Lost Fragments @teamcap
Stage 16: Embracing Life, Part I

Second to the last chapter. It's been fun writing this fic. I couldn't wait to announce its next installment in the final chapter. ^^

Also, thank you, Nue, for beta reading the last chapters. :D

(Also, to the reviewers I appreciate the review, but tone it down with the language. Just a request. ^^')

Stage 16 - Embracing Life, Part I

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"Death is not the end; as long as we cherish them in our memories... in our hearts, then they are never gone from this world. Remember, that they live on within us. Sometimes, guiding us... taking us... teaching us... at which path we should take... because... our life is not our own... Remember, that we not only live for ourselves... but we also live for the people who care about us... We live for our family. We live for our friends. We live for our loved ones... We're still alive because of a purpose. It may not be that big, but still... it's important for us to continue living... Remember, it's not the end. It will never be the end."

Sapphire eyes darted on the dewy, grassy ground, fixing her gaze into it. She bit her lip; holding back the tears that were forming in it. She took a deep breath and sniffled. The priest's words resonated in her head.

"Death is not the end."

She would always hear of that since her mother passed away. Some people believed that dead people would live one time, but that time was unknown. It was a rumour and a belief. Up until now it still remained a mystery how dead people would live when that certain time would come. She opened her mouth, sighing.

Her teary, sapphire blue orbs shifted their gaze from the ground, slowly darting their way onto the coffins. Her heart pounded anxiously. Every second it would take to stare at the coffins felt like it took a lifetime. Her breath was caught in her throat, preventing her to breathe properly. Tears continued to well up on her eyes as the breeze of the wind dropped. Its temperature increased, moist could be felt in the air as it ran pass through the horizon.

Lightning flashed, and for not more than second, covered the city in a bright light. Thunder roared and crackled in the sky once the lightning subsided. Its loud roar was heard throughout the city; the sound was vibrant, enough to surprise people. The air kept its moist texture. Lightning flashed again, its speed was faster than before. It took several seconds for the thunder to roar in the heavens once again, and once it had let out its cries, rain slowly started pouring down from the dark sky.

The water was cold. It felt like it came from the icy mountains. It felt like it was liquidized ice. It soaked everything around the city. The structures. The vehicles. The moist ground. The plants. The people. Cold rainwater continued to drench everything around it, soaking and hugging every living and nonliving being it would touch.

"As long as we cherish them in our memories…"

Sapphire took a deep breath and closed her eyes, feeling the cold rainwater traveled through her skin as it soaked her. The freezing rain continued to drench every bit of her, from head to toe. She didn't care how cold the rain was. She didn't care how it almost left a chill on her spine, how it could almost freeze every bone in her body.

All she cared about was the fact that this was the last time she would see her father and her aunt. It was true she could recall the memories she had shared with them from the photos saved on her phone or in the photo albums they had, but it couldn't change the fact that they were no longer living in this world. They were gone.

She gritted her teeth. Her hands balled into fists, clenching it as hard as she could, making sure not a single tear would fall from her eyes.

"Remember that they live within us."

Sapphire shut her eyes open, her mouth slowly hung open. She felt her chest tightened, emotions kept on gripping it, making her breathless. She found a hard time breathing as she watched the priest said his final words before the coffins were now placed in its respective hole in the ground. Her heart continued to thump anxiously, her eyes slowly widening in fear at the coffins being placed into the ground. Four people grabbed a shovel, scooping dirt from the pile and placing it on the coffins, burying it with the saturated soil.

"Remember that not only we live for ourselves…"

She felt legs were getting wobbly. Its texture almost felt like a jelly. It got weaker and weaker as the last pile of saturated soil buried the coffins. Her arms continued to tremble. Fear. Anxiety. Self-doubt. Anger. Confusion. Every possible negative emotion she could have were all getting tossed and piled up into her chest, suffocating her with it. She let out a cough, hoping to stop her tears from blinding her vision. She closed her eyes, dropping her head on the ground, her mouth was hung open. She let out another cough as lightning flashed onto the sky, followed by the thunder's loud crackle.

The priest's final words became faint in her ears. All she could hear was the thunder's roar. All she could feel was the cold, rainwater drenching and dripping onto her skin. She didn't care if she ever got sick. She didn't care what would happen to her. All she cared about was her father and her aunt.

How could she live now that they were permanently gone, never to be seen in this world?

"It's not the end."

Sapphire slowly opened her eyes. She bit her lip, her eyes were now darting around the slab of concrete planted in front of the coffins. Despite the darkness shrouding the place, she could perfectly see what was inscribed in it. She wanted to look away, leave and cry, but she couldn't. She could only stood there silently, watching people leave the place with their umbrellas, finding a warm, dry place. She felt the rain no longer soaking her skin. She blinked and threw her head back. Her eyes met a black umbrella placed above her. She sighed, jerking her head to her left.

