Loved and Lost by Schroering1 November 26, 2020

Chapter 11

TRAVIS

JANUARY 2

Since I had visited my favorite bar last, it had cleared out substantially. Only a few individuals remained, all of them single, and all dismissive of the possibility of being targeted by the Auburn Demon. In speaking to them, I learned that the recent attacks had completely turned them away from ever possibly falling in love in the future, citing the dangers of it.

That made me feel a bit better about myself, but the troubles I had witnessed earlier in the week still haunted me. The girl that dared to defy me, and then Avalonia suddenly having manipulation powers? Just trying to comprehend it made my head spin, and I needed a drink or two to bring me back down to Earth. No footage of my face existed in circulation as far as I could tell, so I could afford to be a bit careless.

Auburn was at the end of its rope. I was planning to start targeting households once offices ran dry. Then after Auburn’s pool of sin had eventually dried up, I’d probably move to the next town and watch as the entire world panicked. The authorities were absolutely powerless against me, and there wasn’t a chance that they even made a move with the mayor’s disapproval.

I had plans for the future. In the unlikely event any undercover cops tried to pull anything fancy, I had practiced the art of making shields on command. Whatever material my manifestations were made of was clearly very durable as long as I didn’t do anything stupid. 

Stability had never once been a problem for me. I discovered after a bit of tinkering that my powers wouldn’t fade as long as I didn’t dissipate it, and that I could create anything that could fit in my hands if I knew what I was doing. Whenever I needed my dagger, I’d place every single ounce of focus I had into creating it, and do the same if I ever wanted to get rid of it. Eventually, it all became second nature.

Avalonia’s powers seemed to be largely the same as mine. She could create anything that could fit in the palms of her hands, and even figured out the process to make larger objects than that. She even had enough mental focus to sprout her own pair of wings, even if she couldn’t fly for very long without getting too exhausted to continue. 

You see, that was where the difference lied. While Ava and I both had the same powerset, that was just about the end of the similarities. I never allowed myself to get distracted during any kind of combat situation, but I could tell Ava clearly wasn’t accustomed to the level of stress that came with battle. She could handle a sword well, but couldn’t handle her own psyche well.

Where the powers came from was a mystery that I didn’t have the resources to answer. Could whatever force of fate that gave me my abilities have done the same for the plucky Avalonia? That didn’t seem particularly likely given how different our goals were, so perhaps there was a second force of fate that counteracted mine? That seemed a bit too spiritual, so I began to consider a smaller scope.

This new Avalonia had ambition, I could tell that from just a glance. Perhaps she had found a way to access another reality? I didn’t know as much about the world as I liked to think I did, so I just let the thought linger. Other stray thoughts began to build upon it.

The mysterious man in the clock goggles, who was he? He looked to be in his mid-thirties, quite a bit older than Ava and I, and not someone who would reasonably be tagging along with her. Even at the sight of me, he didn’t seem to get scared, not like Ava, or truly anyone who encounters the Auburn Demon. They feel immense fear, paranoia, anguish but this man felt none of that. Instead, his expression read as one of annoyance, and one of anger.

Was it anger at me? Anger at Avalonia? Anger at the girl who slipped away? I did not know, but I sensed there was some sort of connection between the three that I was not aware of. They did appear within mere moments of each other, after all. I wished to locate the trio, not only to get answers for my own conscience, but also so I could track down the girl and her boyfriend.

In all these weeks of killings, not once did anybody stand up to me like that girl did. I had been punched and fought back against many times beforehand, even a case or two where a partner had been willing to die for the other... But not once did that level of defiance rear its ugly head. If my blade brought out a human’s true nature, then this girl was rotten to her very core. 

Love could truly change a human. It can turn someone with the courage to fight off a demon into someone with the idiocy to sacrifice everything for nothing. It can lead someone who relies on others to solve their problems completely unprepared when they have to fend for themselves. It can turn someone like me, an insignificant from a tiny town, into a bleeding body on the ground.

