Sébastien

The boy lay in a pool of blood. It spread out over the asphalt, soaking the dirt in the cracks and colouring it an ugly brown-red. It seeped into the white linen shirt the boy was wearing, staining his sleeves crimson. He lay with one cheek in the pool, arms wrapped around himself and pressing a notebook to his breast. His eyes were closed, dark lashes showing up clearly on high white cheekbones, and darker hair spilled down his shoulders, curling gently at the ends and over his ears. He looked peaceful and almost as though he had simply been claimed by sleep, but his skin was cold to the touch, and certainly the blood and the wound in his throat said otherwise.

Another boy knelt on his hands and knees beside the still form, his pale golden hair falling over his eyes as he wept. He was only a little older than the dead boy, but his tears fell unashamedly, running down his cheeks and splashing the blood, the salt-water holding its form as clear, glass-like drops in the deep red. His lips moved in words, pleadingly, but no sound came from him. Suddenly he wiped the tears from his eyes in a violent action, and pushed himself back onto his heels.

Instantly the cover of silence that had surrounded him, the bubble of stillness that made it seem like he and the other boy were the only two people in the world, was destroyed. He could hear people talking, hear the murmur of voices, the voices of his parents, of the police, concerned and probably speaking to him, but he couldn't bear to listen, so he didn't. He caught many times in the murmur the name of the boy, and his own name as well.

"Sébastien. He was shot. Those delinquent gangs with guns, terrorizing the neighbourhood, having a shootout. He was coming home after school, never noticed, walked right into it. He probably didn't even feel a thing."

Oh, how he hated that voice, whoever it belonged to. That person had no right to even suppose what happened, no right to imagine what Sébastien might have felt.

He put one hand under the boy's blood-dampened head and pulled the body to himself, his action dislodging the notebook from its owner's arms. He stared at it a moment, then threw it to the side, burying his face in Sébastien's hair.

"Why?! Why the...*hell* did you have to die?! You idiot! God, I'd kill you, I would!" He could feel his tears beginning again. "Damn everything! You're so stupid! You knew, you knew, they told all of us!"

His mother laid a careful hand on his shoulder, her tone soft. "Luc, please, don't touch him. It's..." She sounded helpless. "There's nothing you can do. His parents will want to see him. You can't keep him. Please, come away."

Shoulders shaking, his only answer was to hold the boy closer. He was certain he looked mad, but this was not just a friend, it was *Sébastien*, his best friend, best friend of eleven years, constant companion. He knew, he didn't need his mother to tell him, that he should step away and let go, hide his face and wait till he was alone to cry, allow Sébastien's parents to take him, but he didn't want to even consider it. Not now. Not when he could still hear Sébastien's voice, talking to him, laughing with him.

Sébastien. The poet. The kid who always carried a notebook. No one had ever seen him without it, and he wrote in it constantly. It wasn't a diary, no; everyone knew that, because everyone had been asked at least once to read the latest entry of careful black-inked print. Sébastien never kept his poems secret; he rejoiced in showing them to the world.

And they were good.

People said he'd be a writer when he grew up. They knew he'd be famous. His words were beautiful and real and rich and alive. His visions and dreams, his quirky humour and love of life; you could feel him, know him, in his poems.

That was how Luc met him. Sébastien was transferred into their school district eleven years ago, and the first thing he did upon entering the kindergarten class was to walk up to Luc and ask him, "Will you read my poem? It's about grass."

It was the first piece of poetry Luc ever read, and it made for him the first friend he'd ever had as well.

Sébastien, on the other hand, was everyone's friend. He didn't seem like the sort who would be - he wore long- and wide-sleeved shirts of silk or linen, and often long brown pants, no matter the season, though he rolled the cuffs up in summer. He wore his hair long, sometimes even tied it back with leather strips in a ponytail. He was polite to anyone upon first meeting him or her, and he often spoke in a lightly accented voice and used old-fashioned speech mannerisms. Still, he was had an irresistible personality, and everyone who met him loved him. He wasn't quiet, the way people expected a poet to be, but he wasn't loud or annoying either. He listened when someone spoke, he never ridiculed anyone, and he liked to do both his cursing and his flirting elegantly.

Everyone, everyone, knew that he had a future, knew that if any of the children at the school would make a place in history, it would be Sébastien.

And here he was, a limp, blood-covered body, cradled in his best friend's arms, all his chances gone, thrown away, ended, lost into nothingness. He wouldn't ever write another poem, never, he'd never run up to another total stranger and demand cheerily, "Read this, sir, will you? I'm not so sure of the meter."

Luc realized that and looked around frantically for the book he'd thrown to the side. It had fallen in the pool, and the crimson had slowly spread up along the pages, soaking them, and they were already falling to pieces and melting. He let out a cry and reached his hand out to catch it up and hug the ruined bits of paper to himself along with Sébastien's body.

Once again his mother touched his shoulder, and this time he turned his face up to her, and said quietly, in a broken voice, "His poems. Mama, his poems are gone."

She started, because he hadn't called her Mama in years, and returned gently, "No, no, that was only one book. He'd others at home."

"One of these he wrote for me. The last one he ever wrote for me, Mama. It's gone. It's gone!" Distressed, he pulled Sébastien closer, bowing his head and knitting his fingers in the wet crimson and white linen. He touched the cold, dead skin and he whimpered softly, shifting and shuddering. "Sébastien!"

"Come away. Put him down, and let his mother and father have him, please, Luc. They love him and he's their son. Come with me."

Almost unconsciously, he tried to stand, but then became aware of the weight in his arms. He stared down at the body and breathed a ragged gasp, then looked up as he realized that a man had come to take Sébastien from him. Sadly, as if in a dream, he released the boy and met his mother's eyes. He stepped forward, slowly, then turned back and rushed to the man's side.

In a whisper, speaking only to the boy who had been his best friend, he murmured, "I won't remember you like this. I promise. I'll remember this morning, when you made me read your poem. Okay?"

Then he turned, and wiped a hand across his face, and, lifting his chin resolutely, he went to his mother's side. He would do his regretting later, and in private. For now, it was time to close his eyes and remember Sébastien.

Owari - End