The Captain collapsed, falling to his knees and onto his face, frantically trying to avoid crushing the flowers that were everywhere in the meadow. Bloody foam sprayed from his lips to coat the nearest stalks with a sheen of rubies almost black in the deepening twilight. He gasped wetly while a nearby blossom swayed in and out of his dissolving focus. He knew he was going to die.
He smiled at the irony. An attempted laugh came out as a reedy, wheezy rush. He closed his eyes and savored the predicament. A thousand suns, a blur of planets, to find his grail and death from exhaustion and radiation sickness.
The blue roses. They were here, all around him, smiling and nodding their frilly heads, pursing their cyanotype lips and caressing him. The Captain whispered "Finally, my love, I found you. All these years, and you were ever here. Forgive me, I have been weak." The roses murmured sympathetically and bent low to comfort the burns and the sores exposed under the tatters and shards of his armor. He slept.
He shifted slightly at the voice.
"Captain, love, I'm here."
He moved, limbs twitching as his eyes fluttered open. The pain, he noticed, was gone. Tears flowed from swollen eyes blinking into a corona of sunlight that haloed the face hovering over his. Green eyes glowing like cabochons of cymophane peered at him, from a face the color of coffee and cream. He smiled feebly.
"You...here...I've missed you." He made a feeble attempt to reach up and touch her. She grasped his trembling hand in hers and held it to her cheek. Smooth and warm, just as he remembered it, or imagined he remembered it. It had been so long. Her cheek felt like love.
She gazed back at him, stroking his hair softly. A smile that pulled every string in his heart while he gathered strength to talk. He whispered, "Where were you? Where did you go? I've looked so long..." he began to weep, "...and now, I'm going to die at your feet."
Her gaze softened more then he thought possible. Those eyes, perfect yet slightly imperfect, glistened under a thin sheen of tears. She said in a voice like honeyed balm, "I'm sorry, love. So sorry. It was for me to leave, to stay would have meant a chain reaction, and hurt you beyond repair." She paused, looking away and then closing her eyes. Her hand continued to stroke his sweating forehead.
"It had to be. But just as it was, I was always there with you." She bent to kiss him. He struggled to speak.
"I know. That pain...told me so, even as my heart continued to beat." A pause, liquid breath rushing in and out of his failing lungs. "I never wanted to imprison your beauty...I wanted to bask in it."
She smiled, fingertips like feathers closing his eyelids. "And you shall, Captain, you shall. Sleep, and you will join me in our dreams." The Captain reached up, weak, and felt cold void. His hand dropped back into the grass. His body convulsed, the last of his blood leaking into the emerald coolness of the grassy bier, and in the indigo light of an alien sky, he died.
The blue roses lowered their heads under the gathering dew, small green leaves like hands welcoming him home. On certain nights with the right wind, the natives hear whispered songs of love.