Title: Descolourer
Author: Susan
Feedback: filesfan34@yahoo.com
Classification: post-colonization vignette
Keyword: angst
Archive: No archive without permission.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to each other, not me.

Summary: He could see her trying to make sense of what he'd just told her, and he had to look away, had to keep his fears hidden from her.

*Descolourer: from Middle French, meaning discolor, or to change color especially for the worse

Author's notes: This is a post-colonization vignette, and it takes place several years in the future. I've only written a handful of post-col stories over the years, and I can see why. They're just too sad. That being said, this one is sad too, but it's also filled with hope.:)

More author's notes at the end.

When she opened her eyes, he was sitting beside her. He looked different than she remembered, thinner and darker, and more exhausted than she'd ever seen him.

"What time is it?" she asked, raising her head from the pillow.

After so many days of silence, her question was strange, but not unexpected. After all, he'd heard her ask the same question many times before when she'd awakened in a hospital.

Too many times before...

"What time do you think it is?" he replied, cautiously placing his hand on top of hers.

"I don't know...night time?" she answered as she looked around the room, dazed.

He squeezed her hand and thought for a moment, then quietly said, "It's late afternoon, and it's April 3."

He could see her trying to make sense of what he'd just told her, and he had to look away, had to keep his fears hidden from her.

Letting go of his hand, she closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek. "April 3..." she mumbled. "April..."

"You were brought here six days ago," he said, the crease in his forehead deepening as he watched her tentatively touch the stitches along her jaw line.

"You've been here with me?" she asked, her puffy eyes open again, searching his face for answers.

"I haven't left your side," he replied, brushing a piece of hair off her eyebrow.

He wasn't sure what to say next, wasn't sure how to tell her that the person she loved more than life itself was gone, but he knew he had to be strong and tell her the truth.

"There's something I have to tell you, and I don't... I don't know how..."

The words caught in his throat then, and his heart sped up in his chest, and suddenly everything was a white blur, a tarnished series of images he wanted to erase from his mind, his soul.

His heart.

He had saved her, yes, and he had tried to save him, he tried, he tried to hold onto his hand, to pull him out of the light, but he couldn't.

He just couldn't.

He was supposed to be strong, he was supposed to know what to do, know how to react to Them when all hell broke loose.

But instead he let go, helplessly watching as his father's fingers slipped through his.

How could he possibly tell her that he'd been weak that night, that he just didn't have the strength to hold on anymore?

"William?" she rasped, struggling to push herself up in bed. "What is it? What's going on?"

"Calm down, Mom. You're not supposed to be moving around," he said. "You might tear your stitches."

Her eyes wide, her face pale with fear, she did what he told her to do and laid her head back down on the pillow. Reaching for his hand again, she took a deep breath, then opened her mouth to ask the question he'd been waiting for her to ask.

The question he was ashamed to answer.

*Please don't ask me, Mom. Don't make me say the words. Please.*

"He's gone, isn't he?" she asked, her eyes damp, her voice so soft he could barely hear it.

"They took him, Mom. They took him, and it's all my fault. He trusted me to watch his back, and I couldn't....I couldn't save him for you, and now he's gone, and I don't know what to do...I don't know how to get him back...I don't know anything... I...I'm so sorry, Mom..." he stuttered, the words rushing out of his mouth, his lungs dry and tight as he leaned over, let his head drop onto the edge of the bed next to her leg.

And it was then that time between them stopped, the only sounds in the room the steady beep of her machines and the shattering of two lives.

But then just as quickly, it started again as she placed her hand on his head and began to stroke his hair.

"You can still feel him, can't you?" she whispered, her scorched fingers gently sifting through the short strands the same way she used to do when he was a little boy with a future.

"Yes," he whispered back, blinking back the tears in his eyes as he lifted his head up from the bed and looked at her.

"Then he's not dead," she said matter-of-factly as she looked into his watery eyes, touched his cheek.

And he believed her then, believed that somehow she knew.

His dad was still alive.

Standing up from the chair, he walked over to the window, pulled open the curtain. The sky was still swirling from Their earlier attack, the trees still dripping with orange, but he knew what he needed to do now.

What he *had* to do.

"I'll find him, Mom," he said, coming back beside her bed. "I promise."

She took hold of his hand again, softly squeezed it between her bandaged fingers. "I know you will," she said, letting her weary eyes drift shut.

Then he bent down and kissed her forehead the same way he'd seen his dad do it. "I'll be back," he said quietly.

And he would be back, they both would.

He was certain of it.

Walking over to the door, he turned to look at her one last time, then hurried down the hallway and out into the unknown.

His father was waiting for him.


*Since I rarely write this type of story, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me a line at . My inbox is open 24 hours a day.:)

reflections http://members.tripod.com/sfrankovich/index.html

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