Exquisite pain takes over my body. I clutch at my chest, crimson already seeping through my white shirt. Sliding down, along the brick, cracked wall to the cold gray slab below. Cement. I sit; dazed and confused, my partner running over, worry crossing her small features.
"Lie still. You're gonna be ok."
I try with all my might to calm her as her tears begin to fall. It's getting harder to breathe. She presses her sweater I had bought her for her birthday hard against the wound. The gun still lays smoking in the dead man's hand.
I never realized before how dark and cold L.A. can be in the summer. Sirens wail in my dying ears, fading and waning in my mind. I still feel the loving pressure applied by my partner, my McCall. I reach out for her then, in the dark. Nothing there. The cold vast void envelops me, I am alone.
My breathing is becoming more constricting now. Air seems to be the very thing that clogs my throat. I'm still aware of the pain. It burns holes in my chest. I'm on fire, but I'm not. My body doesn't know the difference anymore.
Now her hand on mine, she grips tight.
"I need you Rick. Don't you do this! Don't you give up!"
Her breath a warm comfort on my clammy ear. The helplessness in her voice breaks my heart even more. So tired, I just want to rest.
Suddenly cold air rushes into my lungs. The sky turns back to blue from the murky gray. Light seeps into my life. I see her, tear stained and shaking.
I smile at her weakly. Everything will be ok, I want to tell her. Don't cry for me now. She is gone before I can say anything. Pushed and shoved back through the hustle and bustle of the paramedics. Her loving face is replaced by a tall burly medic with a face only a mother could love. The fatigue returns, worse this time and I close my ever drooping eyes. I hear the faint screams.
A hush falls over my ears; I can only hear my ever slowing heart. I try so hard to open my eyes, try desperately to see her in the flesh. I see her again, through the crowd of people. Hands clasped over her mouth, tears brimming her eyes, McCall...my McCall stands shaking, numb, heart broken. Her tiny frame begins to shake violently as her sobs become louder.
Captain Tewilliger blocks my view again enveloping her in his arms, trying desperately to turn her away from the sight of me. Am I that disgusting? Do I deserve to be ignored? Slowly I close my eyes again, whispering to the medic what would be my dying words.
"Tell Dee Dee I love her."
He nods his head and I fall asleep. I will never wake up.
I know it's not enough. I know it's not what she deserves. More, so much more. Now I head into the dark. Silence, I hear the eternal silence. Now before me all those who've gone before. Molenski is here anxiously waving me on. Ambrose Finn pats my back and urges me forward. I stand face to face with Captain Charles Devane who takes my hand and beckons me.
What about McCall? Will she be all right? No one answers me. They stand around with goofy smiles plastered across their ghastly faces, as if lost in some sort of sick dream.
"This isn't right; I have to go back. It's not my time. I haven't had enough time!" I scream and try to run backwards. I am pushed forward again, hurtled against my will, the wrong way. The stain on my shirt already fading, I head reluctantly, into the blinding light.
A blood stained sweater is kicked in the dirt. I want to go with him but the paramedics won't allow it. I knew that they wouldn't but I still feel as though I've let him down. He'll be alone! The squeal of the tires as the ambulance pulls away, hurt my eardrums. I break away from Tewilliger's grip and race to catch the battered bundle of woven cloth. I pick it up, clutching it against my breast. It's soaked in the deep crimson liquid spilt unnecessarily from my partner's chest. Hunter's blood. This is Rick Hunter's blood. A sacred part of life oozed out of his dying body. I watch the crime scene experts snooping around doing their job. Scraping blood samples off of the wall and bagging the man's gun.
Doesn't anyone care? Doesn't anyone remember? Hunter...HUNTER DIED HERE!
Died. Did I just admit it? Am I giving up on him? Hunter? Dead?
Suddenly I am racked with confusion and a wall of panic crashes around me.
If I give up so will he.
Helpless and numb I begin to walk aimlessly toward his car, turning the engine over. The car doesn't seem to understand either. It starts up just the same as it had earlier. My hands shake uncontrollably. Gripping HIS steering wheel does nothing to steady them. Tears overflow my eyes, memories flood my mind and I cry out into the void.
Tewilliger is outside the window, begging me to roll it down.
"Let me drive you home," he says with sad eyes.
A moment's pause and then I reluctantly nod my head. Rick's smell wafts through my nose and my stomach flips. It takes everything I have not to throw up.
Slowly I open the heavy creaking door and lift my leaden legs out of the car. Tewilliger offers a hand and I take it. Remembering when Tewilliger hated us at IA and never left us alone, I glance at him. Now he's just fellow officer, united in grief over a fallen family member.
He slings his arm over my shoulder never letting go of my hand and helps me walk to his car.
Staring blankly at the road running along the side of the car, I am comforted by the steady drone of the engine and the thump of the tires on the road. Tewilliger is silent. I'm grateful for that. The last thing I need right now is unnecessary chatter. His blood still stains my hand, caked under my finger nails. I close my eyes and dream.
The only dream that plays over in my head plays as flashbacks.
The loud bang.
The steady thump of my feet on the pavement.
Hunter slumping down the wall, a streak of blood traces his fall.
