No long introductions, just glad to be writing again. Hopefully I won't fade into oblivion again. Enjoy!
And then there were three. It doesn't seem like a large number, not compared to the eight that were left, but to me, it was three individuals who would forever be beyond my reach. And with the passing of each one, the power that kept me going died a little more as well. My communication with those that lived became increasingly shorter, less powerful, less constant. I was loosing them, and I could never have them back. Just as they were loosing each other.
When Tanya opened her eyes, Tommy was gone. She was alone saving for her thoughts on a stone path, surrounded by mist. Stunned, she glanced down at her hands; her skin was tighter, more vibrant. She had energy she hadn't had in a long time. She knew she was younger. Her body felt it. Her shorts and tank top confirmed it. And in that moment, the sadness was overwhelming. Tanya crumpled to her knees on the path and buried her face in her hands, sobbing.
Tommy and Kim sat beneath a tree on the other side of the mist, hands clasped as they listened to the sobbing, punctuated by screams. Tommy winced with each one, and pulled against Kim's iron grip on his hand, desperately wanting to go to her.
"Why?" he pleaded with Kim to let him go. Tanya was his teammate, his responsibility. She needed him.
"She's got to do this herself, when she's ready. She's not ready yet," was the only response she'd give him. She never met his eyes when she spoke and he resented her for it. She played by the rules, and he didn't give a shit about them. But when she spoke them, it was like law for him. Just because she was there first. The rules said he couldn't help Tanya, but Kimberly was the one stopping him. "She won't see you until she's ready," Kimberly added, and Tommy knew she was right.
Hours went by, and Tanya's sobs didn't ease. She pounded her fists against the stones, expecting them to be aching and raw, dripping with blood, but she didn't even acquire a scratch, which only made her heart ache more. Her family was left behind. Her friends, her children, her husband. Everything she was. Tanya sobbed until her voice was hoarse, and then she slowly sat up and pulled her knees to her chest, hiccupping softly.
She'd left them, and the only promise of comfort had left her. She was alone. And she was terrified. Not even the sounds of running water, little animals, and birds on the other side of mist brought her any comfort. She wasn't ready for this. She hadn't had months to prepare herself for her last moment. She didn't have her true love waiting for her here. Everything she wanted and loved was left behind, where she wanted to be, and it scared her.
He'd promised he'd be there to help her. She'd felt it in his words, and his hand when she'd taken it, pulling her away from the lights and sirens. But when she'd opened her eyes, Tommy was gone and she was alone. And for the first time since she the first time she was seventeen, Tanya was truly afraid. She let her fear surround her as the hiccupping subsided. Only when she opened her eyes and took a deep breath did she notice an accessory on her wrist that hadn't been there before.
The small silver communication device glistened in the no existent sunlight on her wrist. She stared at it for a long time, letting it give her the courage she needed. The crumpled girl, crying and screaming, pounding her body against the flag stones, and shaking in fear wasn't her. Her true self was embodied in that communicator. And as Tanya realized this, the fear dissolved. She stood up slowly, and took a deep breath. Nothing could hurt her. Nothing was as powerful as she was. And she confidently took a step off the path and through the mist, emerging on the other side.
A triumphant smile graced her face when she emerged and took in the familiar space. Tanya relaxed her tense shoulders, and whipped her wet eyes on her arm as she looked around, knowing now there really wasn't anything to fear. She sighed as her eyes fell on Tommy, who stood leaning against a tree trunk, arms crossed over her chest, a tiny smile of his own on his face. Kimberly sat beside a lake several yards away, her hand dipped into the water. The woman's eyes were locked on the water's surface.
"You decided to come through," Tommy's words brought her attention back to him. She smiled slightly as he pushed himself off the tree and hugged her tight.
"I was scared."
"I know," he told her. "But you had to do it on your own. I couldn't help you. You had to be ready to leave him," Tommy told her, still hugging her tightly, his own eyes wet with tears.
Tanya started to correct him when Tommy said him and not them, but suddenly she knew he was right. She hadn't been ready to leave Adam. Despite the goodbyes they gave each other every morning, she really hadn't been ready to leave.
"Come on, let me show you something," he told her, taking his friend by the hand and leading her across the field to Kimberly's side. They sat beside the smaller woman, and both put their hands into the crystal clear water.
Over the next five years, the three former rangers fell into routines. They gave each other privacy, and they comforted each other as needed. Tanya spent a lot of time alone by choice, giving the lovers time to be alone, and giving herself time to think. She missed her family and her soul mate, and the lake was never really enough. In fact, she often missed things as she tried to avoid it. Looking into it was both a blessing and a curse.
