AN: Hello! It's been a while, but I'm glad to finally be posting something after a very long hiatus. This is a continuation of the story if the institute van had showed up on time. Say it arrives after Edgar says "She offered me everything" and right before Dr. Parker tries to kill him/the Dr. Parker/Meredith duet.

Chapter 1

"Get him sheriff! Shoot him! Take him down!" There was a brief moment of confusion as the man from the institute pushed Dr. Parker aside and tackled Edgar to the ground, securing him with a rope loop at the end of a long pole. The sheriff used this window of opportunity to lunge forward, twisting Edgar's hands behind his back and expertly fastening them to a pair of handcuffs.

"No!"Edgar shouted, thrashing wildly, "Coward! Do it! Do it now!" But Dr. Parker could only stand and watch as they dragged Edgar into the van, kicking and screaming, teeth bared, the blood still dripping from his face and shirt a less-than-sympathetic picture for the man pulling the rope. Edgar thought he could hear Shelley's voice from somewhere in the crowd, but the noise was too loud for him to be sure. The rope cut into his neck, leaving red, painful welts, but still he resisted them, thrashing wildly about, glaring hatefully into his father's wide eyes all the while.

The institute man finally succeeded in getting Edgar into the van. With one last persistent shove, the van doors closed shut and locked themselves. The sheriff was still inside, holding Edgar's arms together so he could not twist around so easily.

"Restrain him, and watch out for his teeth,"the sheriff instructed, then turning to his prisoner,"Edgar! Calm down! You're safe now!"

"Get AWAY!"he shouted, scaring the man with the rope back by violently trying to bite him.

"Hey!"the sheriff warned, pulling out the gun from his belt but keeping the barrel to the van floor, "I'm warning you! If you don't cooperate I may have no choice but to use this."

"Do it, then! You'll be doing me a favor!" The repeated pounding of fists on the van door made the Sheriff turn away for just a second, giving the door a hard kick to shut the mob up.

"Edgar, listen! It doesn't have to be like this!"

"Sheriff,"the man interrupted, "I need to know if you're coming with us or not."

"No, I gotta stay,"he replied, "Just - get us out of here for a minute. Half a mile, that's all." The driver heard this and the van lurched forward, leaving the town and the mob behind it.

"Shoot, sheriff,"Edgar said in a low voice, "But take me back first so he can see it."

"Nobody else is dyin' today, Edgar."

"I took two innocent lives. I can kill more. I probably will kill more. I'm too dangerous to be allowed to live." The institute man looked worried. He had finally managed to strap Edgar's legs down to the chains on the wall of the van, but he looked warily at them now, as if he didn't trust their strength.

"He's just bluffin',"the sheriff assured him.

"You're wrong!"Edgar interjected, "I'm dangerous!"

"Yes, you are. But Edgar, I don't believe you wanna be."

"Sheriff, do you want me to tranquilize him?"the man asked, looking worried.

"No, that won't be necessary,"he said without looking at him, "But have it ready."

"Just shoot sheriff! Give them what they want!"

"I aint throwin' away your life for their sake, Edgar!"

"LOOK AT ME! Look at what I am!"he screamed, tears that had built up finally released, running down his face.

"Edgar, I'm sorry it turned out like this, but there aint nothin' you can do 'bout it! Maybe things didn't start out great, but Meredith loved yuh enough to take yuh back, didn't she? And Dr. Parker, he said yuh were like part of the family. And what about Shelley?" Edgar was quiet, breathing deep, labored breaths, his blood-stained chest expanding uncontrollably with every pant. It took a moment for the sheriff to realize he was sobbing.

"Yuh didn't know she was your sister, did yuh?"

"Please,"Edgar whispered, slowly lifting his head up to reveal his tear-streaked face, "Please, I-I can't live without her."

"I'm sorry. You're going to have to learn how to where you're going...maybe that's what's best." Edgar fell silent. For a second, all that was heard was the engine running. Then finally Edgar slowly raised his head, his expression firm and decisive.

"If you won't put me out of my misery, I'll do it myself." Immediately, the sheriff jumped into action.

"He's going to bite himself!"he shouted to the man. His waiting needle plunged into Edgar's skin just as his teeth began to sink into his forearm. Two large drops of blood pooled up from the piercings Edgar's fangs had made, but he was unable to do anything about it. His limbs had suddenly frozen; his eyes glazed over, unthinking and uncomprehending. He felt the sheriff's pitying gaze on him as the institute man's needle slowly pull out. And then, very suddenly, everything went black.