This was their problem and my solution. There wasn’t another individual that destiny trusted with their task, only me. I didn’t care who it was or why they were doing it, nobody was going to stand in my way. I showed my mercy to Ava because all she needed was time to come back around, and cutting her journey short would bitter everything that I hold to be true.

That being said, I was not exempt from all of the fundamental laws that governed the human race. At times, when it was absolutely necessary for my survival, and for the accomplishment of my ideals, I could find myself turning to someone with a different skill set than I. It would have been preferable if I didn’t have to, but life not only requires sacrifice, it encourages it. 

I left the bar with a revitalized sense of purpose, and one thought on my mind.

I’m going to find that girl, and when I do, I’m going to tear her boyfriend limb from limb. I’m going to make it slow, and I’m going to make her watch every second of it.

That’ll teach her not to mess with the Auburn Demon.

 

AVALONIA

JANUARY 10

Breaking News! Today, multiple offices and large businesses were raided in what appears to be a concise attack by the Auburn Demon. At each workplace that was affected, witnesses all claim to have seen the winged purple-haired man that is consistent with all other attacks.

“News companies had previously issued warnings, instructing all couples to not be seen outside together. Now, however, it appears that this is not enough anymore. The Auburn Demon is ramping up their attacks, and anybody in a romantic relationship should proceed with extreme caution. Do not have any items that may signify your relationship status on you at any time.

“Auburn’s mayor has declined to make a statement on these drastic and terrifying current events. Everyone at our station wishes Auburn’s citizens good health and safety during these times.  Stay safe and stay alert.

I’ll admit, I almost forgot what it felt like to mope around in my house, using the TV to drown out the silence. Since I was introduced to the clock shop, I could tell I was feeling better about myself and everything that had happened. Now, however, as I sunk into the couch with a pit in my stomach—which I couldn’t tell the source of, either general sadness or starvation—all the old memories began to flood back.

Penny was right. She was right and I knew it from the beginning. I really was nothing but a coward. Of course I knew that. That’s exactly why all this happened in the first place.

If I was anything more than a coward, Travis would still be alive. If I was anything more, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Everything that’s happened has been my fault and mine alone. That’s exactly why I need to be the one to kill him.

Part of me didn’t understand why Penny couldn’t see that, but a bigger part of me didn’t necessarily blame her. I had spent most of my time with Tockman, anyway.

Oh God, Tockman… How was he doing? I knew he wasn’t good, considering how broken he seemed to become after the argument, but part of me wanted to check in and see just how bad he really was. Getting him to show an emotion other than anger was definitely tough to do.

Again, a less reasonable part of me drove my actions, forcing me to keep my ass planted on the couch where it belonged.

I couldn’t even cry. Apparently that was the one thing I was good at and I couldn’t even get that right. Was that a good thing? Should I have considered it an accomplishment? I wasn’t sure, and thinking about it only made my head hurt more.

Being in that situation made me realize just how much I had improved on myself as a whole. Instead of laying around on my phone all day, I was actually outside getting some Vitamin D and exercising for not only my own benefit, but the benefit of the entire world. Why did that have to be stripped away from me?

Why did it have to be stripped away from me?

Penny and Tockman were the closest people I had. If I was allowed to, I’d go far enough to call them my friends. I wasn’t about to lose both of them because one of them was being a spastic, no matter how right she was. I wasn’t about to throw all my hard-earned progress out the window, no matter how much it stung. I needed to prove my worth, one way or another.

Sitting up on the couch, I looked down at my hands. Were they trembling? I couldn’t really tell, but I cupped them together anyway. All the strength I didn’t have went into forming the first thing I could think of: a tennis ball.

As soon as I saw it, I let out a noise of distress, watching it dematerialize in my grasp. I swallowed down a mouthful of sadness and hit the side of my head a bit harshly with a palm. If I got worked up, I wouldn’t succeed.

That’s another thing. In my time between Travis’s death and meeting the duo, I let my emotions guide my every move. That’s exactly what destroyed me. I needed the others to pick me back up from the shell of a person that I was and they did just that. They made me whole again.