"It's not the end." Blue repeated, her voice was soft and comforting.

Yet, Sapphire could hear it loudly and clearly. She couldn't grasp the right answers. She couldn't hold onto anything at the moment. Her hands traveled onto her elbows, gripping it gently, hugging herself. Her eyes returned to gaze at the saturated soil.

"It will never be the end." Blue continued, her left hand placed on Sapphire's shoulder. She gave it a soft squeeze. Her concerned blue eyes were fixed on her younger friend. She took a deep breath, grabbing Sapphire's hand. "You're soaked, Sapphire. You need to go home and dry yourself. Ruby told me to take care of you, and he'll be worried if you got sick."

Sapphire bit her lip, nodding slowly. Her eyes were fixed one, last time on the tombstones. This was the last day she would ever see their physical forms. She took a deep breath, turning around, ready to walk her way back to her apartment despite her weak and wobbly legs.

"Don't worry about us. We're in a safe place now."

Sapphire's eyes widened in shock. She jerked her head back to the tombstones and saw her father. His lips curved into a toothy grin, smiling jollily and widely. It was her father's signature smile that often made her giggle from its silliness, especially in her younger days. She swallowed hard. Her father. Professor Birch. Was she... Was she seeing things correctly? How come she was seeing him? What just happened? Was he alright? She knew he was, but why was she seeing him alive and wellfree from the scars and the bruises he received from the accident? What... was she seeing? Was it even real...?

"I'm very proud of you, Sapphire. You've done so many great things. Your mother and I... are very proud of you. I'm with her now. There's no need to worry. Focus on your goals now."

"D-Dad..." She bit her lip, controlling the tears from falling. It felt real. Her father's words... it felt like she was talking to him directly. She wasn't seeing things, right?

"We're always here for you, Sapphire." Professor Birch said, his lips still wearing that jolly smile. His eyes darted around his daughter, observing her. "We'll never leave you."

"D-Dad..." She uttered. Her tone was soft. It sounded confused, surprised yet happy. She didn't know why she was seeing this. If her father appeared just so he could make her feel better, then it was definitely working.

"We will always be with you."

"Wait, dad!" Sapphire jolted from up the bed. Her mouth was hung open, gasping for air. She could feel beads of sweat were trailing down from her forehead, reaching her cheeks. Her heart rate increased its pace, thumping loudly and anxiously.

Why was she having another dream... another memory about their funeral? After twenty months since her family's death, such memories like their funeral or how they died still lingered in her head. She thought accepting the fact that she couldn't change anything about their deaths, but move forward in life would help her, but it turned out it was not. It either appeared in her head, replaying the same event over and over again, every time she was not tired from her work or whenever Ruby didn't spend the night in their apartment.

"D-Dad..." Sapphire called hoarsely and helplessly, as she caught her breath, gasping heavily. She placed her palms under her elbows, gripping it. She let out a loud cough, still having a hard time catching her breath, and bit her lip. Sweat continued to travel down from her forehead up to her cheeks. She gritted her teeth and continued to ball her fists, preventing her arms from trembling. "Dad..." She just didn't understand why.

She accepted the fact that they were no longer gone in this world, right?

She was still moving forward in life despite she badly missed them, and yet why did such negative memories after their deaths linger in her head instead of the positive ones?

Sapphire took a deep breath, removing the blanket from her legs. She went off from the bed, standing up, and placed her left palm on the wall to support her weak legs.

If Ruby were here, he would immediately wake up and sit on her bed. He would later grab her hand, brushed his fingers against hers while holding it, sharing the small warmth his hand contained. She could already imagine his worried look as he tried his best to contain himself from kissing all her pain away. She had to admit that he did look cute every time she sees his worried face. Beyond his charismatic attitude was the boy she knew and loved, who would always do what he could to protect his loved ones. She had always admired that quality from him.

Sapphire felt a lump in her throat and swallowed hard. Her heart thumped loudly at the thought, almost beating out from her chest.

She gently shook her head, her brunette locks swaying with it. Feelings were such complicated things, and she knew she didn't have time for it. She was already busy with her career and with her research. But did she really...? She let out another cough, forcing her legs to take a step towards their apartment's small kitchen.

She needed a cup of tea to calm herself from all these thoughts that had been lingering in her head since that nightmare... that memory woke her up.

It had been three days since Ruby went home to the province to visit his parents. He invited her to come with him, but unfortunately, she had a ton of work to do and her three-day weekend turned out to be her extra three working days instead. One could say that she could be having those nightmares due to her stress, but she doubted it. She was certain it wasn't the cause of stress. She knew how to manage her time well despite the amount of work she had.

