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1,000 Tears

Guest Traceve

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Type of story: Short Fiction

Rating: T

Main Characters: Clare & Peter

Genre: Drama/ Romance

Warnings: Major Character Death

Is Story being proof read: No.

Summary: Peter & Clare face the biggest challenge of their relationship when Peter is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Five chapters take us through Peter's fight and Clare's memories. Can love survive death?

These tears I've cried, I've cried 1,000 oceans

And if it seems I'm floating in the darkness, well

I can't believe that I would keep

Keep you from flying . . .

And I would cry 1,000 more if that's what it takes

To sail you home, sail you home, sail you home.

It's all black today, here in this musty church with Peter and a bunch of other people who have come to pay their respects. Clare can't believe that it's been over a week since she last held Peter in her arms, since she last kissed his fragile lips, since she last stroked his poor short hair that still blonde, even when the rest of him was white and dying.

Black – yes, black like the sky outside, because this is an evening funeral in the dark of winter; black like the marble casket in front of Clare, with the faint white streaks that show that even in death. Black like the priest's robes, black like the funeral outfits, black that's in style and black that's a swallowing hole of darkness that Clare's inexorably falling into, even though Leah is holding her hand and Sally is rubbing her shoulders.

It's different when you've known someone inside out – seen him smile and cry, seen his face light up at Christmas time when you give him what he's always wanted, seen him clawing at his hair when he found out Eve was still alive. And all of Peter's friends who are sitting here today in this church – every single one of them – they didn't know Peter like she did. They didn't realize what it was like to give yourself fully to someone, to tie your life directly to theirs. So they really don't get it when they say how sorry they are, because it feels like Peter's dead, too.

The funeral's beginning, and Clare has to push through the glue in her head to hear what the priest is saying. Peter was what she jokingly called a "lapsed Catholic", and you'd rarely see him in a church. However, Clare alone know of the true spirituality that Peter possessed, and knew that even if he didn't attend mass every Sunday, he never missed her nightly prayer. He lit candles for friends in need. He knelt in front of icons and kissed the golden-flecked painted robes. So, when everyone questioned why Clare decided to hold a funeral service in a Catholic church, Clare was ready to tell them about Peter and his religion, but found that she really couldn't get the words out. And she didn't want to. Screw them all – if Peter wanted a service in a church, then that was what Clare was going to give him. Because Clare always gave Peter whatever she wanted, and why stop now? Clare buried her head in her hands, feeling the tears slip through her fingers. Why, when this is the last time she can make Peter happy?

I'm aware what the rules are, but you know that I would run

You know that I will follow you

Over Silbury Hill, through the solar field

You know that I will follow you

"Peter Baker, top dective at the local Police Station. He was a man of great personal strength. He was known as a compassionate person, wonderful husband, and a caring friend."

No, there wasn't anything Peter wouldn't do. Like that time that Leah's mother had a stroke and no medical insurance to pay for treatment. Peter had managed to pull a few strings, found a doctor who was a friend of his to perform the treatment for free. He had then secretly paid for ongoing physical and mental therapy for her because he knew what waitress's salary is like and he knew Leah couldn't afford it. And who could forget how he'd helped people through the years, sometimes even jeopardizing his career? Peter had always told Clare that she needed to be less emotional and more professional, that she needed to take a step back from her people and be objective. But that was the one thing that Peter could never practice what he preached – he was always involved, with every person, every friend, everyone he ever knew. Peter had immense capacity for forgiveness and immense empathy for humankind. It was something you didn't see nowadays.

Clare is due to give the eulogy, and for a minute, she feels like she can't speak. However, the whole church is watching her – everyone wants to know a little bit more about Peter, some side of her that only Clare knows. For a minute, she wants to run out of the church and just bury herself somewhere where no one can bother her. But she owes Peter this. She owes Peter the honour of being remembered.

Her black skirt swishes around her calves; her heels clack loudly on the marble floor. Clare reaches the altar, turns, stares at her reflection in the casket, which is mercifully closed. Peter was always beautiful, even in death, but his wasted body and drawn face would shock anyone who hadn't lived with it for the last year. It was best that everyone remembered him from the large picture set up on the easel beside the coffin. Peter smiles confidently at Clare now; his short blonde hair is swept back, his blue eyes twinkle from the frame, and suddenly Clare knows exactly what to say. She touches the cool black marble gently – she strokes the smoothness, leaving a small finger mark. And now, Clare's ready.

"I know, you're all here to remember Peter," she begins, her voice rusty from disuse and almost non-stop tears. In fact, she can feel the ache in the back of her throat that tells her that she won't make it through this speech without crying. Nevertheless. Nevertheless.

