Author's Notes: Originally written December 2007; revised March 2008. Heavy angst.

The tree is budding now, for the first time in months. The scent from the apple blossoms permeates her nose, and she gathers up the flowers, bringing them to her face to inhale the smell. He sits beside her, staring at his hands wringing in his lap. "The medication's stopped working."

"Can't you get new stuff?"

"There is no new stuff."

The blossoms tumble from her fingers as she slowly goes numb. She will not look at him. The breeze rustles the branches above them, sending more blossoms tumbling to the ground.

The tree is green and leafy now, casting the shade in which they sit. She twirls a leaf between her fingers.

"How've you been?" She hasn't seen him in months, but she can't- or won't- admit the reason why.

"Okay." He shrugs, staring down at his lap. "My T-cell count's going down."

She doesn't want to ask, but she does. "Is that good or bad?"



The wind picks up the leaf she was holding, and it blows away.

The leaves have changed colours- not the vibrant reds and yellows she's heard of, but a nondescript brown. They crunch when she sits on them, and rustle when he shifts, trying to make himself comfortable.

She givs a shaky laugh. "If you weren't so bony, you'd be able to sit easier." Her voice is hollow. He keeps getting skinnier, and paler. His skin is almost translucent. He's still staring at his lap, and she stares at hers. She doesn't want to look at him.

There are no leaves now, just powdery snow on the ground. She's alone. He can't come out, he's too sick, and it's too cold for him. It would make the pneumonia worse.

There's nothing now that could make it better.

She lets the snow fall on her hair without brushing it away.

The blossoms are beginning to come out again. She sits staring straight ahead now. There's no one's gaze to avoid. Just a tiny cross, so far off in the distance it's nothing but a speck.

The buds will blossom, and grow into leaves, which will in turn dry out and fall, buried under another snowfall, and replaced with another new generation of leaves. And she'll grow old and die as the cycle repeats over and over again.

She seizes up the axe next to her, and swings it into the tree trunk feeling a rush of savage joy at the thwack as metal connects with wood. She swings the axe over and over again until the tree totters, and topples over, the branches snapping as they hit the ground. She stands, axe in hand, making no move to wipe away the tears streaming down her face.

She cannot control the cycle.

She cannot make it stop.

She can only watch the years go on and on, watching her life and so many others spin away into eternity.