The issue is that I shouldn’t have needed someone else to do that in the first place.

Is that what Travis was trying to teach people? Not to rely on others? That’s what it felt like, and I had to admit that I didn’t disagree. Letting someone else guide your every move, simply because your emotions were too strong… That wasn’t the right way to live your life. Still doesn’t mean mass-murder is the answer, though.

I knew I still had to prove that, both to Travis and to Penny. As much as I wanted to stay inside and isolate myself from the world like I did not too long ago, I found it easier to motivate myself to be a productive member of society.

And I did that by saving it.

Closing my eyes, I managed to empty my mind. In, out… In, out… Just as I had been taught. My hands slowly moved away from each other, and I could feel a familiar object in my grip. Soon enough, my shortsword was back.

I knew I’d be killed if I tried to find Travis, so the least I could do was practice honing my newfound skills in the comforts of my own home.

Again, I sat back on the couch, placing the sword down on the coffee table and scrolling through my phone. I found an appropriate playlist, set the device down, and took the blade up again, getting to my feet.

“♪ No damsel in distress, don't need to save me ♪”

“♪ Once I start breathin' fire, you can't tame me ♪”

“♪ And you might think I'm weak without a sword ♪”

“♪ But if I had one, it'd be bigger than yours ♪”

That must’ve been a new song. I didn’t know its name, but it was just the key I needed to get pumped up. My eyes stayed closed as I focused on my work, the blade growing more to become a longsword as I ran my hand across it.

Like hell was I done there, though.

“Kings & Queens” ended up getting looped as I created item after item, weapon after weapon, each more significant than the last. I knew Ava Max was good, but damn, was she good. I didn’t even know knocking me out of a rut that quickly was possible.

Every time my mind wandered back on the day’s events, I thought of the lyrics to the song as they played. It was really empowering, and eventually, my wings sprouted back. Time to take this outside. I brought my phone with me and allowed myself some time to think.

The assumption Travis made that his passing made me stronger was only slightly correct. Sure, I was way better now, but he was the one that gave me the drive to become that way. If it wasn’t for his demonic purpose and the dagger he left me, I would never have dreamed of doing the things I’ve learned to do. It was only with his help that I was able to soar. I guess he must’ve forgotten about that little detail.

He got away because he was so in-tune with those abilities, the same ones I’ve only just begun to tap into. If I was going to be any match to him, I’d need to focus on being as fluid as he was with my own powers. I wasn’t sure where else to start, but flight seemed to be okay enough, just to make sure he couldn’t get away even if he tried.

“♪ And you might think I'm weak without a sword ♪”

“♪ But I’m stronger than I ever was before ♪”

 

TOCKMAN

JANUARY 12

“Why…?”

A tear dripped down my cheek, and made its home on a paper I had been working on, alongside many others of its kind. It used to be a sketch of a new computer chip, but I lost the motivation to work on that a while ago… Not like I would get it back anytime soon, either.

I looked down at Penny’s necklace in my hand, and couldn’t help but whimper once more, “I… I’m sorry…”

Of course, no one was around to hear me. Penny wouldn’t care. I would be incredibly surprised if she ever found it in her to forgive me. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t, and I wouldn’t blame her if she left and never came back. 

I had devoted my entire life to the pursuit of time travel… Could it truly just be a fruitless endeavor…? I tried to tell myself that I knew better than Penny when it came to that subject, but her words just kept ringing in my head.

The only comfort I received was a memory from years past, one that I often came back to…

 

Hey, Timmy? It’s time to go!

“Aww… Dad, do we have to?”

I’m afraid so, sweetheart.

I got down from the tall playground watch tower that I had been on for the past few minutes. My dad and I came here every week, and I was always happy to get out of the stuffy house. There were slides and monkey bars, and I loved them all! 

Sometimes, other kids would walk up to me and ask me if I wanted to play spy with them, and I always accepted.  We would run around and play tag… This time, though, no one was there, so I had to play alone. I was on the lookout for goblins, and none of them were gonna get past me!

