A/N Another little oneshot I wrote as procrastination. I finished Summer today, having already read Phoenix and written this so I decided to post it. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Beautiful Dead.
A Long Life
My daughter sits by my side. It has been 60 years since I moved out of Ellerton; 60 years since I last saw Phoenix Rohr. I am dying, finally, having lived the long life the Beautiful Dead wanted for me, and my daughter knows it.
She has sent out letters to the three people I told her of and I know she thinks they will come. I hold out no such hopes, not anymore.
Yet they surprise me. Zoey is the first to come through my door, once again in a wheelchair. In terms of coping she has become my opposite. Rarely leaving our old town, she was one of Ellerton's finest for many years, unknowingly freeing hundreds of souls from limbo. She's married too and has made her husband promise not to leave this earth without her. I'm glad for that; heaven knows she can do without losing anyone else.
Now, in this moment, Zoey knows that nothing needs to be said. We understand each other.
The other two come together, days after Zoey, with the larger lagging behind, uncertain.
Zak Rohr comes to my side and hugs me, thanking me for setting his life on track. He's a big-shot engineer now, or was until he retired. I'm glad that one of the Rohr boys could have both a long and happy life.
The other hangs back in the doorway. Brandon Rohr has also pulled himself away from the shady side of Ellerton. He's more than eighty years old now and looks like hell, bent over with his guilt still eating away at him despite all the good he's done. He still to this day works for a small charity rehabilitating kids who've been involved in knife crime.
"Brandon," I call softly, my aged voice wavering.
Finally he brings himself to look at me.
"I forgive you," I tell him quietly, "and Phoenix does too."
He doesn't believe me, of course. He never has.
"How do you know?" he asks and his voice has lost all of its old power.
"Because I know Phoenix," I use as a reply. Brandon's more likely to accept that than 'I saw your brother's ghost several times when I was seventeen.'
I allow myself to hope that he believes me. Perhaps he can finally forgive himself and live out his last years in peace.
The Rohrs depart quietly and I am left alone with my daughter sitting beside me once more.
"Marie," I address her, "could you pass me my scrapbook?"
I can see the surprise in my daughter's eyes. The scrapbook has been forbidden territory for her since she was five. I know she believes it holds all of the secrets to my past and in many ways it does. Now all I want is to share it with her.
I open the scrapbook, show the photos, pause over the memories and tell the stories of Jonas Jonson, Arizona Taylor, Summer Madision, Phoenix Rohr and Logan Lavelle: the five dead kids of Ellerton High. There are pictures of others in there too: Zoey, Brandon and Zak, whom Marie has now met, and Hannah, Jordan, Christian and Lucas whom she hasn't, all smiling up at the camera, not knowing that the people beside them will never graduate. I'm in there too: pre-Phoenix Darina laughs with Logan, Darina shares a kiss with Phoenix at Deer Creek.
Eventually I can talk no more. The scrapbook is closed. I give it to my daughter.
I sense them before I see them.
"Hello," I smile.
My great-great-great grandfather smiles back, something I have never seen before.
"She's called Marie," I tell him, indicating my daughter who seems to think I'm going mad.
A familiar figure on the far end of the line of six bristles in a way that obviously means he is jealous of an imaginary man. I roll my eyes, feeling sixteen again just from his mere presence.
"Chill, Phoenix, she's adopted," I grin.
I've missed them so much over the years. I survey them. They all look so young! On one end Arizona grins wickedly. Jonas nods to me from her right, quiet as ever. Summer smiles happily, Hunter looks proud, Logan's smiling face sends pangs of an old pain through my chest and... Phoenix. He looks so perfect I cannot seem to breathe.
"I've missed you all," I tell them.
"We know," Phoenix acknowledges.
"This is it, isn't it?" I ask, unafraid. "Will I get to stay with you?"
"Forever," Logan promises. I trust him.
"You must say goodbye, Darina," Hunter commands.
I turn to my bemused daughter.
"They are here for me," I explain.
She nods sadly.
"I'll see you soon," I promise. "I love you."
We hug and I feel my angel wings grow once more.
Phoenix takes my hand and we fly, the seven of us, upwards away from the far side.
We take a natural V-shape. I feel safe with Phoenix on my left, Logan on my right and Hunter and Summer not far behind us.
I have a million questions and a million answers to give but for now they don't matter. For now we just fly: on.