The young professional took a deep breath, swallowing the sweet, creamy lukewarm tea. She felt guilty for declining Anna's offer. Anna wanted her to come with Ruby last weekend, but her work stopped her. If only the deadline wasn't yesterday, then she would have come home to the province. It had been a while since she went there. It would be nice to visit the place she had grown up with despite the events twenty months ago. She had probably disappointed Nana. Nana must be expecting that she would be there too when Ruby got home.

She shook her head.

No.

Nana would understand.

She would return to the province soon if it meant she could see Nana again and give the German shepherd a hug it deserved.

Nana was a blessing. She had grown up with the dog, and she loved spending her time and taking care of her. Nana was always there to make her feel better, just like her mother was when she was still alive.

She took a deep breath. Her lips curved into a smile, reminiscing every time she returned to the province with Ruby. She was always thrilled to return and to see her family again. They would tell stories, stargaze and camp outside. She would always spend her weekends in the province with her family. Those memories were irreplaceable. It never failed to put a smile on her face. She wished she could do it again with them, but she couldn't. Nothing could ever change the past. It already happened. They were gone and there was nothing she could do.

Sapphire took another sip from the cup of tea, disregarding her negative thoughts. She tried to remember that life would still go on despite the tragedies that could lie ahead. The road could be rough at times, but there would always be happiness in the end. After all, she was not alone in this world. She had Ruby. She had her friends. They would make such great memories together. She knew they would, especially Ruby. Death was not the end. Her life still had a meaning.

She snapped out from her trance. Her eyes darted on the kitchen counter, looking at her vibrating phone. Her eyebrows furrowed.

Who would call her at this time of the night? Looking at her phone's clock, it was exactly eleven twenty-five in the evening. She knew every one of her co-workers was either asleep or working on their own paper works. Her friends were also asleep around this hour too. Who could be calling her?

She sighed, grabbing her phone, nonetheless, and placed her cup of tea on the coaster. Her eyes widened in shock. "W-Wha... R-Ruby...?" She mumbled, pressing the call button, and answered the call.

"Sapphire...?"

"Ruby...?"

Sapphire bit her lip, pressing her phone closer to her ear, hoping to hear his voice better. In spite of her sharp sense of hearing, she wanted to feel like he was there just beside her despite she could only hear him for now. She didn't know, she couldn't grasp why he called this late at night, but she was glad to at least hear his presence. She felt her heart and her breathing patterns slowly returning to its normal pace.

It was odd that she could finally breathe properly just by hearing his voice.

"Are you alright?" Ruby asked after a moment of silence. He didn't know how long he was listening to her calm breathing. Time somehow stopped. The cold night breeze continued rustling with the leaves of the trees and the earth's grass. The faint moonlight continued to shine through his window, lighting up his dark room slightly. The natural sounds of the night now started becoming music into his ears, creating such unique melody lingering in the environment.

The music was peaceful. It reminded him of his final exams week in his college days where he and Sapphire isolated themselves from their classmates in the library. They would meet up in a secluded place in the library, and just study together despite their different college programs. They would just open their notes, study and have a small chat during their break time.

A small smile plastered across lips. Nostalgia gripped his chest. Raw tears slowly formed in his eyes. That was one of the memories and time he would cherish with her for as long as he lived.

There was a saying that studying was always fun if the person is interested in the topic. Ruby always thought that it was just a shallow knowledge from it. It all depended on everyone's experiences. Isolating himself with his college classmates to study with Sapphire in a secluded place in the library was his way of defining why studying was fun. He never felt any pressure or competition when it came to studying with her compared to his classmates.

Maybe it was because he only felt competitive when Sapphire was around? But it was not the bad kind of competitiveness. It was always a way of improving himself when being competitive around Sapphire counted. She always knew how to give him a great challenge and have fun at once.

"Why are you awake at this time? You'll be leaving there in like six hours and you need some sleep..." Sapphire said. Her tone was anxious. She knew she avoided his question, but it wasn't necessary for now. His condition was more important at the moment.

"I... couldn't sleep..." Ruby responded, lying in his bed. He pressed his phone closer to his ear, hoping to feel every bit of her presence. Her calm breathing. Her warmth. Her touch. Her heartbeat. Every single one of it. Despite being gone for three days, he already missed her. He knew he often sees her every day, especially now that they were living under the same roof, but leaving her alone for three days made him missed her presence. He knew she could take care of herself, but he just wanted to be there for her. It was odd that he couldn't sleep tonight.

He didn't drink some coffee earlier, and he wasn't anxious about anything. Nonetheless, at least he got to talk to her. He didn't know why he decided to call her at this time. The possibilities of her not asleep at this time were either from her work or from a nightmare. He hoped and prayed it wasn't the latter. "...are you alright?"