Something got you down, sport?

“I just wish that we had more time…”

My dad sighed, stood still for a minute, and took my hand in his.

Here, let me show you something.

He held my hand and walked me down toward the big lake in the middle of the park. Dad kneeled down by the edge of the pond, and picked up some of the water in his hand. He wasn’t able to keep it in his hands for long, though. It just fell out.

Here, you try. Pick up the water, and try not to let any get away.

I tried to pick up the water a few times, but it kept slipping through my fingers, no matter how hard I tried to keep it in there.

“You can’t hold water, Daddy. It always just drips through the cracks.”

Exactly.

My dad patted me on the back, before sitting me down on a nearby bench. I let my feet swing in the air as daddy came around the back of the bench and sat down next to me.

You see all that water, Timmy?

“Uh-huh.”

Imagine that all of that water is time.

“Okay…”

Now, you can’t hold water, right?

“Yeah. It just slips away.”

Well, people can’t control time either, sweetie. They’ve sure tried, but like you saw, no one can keep water from escaping their grasp.

“Can’t you just use a cup?”

Well, what if nobody had a cup?

“I dunno. They’d make one, I guess.”

Well, what if nobody knew how to make a cup?

“Oh… I see. There’s no cup that can hold time, right?”

No, there’s not. People have been trying to make them since long before I was little…

“Is it possible to make one?”

Well, no one knows, Timmy. But, back in the old days, no one ever thought that it would be possible to put a man on the moon. But then, a man named Wernher Von Braun led a team, and built a rocket that launched three men into the stars… And then brought them all the way back home.

“That’s really cool… So someone could make somethin’ that can control time?”

If there’s a bright enough mind, then I’m sure they could.

Daddy ruffled up my hair, messing it all up.

Someone like you.

“Me? You think I could do it?”

Of course! You’re a very smart boy, Timmy. No matter what you put your mind to, I know that you can do it. You’re gonna have a very bright future someday, I just know it.

I wrapped my arms around Dad, burying my face in his shoulder.

“I love you, daddy.”

I love you too.

“I’m ready to go now.”

Alright, let’s get going…

 

I opened up the desk drawer to my left, and pulled out an old hand-written piece of paper. It was a letter… I had kept it from the very day I got it, I didn’t have the heart to throw it away, no matter how much it hurt to read over it. 

It was… Just about a year or two ago now that I thought back. I had been abroad on a research trip, and the letter showed up at my house while I was gone… The first line hit harder than any blow I had ever received.

 

Dear Timothy Tockman…”

“We regret to inform you of the passing of Mr. Jackson Tockman.

 

I never even got to say goodbye…

…I couldn't stand it. The only man who ever dared to love me was torn away before I even had time to appreciate all he had done… Was I the problem? I was just that unlovable that life was destined to take away anyone who made the mistake of caring about me?! I certainly wasn't going to be trampled over like that, not after what I had gone through.

In closing the drawer where the letter once was, a book fell from my desk. I turned to pick it up and saw that it was the book that Penny gave me for Christmas… Once it was in my hands, I saw the sticky note poking out of the top again. Remembering that I never ended up checking that marked page, I put the book down on the desk and flipped to the page, seeing a few sentences pointed out by another sticky note and writing in a blue pen. 

See? Even your hero needed a little help, Doc! Take a few notes. :) - Penny”  The sentences pointed out mentioned an oft-forgotten fact… Wernher Von Braun had his theories checked over and even corrected and improved by a younger coworker, Tom Kelly… The team that two led ensured the safety of the first men to land on the moon. A knot formed in my throat as I remembered all the times that Penny had tried to help me. I glanced at the letter, and recollected all that my father had taught me… Every lesson that I betrayed. How could I have been so blind?!

I held the letter close to my chest, sobbing.