"I lived with Peter for a year and a half as his wife. Before that, I was his partner at work. He taught me everything I know. I don't think, out of all the partners that I have ever had, that I had a better one than Peter, and that's the truth. Because he had such a respect for life, you know? We policemen . . . we help people, you know? Whether they are on the wrong or the right side of the law. He never forgot about the person behind the crimes, and that's what made him a good person. Not just his skills in the line of work he was in, not just the way that he helped so many people. He listened to what a person wanted and he listened to their fears."

Clare looks out into the crowd, looks out at all the eyes that are looking back at her. She sees her friends; Leah is clutching Dan's hand and wiping her eyes. Dan is staring at Clare, his face disbelieving, like he can't believe that he's experiencing his brothers funeral. Well, Clare can't believe it either, and she, like him, was there when Peter died. Jack is rubbing his huge fists into his eyes, trying to keep it under control. And way in the back, under a black hat with heavy netting, she sees the blonde hair and pointed face of Amanda. Looking at Amanda, Clare suddenly finds the strength to go on with her eulogy. She clears her throat.

And if I find you, will you still remember?

Playing at trains, or does this little blue ball

Just fade away?

Over Silbury Hill, through the solar field

You know that I will follow you

I'm aware what the rules are, but you know that I would run

You know that I will follow you

"So, yeah. Peter had prostate cancer. It almost seemed ironic, you know, because he's spent so many years trying to fight it, working with various charities after his uncle passed away, because he felt so strongly about trying to cure the disease. It's so . . . unfair." Clare's voice breaks and she tries to get it under control. "We knew the odds, you know, we knew what would happen. But he believed up until the day he died that the science he believed in would come through for him. We both believed it." Clare wipes her eyes, hears sniffles from the congregation.

The fight hadn't been long, but it had been hard, because Peter seemed to react badly to nearly every single treatment that could be offered. He spent days throwing up, hours on the toilet after radiation, and at the end, weeks in bed, too weak to even walk across the room. He'd insisted on having his laptop near, determined to work until he couldn't. He'd even wanted to go to the station after his chemotherapy sessions to continue working.

"I can't remember a day that I didn't wake up and not feel grateful that Peter was lying beside me. I can't remember a moment that he wasn't there for me, to hold me up. I can't remember loving someone this much, ever. For me, his death has been almost devastating." Clare's voice drops, the tears start to fall again, but this time she lets them. "But he's at peace now – and he was so sick. Some of you don't know how sick. He . . . he just wasn't Pete then."

Clare finishes her speech, tries to find something positive to end on, can't. "So you remember Pete as he was – like that," she says, pointing to the picture. "Don't remember the man in this coffin. Remember the amazing police officer – remember the wonderful friend. And for some of you, who knew him the best, well. I don't think you'll run out of things to remember. How can you? he's left enough memories for all of us."

Clare sits down, feels Sally's hand on her shoulders again, squeezing. She feels the warmth of Leah beside her, but she can't really feel it inside. Because this feels like it's it for Clare. She can't bear the thought of going home to the empty house and crawling between the cold sheets, reaching out for the only person that she's ever felt truly comfortable with. The only person she's ever really loved, loved so fiercely that her head aches with the thought of her.

The funeral ends. Clare troops out with the others, allows them to press her hand, say their condolences, try to find closure. Clare wants to tell them that she doesn't have the closure that they want. Hell, she held Peter in her arms at the last, felt his last breath. She doesn't have the closure. She doesn't ever want closure, because if she can't feel this pain, then was the love real? And how is she supposed to live with that?

Can't this just be a dream? She closes her eyes and feels the tears come through them, healing and burning and swelling. She'd keep crying if only it meant that Peter would come back, that she could be sure that the pain wouldn't end and that she would forget her.

So many tears – it's like an ocean of tears. But she hasn't got a life raft. And she's so scared that she's going to forget Peter's face, forget his voice, because she's crying out all her memories and soon there will be nothing left.

These tears I've cried, I've cried 1,000 oceans

And if it seems I'm floating in the darkness, well

I can't believe that I would keep

Keep you from flying . . .

And I would cry 1,000 more if that's what it takes

To sail you home, sail you home, sail you home, sail

Sail you home.

Where are you?

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So it was after the funeral, sometime in the middle of the night, that Clare got to thinking about it all. She was staying at Sally’s, because she couldn’t fathom the thought of going back to the house – all those empty rooms, Peter’s scratched up piano, his clothes in the closet and his shoes that lay beside the bed, never upright, one leaning over the other. Clare knew it would be the shoes that would kill her the most. Peter loved his shoes; he had this contraption in the closet that held them all. They were all different colours; all different styles. Peter had labeled them all – she had these little white labels below every spot. Clare used to tease him about his compulsion, but now she missed it. Now she’d give anything to watch Peter print, in his best, non-police officer scrawl, the information on the tag and stick it just-so onto the stand. No, she couldn’t look at the shoes.