Sapphire took a deep breath, sighing. It looked like it was her turn now. "Please, get some sleep soon, Ruby... and yes, I-I'm alright." She swallowed hard, further biting her lip. She just wished he didn't notice that. Her voice always had that bad habit of cracking every time Ruby asked her that question. If she was alright, her tone and her voice sounded normal, but when she was not, her voice often cracked.

It was alright if that happened to anyone, but it was not. It only happened to Ruby, and no one else. No matter how hard she tried to answer his question in a normal tone and voice, it just always cracked. It felt like it had a mind of its own.

"Sapphire..." He mumbled, concern crept into his tone. He turned to his left, his eyes darted at the nightstand and gazed onto a picture frame. The small smile on his lips returned. He took a deep breath. It was one of the most cherished photos he had with her.

The photo was their college graduation. Ruby was beside Sapphire, both eyes were locked on the camera in front of them. Both were holding their diplomas with them as a cheerful smile were plastered across their lips. Behind them were students of different college programs sprawled across the university's field, either talking to their parents or taking a group photo with their respective friend groups. They managed to finish their respective college programs in four years just like they planned. Despite the financial and academic struggles they'd been through, it was all worth it. They received their diplomas and currently have good and stable jobs.

He could clearly remember how he hugged her once the ceremony ended. He first went to her seat once all the graduated students left. The sincere smile he wore didn't leave his lips as he approached her. He stopped on his tracks, greeted her a sincere congratulations and wrapped his arms around her for a warm, congratulatory hug. He felt her body tensed up a bit as she too wrapped her arms around him for a hug. He felt her warmth and happiness just through their hug on that day.

It was irreplaceable. He was so happy for her. She achieved one of her many goals in life. He was proud of her. If they were not in public, he would gladly scream her name, like their friend, Black, just to show his feelings for her. It was odd that his feelings for her could make him do a lot of things, but he knew they were all worth it. "...what's wrong?"

Sapphire swallowed hard. Her eyes darted around the kitchen as she took a deep breath.

Ruby bit his lip, patiently waiting for her response. Anxiety lit up in his eyes. He could only hope that she was alright.

"Just... had a nightmare... I think...?" She responded, her voice almost sounded like a faint whisper. She couldn't even tell if it was a nightmare or not. It was a depressing memory for her since it was her family's funeral, but seeing her father in that memory confused her. It felt like a dream at first, but it wasn't in the end. What did it mean anyway? Why would she have that kind of memory almost two years since their death?

Ruby's eyes widened. He jolted and sat up in his bed. His left fingers gently gripped his phone. His heart started beating anxiously. He wished he were there beside her. He wanted to hug and to kiss her until she would fall asleep. He managed to do that last month under similar scenarios, and it worked. It may work in this scenario, but he wasn't there beside her. He needed to return to the city now. "How can I help?"

Sapphire's lips curved into a small smile. Her eyes were fixed on the tiled floor. It looked like a gem sparkling in a cave whenever the moonlight shone upon it. It was beautiful. Simple, but beautiful. Ruby always pointed this to her every time they have their late night snacks. "It's just... my family's funeral. It's nothing, really."

"Sapphire..."

"I already told you what happened, didn't I?"

"Yes, but..."

"Ruby, go to sleep, please. You'll be leaving early tomorrow."

"It's only eleven... something, I still have six hours left."

"I still want you to sleep."

"Not until the woman I love is alright." Ruby took a deep breath, calming himself. He had let it slip again. It was true that it's almost two years since her family's death, but that didn't mean he had to make his move now. It could wait. He never wanted to lose her again, and in order to not let it happen, he must be cautious with his words and his actions. He bit his lip. "I mean... S-Sapphire... w-what I'm trying to say is..."

"It's alright." Sapphire said. Her tone was calm. Her voice was soft and comfortable to listen to. She knew he was only worried about her. His emotions sometimes get ahold of him, and she didn't mind, really. She appreciated it, in fact. She didn't expect he would reciprocate his feelings for her in such a passionate and pure manner. She never dared to think or to imagine that this could happen. She wished she could repay him.

Did she have the same feelings for him too? Honestly, maybe? It was probable. He never failed to make her smile every time they were together. He never failed to go back on his word. He never failed to be there for her, especially when she needed him most. He was always her shoulder to cry on, her ear to listen to, her hand to help her pick up from the rubble and to stand up on it so she could try again. She appreciated every one of his efforts despite how huge or small it was. Words could never perfectly describe how thankful she was for him.

