Title: Shades of Blue

A/N: I don't want to feel for him anymore.

I stare into your eyes; those paint dishes of blue, green and grey, and try to form the words. To articulate exactly how I feel. And then he steps into my view, and my world cascades from techni-colour into all the shades of blue. I watch him, evaluate all his feelings in one long glance. You clear your throat, and my attention descends back onto you and your question; once again, I see the full spectrum of the rainbow's brilliance and a dull thud is resounding behind my temples at the sudden change into an all too bright world.

"Why do I like him? But that's the thing, this burning little white-hot part of me hates him; just as it hates Adam and Jamie and sometimes even you and Ben." I mentally kick myself at the sudden hurt pooling in your eyes, making their depths murky and I flinch. "But I hate him in a different way," I stammer out, shaking my head. "I hate him and James and Adam for the hurt they've caused. For all the times they ripped the pumping organ from my chest and held it in their hand, nearly crushed the life from my body without truly knowing it and then given me back a bruised and hurting heart; one too damaged to trust or possibly even love.

"I hate you and Ben because I'm not good enough, because I'm not all you need me to be and because you stay by me even when I turn around and bite." I watch you nibble on the inside of your lips before releasing the tormented flesh. "Then what is it?"

"Curiosity." I can see it there, hovering in your gaze, the simple dismissal of the fact, of my completely truthful statement. Your eyes implore me to further explain it and my legs begin to twitch; restlessness creeps up my calves and settles into my thighs and I begin to tap my toes. Finally, I let in and take a single stride, and when you follow I slowly walk. I shove my hands into my jacket pockets and let my head dip into a thoughtful stance.

Your finger prods me and I look up, clearing my throat and staring at all the people. All the people that I see in colour; the blue of sorrow, the black of torment, the red of anger, the purple of hurt, the green of hatred, the orange of life, and the soft yellow of the ever elusive happiness. "You're not realizing it. How long I've known him, how long I've watched him…how long this curiosity has been building."

"Explain it then." I bring a fist up and cough heavily into it; I can feel my back flexing and the muscles in my lower stomach tighten painfully as the forcefully removed air drags itself from the very core of my being. You give me a look, a silent "You okay?" passes between us and I nod before clearing my throat once more. "In freshman year, I lived in a world with limited colour. It wasn't black and white, but it was close. I tried to keep to myself, despite the people who seemed drawn to me. My first encounter in sixth block, first semester, was a prelude to how the year was to be."

I allow a smile to trace across my chapped and worry-bitten lips. "Back then, he never shut up. He laughed brashly, talked loudly and seemed afraid of the silence in which I lived. I would watch him, reading the emotions in the colour of his voice, the very stance of his body. Other football players talked to me, and thought I was demented. And we all know that the taboo calls to us, it makes our pulses quicken and we are drawn to it like ants to sugar. I would sometimes catch him looking at me; smiling, laughing, living it up with his friends and somehow it was as though he was trying to draw me into his world." I shake my head and let the aching breath rattle free.

"The entire year was like that. He was always so loud, talking about the most random of subjects that no matter how my day had been, I would get there and smile. But in the beginning, when he was gone, the absence did not pull heavily on my mind." We pass a teacher I know, and he and I share a soft smile, an exchange of hellos and I look back at you, then past you to his retreating form. I can almost see the soft sickly green wafting from his frame and I shake the thought away.

"Sophomore year…I don't remember having any classes with him. Perhaps we shared a lunch or two but I don't recall his distinctive colour in my world at that time. The curiosity wasn't all that bad, sometimes the niggling little wonderment about how he was, what colour he was feeling would creep forth from the dark recesses of my mind. I would shake it away and continue with whatever I was doing. Of course," I motion toward you with a hand, the fingers suddenly very cold and I thrust the extremity back into my pocket "you would have me believe that he inquired about me. My self-esteem, currently at a new low, would deny that; but a part of my mind does not seem surprised. I am very hard to forget after a class of scalpels and the throwing of shark eyes, after being talked about by children I have attended school with for many years."

You laugh suddenly. "It's true. You're hard to forget." I smile lightly, furrowing my brow in a mock frown. "Should I be insulted?" You just smile at me again and I nod, pursing my lips and conjuring up images. "Last year, I watched this…change. We once again shared sixth block, first semester, but he was different. He was quieter, sitting in the back and finally having grasped the concept of whispering. Of course his whisper, to me at least, was something more felt than heard. I could almost feel his words pressing into my skin, sinking into my flesh in a most disturbing way. I would watch him, unable to shake the thought that I had missed a part of his life. The most important part, the part where he had changed.

"I found the hole to be almost unbearable. The loud talking was gone, as well as the brash laugh and I missed it. And then I watched the change, the way everything seemed to come over him. The way his body hummed with tension, the way he tried to keep his feelings hidden. I always found them, and I was normally the only one to ask him if he was all right. And every time I did, he would give me this grateful smile, like he was so happy that someone hadn't forgotten him. I would return that smile, give him this look that almost implored him to talk and then he would drop his gaze and lower his head and the conversation would end."