The town's uproar drowned out any hope of Shelley being able to hear her mother calling out to her. She turned wildly on the spot, trying to find some break in the crowd. Suddenly she felt a hand reach out and grab her forearm, yanking her backward. When she had squeezed out of the hubbub, she found it was her mother who had pulled her out.

"Shelley, come on!"she shouted over the noise, pulling her forward.

"Mom, where are they taking him?"she asked, running with her.

"I don't know, but we need to get out of here,"she answered as the noise from the town faded away.

They reached the house before the sun came up. Meredith opened the door and flipped on the lights, illuminating the familiar space that somehow felt so empty now.

"Go empty all the boxes in the attic and start packing. I don't care what's in them. I have to start making some phone calls,"Meredith instructed.

"Mom, what's going on? What are they doing to Edgar?"

"I don't know exactly, myself, dear. But we have to leave. Soon." Shelley stared apprehensively at her mother, waiting for her to say something else, then quietly went to do as she said. Meredith waited until Shelley was out of sight, took in a deep breath, and picked up the phone, her hands trembling. On the second ring, she had to hang up. Sinking down on the couch, she let the tears freely fall, out of sight of anyone who would have otherwise been fooled to know how weak and scared she really was right now.

The clatter and noise Shelley was making seemed to bring her to her senses. Taking in another deep breath, she reached again for the phone, her hands still trembling but her ears straining to listen to the proof and reason for her being alive in the first place: Shelley. Like so many times when she didn't know how she would survive, it was knowing that Shelley needed her that kept her going and kept her from going crazy, even when she knew that she had another child that needed her just as much.

The connection went all the way through, and she was surprised by how steady her voice was, how calm she could pretend to be even though her entire world was in havoc.

"Hello?"the voice on the other end asked. Meredith swallowed, fighting back tears.

"Hi. It's...Cousin Mere,"she said softly into the phone.

"Mere? Your voice sounds funny. Are you okay?" Meredith closed her eyes, trying to calm down.

"No,"she replied quietly, "I have a favor to ask of you..."

The worst was over, Meredith thought to herself as she finally put the phone down. Somehow, in a way she couldn't explain, the calm and silence was unnerving. It was a reminder that something was amiss, and that alone kept her thoughts wandering when she couldn't afford to not stay focused right now. She couldn't seem to concentrate on packing; her thoughts kept drifting back to what had just happened. In fact, she was so absorbed in her thoughts, she barely heard the knock on her front door. After three more knocks to break her from her stupor, she froze, staring at the front door as if she was waiting for a bomb somewhere nearby to explode.

"Meredith, it's the sheriff,"a voice called from the other side of the door, "I need to talk to yuh." Meredith relaxed and hurried to open the door. The sheriff stepped inside, checking over his shoulder to make sure he hadn't been followed.

"That was a nightmare mess to clean up,"he sighed, taking off his hat, "Took me nearly two hours to calm everyone down, and another to make 'em all go home."

"Sheriff, where did they take Edgar?"Meredith asked hurredly. She knew her voice had an edge of hysteria to it, but she couldn't hide it if she tried. All she cared about was knowing that her son was safe.

The sheriff sighed, rubbing his face.

"The institute, I reckon. He'll be safe, there, at least. Well...safer."

"But what is the institute? What will they do to him?"she asked fearfully, "They won't hurt him, will they?"

"Honestly, Meredith, I dunno. I've never seen a case like his,"he said, scratching his head, "The institute's kinda a funny place. We lock up all the real crazies there - at least, that's what I've heard. I've never had to recommend anyone there. Never hear very many follow-up stories. Most people either just aren't ever let out or just can't be, cuz they're too dangerous or crazy to be around people."

"Sheriff, I know at this point it's a long shot to try to convince you otherwise, but I'm absolutely certain that"-

"Meredith, I'm sorry. He's improved far beyond anyone's expectations, and he seemed like a real nice, intelligent boy, but I saw him attack Rick with my own eyes. Even if I could brush it off as self-defense, I can't ignore the trouble he's caused for this town. I saw him eating Ned's cow. That wasn't an accident, Meredith."

"That was my fault,"she said quickly, "I had just told him that I was his real mother. He was angry with me; he wasn't thinking. I think he wanted to invoke the town's anger on purpose that one time. But I swear, Sheriff, he hadn't touched their cows once since he came here."

"Geez, Meredith, I've always tried to be an open-minded guy, but...I dunno, I can't be stretched that thin without underminin' my authority as an officer. Four people died tonight. I can't let that go unpunished."

