Summary: Nine months isn't long, but some times 'isn't long' can contain a

Disclaimer: Alexa, her thoughts and the man she's with belong to DPP. The song lyrics belong to Messrs Hogarth, Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly and Mosley. Everything is used without permission, but no offence is intended and no money is made. Suing me will only get you half a bottle of mineral water and a lettuce leaf.

Many thanks to the peanut gallery for all their help - much appreciated, ladies g

Feedback is gratefully received, whether you loved it, hated it or found it just plain weird: Rachel.Trench@blueyonder.co.uk

Alexa

She stared at him while he slept, trying to drink in every detail of his face, his chest, his stomach, his arms, his hands...every detail of what made him the man he was. Trying to imprint the image on her memory forever. She knew their time together was almost over, and yet...somehow it didn't make her as sad as thoughts of the end had once done.

You came into my life,

Like a new and brighter light,

And made all my past seem in shadows...

The last eight months had been wonderful. No - better than that: magical. That's what they had been. He had taken her all over the world, starting with her own vast country. He made sure that she saw all the traditional sights - the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Carlsbad Caverns, the keys and everglades of Florida, Disneyland - but he had also made sure to show her things that were less obvious. New Orleans had been a revelation – the Mardi Gras and all its colours, sights, sounds and smells had been overwhelming, but he had found them a little jazz club where the music was smoky and the drinks were good... She didn't think she had ever had so much fun.

The days before you came,

Were really all the same,

A greyness I used to call freedom...

Europe, too, had been fascinating - it was here that he was really in his element. It was almost like she was sharing a trip with a walking encyclopaedia, so obscure was some of the historical information he told her. Yet on the couple of occasions she had doubted him and had checked with either the local tourist office or the Encyclopaedia Britannica (they had been in Scotland at the time and that was, according to the librarian, the best book to look in) he was always right.

"Eidetic memory," he had explained at the time. "I read something once and it's stuck in here," and he had tapped the side of his head, "for life."

That day in Scotland had been two months ago. She felt a pang of regret - two months ago, she had been walking almost as far as he could. Now she was barely making it across the room and back. She knew her face was haggard and pale from the constant bouts of sickness - but he still called her beautiful. He loved her.

And the time that it took to take down the wall,

Was the time that it took for me to fall,

Hopelessly weak,

Now, near the end, she realised that she did love him back, but it had taken eight months for him to break the walls she had erected around her heart the second she had heard the news. She realised now, when it was almost too late, the mistake she had made. The disease was going to take her body, but she had let it take her life too. But for this wonderful man who had come into her life purely by chance, she would probably still be in Seacouver, in the hospice with no-one but the staff to mourn her passing. She would have died a lonely, young woman. He hadn't let her, and with gentle coercion, the walls around her heart had crumbled, but she was now too weak to do more than tell him her feelings.

She smiled faintly. She didn't need to tell him - although she would - because he already knew. She had seen it in his eyes as he had held her on the Santorini beach where they had watched the sun rise only yesterday. He had seen the change in her heart before she had. The smile turned warmer - his perceptiveness was one of her favourite traits. He always knew when she was reaching her limits; she never had to ask him to slow down, or tell him that she couldn't manage that flight of stairs. He always knew and he never made a fuss over it.

I don't care what they think,

You're all I believe in

Her aunt, her one remaining relative, had called her all kinds of things when she had heard about this trip.

"You're *dying*!" the aunt had exclaimed. "What do you want to go gallivanting off to Europe for? You should stay here and save your strength."

"Because staying here and saving my strength isn't going to make me live any longer," she had retorted.

"But you hardly *know* the man," her aunt had continued.

"I don't care," she replied. "I believe in him, Joe trusts him and...to not go..." She had sighed. "The alternative is unthinkable. I'll send you lots of postcards...but I have to go."

The aunt had blustered on for several days afterwards, but she was adamant, and sitting here now, in the Greek villa that belonged to a friend of his, she knew she didn't regret the decision.

Her gaze wandered the room before settling back on the sleeping man beside her. No - she didn't regret one second of it. Reaching out, she gently tapped him on the shoulder. He came awake instantly and for a second there was an expression of panic in his eyes.

"You know that question you asked me on Santorini," she began, and snickered softly as she saw the panic evaporate from his eyes. He nodded. "The answer's yes."

There was a brief moment, while her words sank in, then his smile lit up the room.

***

They were married the following day in a picturesque little chapel with a couple of his work colleagues (who had been on an archaeological dig just north of Athens) to stand as witnesses. It was a simple service for a simple affair - and she had loved every second of it, her only regret was that her parents hadn't lived to see it. She thought she ought to regret the fact that she wouldn't live long enough to truly enjoy married life - but somehow she couldn't drum up that regret. She knew that whatever time she had left, she would enjoy it to the full, knowing that no-one could take him away from her now.

***

Death had been quick, once the final stage of the disease had set in. That was the only mercy as far as he could see. He wanted to rage against the world and the fates for taking her from him so soon. He might have known this would happen, but that made the end no less of a shock.

"Excuse me, Monsieur Pierson?"

Glancing round, he saw one of the bevy of faceless medical staff who had presided over her last few days on earth. Try as he might, he couldn't recall whether the man was a doctor or a nurse, never mind what his name was, so he settled for just raising his eyebrow and waiting.

"Madam Pierson gave me this to give to you when she died," he explained, proffering a small package.

Puzzled, he took it and opened it. Inside, he found a cassette labelled only with 'Play me' written in her beautiful, flowing handwriting. He patted the many pockets in his trench coat until he located the one that contained his Walkman. Finding it, he put the new tape in, pulled on the headphones and listened as the first notes of a song came on. He recognised it as being a favourite of hers, one she had sung or hummed on occasion, but he had never seen why. Now, in that sterile hospital corridor, the words hit him, understanding came, and finally the tears fell. This was how she had felt about him but had never been able to tell him.

She had loved him.

~Fin~

No One Can - Marillion

You landed in my life

Like a new and brighter light

That made all my past seem in the shadow

I always used to believe

That beauty was skin deep

But I need a new word to describe you

And the time that it took to take down the wall

Was the time that it took for me to fall

Hopelessly weak

No one can take you away from me now

Don't worry if they take me away

No one can take you away from me now

Don't matter how long we have to wait

The days before you came

Were really all the same

A greyness I used to call freedom

Endless nights out with the boys

The boasting and the noise

To think that I ever believed them

No one can take you away from me now

Don't worry if they take me away

No one can take you away from me now

Don't matter how long we have to wait

I don't care what they think

You're all I believe in

I carry you here

And there's something of you

In everything that I love

No one can take you away from me now

Don't worry if they take me away

No one can take you away from me now

Don't matter how long we have to wait

No one can take you away from me now

Don't worry if they take me away