It had been at least a month before Clare found out. Until then, there was just a general sense of wrongness – both at work and at home. Like when Peter would turn away from her at night, or when he wouldn’t answer a question right away, staring into the table before looking up with tears in his eyes to beg Clare’s pardon; could she repeat herself, please? Peter was always so sure of himself. He always paid attention. So much of this was just not right. And he wouldn’t answer when Clare asked, just shook his head, tried to smile. It was so Peter, to put a brave face on it. To try to save Clare from any grief. To carry it alone.

Somewhere, over the rainbow

Way up high

There’s a land that I heard of

Once in a lullabye.

When Clare did find out, they were on a interviewing a young man who had been drink driving. They completed his questioning and with a smile, Peter excused himself and wandered into his office. Clare suddenly felt wrong, standing in the room next to the man, so she followed Peter into his office to see her crouched on the floor, against the wall, crying low, tortured sobs into the sleeve of his jacket. At this point, Clare didn’t care what the matter was – she simply dropped beside Peter and took the blonde-haired man into her arms. After Peter had finished crying, after he was a runny, snotty, teary mess, he raised her eyes to Clare’s, lips in that half-upset, half-satirical pout. Clare stared quizzically into Peter’s blue, blue eyes, even bluer with the infusion of tears. She had never been more confused, but something in Peter’s eyes answered the confusion and unbidden, Clare’s lower lips began to tremble. “Pete . . . you’d better tell me what’s going on. You’d better tell me right now,” she said, her voice beginning to shake a little.

But even as the words fell from Peter’s lips; even as Clare knew what he was going to say, it didn’t make it any easier. And the two of them spent five minutes just taking pause from the world, making time to cry, cry because they both knew the stats and they both knew that if Peter was this upset, there was nothing they could do.

It took a little less than a year, give or take. It was early autumn when Clare found out and three days after Christmas when Peter died. It was one of the best and worst years of both their lives.

Somewhere, over the rainbow

Skies are blue

And the dreams that you dare to dream

Really do come true.


“So, when’s the chemo appointment?”

They were sitting outside in the hospital cafeteria, shortly after Peter’s surgery. He had been in the hospital for two days and was starting to feel a lot better. He had even gotten dressed that day, wearing soft expensive grey pants and a silken white shirt. If you didn’t know that he had just had surgery, you would have thought that Peter was taking time for lunch, between appointments. However, anyone that knew his knew that he wasn’t okay, because he was missing his designer footwear, and a wheelchair was parked just behind his seat.

“I don’t know, in another two weeks or so? They want to see how the surgery heals. And to check how far it’s spread, of course.” Peter coughed a little, pushed away his chicken soup. “Why does hospital food have to suck so much?”

“Because they don’t want you to stay here longer than you have to,” Clare replied, rechecking her paperwork and writing down a comment or two on them. Peter snatched the page that Clare was working on and shook her head. “No, we do need to charge him. He has been fined beforehand, also take off a demerit point from his license.”

Clare corrected the chart and smiled. “Nice. You make a horrible patient, you know.” Peter grinned back and stretched a little, wincing as his stitches pulled. “We all do.” She smiled as Sally, Leah and Rachel came up and sat down, throwing their trays on the table with a clatter. “Good morning. Bad day?” he raised an eyebrow, clearly enjoying their disgruntled expressions.

“If only you knew,” Rachel joked. She slumped against her chair, pouting. Peter laughed aloud. “I’m sure it isn’t that bad, Rach.” he coughed again, putting a hand to his lower belly. “Ouch,” he muttered.

“Peter – how are you feeling?” Leah asked unctuously.

“Fine, thanks, Leah. I’m feeling okay.” Peter swirled his spoon around in his soup and suddenly yawned. Clare recognized the signs – she pointed to the wheelchair. “Bedtime.”

Peter raised an eyebrow at her. “What, Clare?”

Clare pointed at the chair again. “Bedtime, Pete. You might be feeling better, but both you and I know that if you overdue it, you’re going to put yourself back at least two more days.” She stood up and put her hands on Peter’s shoulders, rubbing them a little. “You have to rest,” Clare whispered.

To anyone else who was watching, it seemed that Peter suddenly remembered a consult he had to do, or charting he hadn’t finished. He rose gracefully and bid goodbye to all of the people at his table. However, if you looked closely, you would have seen that Peter wasn’t arguing, nor was he ordering anyone around. He was quite willing to sit in the wheelchair and go back to bed. It was the first time that Clare felt that something was wrong.