The breath rattles from my chest and the bell rings, saving me. We're at your classroom and I give you a tight hug before you disappear inside and I'm left once again with your teacher. I smile at Frank lightly once more and he returns it; we exchange looks that could hold entire conversations if we let them and I walk away, turning back only briefly to tell him to get better soon. Frank laughs and I can hear the sickness rattling in his lungs. Down the hallway, I catch sight of him and my world crashes down into blue. I can read his emotion all too well, though he is too far away for me to clearly see his expression. His shoulders are struggling under the weight of a burden, his hands in his pockets and his head dutifully raised. Somehow, he's still defiant despite being broken.

A mournful shade of Prussian takes over my heart, casting all the shadows into an indigo blue and he seems to catch my gaze for a moment before your teacher calls my name and motions for me to go to class. I think for a moment about skipping, just staying in your class and flirting with your teacher, making your class more fun…asking him if he's all right. Instead I give him one last glance and throw a smile over my shoulder to Frank, before making a big deal of leaving. Of going to my own class to muse over the colour blue.

My teacher's talking, and I should be listening. Instead, I watch her words tumble from her lips, the blue of her words changing with each emotion. Even in a class, my mind refuses to let his thought go. He lingers in the shadows and crevices of my thoughts. If I let it, it could drown me. Let the colour blue just rise up and choke the pain from my heart; instead, with a very conscious action, I push out from the blue and rise back into the true multi-colour realm of reality. For a brief moment, I grapple with the pain of blue shaded thoughts and then immerse myself in my work. The feeling is a true one as I sink into the stress of school, convincingly lying to my mind that I really don't care. That niggling little part of my conscious and rational brain reminds me that I'll leave this class and be forced to talk about it.

Even the simple, unprovoked thought of it, threatens to capsize my delicate world of stained glass into blue. I give an aggravated growl, the sound unintentionally escaping through my clenched teeth, and find myself staring into Andrew's eyes. Much like my own, they are brown and of no particular interest. Just two pools of murky water set in a tan face. "All right?" I wave him away, but I know he can sense it. The very thought of him seems to set all of the people around me on edge, my friends anyway. Then Andrew is at my side, dangerously close to an all-out invasion of personal space; but instead he clings to the neutral air just outside it. "Com'on Ryley," he bemoans in my ear. "What's his name?" I return his imploring stare with a resistant one. "No."

Today though, he lets it go. This topic has arisen on several occasions. All of them spawned from that day when I couldn't keep my loose mouth shut; when I just had to ask if he thought I was fat. Of course, now every time blue clogs my vision, heart and mind, Andrew's there to pounce on it. He's waiting for the opportune moment to drag this beloved-despised secret from its navy grave and to have it waft free in the cerulean open.

I begin to gather my things, humming slightly under my breath to keep the indigo shadows at bay. His mouth opens for a brief second and I stand just as the bell rings. I give him that triumphant smile and stride out the door. A quick glance at the white concrete walls confirms what I had hoped was a fluke. Slowly, a light powder blue is dripping from the ceiling; it puddles on the mottled tile floor as the blue continues to creep, crawl, and sulk its way into my world. I blink hard enough that if feels like my eyelashes are prickling at my cheeks.

Around me, blue is leaking into my vision. I tremble and clutch at my books harder until my breath is short. My stride lengthens and I stalk in a hurried manner, while biting my lips to keep the sounds at bay. My eyes search the faces flowing past me; I'm straining and looking ahead. I'm looking for you. And then, there you are; you're smiling, looking for me too, at me as we fall into step. I'm not even worried where the questioning might take us, down whatever dark alleyways it might lead us astray. My heart is thumping far too loudly and I can feel it quivering in my stomach.

Then I know; today is to be one of those days.

"So, finish telling it to me," you drawl slowly. Your eyes are casting mine, those tinges of grey and blue waving forth into the green to call secrets forward into the light of day. I hurry my step and begin to swerve, to avoid at all costs the invasion of space, as I think of what to say. I drop my stuff in the desk behind yours, and I turn back toward the door. The room is too stifling as the blue consumes it and I try to pull myself free. I force my thoughts to turn toward you, Ben, Matt, Nick, Sarah, Kaitlin, Seanna…or even David and George. But they resist and fall slowly back into blue, fingers of conscious thought grappling at the disappearing shades of green, red, yellow, orange, and purple.

"Most people would never consider us friends. We talked and joked and did everything friends did, but just not enough. I wasn't good enough or he wasn't brash enough. Either way, I tried to ignore all the sorrow leaking from him. It was something so sad, to watch him bending and yet staying away from the break. I don't know how I did it, but even just last year, I managed to keep my thoughts from drowning in blue." I stand patiently at our locker, waiting for you to turn the dial and allow us entrance. My eyes meander over the rows of green metal soldiers until they reach where his own lies. It doesn't bleed blue like I would think it would, it's lost in the midst of other silent lockers surrounded by kids who milk the 8 precious minutes between classes for everything they've got. "The second semester, I didn't catch his eye as much. I found my way back into a class with him mainly for you, and I caught just the slightest glimpse of his old self. He laughed freely and once again, never shut up. The shades were so light, fluffy and gentle that I knew it wouldn't last."

