AN: This is my first and probably last NX venture. I accidentally found out about Fleischman's departure from NX (I'm at the end of S3) and mah gurd, it shook me cold. I guess this is therapy fic (for closure you know). Maybe I will now be ready for when it happens. All ownership totally disclaimed.
Maggie O'Connell hesitated by the telephone. She held the receiver between her check and shoulder, and it dug into her skin. With her left hand she wound the cord round and round, delaying the call as long as she could. But the tone changed and she had to press the switchhook to reset the phone, she had to punch in the number now, or she would never do it, forever toying with the cord between her fingers.
She took a deep breath. In the next room, Chris's breathing was shallow; she knew that he was in a light and restless sleep, that he needed her to do this. Who could have thought that time crept up on them so silently, that Chris was heading into an age at which the Stevenses have tended to demise? And she, Black Widow Maggie, had sentenced another soul to die a morbid death. Chris insisted it was in his genes, inherited from second cousins of yesteryear, and most likely aggravated by copious alcohol consumption, but he was in a relationship with her, and that was all that mattered. Really, Maggie strikes again.
There was only one who managed to survive the O'Connell curse, and even he did not emerge unscathed. In her mind she played over the variations the phone call that she was yet to make might take. He might be out. She might have the wrong number. He may not be working there anymore. He doesn't remember her – Maggie who? Perhaps a case of selective memory disorder, where stressful events, such as the five years he spent in Cicely, vanish completely, and she, along with all of Cicely's inhabitants, are wiped from his mind as though nothing ever took place at all. Nonetheless, she imagined she were making an emergency landing in her little plane, that she had to be brave, so she gripped the receiver tightly and dialled the numbers one by one.
Hadn't she spent the most wonderful years with Chris? She taught him to fly her plane, and he let her ride his motorbike. Every spring they rode out far into the ocean to see the first cracks in the ice. He said that she was like the northern lights.
After an uncertain pause the signal came through, and Maggie counted the beeps, those monotonous beeps that reminded her of an ECG machine, recording those last faint activities of the heart before the tone changes to be cruel, uninterrupted, the time of death, the endless whine of the machine. She braced herself for the line to die. She had heard it too many times before.
But someone had picked up at the other end, in faraway New York. It was a woman's voice. He was not in at the moment, but she was more than welcome to leave her name and a message. Maggie sighed and vacantly complied. The secretary read her details back to her. And then, just as Maggie was about to hang up she heard, so distantly, a voice – "Who? Why didn't you say?" and then a scuffle, as though someone dropped the phone, and fumbled for it, and eventually picked it up and pressed it against his cheek.
"O'Connell," he said, now heard clearly, he may have been standing right next to her, "What's the occasion?"
For a moment she couldn't talk, she hadn't dared to imagine this scenario; she laughed, wrung the cord, almost started to cry.
He was concerned for her, asked if anything was wrong.
No no, she said, Look, it's not me, Fleischman, it's Chris.
It was serious. Yes they had been to Anchorage. And they ran all the analyses. Yes, and that one.
He gave her the modern medicine is reassuring talk, that the facilities in Anchorage were now not that different from New York, that Chris was in a much better position now than he would have been ten years ago.
"He wasn't dying ten years ago!"
"What I mean is," Fleischman hastily clarified, "Of course I'll come."
"You know, he would really appreciate this," she said quietly, "To see you. He'll be thrilled, I know he'll feel better."
And it would mean so much to Chris, and to everyone, you know, everyone who is still here. Holling and Shelly's children have never met you, and Maurice, I don't need to tell you he'd like to see you –
"O'Connell," he said from his New York office, so distant in time and space from Cicely and from Maggie, "I'd like to see you too."
She laughed then, covered her mouth, wiped her eyes.
She was like the northern lights, ever changing, ever beautiful, magnetic and unpredictable, and he had loved them in the Alaskan winter sky.
He had to go.
And then, having collected her thoughts, she hung up, smiled, and left the room.
Outside, the moon was just a moon.