me out of the shadows…I kind of see what you mean…I finally understand why you're so determined to find goodness in others…You taught a lowly canvas what love is…How a depressed shadow got too close to light, and didn't care if he'd die just to hold it…"

The light made his hair look ice-born, coated by slush.

The ECG…His beating…Green, flat lines…

Rin leaned forward slowly, inching to Piko's face.

"I'm glad…you gave me the chance…to do something right…"

His cold lips touched her quivering moist ones, shaking, innocent—chaste. As she could sense all his emotions in the simplicity of the needless act, as his fear and his passion was felt by every movement into the kiss: His softness, his slowness, his sincerity, regretful wistfulness—the pain, unrelenting, excruciating—the kind of someone whose heart was breaking with sadness. What she tasted on his soft, cold lips was unbearable loss. She felt him falling into pieces.

Piko pulled away, an earnest smile gracing upon his lips.

Tears were streaming down her face, and she was drowning in her own pool of dread.

"Whatever else I did…"

His heart-rate…

"…I loved you."

Lying on his night table was a neatly folded letter, gaping open, smelling faintly of coconut and white chocolate.

"Guess what?

Maybe Guillaume would like a happy ending, too.

I want you to show your father my story."

F I N

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MERRY CHRISTMAS! I FINALLY HAVE INTERNET! XD I LOVE MANILA! So we moved since it's Christmas, now I can update my stories! AFTER SO LONG!

I'm sorry I haven't been on! Our power's been cut after that typhoon hit the country, so I relied on what battery and connection I could ;n;

This story was inspired by: P3P-Dying-Young-Man-Social-Link, LuYurippe, Ib.

I'm a HUGE LuYurippe follower; she got me into PikoRin XD I debated whether this should be RinLen, and wondered if Piko was more suitable for the patient.

YES, it's been added in the context that "Doctor" Len and Nurse Rin had a little-something-going-on before, but that's as much as I can say.

I'll be uploading Uncle Len! again among others soon :D