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It Only Shines as Bright as We Are

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She would have loved this.

He’s trying. A little. Trying to feel that - still trying to feel much of anything. For her. Maybe it’s mostly habit at this point but he can’t shake it. Maybe he doesn’t want to; maybe that’s something he really can’t bring himself to try. There are a lot of things he can’t let go of. He can’t tell the difference anymore between the stuff that needs to go and the stuff he should keep close.

But he’s trying, because she would have loved this. She would have looked at it and maybe she wouldn’t have immediately settled, maybe she wouldn’t have completely trusted - Carol has the right of it, not showing all her cards, and he knows none of the rest of them are fools - but she would have loved, because she couldn’t do anything but love. It was in her. Burning in her, beaming through her skin. He can almost see her, standing in the middle of the street, smiling at him. Coming up to join him on the porch, last of the sunlight catching her hair and setting it to fire. Radiant.

Little glow of a cigarette in the dimness, tiny little coal. He can’t quite get as far as wanting to try. But he wants to want to.

He guesses it’s something.

He’s trying to cling onto everything. Feels like he’s slipping loose, like he’s gripping with splitting fingernails. He looks at the burning end of the cigarette and thinks about it and about how in a sick way it would actually feel sort of good and then he doesn’t. He doesn’t do it. He told himself he wasn’t going to do it again, and he’s not even sure why, but he did tell himself and he’s always felt a vague kind of need to hold himself to things.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to do it again. It would have upset her.

Try.

Last night he heard Rick moving around. Didn’t speak, didn’t get up, but when he was sure Rick was asleep again he rose and padded silently out to the porch and looked up at the moon, found the scab on his hand, dug his fingernail into it until it was bleeding again.

He can’t seem to let it heal.

Try. Because she would have loved this, and he should try to love it because she isn’t here to do so.

But he doesn’t. He looks at the street and hears people inside, people in the distance, people heading home to their safe, utterly insane homes in their safe, utterly insane lives and he feels crazy, so out of place that he’s spinning in the dark, and he doesn’t love it at all. He hates it. He hates everything it is. Give him a match and a barrel of moonshine and he’d start burning down houses. He’d set it all on fire and he’d stand there in the flames and raise a finger and he’d scream her name.

He hates it because she would have loved it and she isn’t here. Its very presence highlights her absence. Circles it in red. Even if he could forget it for a few blessed moments it would never let him.

Before, knocking that smug, arrogant fucker on his ass… No, he had been ready to kill him. Not just hurt; kill. Might have done it if Rick hadn’t pulled him back, and if it had been anyone other than Rick he might have fought. But then, that moment, seeing red and tasting blood in the air, scenting it like a feral dog and pacing with the need to rip something apart, he first allowed himself to think that maybe, because of how much he hates this place, he won’t stay.

Maybe he’ll just go.

Try.

I can’t.

You have to put it away.

But he doesn’t have anything left to put away.

Out there was hell, but out there made its own hideous kind of sense. He couldn’t live, not without her, but he could survive. He understood surviving. In here it seems like they want him to actually live, and the idea of even trying to do that without her to show him how, without her to remind him…

Maybe he’ll go. Because he’s not sure he can stay.

Her in the street. Just out of reach. Clean and bright and happy. Come up here, he thinks, and God, he really can almost see her. He lifts a hand. C’mere. Please.

She shakes her head, her eyes dancing. You come on down to me.

The world blurs away and when it returns there’s no one there at all. Twilight and ghosts in his head. He drops his hand and the cigarette slips half-smoked from between his fingers and falls into the grass.

If he keeps throwing them away…

She would have loved this. She would have bloomed. She would have been brilliant. She would have shone. She would have wanted to make something here.

Maybe she would have let him be part of that.

She would have loved this, and she would want him to try, but he doesn’t know if he can.

And he doesn’t know if he’ll stay.