This is one of those ideas that wouldn't let go. Thanks to Spotzle for the beta. You should read her stuff. It's delicious. And Mrs. Whitlock, I still want you too. I'm just impatient to get this first bit up before Breaking Dawn makes us all crazynuts.
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say its much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time
I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's
His hair was perfect.
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut against the coming day and reached over to press the button on the alarm clock to silence it. Today was supposed to be monumental. I should have set the radio to some sort of classical station so I'd have a chance of being woken up by Sousa or some other rousing song. But, lucky me, I get to start the first day of the rest of my life with Werewolves of London.
I'd normally look for meaning in everything on a day like today, but there was obviously nothing to be found there.
I lay in the early morning quiet, trying to amp up the courage to get through the day. I felt like I'd been searching for most of my life for something that was within reach, but hiding just out of sight. A cure… a promise… a something that I was sure was out there. Today I would have to face the idea that the something was nothing more than a forgotten memory in the back of my mind, never to be discovered.
I needed to get my head on straight before starting out. It was going to be difficult enough to get through the day without breaking down. I'd always been pragmatic Claire, I took things as they came. I didn't break down in front of my family, because I'd learned a long time ago that that only made things harder for everyone. Not to say that I didn't cry in front of them, I wasn't a robot. But I never let them see me in despair.
I turned my head as a gentle tapping on the door startled me from my thoughts.
"Claire? Are you up?" Amanda's voice sounded through the wood.
"I got it," I answered her, thanking God that I'd asked her to do this with me instead of giving in to my parents. If they had their way I'd still be in the passenger seat while they made all the decisions. It had taken me two years to take hold of my life, but now that I'd finally made a stand it was time to get going.
"Let me know if you need any help," she answered.
"Sure thing," I replied, and waited until I heard the sound of her footsteps going down the hall before I flung the quilts back with a grunt. The shards of glass in my joints didn't waste any time screaming to action, and I bit back a swear as I hoisted myself out of bed and carefully made my way to the shower.
Amanda, my older sister, was my saving grace; the only one who didn't baby me, and sometimes it seemed like the only one who could remember a time when none of this had been necessary. What was it? 18 years now? Almost. Most of my life. Most of forever.
I washed carefully, moving slowly in the hot water. No matter how steamy I got it, I never felt warm. I gave that up a long time ago. My body was small, unremarkable except in its thinness, but it was all I had and I loved it anyway.
Amanda came in to help me with socks and shoes, and to fix my hair. She was a master at arranging it, especially now that it was finally nearly chin length again. Her creations of clips, braids, and rubber bands looked more like artwork atop my head instead of hairstyles designed to hide thinning places. She chattered while she worked, singing along to the radio and telling me stories about the weirdoes in her classes. I loved it, nearly as much as I loved her attitude of "no big deal" about it all.
"Are you sure you want to do this today?" she said quietly, resting her hands on my shoulders.
"What are you going to side with the rest of them and say I need to try another place if that's what it comes to?" I met her eyes in the mirror. "You don't have to come. I can call a cab." It might be easier to get the news alone. I knew what they were going to say anyway.
Her eyes flashed. "You know I wouldn't do that to you. But it's your birthday, Claire. Don't you want to just take the day and…" she trailed off and bit her lip, her eyes bright with unshed tears. She knew.
"I can't," I shook my head. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life, Amanda. We both know what he's going to say. Putting it off for one more day isn't going to change anything." I turned so I could face her and wrapped my arms around her waist. "I have to do this," I mumbled into her shirt.
"I know," she stroked my back. "Let's go before you mess up your hair."
Antiseptic air washed over me as the doors of Hopkins whooshed open. It was a smell that made some people cringe in fear, but it didn't affect me like that. It was simply another part of the hand I'd been dealt in life.
The Clinic for Children with Special Healthcare Needs started at 9am on the dot, and made for a long day. I still came, despite not being a child anymore, because they were the same doctors who had been with me for the last six years. I liked the setup, it was handy getting them all out of the way on the same day, even though it made for a marathon of appointments. We'd had it that way at the Mayo before, and at Cedars before that. Amanda had stopped coming when she was old enough to be in school, and Hope had never been. She paused inside the door, a little overwhelmed I'm sure, and I reached back to pat her hand in reassurance.