"...Four?"Meredith questioned. The sheriff looked down, suddenly uncomfortable.

"...Mrs. Taylor. Just a bit over an hour ago she was found down by the river. Daisy's already come forward sayin' she heard her last words. 'I can't stand goin' on while that thing is still alive,' or something' like that. Then she just disappeared. We were lookin' for her for so long, otherwise I would'a come sooner." Meredith sank down into a chair, her knees suddenly weak. Mrs. Taylor, Ron, Rick, and Ruthie...dead in one night? The sheriff took a step forward, gently placing a hand on Meredith's shoulder.

"Meredith, I really feel for you, but there's nothing I can do right now. A lot of people were hurt tonight, and I can promise everyone right now has that exact attitude Mrs. Taylor showed. I do have hope for 'im. I think anybody who can improve as quickly as he did is more than capable of change. But I can't turn my back on my town for his sake. At least not publically...D'yuh understand?"he asked softly. She nodded silently, her throat tight as she tried to swallow her tears.

"Could you do me a favor?"she asked softly, "Find me a phone number or an address, just anything I can use to make sure he's okay?"

"Sure thing, Meredith,"he said, gently patting her shoulder.

"Thank you, Sheriff,"Meredith said, sighing tiredly.

"It's the least I can do for all the trouble we've caused your family, Meredith,"he said, glancing around at all the boxes in the room, "When do yuh reckon' you'll be headin' out?"

"Tomorrow. We're going to stay with my cousins in Wheeling for a while, until I find a place for Shelley and I to stay."

"Is Dr. Parker..."

"He's not coming,"she said simply.

"I see...,"he said quietly, "Has he come back yet?"

"Not yet,"she replied.

"Didn't see him in all the commotion. Don't know where he went off to...,"he said, "Does Shelley know?"

"I think she can guess as much."

"Mind if I see her before I go? Might set her a little at ease, after everything that's happened."

"I think that would be a good idea...,"she said, "Shelley! Shelley, come down for a minute!"

Shelley emerged from the top of the stairs a few moments later, looking cautious and hesitant and then instantly alert when she saw who it was.

"Is Edgar okay? Where is he? Where did they take him? What happened?"she asked hurredly, running down the stairs to meet the sheriff.

"Now calm down, Shelley. I rode with 'em for a bit to make sure he didn't hurt himself. He's fine. He's probably gonna be knocked out for a day or two. Had to sedate him on the way."

"What?"she shouted, panicking.

"It was just precautionary, nothin' to worry 'bout,"he said, forcing a smile.

"Did he say anything?"she pushed him. The sheriff scratched his head nervously, chancing a glance at Meredith, who met it with a knowing frown.

"Knocked him out before he could say much,"he lied, "Couldn't hear much of anything over all the hollerin' outside."

"But what will they do with him?"

"Don't you worry, Shelley. The institute isn't a torture chamber. From what I hear, it's more like a medical facility. Given the situation, he'll probably have to be kept in solitary confinement for a few days, that's all."

"Then it's a prison?!"Shelley exclaimed, clearly not the slightest bit reassured.

"I seriously doubt they'd do anythin' to hurt him, that's all I'm sayin',"he said, holding his hands up, "I promised your mom I'd find y'all a phone number or some contact info, so you can check on him yourself once that's done, a'right?

"Mom, we have to go see him! He's probably scared and alone!"Shelley shouted earnestly, turning to her mother for help.

"I'm afraid there's not much yuh can do right now, Shelley. Even if he wasn't dead asleep right now, I don't think they take to visitors very kindly."

"Well then how are we supposed to get him out of there?"she asked.

"Just give it a couple days. I'll call and ask what the situation looks like once everythin's calmed down a bit, and we can go from there."

"But I can't wait that long! I can't just sit around and wait for him to die,"she exclaimed, again turning to her mother, "Mom, say something!"

"I think...we should do as the sheriff says,"she said softly. Shelley stared at her mother incredulously, offended.

"Look, Shelley, all your mother and I are tryin' to say is that a lot of things happened tonight that only happened because people were riled up in the heat of the moment. I just think, for everyone's sakes, it would be best to take a step back and calm down, then we can reevaluate and see what we need to do."

"But I know what to do!"Shelley argued, even as tears brimmed her eyes, "I need to go save him!"

"Now, come now, Shelley, look at yourself. You're in no condition to be savin' anybody."

