Grief has always been a strange human emotion.
It affects people in so many different ways.
One could almost say that it should be separate categories of emotion, that we shouldn't generalize it as a whole.
Some people are consumed by it and others feel almost nothing at all.
I suppose it could be called grief, what Payton was feeling. It was loss, an emptiness where River should be.
He wasn't quite sure how to react. All his emotions were planned, what he said, what he did. Surviving this higher up world meant playing in a game where reality was often faked.
Should he cry?
Should he lay in his room until he wastes away to nothing?
Or perhaps he should use it to his advantage. After all, the campaign was still going.
Allow himself a few tears during River's funeral. Sing a song. To express emotion is to show your humanity, and perhaps he needed a little humanity for his image.
Deep down, Payton knew that the tears he shed were real. That he'd spent hours practicing the song until he couldn't speak from hoarseness to be sure it was absolutely perfect, because he wanted to give River an honorable funeral.
If River wasn't going to be by his side forever, then Payton was damn sure going to make his memory lasted.
Of course, that was buried deep down, in a compartment of emotions that Payton didn't acknowledge. It hid behind his memories, that seemed almost cursed now.
He remembered laying in the grass one late afternoon with River in the backyard, staring up at the evening clouds. They were speaking Mandarin, as they often did, and River turned to Payton, leaning up on his elbow.
I see your mind like a silver lining, River said, speaking in the softest of voices. It's brilliant and beautiful and shining with the intensity of a thousand suns. But if you bask in its glow for too long, your eyes burn and you go blind, darkness blotting out the shine.
And what is the darkness? Payton asked, turning to face the other boy.
River smiled. It was a smile of twinkling secrets, of hidden laughter and something else, an almost manic lust for life.
He lay back down, returning his gaze to the darkening sky.
Payton stared for a second, waiting for an answer he never got, and then rolled over, placing his head on River's chest. A second later he felt fingers brushing through his hair and he closed his eyes. He didn't need an answer anyways.
River had always been vague like that, Payton recalled. It had been one of his favorite qualities about the boy. He could say so much without speaking more than two words.
There had been so many conversations between them, held with only eyes and miniscule expressions. School was the most frequent place for these conversations, in boring classes where, through a couple of glances and twitches in the face, they would somehow end up making out in the bathroom 5 minutes later.
River was the only one that Payton let in. He was the only person who Payton had deeply confided in, telling him all of his fears and plans. River was the only person Payton let himself feel around.
Emotions were a weakness to Payton, but with River, they became a strength.
Perhaps that in and of itself made River a weakness. He was a direct link to Payton's emotions, something to be used against him in the future.
Any attachment can be used against you. A mother, a brother, a lover. What you reveal will always be remembered by someone.
Love, hate, fear, joy. Each a perfect chemical explosion of vulnerability.
Payton was upset when he ran for student council president. River was his friend, his lover, his everything. He was hysterical, he was in shock. And yet he still couldn't find it in himself to be mad.
Logically he knew that it was something to be mad over.
But emotion is illogical.
Emotion is one of the greatest fallacies of humanity.
It's what drives us, what kills us.
It had gotten to River.
Payton and Astrid and everyone else would never know what exactly went through River's mind that night. No note was left behind, he said nothing about it to anyone.
All they had left was grief and a gun.