"It's okay," I soothed. "Let's go see Judy and get my card."
She took a deep breath and stepped bravely forward. The rubber wheels of my chair squeaked slightly on the floor as we turned to the desk to sign in. Judy looked up, her glasses perched in her hair as she talked on the phone. She held one finger up in acknowledgment and finished her call before coming around the counter to grasp my hands warmly.
"Claire," she said warmly. "It's so good to see you. Happy Birthday."
"Thanks Judy. What have we got today?"
"Now Claire, you're such a celebrity, you know they all want to see you," she grinned.
"They all want to poke me, more like it." I rolled my eyes and she chuckled while handing me my card. I glanced at the list and grimaced. "Judy you're killing me. Psych?"
"It's part of it all Claire," she said.
"But she's such a flake," I groaned. I turned around in my chair to look at Amanda. "They have me seeing the woman who tried to use Cheerios as a metaphor for life," I sighed dramatically while she giggled. "Can't we see Margot?" I begged Judy.
"She's out or you would," she answered, flipping through the schedule. "I'm sorry Hon, but you have to see someone or they'll never sign off. Beverly is the only one who fits in your rotation today."
"Great." I muttered.
"Think of her as comic relief." Judy leaned down and hugged my shoulders gently. "I'm glad I got to see you. I'll run your chart today so if you need a break or anything…"
"Thanks Judy." I flashed her a smile. "Let's get this train started." I pointed down the hall so Amanda would know where to go. "To nephrology."
Five specialists and a quick lunch later, we were at the door to Beverly's office. "Prepare yourself," I muttered to Amanda, and knocked on the door.
The woman who answered somehow managed to look like a hippie, even while dressed in business attire. You could probably stick her in surgical scrubs and she'd still look like she was sporting a peace medallion somewhere on her body. It was just her air.
"Unsinkable Claire!" she boomed, throwing open the door wide.
"I thought that was Molly Brown," I muttered under my breath. Amanda suppressed a snicker as we moved through the door. If Beverly heard it she made no sign. "Hello Beverly," I said aloud.
Judy breezed in and dropped off my chart, winking at me on her way out. I rolled my eyes at her and crossed them in response. I could have sworn I heard her cover a laugh with a sneeze as she walked out the door, so I was grinning when Beverly sank to her couch and turned to me.
"You're in good spirits today," she commented. "Where all have you been?"
She had the info right in front of her, but I decided to play along. "Nephrology told me my kidneys are shot. Endocrinology can't make sense of the labs. Immunology still desperately wants me to have Lupus. Hematology says I'm anemic, again. And gastro got on me about weight gain and getting another button. Now we have you, then neurology, cardiology, and a meeting with the big guy before I'm out of here."
"Out of here?" she pursed her lips, waiting. Beverly never deviated from her plan of trying to get me to open up. Unlike Margot, who took me as I was and let me deal with things my way, Beverly insisted that talking about things would help me heal. Like anything could. She was as clueless as the next person about what my body was up to, but she kept insisting that talking might get me somewhere.
"Yep," I said, popping the p.
"How does that make you feel?" she asked Amanda. But I wasn't having any of that. She could try to put me through her wringer all she wanted to, but she wasn't getting her hands on my sister.
"Listen Bev," I said quickly, feeling that this was probably part of her plan to get me talking but going along with it anyway. "There's not much point to any of this anymore. We've exhausted our options, and there's nothing more to be said. It is what it is, and it's time to be practical about it."
"But doesn't it hurt? Don't you feel that there's some other way to go about this?"
"Doesn't it hurt?" I echoed, incredulous. "Listen to yourself. It hurts all day, every day. It always has! Don't you think it will hurt less to just get away from all this extra crap that doesn't do a lick of good? It's time."
"Have you given up hope?" she pressed.
I sighed and sat with my shoulders slumped. This was comic relief? "You know I won't ever really give up hope. But I can't do it like this anymore. All I want is a little peace. I need you to let me go look for some peace."