"At least..." She swallowed hard, thinking about the necessary words she needed as a response. What could she say, really? She was always flustered or speechless every time he would say that. Was this a natural reaction every time... Ugh. She shook her head. One thing was certain, though. She was confused. She was always an emotional person, but the events months ago made her more emotional than she was once were. Was she still healing from her grief after all this time? "...you're being... honest about what your feelings..."

"I am... I really am..." He paused, thinking if he should say it or not. He wanted to, honestly. He would be nothing but an honest, a loyal and a dedicated man to Sapphire. It was not because it's his job as her future partner. Well, they always were partners—since their childhood and up to their current situations—but he hoped it would last a lifetime. Maybe not as romantic partners, but as each other's best friends. Although he had to admit, he preferred both. He loved her so much. He would never leave her, and he would always be there for her despite any circumstances. He didn't just fall in love with her, he was still falling in love with her.

Every day, he would wake up with something to look forward to despite the possible troubles and negativity ahead. It was because of one reason. He knew at the end of the day, he would always go home and see Sapphire safe and sound. His feelings for her just kept on growing through time and it would still do for as long as he lives. He had and would only love one person in his life romantically, and that was Sapphire. There was no one else, but her. He couldn't think of anyone else to love romantically but Sapphire.

"Sapphire..." He sat up, his eyes darted at Nana who was sleeping soundly in her bed. He took a deep breath. "Are you really alright?"

Sapphire looked down, slowly bobbing her head for a nod. "Barely..." She was alright, physically, but she really wasn't alright emotionally. She should have gotten over this. She should have been healed.

However, she was still healing from it after twenty months.

Ruby bit his lip. He felt his heartbeat pumped faster. He wanted to leave the house now and go to their apartment just to hug her. He really wished he could, but his dad would be driving the car tomorrow. He was supposed to be using the car he rented from Platinum but Pearl managed to pick up the car he rented since the three best friends would have a road trip. He wished he could have rented someone else's car despite how expensive it could possibly get. At least in that state, he would have started leaving the house now just to get there. "How can I help?"

She took a deep breath, her legs were slowly moving, letting her walk from the kitchen to the living room despite her raw strength.

"What exactly happened?"

"Ruby..." Sapphire held onto her phone, her fingers still gripping it. How would she tell him? How could she explain it? "It's just their funeral... it's nothing... really..."

"It matters. Your well-being matters to me. Sapphire... did you..." He hesitated. He wished it was not like he thought it was. It did have its good and bad effects on her. He just hoped and prayed it wasn't the latter. "Did you... see them?"

Sapphire held her breath. She felt tears were slowly forming in her eyes as her chest tightened. She couldn't breathe. How did he know? Was it just a hunch? "I..." She was speechless. Thoughts kept on recurring into her head. She tried to remove it, to forget it, thinking of something else. Something. Something to respond. Something else to change the topic, but what? What else should they talk about?

"Sapphire... it's okay to cry..."

Her eyes widened. She bit her lip. She swallowed hard, only to release a loud hiccup and a sniffle. She coughed, letting the tears flow freely. Why did she have to cry now? Why must her body betray her at a time like this?

"What did they say?" Ruby asked, concern crept into his tone. His right hand traveled on his chest, gripping his shirt. He couldn't bear to see her cry that's the truth, but the worst part was whenever he couldn't be physically there for her every time she would cry. His grip on his chest tightened. Why couldn't he just leave now? Hearing her sobbing was just too much for him to handle.

He badly wanted to leave the house now just so he could go to their apartment, and be physically there for her. He knew she needed a hug. He knew she needed someone to wipe the tears from her, but he had to remember that she was not that fragile little girl anymore.

Yes, he knew very well that she was strong enough to take care of herself.

Sapphire was not the type of woman who needed some sort of bodyguards or some knights in shining armors to protect herself, after all.

But...

Every time she felt helpless, he couldn't help but have this strong desire to help her in any way he could. It was true he is not a professional when it came to helping people. He never was one, but this was Sapphire he was talking about. He loved her. It hurt seeing the person he loved get hurt, physically and emotionally.

"It's..." She sobbed, swallowing hard, in hopes to gather her voice. She got this. She couldn't be a burden to him. Her condition would just make him worry about her. She didn't need to ask him. She could feel it. She gently shook her head.

No.

She felt it.

It was always natural for Ruby to worry about her. She didn't need to wonder or ask him why. Even before his confession, he was always worried about her. He was always there for her, and he never stopped caring about her.

She took a deep breath, calming herself. Once she told him what happened, he would finally get some rest. There was no need to make this conversation longer. They both needed some sleep. "It's just... it's just dad saying..." She bit her lip, stopping the tears from falling. Why did she have to be like this? She was almost there...

Sapphire... Ruby removed his hand on his chest, lazily dropping his arm on the pillow. He let his head sink into the pillow, making himself physically comfortable in the situation despite his fast heartbeat.

