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Where Your Treasure Is
The words are all he wants to say, all he can say. No matter how much else he wants to tell her, none of it can matter now. Life is too cruel, time to short, and his own limitations far too great for her to know every word he wants to speak.
Her smile is weak, but gentle. “I know.” She doesn’t flinch as the silent, stoic nurse behind her marks spots on her body with small dots of blue ink- each wrist, ankle, her neck. She does wince as needles are inserted into the five marked areas, but only briefly. After the initial jab of pain, she leans back in the bed where she lies, closing her eyes as the thin tubes begin to carry away her blood.
“It will be painless.” His voice cracks on the words that are meaningless, perhaps even hurtful. How could knowing that it won’t be painful make it any easier?
But again, she smiles and nods, that knowing smile that makes his heart break at how willingly she accepts her death. “I had figured. What will happen, exactly? The blood will drain away and then…”
“Then you’ll fall asleep.” He whispers, the words he’s said so many times. Every method that he’s used, every action taken, every word spoken, it always boils down to this, these final moments of life.
It’s surprising what people’s reactions are to betrayal. Some of them are angry, shouting and desperately trying to free themselves. Others weep, sobbing hysterically over his betrayal. So far, she’s been the only one to accept this fate. She’s the only person, male or female, that he’s never had to tie up.
Then why does he feel so at war? As though he’s fighting the fiercest of all battles?
Because out of everyone he’s ever captured for this, she’s the only one he ever had feelings for. Whatever he may have feigned in past missions, be it love or friendship, none of it had ever been real. And then he had met her, and suddenly everything was done out of genuine feeling.
“Can I ask you a question?” Her voice is so soft, so raspy, that he knows she’s near the end. Bags are stacked in a neat pile by her bedside, the unspeaking nurse switching tubes as the plastic pouches full of darkly crimson blood.
“Yes, of course,” he whispers from his watching point at the door. He waits outside, not from indifference, but from knowing that he could never control himself once inside.
“Could we have had a chance?”
He closes his eyes, swallows hard, trying to fight the emerging tears. Could they have had a chance?
“No.” His voice breaks near the end, although he knows it’s true. In six years, he’s never tried to resist assignments, not even for her- blood is needed, and higher powers do not understand love.
“I thought so.” She gives him yet another heartbreaking smile, this time through heavily lidded eyes, eyes that are weighed down by the looming prospect of death. “You would have tried to stop it otherwise, wouldn’t you?”
It seems like most of them ask this question, desperately seeking the comfort that he had truly felt for them, that he would have spared their lives if he could have. He can never say yes to these questions, never reassure their panic, at least not truthfully. Except for now.
“I love you.”
The words seem to gut his soul, rip free the misery from his heart and throw it into the sky. She must hate him for this; telling her that he loves her will only make her pain greater. She must want nothing more than to cause him equal pain, for taunting her like this.
“Love you, too.”
Her own words echo his, to his shock and joy and despair, his utter pain as he feels his heart wrenched in a thousand opposite directions. And through this pain, he does something that he’s never done before.
He steps into the room.
And then he’s crossing it in seconds, crouching by her bedside and taking her hand in his, using his other hand to stroke the hair away from her forehead, because there is so much for him to say and so little time to say it in: You are beautiful, wonderful, incredible; every day of my life spent with you is a day in which I feel as though I can be human again; nothing in my life made me feel like you do; for you I would have done anything in the world, torn the moon from the sky or the waves from the sea; but mostly I love you, I love you, I love you; three words that can be said over and over again though it will never be enough, because she can never understand.
She tugs weakly at his jacket sleeve. “May I see?”
Her face is so pale, so impossibly white, that it makes her green eyes appear eerily bright. Bright blue eyes crisscross her skin, a road map towards death, and still blood continues to drain from tube to bag, cruel needles drawing every last drop.
He draws back his hands, using the left one to pull up his sleeve. His forearm is marked with seventeen black X’s, organized in rows of three- one row for each year, one X for each death. She was supposed to be the eighteenth X, the one to complete the sixth row.
But instead, using a needle and ink that he had fashioned himself, he’s written words below the X’s, words and numbers etched in block letters with thick black ink, to match the other marks.
STEFAN AND ISABEL
SEPTEMBER SIXTH, 2011-DECEMBER TWENTY-FOURTH, 2011
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
She runs one finger, still warm but turning cool, over the lettering, the slightest ghost of a smile playing across her bluish lips. “Thought you were an atheist?”
“It seemed fitting for us.” The tattoo has just dried, although it stings slightly- he had inked it the day before, branding it directly into his flesh, wanting her to see it in the end.
“It is.” She takes his hands in hers, her touch weak, but her gaze strong. “Don’t be guilty; don’t be so sad. You had a destiny determined for you, and I’m glad that, despite how it happened, my path crossed yours. My heart will always be with you. Let that make you strong.”
He can’t stop the tear from rolling down his face at this, and he doesn’t try to.
She sighs, closing her eyes. The blood flow slows to a trickle, then to nothing, as he realizes that she isn’t grasping his hand anymore.
“No!” His voice croaks as he tries to scream, the swell of tears choking out loud noises. “God, no!”
He can’t breathe, he can’t think; the only words that make any sense are the same painful, horrifically-true chain: Isabel is dead Isabel is dead dead gone my fault my fault my fault my fault MY FAULT.
The blood bags lie on the ground, a grotesque pile of what will only destroy. Plastic pouches, sides straining from the effort of containing so much blood, so, so much blood- her blood. And before he can think, he’s gathering the bags into his arms, throwing them out of the open window, into the yard. A match flies.
The scent of burning plastic and boiling blood fills his nose, making his stomach lurch- a sensation not aided by the knowledge that he will be here soon, and he will be furious. Even if the blood does not burn, mixed with liquidated plastic it will do no good now, and nothing stands in the way of his precious blood.
He turns from the window, blocking away the nauseating fire, but the opposite sight is her body, cold and white. He shuts his eyes frantically, trying to escape the constant reminders of the fact that the only girl he ever loved is gone.
At least she closed her eyes. He doesn’t think he could bear it if he had to look at those empty, lifeless green orbs.
The nurse sits unmoving by the bed, still silent, and he ignores her as he brushes past, into the small side kitchen. A wooden block sits next to the sink, and out of it he draws a large, lethal-looking knife with a smooth, sharp blade and a shining surface. He fingers the wooden handle for a moment, and then turns it.
Defiance tastes sweet, and that masks the bitterness of death as he plunges the blade into his own chest, collapsing to the ground in a pool of his own blood.
My heart will always be with you. Let that make you strong.