She was on the play ground one day, when Tommy came up to her, eyes downcast. He only looked up at her slightly when he finally reached her. Sadness filled him, and Tanya placed a hand on his shoulder, encouraging him to tell her what was wrong. "They need us," was all Tommy was able to say, as they joined Kimberly at the lake once more.
"Brandon, seriously boy will you relax," a blond woman told her twenty three year old son. The college graduate just gave his mother a tiny smile until she started coughing horribly again. His expression resumed its habitual worry again. She'd been coughing like this for about two months now. He'd begged her to see a doctor, but she'd always had an excuse. Her favorite: the animals she was photographing only migrated once a year and she couldn't miss it.
When she'd finally come home to California, Brandon had dragged her to the doctor. "I'm fine, really," she argued. "It's probably just bronchitis. They'll give me an antibiotic and then I'll…" she was cut off by another round of coughing and choking. Brandon rested his hand on her back, rubbing it, as he handed her a paper cup of water.
"You don't sound fine, mom," he told her. "I wish you would have come to the doctor's sooner."
"You can wish whatever you want," she told him.
"Doesn't mean I'll get it," he finished for her smiling. "I know mom, I just worry about you," the blond young man told her, hugging her shoulders. He wished the doctors would hurry up and bring back the x-rays. He never thought he'd be sitting in an office, hoping for bronchitis. Hell, even pneumonia would be ok by him. His mom just didn't sound right, and his gut was telling him it was bad.
"You worry too much," the woman replied cheerfully. A knock on the door, followed by it opening brought the mother son duo out of their private conversation. Brandon's heart sunk when not one but two doctors walked into the room. This couldn't be good.
"Katherine?" the first doctor, Dr. Felton, asked. He'd been the one who'd examined her earlier. Brandon liked him. He was kind. He hadn't dismissed Brandon's concerns and just taken the woman's word for it that she was alright. Brandon moved closer to his mother and placed his hand on her shoulder, wanting to protect her like he once did. "This is my colleague Dr. George Sutter from oncology. Dr. Sutter, this is Ms. Katherine Hillard."
Brandon's face paled, as he felt his mother's hand come up to rest on his. One word sent fear through them. Oncology. As in cancer. There was no other reason why Dr. Felton would have brought Dr. Sutter with him. This was no simple bronchitis. Brandon felt his knees give out as he fell into the chair beside his mother, trying desperately not to start crying in front of his mother and the two men.
"Oncology?" Kat squeaked out, feeling her stomach drop. "I have cancer." She said it in a way that was so matter of fact that it didn't leave room for a question.
The new doctor stepped closer to her, solemn eyes searching hers. "Yes," he replied, not sugar coating it. That wouldn't help her. "Ms. Hillard, you have stage IV lung cancer. I'm sorry."
"Stage IV?" Brandon asked. His heart sunk even further. Again the doctor nodded.
"We could treat with chemotherapy," Dr. Sutter began, "but even then it has barely a chance of even prolonging it. My best recommendation is that we try and just make you comfortable. It's your choice of course."
"No chemo," Kat said matter of factly, letting a few tears fall and shaking her head. Images of a friend who had passed twenty eight years before filled her mind. The chemo had drained her, made her sick, and in the end it hadn't saved her.
"Mom, what? Why? If it gave you a chance?" Brandon nearly shouted, pulling her face until he could see into her eyes.
"Brandon, I'm not going to live the rest of my life in a hospital," she told him sternly, then looked Dr. Sutter dead in the eyes. "How long?"
"Six months, at the most. I am sorry. I'll have the pharmacy get you some stuff for the cough. Come back if your symptoms get unbearable," he told her softly. "Do you have any questions?"
Brandon fell back into his chair, and placed his head in his hands as his mother began conversing with the doctor. He didn't understand her reluctance to get treatment. He didn't understand how she could just accept this. But really, he didn't have to. It wasn't his call to make.
Kimberly, Tommy, and Tanya sat in the grass beneath an oak tree watching the scene play out before them, tears falling down their faces, ready to be there if Kat needed them. But she was a strong woman. She'd raised Brandon on her own, made her life as a successful and well know wildlife photographer, and now she was facing the disease that was to end her life in stride.
The three pulled their hands out of the water and looked at one another. Moments later Kimberly began to sob. It was her fault Kat was refusing treatment. She never should have let them come see her. She should have suffered through alone. Her mind raced as she cried, mentally demanding that the "demon" that controlled her new world let her go to Kat. She needed to tell her to do the chemo. It wasn't that bad. It could give her a chance.
Tommy pulled Kimberly into his arms, holding her as tight as he dared, soothing her hysterics. He rocked her back and fourth, speaking softly and telling her it would be ok. Kat knew what she was doing. She always did what she wanted to do.
