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It had always seemed strange to Alexander that Thomas loved roses.

He could always imagine his boyfriend with violets sewn into the thick, dark curls that framed his face so perfectly, like petals around the center of a sunflower. When the sunlight, golden and pure, settled down on his face as he slept, the beams of light refracted off until he was just as golden, seemingly soaked in honey and sunlight until he glimmered and shone as brightly as the stars in his eyes.

Dark eyes that would flutter open slowly as he awoke from his slumber, half-grinning sleepily at Alexander. He’d wrap his arms around Alexander like vines of ivy growing on the crumbling stone walls that he’d built up over the years to protect himself from being hurt by opening his heart to the love that now came so naturally to them. Each leaf, with its twirling stems intertwining with Alex’s fingers as Thomas squeezed his hand tightly in the early morning sunlight.

It didn’t make sense that Thomas loved roses.

Some mornings, Thomas would awaken to see his lover with dried tear stains on his face, leftover markings from when someone had tried and failed to break through the walls surrounding the palace of his mind. Cobblestone crumbling down to the ground as they had carelessly tossed aside years and years of hard work, impatient and uncaring of their creator. In those mornings, Thomas would hold Alexander as closely and as tightly as possible, whispering soft lavender promises into his ear in attempt to soothe him.

Lavender has been proven to have calming effects on people, and when Thomas’s voice was laced with the gentle scent of lavender, winding around each soundwave into a soft swaying of the stalks in the summer breeze, Alexander could have admired the flowers until they wilted. And they did wilt, as all flowers tend to do, but in those moments, they had forever, and held onto it with an iron grip. Thomas’s soap was lavender scented, as well, and as a consequence of that, Thomas’s pillow smelled deeply of the flower. On nights when all flowers had wilted and turned away from the sunlight that they had used to bask in, Alexander would gently hold the pillow on the other side of the bed and bury his face into it, attempting to surround himself with the memory of gardens planted in their hearts with care.

So why on Earth did Thomas prefer roses instead of other blossoms?

Alexander supposed that it was because of the sharp thorns adorning the stems found on rosebushes. The way how if one was not careful, they might prick their finger, crimson liquid spilling over from a cut and blossoming into scarlet rosebuds dancing in the wind. It was only natural to wish to be surrounded by things much like oneself. When they had first met, Alexander could feel each spike of the thorns with each of Thomas’s cutting remarks and sharp gazes out from the corners of his eyes.

The blossoms, however? Alexander could never imagine Thomas amongst roses. It was easy enough for the thorns, but such a soft flower as a rose, blooming into a hundred petals folding out and over in on themselves into forever? That was nothing like Thomas.

However, Thomas was nothing like a dandelion, either. Nothing in him grew slow and steady, draining its surroundings of life until it had absorbed all the energy it could. He did not soak up all the sunlight until there was none left for anyone else, despite what many may have claimed about the man. Pulling away all chances for hope and love and admiration for other blossoms in the garden of their universe was nothing at all like Thomas.

But the brain tumor wasn’t Thomas, so it didn’t need to be like him.

When Thomas had first told Alexander about upcoming winter, that his flowers would go dormant and unlikely to blossom once more, he hadn’t taken the news well. At first, disbelief had run through his mind like careless footsteps hopping over a fence and trampling the plants that had taken so long to grow. Small bursts of color in an otherwise grey world being crushed along with his hopes, helpless to fight the onslaught of pain that none could truly stop.

So Alexander had wrapped his arms around Thomas, as if the walls he’d built around his heart could be extended toward his lover’s fields and hills of wildflowers covered in now-dull thorns. After a moment, he’d felt Thomas hold him tightly, thick vines of ivy twirling around him and encasing him in the life that would be drained from the world far too soon. Soon enough, Alexander felt droplets of tears begin to drip down from Thomas’s cheeks and onto the top of Alexander’s head. Water droplets falling from leaves as leftover rainwater from the previous night.

Flowers don’t wilt in a single day, as anyone who has ever tended to a garden will ever tell you. It took time for each petal of the flowers to wilt and crumble into grey dust, no longer a brilliant shock of color. At first, Thomas had seen doctors every week, leaving for tests and scans and screenings each morning with a weak smile on his face and a gentle kiss to Alexander’s cheek. But after two weeks, Thomas had come home on Saturday, wrapped his arms tightly around Alexander and whispered horrible words like ‘terminal’ and ‘four months’.

He never stopped smiling, not until he had to save his energy. When Thomas still lived in their home, slept in bed with Alexander, kissed him awake every morning, he had always smiled. The only hints of what was now inevitable were small things- going up the stairs slower, being out of breath after walking quickly for a few steps, the petals around him only beginning to gain a golden-brown hue around the edges.

But then Thomas had passed out after laughing too hard, and he had to go to a facility. Not a hospital, though. Hospitals were for people that could be saved, people that only needed a few dying petals brushed away until their hope blossomed into new love of life, the hope of saying ‘hello’ to a thousand new people. Facilities like Thomas’s were for people who just wanted time to say goodbye.

They’d had time to do that- more than enough time, as ‘goodbye’ is only a singular word- but never did exactly that. They had spoken idly of what their future was meant to be in the way that daydreaming teenagers in the midst of first love tend to do. Alexander had tried to steer away from the topic of his eventual grief, and Thomas had done much the same, except for one specific topic.

He wanted roses at his funeral.

And so that’s what he had. It was a rather small event, as a whole. Only a few people attended, just those closest to Thomas. Everyone cried for memories they had never had the chance to create, and no one spoke of memories that had already been made. Alexander thought it was a shame that Thomas’s roses had no thorns. It was the one thing about roses that was truly like Thomas, and they had cut them off, uncaring of what they meant to others. People wanted to act as though the thorns had never been there, but all along the stems were small markings of where the sharpness had been sliced off in favor of something more comfortable to handle.

Alexander didn’t leave Thomas’s grave until sunset.

He sat on the freshly settled dirt and stared at the inscription on the light grey stone for hours, tears in his eyes distorting his vision until he was barely able to read them. His hands tightly clutched the roses that had been at the service, unable to bring himself to care if he broke the stems or not. His breaths had steadied, after some time, although they were still rather shaky. Exhaling quietly, he set the roses down in front of the tombstone and stood, raising his gaze to look at the sunset-scattered sky.

And amidst the tinges of pink and blue melded into pale orange that could almost be red, Alexander smiled down at the roses on Thomas’s grave.

He supposed that the contrast between pale grey and bright crimson did look rather nice.