Amanda was quiet through all of this, shifting her eyes between us like she was watching a tennis match. "I feel resigned," she volunteered quietly. "You called Claire a Cheerio once… said she'd always pop back up. It's her attitude. I think it's quite possible that she'll pop up in a way that we don't understand, or could never understand. And I think it's likely that she's going to let go, at least as we know it. But I also think it's time, past time, to take it as it comes and stop looking so hard for answers that just don't appear to be there. It's put her through a lot. It's put all of us through a lot. And so… we go." She didn't look up the entire time she was talking, focusing on her hands instead. I used the opportunity to wipe my eyes. We'd never spoken aloud about any of this before, but somehow she'd verbalized the desires of my heart.
I wanted to pop up in some new way, some completely incomprehensible but fundamental way. I could only dream that if I quit looking, it would find me.
Beverly didn't say a word, but reached over and placed her hand on my knee. This time I didn't cringe away.
"Peace is something worth hoping for," she said simply. "I hope you find it." She bent over my chart and scribbled something quickly. It was the first time I ever felt anything along the lines of like for the woman, and here we were at the end of our relationship.
"Good luck Claire. And you too," she said to Amanda. And that was that.
We left her office, stopping in the hall so Amanda could sit for a minute on a bench next to my chair.
I drew a deep, shuddering breath. "Whoa," said Amanda. "Are they always like that?"
"Actually, with Bev it's usually me glaring at her while she tries some lame get in touch with your feelings crap with me. This is the first time we've actually gotten something said." I leaned back so I could see her. "And you were the one who said most of it." I looked at her pointedly.
"Well," she clucked her tongue. "Wasn't it true?"
"Yeah, it was. It is. But…"
"You want to get in touch with your feelings now?" she grinned at me. "It's okay Claire. This has been a long time coming. Frankly, I'm amazed that you put up with it this long."
I shook my head, dazed. "Why do you know me when no one else does?"
"Claire," she stopped and knelt down, grasping the arm rest of my chair for balance. "I've watched you through all of this, from your end of things. For a long time it was Mom running the show, and you didn't have a choice. Then there was everything with Hope, and we all thought that would be it, but it wasn't. I've seen you go through treatments and diagnoses when all you wanted to do was curl up with a book somewhere sunny and be.
"So far as I know, you've never even asked why all of this had to happen." She shook her head. "I used to think you were some sort of angel, sent down to teach us patience and grace in difficult situations. At least when you weren't being a pest anyway," she smiled fondly. "I don't know if I'll ever understand why you kept going along with this."
I shook my head sadly. "It's because I always thought there was something out there, something more. I always just knew there was something out there that would work and take all of this away and I'd be well. But now I'm just so tired. I'm tired of looking and being patient. I just want to rest. Maybe there isn't anything out there, maybe there still is and we just never found it, but at least we can say we tried." And maybe if I quit looking it might find me.
I couldn't tell her that part. I couldn't plant that seed of wild hope in her brain when it would probably never come to fruit. That heartache was mine to bear.
We put our heads together, right there in the hallway, and stayed there.
"I'm going to miss you Claire," she said thickly. "But I don't blame you a bit."
I nodded, unable to answer her. "Let's get this done," I said weakly. "Let's just get this over with."
Dr. Bob's head was almost as shiny as his glasses. He was the big guy, the boss, the one who gave me the diagnosis "unspecified autoimmune disorder" and oversaw every aspect of my case. But even with all of that, he was never formal, and talked to me like I was a person with a worthwhile brain in my head. Of all the physicians in the clinic, he was my favorite. He was the grandfather I never had, and he was the one who would give me the news I was here to find - the proverbial last stop of the train.
"Claire," he said warmly, leaning down to kiss my cheek. "Happy birthday darling." He stood back up and chuckled to himself. "Only you would schedule this visit for today."
"You know me, Doc. Gotta go out with a bang." I smiled up at him. "Tell it to me straight."
"Well," he said, sitting on the edge of his desk. "You know this as well as I do. Your labs make absolutely no sense in any conventional terms. You've never fit any standard protocol, and even when we hit on something that you would respond to, your quirky little body would only put up with it for about six months before all bets were off again." He took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You'd be incredibly frustrating if we didn't love the daylights out of you."
I smiled up at him. "You know why I'm here, Doc. You might be kind of glad."