"I'm fine, I'm fine! Please!"she shouted, looking desperately at her mother for help.

"Shelley, stop,"her mother said quietly, "We'll call tomorrow. They're not going to do anything to him tonight, and he's not going to be awake long enough to realize what's going on. There's nothing we can do."

"But...I can't do that!"she said, tears rolling down her cheeks, "I can't just sit around! I love him!"

"I love him, too, Shelley, but this is out of our control at this point."

"You do NOT love him, and it is too in our control!"

"Shelley! What's wrong with you?"

"What's wrong with me?"she repeated, "You're seriously asking me that? What's wrong with you?"

"Watch your tongue, young lady, or I'll"-

"Ladies!"The sheriff shouted, getting in between them, "Calm down! Don't yuh see this is why yuh can't go rushing into action? Yuh need to calm down!" Shelley glared furiously at her mother, her clenched fists shaking with rage. Suddenly she bolted, running as fast as she could away from her mother, away from the sheriff, away from having to talk about any of it.

"I'm really sorry, Sheriff,"Meredith said quietly when she was gone.

"Don't apologize,"he said, shaking his head, "I better be headin' off anyway. I got a lot of people to visit. I'll get you that number as soon as I get back to the station. And let me know when you're thinkin' of settin' off - I'd like to see yuh before yuh go." Meredith nodded slowly, leading him to the door.

"Sheriff? Did Edgar say anything when you were with him?"she asked seriously. Sheriff Reynolds sighed, hesitating a moment.

"I'll tell yuh when y'all leave,"he said quietly, then quickly left before Meredith had time to push it.

It was late at night when Meredith finally had mustered up the courage to face her daughter. She had spent the whole day bracing herself for the inevitable, and now she was ready. She stood outside Shelley's room for a while, her hand hovering over the door, ready to knock. She had to do it. She couldn't expect Shelley to come to her, not after everything that had happened, after everything that had been said in front of that crowd.

"You can't just ignore her like you ignore Thomas,"she thought to herself, "You have to talk to her." She heaved in a deep breath, having made up her mind, and knocked twice.

"Shelley,"Meredith said softly, announcing her presence as she entered Shelley's room, "I think we need to talk."

"No, we don't,"Shelly replied coldly, not looking at her as she folded her clothes and placed them neatly in the suitcase. Meredith shut the door behind her and came over to the bed. Her daughter was still packing - her entire room looked bare and empty, devoid of the usual decorations and posters on her walls.

"Shelley, I'm so sorry,"she began softly.

"I said I don't want to talk."

"We're going to get him out of there, sweetheart. Don't worry,"she said, "I didn't mean to sound like I didn't want to help him. After we get out of here and get settled into Cousin Di and Vi's, we're going to do everything we can to bring him back home."

"Always the least priority to you, wasn't he?"she mumbled, loud enough that she could hear but not loud enough that Meredith could really tell if she meant for her to hear her.

"Shelley...I know you're upset. And I know you of all people have reason to be upset with me..."

"I think we both know who has more reason to be upset with you,"she answered coldly.

"And I won't blame if he does. I never meant for it to happen like this, Shelley. I never meant for him to suffer like he is now."

"Didn't you?"she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm as she shoved a pile of folded shirts a little too forcefully into the suitcase.

"Shelley, if there was one thing I could redo, you know it would be that. They were hard circumstances, and it wasn't so much of a decision as a knee-jerk reaction. We were scared, that's all. You don't think I haven't thought about him every day, wondering how much different our lives might be if he was there to grow up alongside you? You know I'm not going to let him go that easily this time." Shelley tried to ignore her and keep packing, as if this alone would make her mother leave. But instead, to her annoyance, her mother waited patiently for her, waited until her eyes were brimming with tears, until she had to wipe her eye to avoid letting her makeup run on her clothes.

"Tell me why you're crying, sweetheart,"she said gently. Shelley dropped a stack of photos on her bed, her hands clenching into fists.

"Because it's not fair,"she said, her voice tight and restrained as tears brimmed her eyes.

"You're right, it isn't. But Shelley, you don't understand"-

"No!"she interrupted, so loudly it surprised them both, "I don't understand, and I never will! I don't understand how anyone could do what you did to Edgar! I don't get how anybody could hate someone like him! I don't get how the entire town could hate him and want him dead that badly! Even the person he looked up to as his own mother hated him! It doesn't make sense to me! He's the most amazing person I've ever met! How is that not obvious to everyone - how wasn't that obvious to you?"

