take a bow, play the part of a lonely, lonely heart
say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
Like that snowy day half a lifetime ago, time slows, the world narrows down to bright pinpricks. Everything in the tower pulses a pale green, but all he sees is red: the red of his hair from the corner of his eye, sticking sweat-slicked to the side of his face; the red of the kid's jacket, conviction-bright. Like the bloom of crimson on white, his eyes are drawn to it as if the color itself is magnetic.
Bodies have their instincts. It's what has him dodging to the left, blocking the brunt of a fire spell, deflecting a strike to his chest and spinning his blade out in a graceful circuit. It's a dance he learned the steps to long ago, as natural as talking, as unconscious as walking, and he can't remember how to stop. Everything is automatic, because if he's honest (he's never honest with anyone, least of all himself), this fight only has one outcome.
The damage accumulates bit by bit, adding up like so much baggage, joining the cracks and scars that are already there. All it takes is one final, well-aimed blow and he knows he's finally reached it, his stage left exit, his way out of the game. The joke's on him, though, because pain makes everything brighter, more vivid, too real, and everything he's lost and losing and never had a chance to have is too sharp in his eyes.
Of course they don't understand. They haven't driven away every single thing that was ever good or precious; they still have faith to hold on to; they can believe. He forgot how to do that too long ago, and it's past time for relearning. People like him don't belong in the world they want to create. He wants it, though, this thing they're striving for, wants it the way a bird wants to fly even though they'll never succeed. He wants the things they could have given him if he'd been strong enough to try. All they can give him now is peace he doesn't deserve, and all he can give them is an apology he doesn't really mean.
Then heavy footsteps.
And at last, at last
(This is the way it always should have been.)