"Oh Claire," he sighed. "It's never easy to say goodbye to someone. Even if they are the most irritating puzzle you've ever come across in your life."
I just shrugged, feeling another attack of the weepies coming on.
He cleared his throat, and assumed what I always called his business posture. "Claire, your organs are showing signs of failure. The damage is system wide, and we can't find the cause. I have no recommendations for further treatment options. I believe we've done all we can do."
I tried to keep the tears from falling as I looked up at the man who'd be there for all the hard stuff over the last six years. "I'm pretty broken, huh Doc?" I tried to play it off, for both our sakes. "Hey twenty years is a pretty good run though. It's been good."
He smiled down at me and put his hand on top of my head. "All things considered, twenty years is an excellent run."
"How much longer?"
"I hesitate to even make a guess where you're concerned, Claire. But I would put it around six months, more or less depending on what your body decides to do." He took his hand from my head and cleared his throat. "Of course we can get you all set up with hospice and provide you with a pain management plan."
"Don't worry about it Doc." I waved him off. "You know none of those drugs has ever worked on me anyway. And I have a plan."
"I'm sure you do Claire." He looked at me with a small smile. "I'm sure you do."
Amanda chewed her lip as we waited for the parking voucher from the attendant. "So that's it? That's all?"
"It seems kind of anticlimactic doesn't it?" I leaned my head back against the headrest of her Civic and rubbed my temples. "I mean, it's not every day that you get the news that you're dying."
"Yeah," she was quiet. The only noise was the swick of the windshield wipers as we headed back toward the freeway. "What's your plan?"
"Mom's not going to like it." I looked at her profile. Amanda was so beautiful, kind of like I hoped I would be if I hadn't been sick all the time. She was so much taller than I was, 5'7" to my barely scraping past five feet tall. She had rounded curves and smooth skin where all I had were sharp angles and roughened patches. We looked much farther apart in age than the 3 years that separated us.
She shot me a worried look at my silence. "What isn't Mom going to like?"
"Well," I hadn't told anyone my plan yet, but Amanda would be on my side. She always was. "I want to call Aunt Emily."
Her eyes widened. "Really? But we don't even know her."
"I know, but she's family, and she lives way over on the other side of the country. It's someplace peaceful and far away. And I have to get away."
"But… but why?" Her face was starting to crumple, and I rushed to tell her some of my reasons.
"I can't stay here. It's not just Mom and Dad. It's you, and it's Hope. I can't put her through this." I leaned my head back again and pounded my fists on my thighs. "I mean geez, it's like a setup for disaster. She can't get away from it at all. They even named her something that revolves around me." I stared at the drops of water streaming along the window with our speed. "What kind of mind job would it be to watch me fade away when she was the one who was supposed to save me?" I muttered. "She's only a kid. I can't put her through that."
"But does it have to be so far away?" Amanda was fighting back tears.
"You don't want to watch me die," I shook my head. "You think you do, but you don't. I don't want you to see me that way."
She pulled to a stop on the side of the freeway and turned to face me as I continued.
"I need you to remember me now, like this. You said it before that you've been through all of it with me. I can't let you go through this too." I looked at her imploringly.
"I just… I didn't know that I'd have to say goodbye to you so soon." She swiped at the tears rolling down her face, trying to be strong as she always was. "I thought we'd have more time."
"There's always the phone and email," I said, trying not to break down myself. We'd never make it home if both of us were crying. "It doesn't have to be goodbye for real. Not yet."
"It's not the same." She heaved a sigh and put her hands back on the wheel. "Mom is going to freak."
"Let her." I didn't care. It was time to go back to the only place on Earth where I'd been well. It was time to wrap myself in solitude, and let peace find me.
It was time to go back to La Push.
So many of you were supportive with me pulling the Spectrum story, so thank you for that. This is your consolation prize. No, I won't leave fanfiction. There is too much to play with here, and I still feel like I need the practice. Plus the instant gratification is hard to resist.
This is a huge departure from my first Quil and Claire. I hope you enjoy it as much. I do plan to start a thread over at Twilighted (dot) net for this story, and will do the Tuesday Teasers there as well as any discussion and fun you want to do. Come on over.
Other than that, drop a review my way. What do you think of the direction we're going here?