"Dad... saying... that..." She let out a cough, hoping to say the words her mind was trying to convey. "I shouldn't be worried about them..."

Ruby's lips curved into a small smile. It was true, nonetheless. Her family was in a safe place. They were free from any harm despite their condition. He knew... He could feel that she missed them, nonetheless. Everything that happened to her months ago was unexpected, and she didn't deserve any of it. But he was glad she was healing from it, little by little.

"It's weird, Ruby."

"Hmm?" Ruby asked, furrowing his eyebrows. His tone was curious. What made her think it was weird? Was it because...

"I have mixed feelings about that memory. I thought... I thought it was just their funeral, but seeing my dad... it felt..." She took a deep breath, her eyes darted on the photo frame placed on the nightstand beside the couch. A small smile plastered across on her lips at the sight.

It was a photo of the sun setting on the mountains. She took that photo years ago. It was her last camping trip with her father. It was at that time Professor Birch told her out the blue to go on a three-day camping trip with him once her three-week break started. She wondered why at first. Her father was a busy man, of course, and it was quite a shock to know he managed to get some time. She was happy he managed to, nonetheless. She loved spending her time with her father, and always yearned for one. It was a chance she would never disregard. "It felt like he was communicating with me through that memory..."

He chuckled, his soft, soothing voice echoed through their call. It was enough to make her giggle softly from his silly reaction. She could already see his cute face while doing that. She swallowed hard, hoping the temperature of her cheeks to cool down.

Ruby was also known for being quite a decent charmer, but how come she was the only one who could see the sincerity behind it? People never noticed that Ruby was still a human being capable of emotions. It was true that Ruby was always quite hesitant about his feelings, making people believe that he was nothing but a perfect person with a perfect life, but he was not. He had experienced such terrible things that Sapphire wished he didn't go through it. He didn't deserve any of it, honestly. But nonetheless, it was an honor to be the only one who could read and see Ruby's truest self. She just wished people would stop judging him just because of that.

She heard him taking a deep breath, snapping her out from her thoughts. She didn't understand why she would just think about him whenever she was reminded of the little things about him. She knew he had experienced it as well. She did catch him mumbling in his sleep once, and the first word that came out from his mouth was her name. She didn't expect that he was still thinking about her despite his condition. How often did he dream of her?

"Sapphire..." He called her name, passion lit up in his tone. "He knows you've gone through a lot, and I know he's proud of you. He just wanted to see his only daughter for at least... for at least one..." His smile disappeared, passion still burning in his eyes, nonetheless. If he were professor Birch, he would grab any chance just to see Sapphire again... despite it would be... would be... "The last time..."

"But..." Sapphire bit her lip, her back now lying comfortably on the couch. Her sapphire blue orbs stared at the ceiling. "Why does it have to be that memory? Can it be a happy one? I've had... I've had enough of sad memories…"

His eyes darted on the ceiling, staring at it, imagining it was the night sky. His lips slowly curved into a frown. "Honestly... I don't know, Sapphire." He bit his lip, frustration gripped his heart. What was the answer? How come he didn't know? How come he couldn't help her? Why must he not know? Why? Why? Why? "I'm sorry..."

"It's okay, Ruby." She responded, her lips curving into a small grin. Her fangs poking out from her top lip. Her smile stayed for a minute before her lips slowly curved downwards for a frown. Why was she like this? "I was just wondering why that certain memory. All I did on that day was..." She swallowed hard, hoping her voice wouldn't crack on her next words.

"Hey," Ruby said in the most passionate and sincere tone he could muster. He could feel her tears welling up in her eyes as she speaks. He hoped her voice wouldn't crack. He hope she wouldn't lose her voice. Sapphire always had that habit of losing her voice from utter shock or fear, and he wished this situation wasn't any of it. "It's alright. I would do the same if my loved ones..." He gritted his teeth. Why was he thinking about that? Could he just think of something else as a comparison besides that? Anything but that thought... "Y-you know..."

"Don't." Sapphire quipped sternly, gritting her teeth. Her arms started to tremble a bit. She knew what he exactly meant, and she would not let it happen. It was terrible, and she would never wish it upon anyone. Experiencing it brought nothing but pain and sorrow in her. She had lost her will to live the moment her family died, and Ruby had so much stuff to do in his life. Anything but that, Ruby... please. "Please, don't, Ruby. I don't want you to end up like me."

Ruby took a deep breath, bobbing his head for a nod. He sighed. He would do anything for her happiness, and experiencing that wasn't one of it. "I'll make sure I won't, don't worry."

Sapphire nodded slowly, sitting up. She bit her lip, turning her heel to her left, walking straight to her bedroom. She could hear his gentle breathing through their call as she closed the door and lied down on the bed. She sighed.