"Shelley, calm down,"she answered, trying to calm her down, "He was just an infant. Not everyone can feel the same about people the way you do. You can't blame yourself for what everyone else thinks of him. Remember, you didn't like him at first, either."

"But I changed! I saw him change! I love him now!"she shouted.

"I do too, Shelley,"she said gently, "I changed, too."

"Then how could you DO that?"she screamed, pulling at her hair as she began pacing the room, "How could you abandon him like that, and then...TELL HIM? And you didn't just tell him, you told EVERYONE. How can you even say that you love him now when you literally wanted him dead? I could have had the most amazing brother in the world, and I didn't even get to meet him until...this!"

"Shelley, people change,"she said tightly, but her voice was weak as her daughter continued to throw accusations over her head.

"Well, you sure didn't believe that sixteen years ago!"

"I don't know what you want me to say, Shelley. You're right, I didn't, and I'm sorry."

"Sorry doesn't change what you tried to do to him!"she shouted, "It's so hypocritical! You didn't want me any more than you wanted Edgar! You only kept me to kill your guilt! What was I, some consolation prize? Were you happy knowing that you got the normal daughter you always wanted from your normal marriage? Give me a break, Mom, I was just as much of an accident as he was!" Meredith rose to her feet, staring her down.

"Now you listen to me, Shelley, I may have made a horrible mistake in hurting Edgar the way I did, but that does not mean you have the right to accuse me of doing the same to you. I was not expecting you, but I was prepared for you. I didn't have anything, and I was ready to give up all that was left to make sure you had a happy life. You may have been an accident, but you were wanted, Shelley."

"Yeah well maybe things wouldn't be this messed up now if you had just chosen to keep HIM instead!"she shouted. Meredith stared at her, feeling tears begin to well up within her. She moved to the door before her daughter could see them.

"Well, I'm sorry the last sixteen years of your life wasn't enough to make you appreciate the choice I did make,"she said, looking back to see Shelley, glaring at her mother with a look she had never seen before. She shut the door and hid in her own, like a child afraid of the dark. It was a mother's worst nightmare: that hateful look, the biting tone. She may as well have told her she wished she had never been born.

She stood up and wiped her eyes, taking in a few shaky breaths until she calmed down.

"Be strong,"she told herself, "This is no time for weakness. If you're weak, who's going to hold this family together?" She emptied her mind and opened an empty box, once again firm and resolute: the perfect mother of a perfect family.

Meredith couldn't bear the quiet of the house, the dreadful silence that told her things weren't as they should be. Hours passed in that dreadful silence, and Meredith could do nothing about it but pack up the pieces and try with all her might not to reminisce of what she was leaving behind.

She was nearly finished packing up the bedroom when she heard a quiet knock on her door. She turned around, expecting to see Shelley, ready to talk again, instead to see the last person she wanted to see.

"How did you get in here?"she asked, instinctively stepping back. Thomas didn't miss it, tilting his head to the side. The soft glow of the hall light behind him cast a shadow on his face, making it difficult for Meredith to read his expression.

"I do have a key, you know,"he said quietly, shutting the door behind him so Shelley wouldn't hear, "In case you forgot, I live here, too."

"Well then, you can take my key, too. Shelley and I are leaving." This did get a reaction out of Thomas.

"Excuse me? Meredith, she's my daughter, too. You don't have any right to"-

"I don't have any right? You dare accuse me when you're the one who got us in this mess?"she interrupted, "We were this close to bringing our family back together, back to its fullest potential, and then"-

"Okay, okay, calm down..."

"No! Just...get out. I'm not speaking to you."

"Then at least tell me what I have to do to make you stay,"he pleaded softly, making sure to keep his voice down in case Shelley was listening, "At least long enough that we're able to talk this through."

"You can join the list of dead tonight for all I care. Shelley and I don't need you around to hurt us even more than you already have."

"That's rather harsh, now, don't you think?"he said with a frown. Meredith scowled but didn't deny it. Yes, that was uncalled for. She had to remind herself that the events of the night were still fresh on everyone's mind, that everyone was more susceptible to say things they didn't mean.

"Shelley deserves a father who honors her happiness and doesn't only think of his,"she amended, stuffing a sweater rather forcefully in the suitcase beside her, "Clearly you're no longer qualified to fit that role."

"Qualified? What is this, a job interview? I wasn't aware there was an application I forgot to fill out when I said my marriage vows. Should I give you my list of references now, or is too late for that?"

"Don't joke about this!"