You lead me away from the locker, and I search for something. My mind refuses to acknowledge what my heart already knows. It's searching for the exact same thing, it's been doing it for the past three years. My heart implores children to part and it scans each face in turn, though I know there is a high possibility that I won't see him. I don't. The blue descends a shade, turning into navies, Prussians, royals, and slates. I shake my head slowly, and you once again prod the thoughts from my lips, leading them along to be hung up where all might hear and view the innermost portions of my heart.

I open my mouth before we are swept along. The lights are out and then the film is rolling, colourful images dancing across the screen. I imagine what colours they should be: a red flower, a green dress, tan skin, black hair. I imagine what the movie would look like if I weren't seeing the world in shades of blue. My mind tries to sink into the make-believe world of cinema; somehow, it manages to worm itself free from blue and up into lighter shades: joyful and jovial shades. Just for a brief moment before capsizing again into blue.

Even in the midst of this colourful depiction of life, all I see is blue. It laces my lungs with shards of royal glass and burns my nose as it scrapes up my throat. It huddles in my eyes, tainting the brown with blue like muddy water stirred. I gasp in a breath and look away from the screen, find sanction in the corner of the room. My gaze meets our teacher's and Gage frowns lightly.

The azure smile tears the inside of my lips and cuts my tongue.

It is pitiful and painfully fake but he accepts it, however unwilling. He discreetly points at the door and I shake my head. I advert my attention and watch images blurring. Tears will do that to you, and when I squint right before the blink, I can see the hurt swirling in the crystalline drops.

Ending credits roll, creamy blue on a deep blue background and a breath full of royal shards crawls up my throat. I can feel it seeping into my veins, chilling my heart from blood to ice. Shakes creep up my arms and down my back. My quivering fingers clutch at blue jeans and I rest my head on the light blue desktop.

When I blink, his face flashes before my eyes. Etched, not projected, upon the delicate skin of my eyelids. It hovers there, a pale blue in an inky blackness. My fingers wish, urge to trace those features for real. They will no longer be sated by dreams.

In the halls, people call to me. They grin and smile and wave; all I see is blue. Hands grapple at my clothes, stroke my hair and flesh, and I fight back tears. He seems to see it all, and I can see each time our eyes meet the darkening of shades. When I am by your side again, my numbed blue digits claw into your arm and I stare at you wildly. "It's my fault, isn't it?" The blue whispers from my lips, I watch it caress your ear and coax the reaction from you.

There is a moment when you can't suppress your true thoughts, and then it's gone. Hidden beneath a laced veil of blue, just as delicate as you please. You lay a hand atop mine, try to still the thrashing waves drowning my soul and reaching for my heart: royal, navy, indigo, Prussian, cerulean, azure, soft and frothy, dark and heavy blue. They writhe, undulate and grind against each other, mixing and drawing me deeper. "It's not your fault. God, why would it be your fault? Ryley, you care when no one else does."

Blue hooks up my spine, freezing my ribs and chilling my body. I can feel gooseflesh rising and rubbing against my jacket sleeves. It is plain that neither of us really believes that. Your warm fingers ghost along my cheek and you try for a smile. It's painfully fake too and I drag myself into my SWAMP room. When I sit, all the blue rushes down and my chest feels like it's being sucked into a vacuum.

My head crashes down into the sanction of my hands and I breathe slowly. Trying to calm the shakes from the air as it bubbles in my chest and escapes. I shudder and my frame sighs. I wrap the jacket closer around me and tense; it's a feeble attempt to be still.

Cynicism rears its ugly head, an armored warhorse to protect what's left of my soul and sanity. The twisted horns smash through the blue and cast it away. Its body hunches and I refuse to live as I do. My fingers curl and grab at the desk, clutching until my knuckles are a glistening white and my veins stick out.

How dare he give me that look. Like it's all my fault. As if I have control over our lives and paths that meander close but rarely cross. Somehow, I must be to blame. Pessimism lifts slowly beside the beast of Cynicism and tells me the truth. I must be imagining the looks and the way he tries to desperately hard to ignore me. That it's just my mind playing the same old tricks. It's been a long time since he even acknowledged my presence. Perhaps I am reading into it.

. . .

Days are dipped into blue and I have to remember to breathe. The Fates twist my leash cruelly and laugh sadistically as I trip over words at him. As he stands there and smiles at me, makes eye contact with me, acts as if we are the only two beings right now. My words jumble, and eloquence fails me; it faints in the bottom of my heart. I'm trying hard not to smile like an idiot and desperately wishing that I were wearing something else. When the conversation ends, I receive yet another sweet smile before he leaves; I turn to you.

Your smile is unsettling. It makes my heart curl in on itself like a startled hedgehog. Several sarcastic barbs are already coming to mind. "What?" You simply shake your head and sit, and I want to tell you then.

Talk about the shades of blue, and how my feelings are attached to him through them. I want to express it to you, paint you the picture of the cracked, shattered shards of blue heartbreak. But I can't.

My feelings for him far surpass that which can be explained; these shades of blue run far below what you believe.