4

It was such a cliché, but his life really did flash before his eyes. All the good times, the bad times, and every time in between, they all flew through his head like specters. He remembered playing outside in the green hills of Pennsylvania, the cold beginning of winter in Main, and that first sunny winter in California when he and his family went swimming while everyone else stared at them like they were crazy. He remembered moving several different times while in California and each school he went to. Strange how faces long forgotten were now clear as day, now when death was so near. Friends he thought long gone and would never see again, he saw again now.

He couldn't feel sorry for himself. Death was inevitable after all. But his mother was a different story. He felt sorry only for her. His brother had been lost in a car accident three years before. According to the coroner, he would have survived if he'd only worn a seat belt. To make matters worse the person driving was never prosecuted, despite everything they did. He wasn't sure how she would handle his death. They'd been so close they were like best friends. But it couldn't be helped. At this point nothing mattered but the man on the table. He was the only thing that mattered anymore. Without his help he would die and with his death the world would be worse off.

His memories ended at the battle which had put them in their current situation. There was nothing left to do but what he came here for.

He released the doctor's shirt and pushed him away. Before the others in the room could react he looked at his best friend on the operating table. He loved everything about this man. His voice, his smile, his eyes, especially his eyes. They were a brilliant blue and held a sadness behind them even when he smiled. He was a good person at heart, the second such person he'd ever known. The first had been an old uncle who smoked a pipe and always with cherry tobacco, though he couldn't be sure which of the two of them was better. Perhaps the only thing that mattered was that they were good people.

Staring at him lying there he couldn't help but feel a wave of resolve course through him. He brought the gun up under his chin.

"I hope you appreciate this, my love," he said, and pulled the trigger.

The man climbed out of the car and shut the door behind him. For a moment he gazed up the hill into the small clearing that held the graveyard. Most of the headstones had the same name and two or three had little American flags beside them, denoting that those who lay there had been military. The grave he searched for lay near the top.

Treading carefully he made his way towards it, being careful not to step directly on the graves. He stopped in front of the headstone he wanted and knelt in the grass, not caring if his uniform received grass stains. For a moment he just knelt there, staring at the name engraved upon the stone. It was a simple one. Just the name, the dates, the epitaph, an ankh design, and a simple prayer to be reunited with those he loved.

The boy's request had been simple, cremation and then burial beside his brother in the family graveyard in Pennsylvania. It was, of course, given with full military honors. The man had had to fight like hell, but in the end he prevailed.

After a moment the man placed the rose he had brought with him on the grave and began to speak.

"I know I should probably say thank you," he began. "But I'm not sure how. How do I say thank you to someone who saved my life like you did? How can I ever repay you? I don't know, and I don't think I can.

"I'm still not sure if I understand why you did it. I know you said that you loved me and I had thought that I knew that. But I guess I never really understood how much you cared. I'm sorry that I never showed you that I cared for you too. I'm sorry that I have to say it to you like this, when it's far too late.

"As far as men are concerned you are the only one I ever loved. The only one I could love. And I'm pretty sure that you always will be. I love you. I need you to know that."

The man stood then and a tear fell down his cheek.

"Thanks to you I lived long enough to find someone that was right for me. I'm married now. With two kids. I named the oldest after you. Thanks to you I've managed to live long enough to find peace within myself. Thanks to you I've lived. I can't repay you for that but I had to try. I had to tell you thank you. And that I love you."

Unseen beside his headstone the boy stood in full military dress. Tears rolled down his face, and he let them fall unashamed. He took a couple steps forward and placed his hand on the man's cheek.

"Live my love," he whispered. "That is that best reward I can think of."

The boy turned to the angel behind him. The angel was beautiful as all angels are but his beauty seemed pale in comparison to the man he loved.

"I'm ready now," he said simply and the angel smiled and stretched out his hand.

The boy took the angel's hand and they walked up towards the fence at the back of the graveyard. The boy took one last look at the man standing there, with his hand to his cheek, and smiled. A small gust of wind blew gently towards the man as the boy and the angel turned to go.

The man wasn't sure if he were going crazy or not, but he was sure that someone had touched his cheek. He touched it himself in silent awe. A small gust of wind made him look up and for a moment he felt as though someone were smiling at him. He smiled back in return.

Finally he placed one hand on the headstone and bowed his head for a moment. Then he turned and walked back to the car, and his life.