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In Permanent Winter

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~0 Beaufort Swan (September 13, 1965 – July 7, 1984) 0~

            Beaufort Swan was dying

            He coughed into his fist.  When he pulled his hand away, it was speckled with blood.  Some people looked at him sideways on the subway.  Whether it was the coughing or that many of them had already noticed the lesions on his face Beau didn’t know or care.  The looks ranged from pitying to distasteful.

            He resisted scratching at the lesions that now covered his body.  The doctor told Beau that he would be lucky to see his next birthday.

            The train slowed to a stop and Beau hurried to get off.  Everybody let him off first, giving him a wide berth.

            The crowd parted to let him through, none of them willing to be near him.  None of them wanted to touch him.  In a way, it was a convenience; he was able to avoid violence if not the insults hurled his way.  He walked onto the cold, empty street.  He was not as careful as he should be – what would it matter if he was murdered, if he was not long for this world anyway?  With that thought in mind, he took a shortcut off the main street and into an alley.  It would get him to his mother’s apartment quicker or get him murdered.  Beau almost wish he would be murdered, if only to avoid seeing Renée’s forced smile and glistening eyes.

            “Well aren’t you a little sad sack?” trilled a voice like bells.

            He swung around swiftly, and took a step back at the form that greeted him.  She was by far the most beautiful woman Beau had ever seen.  Her skin was clear and white like porcelain and her long red curls fell nearly to her waist.  The way she looked at Beau – friendly but a little too sharp, a little hungry – made him feel like prey, and he had an odd urge to run.  Something else, some deeply embedded instinct told him that it would be no use.

            “You’d be sad too if you were like me, ma’am,” Beau said, his voice trembling.

            The woman hummed uncaringly. “I guess I would be.” She sighed musically, “it does seem like a lot to waste, though.” She looked him over appraisingly.  Beau shrunk slightly under her searching gaze.

            “I agree,” Beau said. “But unless you happen to be carrying a cure on you…“

            “And if I was?” she said knowingly.

            Beau snorted, wondering what she was playing at. “Then I’d ask you to stop being so greedy and share it around.  A lot of people – good people – are dying and nobody seems able or willing to help them.”

            She smiled wider, her straight, white teeth gleaming in the relative darkness of the alley.  Beau took an unconscious step back, and she took two steps closer.

            “I’m afraid this cure is not the kind that can be given to everybody,” she said, taking a few steps closer. “But for a spectacular young man like you, I think I can make an exception.”

            Beau opened his mouth to respond but then the woman was directly in front of him.  Beau jerked his head back, his heart thundering wildly.  Now that the woman was so close, he could see her eyes, formerly obscured in the darkness.

            They were bright, burning red.

~0 Bree Tanner (March 11, 1990 – October 7, 2005) 0~

            Bree Tanner was dying.

            She could feel her own blood pooling around her, but was numb to everything else.  The only other thing that registered was the sound of her father shoveling.  It occurred to Bree that her father may not even be aware that she was still alive.  It wasn’t as if it mattered.  She was too broken to fight or flee, and could feel the life seeping out of her anyway.  She gave into the impulse to close her eyes, the sound of digging soothing her.

            She was jerked back to awareness by a sharp exclamation from her father.  Whatever he was trying to say was cut off with a sharp crack.  Her eyes popped open but she could not find the strength or the willpower to turn her head to see what was happening.  She heard harsh gasping, as if someone was struggling to breath.  There was another sound, a crushing sound, and then silence.

            Bree stared up at the sky, the silence enveloping her.  Just as her vision started to blur, a face appeared, gazing down at her.  Bree’s fear was immediately overcome by relief.  A face this beautiful could only belong to an angel, which surely meant that she was being taken to heaven.  What she didn’t understand was why the angel looked so sad.  Was it sad because she was dying so young?

            “I’m so sorry,” the angel said.  His smooth, musical voice automatically soothed her.

            Bree wondered why the angel was apologizing.  None of this was his fault, after all.  She wished she could summon the strength to speak to the angel, to tell him that it was okay.  The thought exited her mind because the next second she was flying.  She felt cold arms support her and the cold wind whip her face.

            This is it, she thought, I’m going to heaven.

            But when the wind calmed they were in the dark.  As the angel laid her down a cloud of dust was disturbed, clouding around her.

            “I’m so sorry,” the angel repeated in a sob, even though no tears fell from his golden eyes.

            Momentarily, Bree wondered again why the angel was apologizing.  Before she could think about it long, there was a burning sensation over her heart.  For a few moments Bree was confused by it, until it intensified and Bree realized why the angel was apologizing.

            He hadn’t come to take her to Heaven.

            He had come to take her to Hell.

~0 Diego Garcia (November 17, 1989 – July 15, 2006) 0~

            Diego Garcia was dying.

            He was bleeding on the pavement of the alley.  The raucous laughter of the other boys around him made his blood boil.  He tried to stand up but was hit with a bout of dizziness – a concussion surely – that brought him back down to the ground.  There was no point anyway, his gun was long gone and the boys were well armed.

            He wasn’t able to concentrate on any of the words the boys were saying, but the next thing he knew he was being yanked up by his hair.  He looked up groggily, the gun pointed right between his eyes.  He crossed his eyes in an attempt to focus on the weapon in front of him.

            “Ready to die, puta?” sneered Moses.

            Diego spit in response, the mixture of saliva and blood hitting the older boy’s shoes.  Moses snarled and his finger tensed on the trigger.  Diego’s courage failed him, and he closed his eyes to wait for the blast.

            It didn’t come.  Instead there was a mix of shouts of surprise followed by screams of terror.  The grip on his hair left and Diego slumped to the ground.  The screams continued for a moment, mixed with breaking and crushing sounds, followed by silence.

            Trembling, Diego opened his eyes.  Upon doing so, he realized it was only a dream.

            A little angel stared down at him.  Her face was beautiful and pale, framed by dark hair that reached her chin.  Once he had gotten past the initial dazzling effect of her beauty, he saw that her face was strained and she appeared to be holding her breath.  She stared at him with burning amber eyes.

            “Beautiful,” he said breathlessly.  Then the heavy feeling won and Diego fell unconscious.

            The next thing he was aware of was the sound of arguing.  There was a voice, undeniably a male but smoother than any man’s voice Diego had ever heard.  The other voice was clearly female, sounding like a peel of bells despite how distressed it was.  As Diego became more lucid, he began to make out what the voices were saying.

            “You don’t even know him, Bree!” scolded the male voice.  This was followed by a pronounced silence from the female voice.

            “Actually…” said the female hesitantly.

            “Actually?” hissed the male suspiciously.

            The next words were so quick that Diego was unable to follow.  This went on for about thirty seconds before trailing off.  There was a pronounced, heavy silence.

            “That doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t know you.  What if he doesn’t feel the same?” said the male in a softer voice.

            There was no answer from the female.  Diego wished he could summon the strength to open his eyes and see her expression, or to see the male’s.  The silence went on for an oppressive minute until the male let out a defeated sigh.

            “Fine,” he spat, “but don’t cry to me if things don’t turn out the way you want.”