"I'm not joking. I did what I did for yours and Shelley's safety. Why, if either of you had been exposed to Edgar's toxin, I'd"-

"Stop,"she interrupted, finally turning around to face him, "Just stop."

"Meredith, please believe me when I say I had our family's best interests in mind. I love you and Shelley more than anything in the world - you know that!"

"And what have you done to show it? Thrown my son, the person your daughter loved most, into an institute? Rallied the entire town into a frenzy over the delusion that he was somehow a danger when we both knew he hadn't gone anywhere near their cattle? What on earth were you trying to gain from doing such a thing, Thomas?"she asked.

"You, Meredith!"he said, holding her by the shoulders, "I was doing it for you! Everything I've ever done, I've done for you!"

"That's not a good enough reason!"she asked angrily, shoving him away so hard he had to take a step back to steady himself, "Why would you call the institute and have them take away my child? Why would you frame him like that in front of everyone when you knew how much I loved him?..." Thomas stared at her, not knowing what to say for a moment.

"Because I love you more than you should ever love him,"he said finally, "You're my wife, Meredith. This is our family. And whether you want to believe it or not, that thing is not your child. He's your bastard child. There's a difference." Meredith steeled herself for a moment, sucking in a breath to steady the sudden anger clouding her better judgement.

"You want me to believe that what you did to Shelley and I was out of love?"she asked, "My 'bastard' child had more love to give in less than a year with us than you ever had in our entire marriage." Thomas fell silent at this, and when Meredith chanced a glance at him, she could tell she had hurt him..

"Well I'm sorry that the last seventeen years of raising a child together weren't enough to prove otherwise,"he finally said. Meredith caught herself for a moment, realizing with sickening clarity that she had said nearly the same words to Shelley just short of an hour ago.

"...You really don't love me anymore, do you?"he finally said. She didn't know how to respond to this. His voice had such a sad, pitiful quality to it that used to fill her with such guilt. It used to be the only thing that could convince her to stay, to want to try harder at loving him, so she wouldn't have to see that familiar sadness in his eyes. Now, though, she just felt exasperation.

"Say something,"he pleaded softly.

"What do you want me to say? I'm packing a suitcase. Doesn't that answer your question?"

"You can't just pack your bags and take my daughter away from me without us at least discussing alternatives, Meredith. I know I hurt you, but if we just talk this all through, we can"-

"Thomas,"Meredith interrupted, looking him straight in the eye, "I'm asking you to please leave. I'm not saying forever, I'm just saying tonight. If it's that important to you, I promise we won't leave until we've talked more. But not tonight. Too much has happened and everyone is too worked up right now. Just please...leave it." The silence that followed was deep and penetrating.

"Alright,"he whispered softly with the tiniest of nods, "Tomorrow then." Slowly he turned, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room for a moment before finally turning toward the door.

He turned back briefly to look at her. Her eyes were misted over with feigned indifference, trying not to betray herself to him. He waited for her to say something, hoping that she would have some hopeful, final words for him to leave with, to cling to as they transitioned into what he knew was going to be a difficult period for them both. He waited and waited, but it seemed she had nothing left to say.

Without a goodbye, he shut the door behind him, and just like that, he was alone.

He walked to Shelley's room in a sort of daze, not really understanding where he was going. His body seemed to gravitate toward her door of its own free will. He pushed it open gently and found that the lights were off, and she was already fast asleep, her suitcase and most of her belongings still piled at the foot of her bed. Her walls were bare and naked - stripped of the memories and marks that had always imprinted her presence. It was like she was already gone, even though she was only an arm's reach away.

He approached her bed slowly, watching her quietly as she slept. He remembered watching her just like this when she was just born, sleeping soundly in her crib. He would sit for hours, marveling at the beautiful thing he and Meredith had created together, building up a chain of lies about how such a beautiful person could only have been born from a love just as innocent and beautiful as his perfect daughter was. He had built an entire life around his child, working hard everyday to support a family he believed in, spending hours holding her, playing with her, just for the small chance of getting to make her laugh. He had fashioned his entire life on making sure their child was consistantly loved and honored, making sure Shelley's life was free of pain so that maybe, just maybe, it would make up for the pain he had inflicted on Meredith.

Slowly he leaned down and gently kissed his daughter's hair, wishing there was something more he could give her. He stared, watching her for a moment longer, then quietly slipped out the door, down the stairs and out the front door. He didn't look back. He couldn't bear the thought of having his last memory of his home be that of boxes without him packed away in any of them...