A/N: Journal entry which is answered by "Fury" by Rowena Warner.

Rage…

By Mark McCormick

(as found by Lizabeth S. Tucker)

It's almost 4 a.m., and I'm still wide awake. If Hardcastle had seen me ten minutes ago, he'd have killed me. He just got to bed after that spectacular surf-ski chase I had after the last of our boat-nappers. I was too keyed up to sleep, though I dutifully went to the Gatehouse like I was ordered to do. But after I was sure he was sound asleep, I snuck back into the main house and up to the master bedroom. I could hear his snores, so I pushed the door open and stood there, leaning against the frame, watching the gentle rise and fall of the Judge's chest as he slept.

Everything that has happened has made me all the more aware of how important Milton C. Hardcastle is in my life – and how horribly empty it would be if he were gone. And that came all too close this time. Damn, I'm sniffling again!

When we first found out, or rather Hardcastle found out, that he was dying, he retreated behind a goody-two-shoes type that I didn't recognize. Hardcase became nice…no complaints, no yelling, no real emotion. I couldn't understand what was wrong.

What did I do? Ask him? Force him to tell me what was going on? Nah, that'd never work. If he doesn't want me to know something, wild horses couldn't drag it out of him. But there was something horrible about this new Judge Hardcastle. So I went to his doctor, never suspecting what might be wrong. Of course, all that doctor-patient crap was there to stop Freedman from telling me anything, but one simple, stupid remark tore the whole mess open. 'He'd take it to his grave' was all I said. Then I saw the way the doctor's face froze, his eyes flickering just the slightest bit, and I knew. Oh, God, how I wanted not to.

On the drive home, I tried to think of some other reason for Hardcastle's change. I prayed that he'd have some crazy excuse – that maybe he was trying to teach me a lesson – I didn't care, just as long as what I felt in my heart wasn't true. He couldn't be dying. Please, don't let it be true. That refrain echoed around in my head on the way back to Gull's-Way.

If I had convinced himself, even partially, seeing those bulldozers in the yard, and then being hustled by that cellular phone salesman, blew all those faint hopes away. One way or another, I was going to hear the truth from Hardcastle.

The truth. Until he actually said the words, I could still come up with five hundred other simple explanations. I wanted to hold him. I wanted him to hold me. But all I could do was put my hand on his shoulder because I was afraid that I'd lose control, and I knew the Judge would be embarrassed by that. Emotions made him nervous and uncomfortable. And at that point in time, I wanted to avoid anything that might hurt him.

I had all the best intentions in the world, honest I did. But watching him wait for death was something I couldn't and wouldn't stomach. I didn't know what to do, so we went out to eat one night – my treat. Sitting there, eating food I knew he didn't like, it all came out in a jumble of emotions and words. I gave Hardcastle ultimatums that I'm not even sure I could've gone through with. But I was dying with him, each step of the way, and I couldn't take his nonchalant attitude any longer. I was holding back a lake-full of tears, afraid to even let loose when I was alone in the Gatehouse, because I knew once they started, they would never stop.

I heard my voice crack during that holier-than-thou speech, and thought that was it. I'd lost it. I was going to make a complete fool of myself and embarrass the hell out of the Judge by bawling all over the white linen tablecloth. But I struggled through it, partly due to my shock that Hardcastle had agreed to what I'd proposed.

Now that he went along with me on 'eating life', I didn't know what to do. But I did mean what I'd said about not being able to stand it any longer. And I could feel that hole inside…a regular Grand Canyon, or Black Hole, pick the yawning pit of your choice. Now the problem was, how to live every moment as if it were your last…especially when you know it is?

I really wasn't thinking of a boat – excuse me, yacht – when we strolled on the pier that day. We were enjoying the sun, the water, and the plain beauty of millions of dollars floating on the blue marina sea. I'm not a sailor. I mean, my idea of ocean travel is taking the ferry across to Catalina. But if it was what the Judge wanted, then it was what I wanted as well. It's funny, but I think I would've jumped out of a plane without a parachute if he asked me to. I think I still would, but the difference is that now (and before) I'd bitch the whole time to the ground. Then, I wouldn't have said a word.

I could've killed those bastards when they took the FURY away from us. Yeah, I fought them…and lost. And that was the worst part of it, knowing that Hardcastle's dream was lost. There wasn't enough money to try again. I was running out of ideas. And the Judge was running out of time.

I've talked about how things were with us together, but I've been avoiding the end and beyond. What was I going to do without the Judge around to bug me, to care enough to stay on my case? I think that was the real reason that the hole was still growing, still is. I couldn't imagine life without him, despite the fact that I've lived most of my life without his help/hindrance. I loved him –I love him so much, even now the fear comes hot and heavy, scaring more than prison life ever did. Prison had an end date. Death never does. I've been alone a lot during my life, even when I was with someone. Hardcastle was, and is, my family, the only real family that I've known since my mother died. Flip and I were more contemporaries. His daughter had more maturity than both of us combined. I couldn't lose that, not again.

Because, for all his gruff and over-bearing righteousness, the Judge likes me. And, I think, needs me almost as much as I need him. And, Lord, I do need him, so very much.

I know I should prepare myself for this. After all, we're in such a dangerous line of work, and the Judge does have a few years on me. It's bound to happen some day. Yet, I'll tell you something – I hope I go first. In fact, though I'm in no real hurry, mind you, I think I'd prefer it. It wouldn't hurt as much.

Aw, that's not fair either. Together. That would be the best. I think Hardcastle would be upset if I was killed while chasing our various crooks. And if I did die first, then Hardcastle wouldn't have a back-up/front man for the Lone Ranger stuff. So, I guess he'll either have to stay alive forever, like Sherlock Holmes, or I'll be checking out a little early.

This is giving me the creeps, all this thinking about death. And yet. The notice of impending death was a false one. This time. Thank You, God.

And now? After all the shock and hoopla that prevented me from really taking it all in? I'm still scared, afraid to go to sleep on the chance that it was all a dream and the scythe of Death still hangs over the Judge's head. Kinda poetic, isn't it? That's all I've done since I found out about it, read everything ever written about death that was in the Judge's library. And there was an awful lot. I guess it was because of his wife and son.

I know I sound silly about wanting to go with the Judge when it's time. After all, Hardcastle has seen his parents, his wife, and even his son, die…and still continued on. But here I am, carrying on like I'm some special case. I'm sorry, Judge. I don't handle loneliness very well. I never did. But I swear, if he wants me to play the Brave Little Soldier and carry on, I'll try. One way or another, I'm going to make that man proud of me someday. He'll never be sorry he took me in, if I can help it.

You know the part that makes me ashamed? The anger I felt towards him for having the incredible gall to die on me. As if he could've done something about it. I knew it was wrong to be made at him, but it was there anyway. I feel so guilty about that. If I could only wipe this all out of my memory. If only…

I'd better get some sleep. If I know the Judge, things will be back to normal tomorrow – later today, which means a round of basketball which he'll insist that I participate in. I hope he never finds out about my sneaking into the house. He'd kill me for getting too emotional. I still wish he could hold me, make my fears go away. But watching him enjoy life again, without any threats hanging over him, is good enough.

Like they say, burn your bridges when you come to them, not before.

/Originally printed in Back to Back Supplement #4/