It seemed like he wouldn't end the call until she said so. It had always been like this in every one of their calls. If his work wouldn't end their call, then it would have to be her. It was not that she hated it, really, she just couldn't understand why Ruby would often find a way to make their conversations longer and more interesting. She was the extraverted one between them, so it was quite odd that in spite of his introverted nature, he was the one leading their conversations such as this one. She was definitely the only one who had experienced this, and she doubted Ruby would show this side of him to anyone.

She was always observant in his behavior and realized he only acted like this to her and no one else. Did he act like this because of his feelings for her or was he comfortable enough to show his truest self to her? It could be both. She gently shook her head. It was both. Ruby... "It's late, go to sleep... we... both need to go to sleep."

"But... Sapphire, are you—"

"Hey, we can talk about this tomorrow... Good night."

Ruby let out a sigh. "Good night... Sapphire..." He mumbled, looking at his phone. Their call lasted for ten minutes. It may seem short, but he felt like it was enough, which was odd. He didn't know whether time was toying with him or not. His time with Sapphire was usually short and it often gave him an unsatisfied taste in his mouth. What could he say, really? Every time he had spent and would spend with her was precious. It meant the world to him.

He furrowed his eyebrows. His thumb slowly scrolled down through his phone's contact list, looking for a certain phone number. Nonetheless, she would get some good night sleep now that she had sort of vented to him. He hoped she wouldn't wake up from another nightmare again.

"I'm surprised you're awake at this time."

Ruby gently shook his head, his sideburns swaying along with it. Was he the only person not surprised why he was awake around this time?

"Anyway, what is it? And ya better hurry. I'm going to bed soon."

Ruby took a deep breath. It looked like he needed to go straight to the point here. "Alright, alright. It won't take long."

...

...

...

...

Sapphire threw her hands up, stretching it for the nth time of the day. Her mouth slowly hung open for a yawn as her eyes darted around the apartment. She bit her lip. Keys? They were definitely in her satchel. What else did she need? Well, her boss decided to give her another day off for a job well done on her work, so there was no need to bring her flash drive. Moon was also busy with her final exams, so there was no need for her to grab her own lab coat. Let's see...

She sighed, grabbing a red cap in her bag and put it on her head. Her soft left fingers gripped the bill of the cap, pressing it downwards. She didn't forget anything, and it was time to leave.

She twisted the doorknob, swinging the door, opening it. "E-Emerald?" She asked, shocked at her friend's sudden visit. Emerald would always send her a text message if he ever wanted to visit. She had a hunch that Ruby called him last night just to check on her. She could feel it. Her intuitions were telling her so.

"Hey," Emerald greeted, gently dropping his right arm. He was about to knock on the door until Sapphire opened it, but oh well. What was done was done. He took a deep breath, tilting his head. His curious emerald green eyes met her sapphire blue eyes. Ruby definitely didn't tell her. He said he would. He must have forgotten or just said that to make him shut up. He sighed. When would the lover boy learn?

"He didn't tell ya, didn't he?"

"He told ya to, right?"

Sapphire took a deep breath, sighing. She closed and locked the apartment door before returning her attention to Emerald. She watched Emerald's left palm travel from his forehead and onto his chin.

"I guess we both have the same hunch it was your boyfriend." Emerald said, crossing his arms over his chest. He watched Sapphire let out a cough. His eyebrows furrowed. He definitely saw her cheeks heat up. Don't tell me these lovebirds were not in a relationship yet? What was the point of living together under the same roof if—Ugh. He shook his head, gritting his teeth. He shouldn't bother. Ruby and Sapphire had been through a lot together.

"H-He's not..." She swallowed hard, her eyes avoiding any contact from his. Why did he have to assume now? "W-We're not..."

"Anyway," He called, grabbing her attention. "Let's just drop that. Are you alright, though?"

"I told him I'm okay." She mumbled, gripping the leather strap of her satchel. Ruby was always desperate. If he couldn't be physically there, he would either ask Blue, Emerald or Wally to look after her. He knew her capabilities. He knew she could take care of herself. She understood why he never stopped caring about her, but did he really need to ask help from their friends too?

"Ehhh, you know Ruby. He cares about you the most... even before the..." He bit his lip, lifting his head and took a glance at her. It was not that it's forbidden, but he feared he may hurt her. Not only he would feel Ruby's wrath, but he also cared about Sapphire as a friend. "You know..."

Sapphire's lips curved into a small smile with her fangs poking out from her top lip. The crisp breeze ran past them, letting their hairs and their clothes sway with it. Emerald could only stare at her, his eyes lit up with admiration. By observation, Ruby was right about Sapphire's natural beauty. "It goes way back..."