Tanya stood up and left the two in peace, wandering away to let the tears fall. Her heart broke for her best friend and her son. Over the years she'd learned to accept this place, took comfort in the company of her friends, knowing that by being together here, it meant they were always destined to be a family, stronger than that made by blood, and loved every moment she got to be with the family's father. But that didn't change the fact that she hated it. It might have been heaven, but to her it was a personal hell, and she was sure Tommy and Kimberly felt the same on occasion.
They had everything they needed, and they had the god damned lake. The thing that could show them everything they wished to see. It gave them a window to the mortal world, where the rest of their family continued to grow and blossom. But it prevented them from doing what they really wanted. Being with those they loved when times were hard. And now was one of the hardest times they would face. And the lake would show them every moment if they wanted, but they couldn't do anything to change it.
At that moment, Tanya, Tommy and Kimberly turned their back on the lake. It just wasn't worth it.
Kat rested with her eyes closed in a quiet hospital room where she'd been admitted two days ago. To the other occupants of the room, she looked like she was sleeping peacefully. In truth, she was peaceful, just not sleeping. Instead she was thinking, enjoying the time when people weren't poking and prodding her, when she didn't have to see the look of pity in their eyes.
Kat thought back over the last two and half months. She remembered every moment of it as clear as a bell. It was as if she'd been living life in a bubble, and when Dr. Sutter told her about the cancer, the bubble popped.
It had started with the silent car ride home beside Brandon. The young man kept wanting to talk, but Kat refused. He'd just try and talk her into the chemotherapy and she didn't want that. She didn't want to die like that, and she knew in the depths of her heart that it would kill her. In an effort to avoid the conversation, Kat just turned up the radio in the car, not loud, just too loud for comfortable conversation.
"Take me to the park," was the only thing she said to her son, before pulling out her cell phone and make just over half a dozen phone calls. She wanted to tell everyone someplace comfortable, and as soon as possible.
It took a few hours for everyone to arrive. Brandon had sulked the entire time, and wouldn't come near anyone save his own teammates, and even them he refused to talk to. Kat spoke cheerfully to her friends as they arrived one by one, but she avoided explaining whey she'd asked them all to come.
When Jason and Trini arrived last, she had them all sit down, and she smiled through her tears when she told them. Brandon punched a tree and walked off. Alex made to follow him, but Allie stopped him, and the seven of them watched their teammate go. "He'll come back when he's ready," Margaret told them quietly, as they stood on the outside of the circle around their "aunt".
"Six months?" Aisha had asked her. Kat had nodded, as her former teammate squeezed her hand.
"And you won't get treatment?" Adam asked. Kat shook her head, trying to reassure them. She'd made up her mind. She wanted to go comfortable.
"It'll be ok," she told them. "I can accept this. Besides, I won't be alone," she told them, squeaking it out through tears. Aisha and Trini cried with her quietly. Each was lost in their own state of remorse.
They all spent the rest of the evening together in the park, talking about the future, and telling old stories. It was the saddest and happiest moment of her life at the same time. They were all together, even those who weren't with them anymore.
The next month went by in a blur. She had thrown herself into everything she wanted to do, with Aisha, Rocky, Adam, and Billy joining her most of the time. She SCUBAed in Tahiti, she went sky diving, she climbed mountains, she learned to sail. And she wrote letters. One for each of the important people in her life. She saved Brandon's for last, and gave it to Aisha to give to him, knowing her son would read it if he got it before she passed.
At the end of that month she'd gotten to celebrate Candace's engagement. It was about time. Two weeks later she sat in the front rows at Alison's wedding. She danced with her son at the reception, hoping he wouldn't notice how light she was. His face had told her that he did, but Kat ignored it.
Allie was still away on her honeymoon when Kat had collapsed in her room at Brandon's apartment. Two days later, Kat came to the conclusion. She wasn't going to make it six months. She wasn't going to make it three.
Lying in her hospital bed, Kat turned her head to find Brandon sitting next to her, holding her hand. "You should go get something to eat," she told him. Brandon shook his head. He wasn't leaving her. "Promise you'll eat soon," she commanded, patting his hand with the one he wasn't holding. "I don't want you to be in here."
"I want to be," Brandon told her. "You're all I've got."
"That's not true. You've got your team. They're you're family. Just like mine," she replied quietly, her voice failing at the end. "Please don't stay in here. I don't want you to watch."
Brandon let out the sob he'd been trying to contain. She couldn't do this to him. He needed her. He'd never had a dad, and now he was supposed to loose his mom too. She'd been so strong before the cancer. She'd be infallible. She was his hero. But he nodded. He could give her what she wanted. "Do you want them?"
"No," she replied. She couldn't let anyone stay with her. Besides she was right, she wasn't alone. "If they ask, tell them I'm taking a nap," she told him, regretting her lie.
Brandon nodded again "I love you," he told her, hugging her and kissing her forehead and left the room, pulling the door closed behind him.