Grabbing the sweater out of the car without thinking.
Stumbling toward him.
Pressing the sweater against his chest.
His hands dropping to his sides, breathing slower.
His hand reaching out to me. I push harder in an effort to keep life in his body.
Grabbing his cold hand, once strong and nearly twice the size of mine, now weak and feeble.
Leaning in the smell of his cologne wafts through my nose even now.
Whispering in his ear, tears streaming down my face.
He looks at me as the paramedics pull up.
Throwing the plastic mask over his face, his clear baby blues glance around.
His eyes rest on mine and he smiles. The only color in this dream. His face frozen in time and space. His smile forever etched in my mind.
He's saying good-bye.
I'm ripped away from Hunter's pale hand. Ripped away from his dying body. Ripped away from my partner when he needed me most.
"HE'S FLAT LINING!!!" The elder paramedic screams.
My heart breaks open, blood spurting cold shards through my body. My knees get weak and I instinctively clasp my hands over my mouth. Futile effort to stifle the cries. Tewilliger grabbing me now, turning me away. I see Rick move his mouth and the paramedic lean in and nod. Tewilliger blocks my view and Rick is gone.
Rick is gone.
I awake with a start.
"Dee Dee? We're back. Do you want me to stay?"
"I'll be alright," I lie.
I give him a reassuring smile and step out of the car. He backs down the driveway, watching me unlock the door and then he slowly pulls away.
Shutting the door behind me I am once again reminded that I am alone. The distant sirens running through L.A. traffic echo through my skull. A picture on the mantle seems to cry my name. I pick it up and stare down at the two people caught in a moment. She grabbing his nose and smiling. He making some sort of goofy expression that always made her laugh, I hardly recognize Hunter and I now. Another flashback.
"The wedding vows are a distant second to the unspoken bond between two partnered police officers. I mean you and I are supposed to die for one another, right?"
Hunter gazes down at me.
Why was he always right?
The shrill noise of the phone startles me and the frame falls, glass shards scatter on the floor.
I reach for the phone and hit the talk button, knowing full well who it was and what they needed to tell me.
"I'm sorry," the voice at the other end rasps.
"No...No!" I say through gasps of breath.
Is this what it's like to die? So cold, so alone, why couldn't I be there? No he can't be gone. Not my Hunter. Not my big guy.
"He was D.O.A. There was nothing we could do."
I let go of him. I let him die. He needed me and I let him down. I gave up.
"He-um-he had something to tell you."
You let me die Dee Dee.
His voice so accusing even now. My vision is blurry through the tears and I stare into space. My heart thumps faster, sending the cold prickles through my body quicker. My surroundings begin to swirl.
"He wanted me to make sure you knew, he loved you."
"Oh G-d, NO!"
Sanity becomes murkier as the hot tears slide down my numb cheeks.
Leave it to Rick to always look after me.
Why wasn't I there for him? Why was I ripped away from my soul mate?
My knees collapse from under me. I hit the floor hard, but there's no pain. Only the void of grief. I can't hear anything except the breaking of my heart. My hands, which had not stopped shaking since the "incident" were now steady. I am eerily calm.
"Thank you." I mumble as they continue to prattle on about where and how to make funeral arrangements.
Hitting the talk button again, I stare at the numbers, so foreign to me and glance at the fallen frame beside me. It's then that I notice the blood. One of the glass shards has cut into my knee. I still feel no pain and stare at my leg blankly. Slowly I pull the picture out of the frame and hold it close to me, accidentally smearing blood over Rick's face. A song that I heard a week ago runs through my mind and I close my eyes.
Could it be any harder,
To live my life without you?
Could it be any harder,
I'm all alone, I'm all alone!
Like sand on my feet, the smell of sweet perfume
You stick to me forever, baby.
I wish you didn't go. I wish you didn't go. I wish you didn't go away.
To touch you again with LIFE in your hands…
It couldn't be any harder.
I limp to the bathroom and pull the glass out of my knee. I stare at it icily, knowing what must happen. Flipping my arm over, the veins of life pop out at me.
What use do I have for them anymore? My best friend is gone. My life is over. If he can give up so can I.
Suddenly I'm angry at him for just letting go. How dare he leave me here to battle life day in and day out. I can't, I won't. Rick appears in the mirror in front of me.
"Dee Dee, listen to me. Don't do this. I know you're better than this. You have to live on, for me. Please Dee Dee. Not now. Promise me McCall."
I stare blankly into the mirror, his image fading from my mind. The warning plays over in my head.
"You're right I am better than this."
The pain only lasts a second and then I can feel the warm liquid run down my arms. No more sorrow, no more pain. I feel dizzy and look around the room. I stumble backwards, suddenly I'm so tired. The picture falls to the floor beside me. Looking up the light becomes too bright and I close my eyes...blinding myself with memories. I can see him silently screaming for me to stop, reaching his arm out to stop my fall. For the briefest second I can feel the warmth of his hand against mine (*To touch you again with LIFE in your hands*) and then he is gone. The memory of his smile fades as I slowly slip down into the darkness. He's right, once again. I am better.
Better off dead.