“I don’t know if you can hear me, but… I’ve been failing you… I’ll start to be better… Th-Then, when I come back, I’ll tell you everything that I never could… I’ll never stop working hard… Not until I make you proud.”

I promise.

PENNY

JANUARY 15

“Penny, you can’t keep getting this invested in people’s lives!”

“Why not?! They need someone to back them up, and if I don’t do that, then no one else will!”
“Penny…”

My father sighed and adjusted the glasses on his nose. 

You have a big heart… I’m proud of you for that. But you can’t sacrifice your life and happiness for other people like this. Learn to what extent you can help and do that, but nothing more. I know that sounds selfish, but you have a right to your own life. I know people that do social work. Their job is to do what you’re trying to do. And they’re miserable. They’re selfless beyond belief and are glad that they are able to help other people, but the work they do is depressing and hard… I don’t wish that struggle for you or for anyone but those that choose that life as a living.”

I clenched a fist, too frustrated to think of a good retort. One of my friends was having a hard time of it. This wasn’t something new; it happened often. I worried about them so much that I often talked more about them and their struggles than what was happening in my life when I had conversations with family back home. After mentioning this recent struggle, my dad decided to give me advice. And I didn’t like it. 

“I… I…” I teared up in frustration. “...I just want to help…”

“I know you do, and I’m not saying you can’t.” My dad walked over and put a hand on my shoulder, smiling at me sadly. “I’m saying think about yourself too, Penny. Think about your own health and happiness. I know you want to, but you can’t help everyone…”

 

I thought about what my dad told me a few years ago in college as I made my way to Zinovi’s room. Once I got there, I immediately sat in the seat next to his bed, left there from the last time I visited. “Hey Zizi… You doing any better?”

“Yeah… I’m ok…” 

I sighed with relief. ”Oh, thank god…!”

None of the hospital workers could believe that Zizi was able to escape Death’s scythe. If you popped up on the Auburn Demon’s radar, it was just an accepted fact that you weren’t going to survive to tell the tale. But for all the terror and tragedy that the demon spread, it was pitiful how easily it was stunned. A simple jab to the throat? Really?

I hadn’t been back to the lab since I gave Ava and Doc a piece of my mind. Part of it was because the nurses insisted that I stay the night after I brought Zinovi in. I had been in shock and covered in blood, after all. Just because I wasn’t scratched up didn’t mean I was perfectly ok. Not to mention Zinovi’s condition… When I first saw him after he was patched up, he had stitches all over and casts on his arm and leg… His arm was even in a sling… He apparently had gotten busted before the demon ever stabbed him.

The other part was how maddening this all was. This talk of demons and superpowers was enough to get Ava and Doc raring to go, and I don’t know what I hated more, be it Doc thinking he could play God or Ava assuming that being used as his lab rat qualified her to be put on the top of every single pedestal… I couldn’t stand keeping quiet another second.

The demon, Ava, and Doc… All of them were weak. Their entire worlds came down when somebody finally had the courage to put their foot down. I would do it all over again if I had to, just for the satisfaction of knowing that they got what was coming to them. But as to the innocents caught in the crossfire…

“Do you need me to, like… Do anything? Is there anything I can get you?”

“Nah, they treat me well here. Just you being here helps.”

I grinned, leaning over the bed’s railing to kiss him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry about all this.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Penny. You saved my life. You stood up to a demon for God’s sake!”

“I know, but… It hurts to see you like this. Hooked up to a heart monitor and fluids, getting pain meds every so often… I know you’re putting on a brave face for me.“

Zizi’s smirk faded a bit as he lay back down, resting his head on whatever poor excuse for a pillow that they provided them with.

“It’s better than being dead.”

“I know, but what about when you get out? Nothing is ever gonna be the same again… The demon’s gonna come after me, or worse, he might come back after you…”

“Hey, don’t think about it like that. You’re strong, you already beat him once.”

“I got lucky… When that thing comes back, he’s not gonna back off to mean words and a quick jab like last time. I don’t know how to fight for real…”

“But you can’t ignore the fact that you scared him, Penny. When he comes back, you’re the only person I know who’ll be able to push back to stay safe. You might be able to keep others safe, too.”