Kat watched him go for a moment, and then took the deepest breath she could and closed her eyes. "Show me the way," she whispered quietly, sinking into the blackness that overcame her vision and the machines began to announce her departure.
Brandon walked into the waiting room, and sunk into a chair beside Adam who was reading a news paper. Aisha and Rocky were sitting in the corner drinking coffee and Billy was looking out the window. He turned to look at the young man when he came out.
"Is she asleep?" he asked. Brandon just nodded, choking on another sob. He didn't trust his voice. Billy smiled slightly. "Its good that she gets some –" his words were cut off by the sound of a loud steady, never ending beep echoed through the waiting room. Billy's head snapped back to the direction of the room as he dove forward, Adam, Aisha, and Rocky behind him. Brandon just broke down sobbing, cradling his head in his hands, ignoring the chaos that surrounded him.
She wasted no time at all, barely standing on the stone path shrouded in mist for more than the time it took her to get her bearings. She removed the flip flops adorning her feet as she stepped off the path and felt the grass between her toes. It was wet from recent rainfall. She smiled into the waiting and welcoming faces of the three individuals before her.
"You were so brave," Tanya told her, taking her best friend in her arms and hugging her tightly. "Welcome."
"There was nothing to be scared of," Kat replied, hugging her back. She looked over Tanya's shoulder and smiled at Tommy and Kimberly. Tanya took her by the hand and led her over to them, where she embraced Tommy tightly for a moment and then released. She turned to Kimberly.
"I owe you twice now," she told her predecessor.
Kimberly shook her head. "Kat, you don't owe me anything," she replied.
"Of course I do. It's because of you that I belong here. You gave me your coin. You gave me a chance to be part of this. And you showed me what to expect from chemo."
"I know. Kat I wanted you to take it," Kimberly protested. "I wanted to tell you to get treatment."
"No Kim, you could handle it. I couldn't have. I wouldn't have been there as long as I was. I know that. He told me," Kat told her.
"He?" Tommy asked her, placing his hand on her shoulder.
"He is here, isn't he?" Kat asked with a small smile on her face. He eyes locked onto the communicator on her wrist. She glanced up at Tommy, afraid her assumption was wrong. Her friend just smiled and nodded.
"You want to see him?"
"Please," Kat replied, taking Tommy's hand in one of hers and Tanya's in the other. "All of us?"
"Of course," Kimberly said, taking Tommy's other hand. Together, the four of them went to see him.
Brandon had been quiet during her funeral. In fact after his hysterical sobbing in the hospital waiting area, Brandon hadn't made a sound. He'd remained silent while friends and family made speeches. He didn't cry when they lowered her casket into the ground. He let Rocky carve her epithet: Graceful and Fun loving; She was our spirit. He stayed at the grave site until they covered. He lightly touched the fresh dirt with his fingers when it finally started to rain and he walked away, ignoring the pale pink shadow beside him.
The funeral was two months ago. Brandon had retreated to his apartment. He quit his job. He holed himself up inside the small two bedroom place alone. He refused to read the letter Aisha gave him. He wouldn't answer the phone. He didn't come to the door. He just sat on the couch all day, occasionally eating, sometimes sleeping, but he didn't live.
And they'd had enough of it. Josh wanted to kill him. When his mother died five years before he hadn't done this. What gave Brandon the right to act as if his loss was so much worse? And Josh would have beaten the shit out of him if Alex hadn't agreed to step in. This was going to be an intervention.
Eleven young adults walked to the dreary apartment on morning, and banged on the door. They didn't expect an answer. They didn't get one. Toby and Louis kicked the door down, causing the man inside to jump up in surprise. He glared at them as they filed into the room, one by one, arms folded over their chests. But they weren't angry. They were determined.
Brandon decided to ignore them, just like he ignored the pink thing that followed him everywhere. Couldn't they just leave him alone?
It took hours that day, but they finally began to get through to him. They told stories like they had the day she'd told them about the lung cancer. They told stories about all of them. And they added memories of themselves to the mix. They reminded Brandon that there was something to live for. He just had to find it. And for the first time, Brandon listened to them, and he paid attention to his quiet pink shadow.
When they left, he read the letter his mother had written him. She'd asked him not to do all the things he'd been doing, and he regretted it. And inside was a small newspaper clipping. The headline read "Officer killed in Shoot Out following Rape". He was confused at first, but as he read the article, the truth became clear. She'd never told him about his father before, and she'd waited until he couldn't ask her any questions, but he didn't have any.
Brandon set the letter and the article down on the table, and went to shave. There was a new job he had to apply for.
It's been so long since I've written anything, and yeah it's shorter than usual, but it's a start. Kat was the hardest to write anyway.
Hope you enjoyed.