"I see..." Emerald responded and continued walking with her. "You know... I was planning to visit you too. It's just a coincidence that Ruby called me last night."

"He..." She bit her lip, her eyes were fixed on the young man. "...didn't disturb you, didn't he?"

"Well..." He closed his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest and took a deep breath. "He was lucky that I was still awake at that time. I'll be a bit pissed if he called me in the middle of the night... but I understand his concerns. The guy really... sincerely does have a thing for you..." He opened his eyes, his curious green orbs gazed at her, observing her reactions. He could tell she was a bit confused and... flustered...? He always knew the two liked each other based on their flirting days when they were young, but ever since he found out that Ruby loved Sapphire, he was starting to view their relationship differently.

Crystal told him that the pure, sincere romantic love was different from the platonic love. He could perfectly see it in Ruby's eyes that he did care for Sapphire, and would even go to the point for the sake of her happiness. It was indeed, a selfless act. He didn't expect it from Ruby, but it was nice to know that he could genuinely care, nonetheless.

Sapphire could only nod at his words, biting her lip. There was nothing else to elaborate. She didn't know how he found out about it, but she was certain that Emerald was just observant about his surroundings.

"I really hope you're feeling better, Sapphire. You can always talk to me, nonetheless, oh, and..." He stopped in his tracks, his gaze never left hers. He dug his hands into his pockets, his lips curving into a small pout. He was curious why she didn't turn her heel to her left. They usually go to the same street to their respective workplaces. "Aren't we supposed to be going on the same street for work...?" He asked, furrowing his eyebrows.

Sapphire lowered her head, meeting his gaze. Her lips curved into a small smile as she shook her head. "I don't have any work today, miraculously. I'll be going somewhere else."

"You want me to accompany you?"

She gently shook her head. "You got work, Emerald. I'll be fine."

"Ehhh? Alright." Emerald responded, shrugging. He watched Sapphire continue walking away from him. He bit his lip. Wherever it was, he knew she would be safe. Sapphire was a strong person, after all. "See ya around." His heel turned to his left, slowly taking some small steps. He remembered how desperate Ruby was when he called him. He didn't need to wonder why he was worried about Sapphire. She was still healing after all this time.

He sighed and took another glance at Sapphire. At least, she sounded and looked a bit better compared to what she was before. He hoped that things would continuously be better for Sapphire and Ruby. He could see all the struggles they had been through the past months. He knew both are strong people, but sometimes, even the strongest person needed a break from all the challenges at once. He bit his lip, slowly increasing his pace. He just needed to support his friends, just like what they did to him years ago.

Sapphire took a deep breath. Her lips curved into a small smile as she watched Emerald slowly walked away from her. She sighed. She didn't expect Emerald would visit her out of his own free will, but she appreciated it nonetheless. Emerald did try his best to help her conquer her grief, and that was enough proof that he was one of her friends who would always stay by her side. She felt thankful and blessed to have him as a friend.

She dug her hands into her pockets and threw her head back, her gaze fixed at the heavens. The sky was clear despite the cold breeze. There were no clouds, only the sun shining brightly on the horizon, its rays kissing her soft skin. A flock of birds was drifting through the vast sea of blue, all were heading its way to the south.

Sapphire took another deep breath, turning around, and started walking her way to her destination. Her eyes darted around her surroundings, observing it. People were busy walking on the streets while kids were getting inside their school buses, and some adults were cleaning their houses. The smile on her lips widened as she increased her pace.

Indeed, it was a beautiful day; the temperature was perfect, the sun's warm rays contrasted with the wind's cool breeze. Another sigh escaped from her lips. Thoughts were drifting through her mind. She had no idea why she woke up early. It was true Sapphire was an early bird, but the amount of sleep she had last night wasn't enough for her. In fact, she needed more sleep.

She wasn't able to easily sleep last night after her call with Ruby. She only ended their call just so he could sleep, and she hoped he managed to get some. She just lied down on her bed afterwards, and blankly stared at the ceiling, waiting for drowsiness to take over. Her mind kept on wondering about the memory she saw in her dream. She felt like it was all real. The last time she had seen her father's spirit was months ago. She thought she was just seeing things, so she didn't bother. But seeing his spirit again made her wonder.

Did she hit her head or something? Was it another dream? Why did she have that ability to see her father's spirit? Yes, she yearned for another hug from him, but...

She let out another sigh and bit her lip. Her warm breath mixing with the wind's cool breeze. She stopped in her tracks, removing her gaze from the moist soil. Her eyes widened in shock.

So yeah, a cliffhanger? The final chapter will be updated on June 3, RuSa day. I can also finally post my decent franticshipping manga coloring on that day too. XD

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