“Doc’s superheroine couldn’t put a dent in him, and she’s got the powers meant to deal with him.”

“Superpowers or no, you’re stronger than she’ll ever be.”

I paused and thought about that for a second. I thought about all the times I had seen Ava and how she acted, from the moment I found her to the moment I screamed at her. I was stronger. The fact that my boyfriend was alive and hers really wasn’t was proof of that. 

”…You’re right.” 

Zinovi smiled up at me once I agreed. 

“But what about you? You’re in no shape to fight back… I can’t always be there to protect you, no matter how much I want to be.”

“I’ve been thinking about that… Penny, I—” Before Zizi could continue, the TV that was droning on in the background suddenly turned to a video feed of Auburn’s mayor. He looked pale and nervous, not to mention terrified. The quality of the video wasn’t that good, either. It was shaky, as if he was recording himself with his phone, and we could hear the mayor’s heightened breathing. He was in a dark room, probably so his location wasn’t evident. 

“Citizens of Auburn… I have a confession. These past few months… I’ve… The demon, he… I’ve been turning a blind eye to his crimes! I’m just as responsible for all of those crimes as the demon is!” I stiffened, my eyes widening as a hand went to my mouth in horror. Zinovi seemed just as shocked. 

“The demon came to me… Threatened my family…” He choked up, some tears falling from his face. 

“I was terrified of losing those closest to me… And if I tried anything, I would die instead… I was a coward… But instead of my family and I, countless lives have been lost because of the demon… I thought he would eventually leave… That maybe someone would stop him for me… These were just delusions I told myself to help suppress my guilt!” 

The mayor wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, then wiped at his eyes, before continuing. “But I can’t keep hiding from this anymore… This isn’t a game… Blood is on my hands… And although I know that my lack of action is unforgivable… I am not asking for forgiveness. I am only asking for you all to listen one last time. …There are bunkers, to keep you all safe! I’ve already set up a few of them and fortified those that already exist… If you wish, they are open to you to help keep you and your families safe… Instructions will go out regarding transport to the bunkers. If there are those that stay behind, I must ask that no communication whatsoever exists between those inside and those outside the bunkers. I understand your fear and concern, but we have no idea if the demon is listening in… It’s better to be safe than sorry…”

The mayor looked into the camera, still serious, yet still terrified. “…If we make it out of this alive, and the demon is killed, I will step down and face the consequences of my actions. The authorities have agreed to let me keep at least most of my power until then, as long as I stay under watchful eyes… Though, I have a feeling that this will be the last time any of you see my face again. My family is readying themselves for a bunker now, and I will follow them once I know they are safe, but the demon may very well get to me before then.” 

He paused and gulped, taking a shaky breath. “…I am terrified… But I will no longer use that as justification for being as terrible as the demon… Thank you for listening… And goodbye…”

With that, the message ended and the TV was silent for a moment before returning to the channel it was on before. There were a few tense seconds before Zinovi spoke up quietly. “I can get more treatment in a bunker… I need to go.”

“Zizi, he just admitted to murder! Can we even trust him?!”

“Penny, what choice do we have? What choice does anyone in Auburn have?”

I bit my lip. He was right… It was either we go along with the mayor’s plan, or we just wait to be exterminated. Accomplice to the demon or no, we needed to follow his instructions.

But the mayor just said that absolutely no communication between those inside the bunker and those outside should go on. If Zinovi left… It would be more than no physical get-togethers until the demon fell. It would mean no contact with Zinovi at all. “Then… I’m coming with you!”

“Penny, you can’t. Doc and Ava need you at the lab, don’t they? They need support right now.”

“But I need you!”

“No one else can help power things in there. You three can work together and fight it off.”

“Call in the National Guard instead! They got all sorts of stuff to kill it!”

“Penny…”

Zinovi slowly reached out and caressed my cheek with his free hand.

