The Death of Tycho Celchu

To:WesJanson82; Klivians; CMHorn; Iella Antilles

From:Celchu, T-W

Subject:Almost time

Message:

Come now

--W

It's the message that everyone knew would come, but no one wanted to receive. Wes had been dreading it for months, but still had to be prepared for when it arrived. So when it landed in his list of messages, it spurred a plan into motion--putting the final touches to a packed bag; firming arrangements for travel; putting in the call to Gilthas to come in and take care of the business while he was gone. Time was of the essence. As the message said, he had to go now.

Wes, who was only two star systems away, was first of the summoned to arrive. He checked into his hotel, then went immediately to the home of Tycho and Winter Celchu. His stomach was crawling around inside his gut as he knocked on the front door. Tycho's eighteen year-old daughter, Adalee, answered it. She ushered him in without a word.

"Gotten worse?" he asked quietly, glancing around. There was no one else within view.

Adalee nodded her head. "He's hanging on," she managed, before a lump forced her voice to crack. But she quickly recovered herself. "Mom's with him."

Wes pursed his lips, trying to keep control of his own emotions. "Can I see him?"

Adalee only nodded again; perhaps she didn't trust her voice. She led Wes down a short hallway, with four doors; two on the left, one on the right, and one at the end. They went directly to the one at the end, and Adalee knocked quietly on it before cracking it open. "Mom?"

"It's all right, Lee," he heard Winter's voice, calm and strong. Wes envied her control. He always had.

"It's Uncle Wes... He asked if he could see dad." Wes didn't hear a reply, but Adalee stepped aside to let him in. He took a deep breath, then walked into the room.

The bedroom turned sickroom was warm, and all of the blinds were drawn, creating a somber atmosphere. Winter was perched on the side of the bed, holding Tycho's hand in one of hers, the other hand pressing a cloth against his forehead. Tycho seemed to be asleep.

If Wes hadn't known who was in the bed, though, he would have been hard pressed to identify him. He bore hardly any resemblance to the man that Wes had known for the last thirty years or more. His hair had gone completely white, losing the significant amount of dark blond that had been left in it. His face was almost as pale as his hair, with dark circles beneath the eyes, which were sunken. The body that had once been strong and active had wasted away to a mere whisper of what it was.

Wes swallowed hard, then approached the bed. He lay a hand on Winter's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "How is he?"

Winter looked over her shoulder at him. "Fighting, as he always has," she said quietly, holding eye contact with him for another two heartbeats before turning back to her husband. "There was nothing else the doctors could do, so I brought him home. I didn't want him to die in a hospital, away from his family."

Wes nodded. "It's what he wanted. Is he...uh... I mean, is he feeling..." He trailed off.

"Any pain?" Winter answered, looking back over her shoulder at Wes. He saw a slight crack in her mask. "The nurse who stops in regularly gives him pain medication, but it has hardly any effect anymore." She turned back to her husband. "He's sleeping more and more, which is a blessing. There's no pain in his sleep..." she ended in a whisper, and Wes heard a quiet sob from Adalee, standing to his right. Winter's other hand lay the damp cloth down on the bed, and reached for her daughter. She moved to her mother, kneeling on the floor beside the bed as Winter wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and held her close as Adalee buried her face in her mother's stomach.

Wes shook his head, and gave Winter's shoulder another squeeze. He found the entire situation unfair and unbelievable. His mind couldn't reconcile the Tycho he had known, and the one that lay before him, fading away, about to... Go on, say it. You have to admit it to yourself... Tycho is about to die.