“I know this is hard… And I know this is unfair… But this is what’s best for the situation.”

“…”

Zinovi sighed and took my hands in his hand. “…Penelope Novoa…” I gasped a bit. Zinovi never used my full name. 

“You have my word that no matter what happens, I’ll always love you. Whether I’m in a bunker or on another planet somewhere, there’s nothing that’ll happen that’ll make me stop loving you. You saved my life… Now go work to save everyone else’s.”

While the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the clock shop to be with the other two, I didn’t want to upset Zinovi when he was in this condition.

“…A-Alright. I’ll do it. For you.”

“That’s my girl.”

I leaned down, and he kissed me.

“Y’know, there’s no free wifi in here…”

“I noticed.”

“But I wanted to play you a bit of music… Being in bed all day has to be boring.”

“Well… Why don’t you make some?”

“…Do you want me to-”

“Sing for me.”

“Zizi, I dunno…”

“Come on, please? You have such a pretty voice.”

“…You really think so?”

“I do. Your voice is beautiful, Penny.”

“Ok… Gimme a sec to think of something good.”

Zinovi shifted a bit to get comfortable and I immediately thought of the perfect song. We had watched The Greatest Showman a few days ago together, and “Tightrope” came to mind. I bit my lip and cleared my throat, starting to sing. 

“♪ Some people long for a life that is simple and planned… Tied with a ribbon."

"♪Some people won't sail the sea 'cause they're safer on land… To follow what's written ♪"

"♪ But I'd follow you to the great unknown ♪"

"♪ Off to a world we call our own ♪”

Zinovi smiled once he recognized the song. He sighed and rubbed my knuckles with his thumb.

“♪ Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go… We're walking the tightrope ♪"

"♪ High in the sky, We can see the whole world down below ♪"

"♪ We're walking the tightrope ♪"

"♪ Never sure, never know how far we could fall ♪"

"♪ But it's all an adventure That comes with a breathtaking view… ♪"

"♪ Walking the tightrope. With you… ♪”

A nurse came in to treat Zinovi. I blushed from embarrassment, but she just smiled at me and nodded for me to continue, letting me hold Zinovi’s hand as she fixed up his fluids, cleaned up what remained of his dinner, and started to prep his pain medication in a needle…

♪ Mountains and valleys, and all that will come in between… ♪

Zizi winced as he got the injection, tensing and squeezing my hand until it was over. He sighed and relaxed, looking tired and pale. He’s told me before that he’s petrified of needles…

♪ …Desert and ocean… ♪ "

♪ You pulled me in and together we're lost in a dream… Always in motion… ♪"

♪ So I risk it all just to be with you… And I risk it all for this life we choose… ♪”

The nurse finished her duties and bid the both of us a good night. I noticed Zinovi was nodding off. I brushed some hair from his face gently.

♪ Hand in my hand and you promised to never let go… We're walking the tightrope… ♪"

"♪ High in the sky, We can see the whole world down below… ♪"

"♪ We're walking the tightrope… ♪"

"♪ Never sure, will you catch me if I should fall? ♪"

"♪ Well, it's all an adventure That comes with a breathtaking view… ♪"

"♪ Walking the tightrope… With you… ♪ ”"

Zinovi smiled sleepily up at me and weakly caressed my cheek to wipe a tear of mine away. I held his hand to my face and laughed shakily, sniffling.

“♪ …With you… ♪”

Zinovi’s hand dropped onto the bed as he fought to stay awake for longer. He must have been exhausted… “I’ll let you sleep… You need it…” 

He barely shook his head. “…Please… Stay…” 

I watched him finally give in and close his eyes to sleep, biting my lip and nodding at his request. If he really was leaving, this would be the last time we would have together for a long time. I wasn’t going to miss out on that. I put my stuff aside and took off my shoes, grabbing a blanket and laying next to Zizi, putting the blanket over myself. 

I held his free hand and kissed his cheek before closing my eyes. As I drifted off to sleep, a few more tears slid down my face and dripped onto the bed.