Peter sat in the chemo chair, watching the clock and watching the IV needle in his arm. The bag of chemicals was almost empty, and he knew his time was almost up. His foot tapped impatiently on the floor and he sighed, shifting fretfully in her chair. Clare looked up from her magazine. “Do you feel sick, sweetie?”

“No. I want to get out of here,” Peter grumbled. “I’ve got a client at one.”

Clare rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why you scheduled a client today, especially since you don’t know how you’re going to react to the chemo.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Peter replied. “They gave me anti-nauseants, I should be fine. Dr. McLeod prescribed Zofran if I start to get sick – it’s the strongest drug on the market for chemo-related vomiting. Anyway, I never throw up. I’ll be okay.” Clare rolled her eyes. “Fine. Have it your way.” She continued to read her magazine while Peter tossed aside several magazines before he found one that he wanted to read – Auto-Speed, dated four months ago. He flipped it open and read with apparent interest. Clare hid a smile. Anything to do with cars would always distract Pete.

The nurse came back in at that point and unhooked Peter. “Okay, Mr. Baker, you should take it easy for the rest of the afternoon. No heavy meals, no fatty or greasy foods, you know the drill.” Peter was nodding emphatically after every statement. “Thanks, Marie.” Once the nurse had finished checking his vital signs, Peter got up and smiled at the nurse. he said to Clare, “I’ll be at the station till three – I’ve got a client for the rest of the afternoon. I should see you home tonight, okay, sweetie?”

Nurse Marie’s brow furrowed. “Mr. Baker, you can’t go yet. You need to sit for a few minutes so that we can make sure that you’re okay to walk out of here. Chemotherapy is an incredible shock to the system. You don’t know how you’ll react to it. She looked disapproving, but Peter brushed her off. “Jack will be around if anything happens to me this afternoon, Marie. I should be okay - it wasn’t that big of a dose.”

The nurse shrugged and looked at Clare. Peter was already walking out the door. Clare smiled at the nurse and followed him out. Peter was bound and bent to continue with his life, and if it made him feel better, why not?

Two hours later, Clare was cracking her neck back and forth and stretching out her hands when she got a text from Jack. Suddenly, she realized that it had been a few hours and she didn’t know how Peter was doing. She quickly grabbed her keys and rushed over to the station.

When Clare reached her it, Jack came up to her and said, worriedly, “I’ve been looking for Peter, but I can’t find him?”

“No, I’ve been at home waiting at home for him,” Clare looked at him with concern. “Where was he last? With what client?”

“Room 4. Mrs. Hatfield.” The intern pointed down the hall and Clare thanked him, setting off at a near-run. She cursed herself for letting Peter go back to work so soon after the chemo, and when she reached the room, she was in a frenzy of worry. “Mrs. Hatfield, I’m Clare Baker. I just wondered – do you know where my husband is?”

The young pregnant woman sitting down on the seat looked up and smiled. “He excused herself about an hour ago – I’m not sure where he is.”

Clare left the room, checking up and down the hallways, looking in rooms and in alcoves for Peter. Finally, she gave up, sitting on the bench outside of the station. Peter could have just gone to Dan’s. She tried calling him, but there was no answer. Finally, she headed to the bathroom to splash some cold water on her face.

As she stepped into the bathroom, she heard the sounds of someone vomiting and suddenly knew exactly where Peter was. Pushing open the door of the last stall, she found Peter, white face, kneeling in front of the toilet.

“Oh, Peter.” Clare knelt beside Peter and pushed his fringe away from his face. “When did this start?”

“Don’t even say it,” snapped Peter, gasping a little as he tried to control his breathing. He gave up and vomited again. “Don’t even tell me that you knew this was going to happen.”

Clare simply cuddled Peter, supporting his back and rubbing his shoulders. “I wouldn’t say that to you.”

Peter finished throwing up and slumped against the wall. “I want to go home,” he whispered. “I wish I didn’t want to.”

“There’s no shame in it, Pete.” Clare stood and pulled Peter up with her. She took the Peter in her arms, cuddling him close and kissing his hair. “It’s okay to not feel good sometimes.” Peter sniffled, but didn’t admit it.

One day I’ll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far behind me

Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Away above the chimney tops

That’s where you’ll find me.


“Figures, when I go to take anti-nausea medication, it doesn’t work for me,” complained Peter, pushing his thinning hair out of his face. The worst part, secretly thought Clare, had been when Peter’s magnificent blonde-coloured hair had started to fall out. Peter, who had rarely cried through any of this – not even when he started dropping weight, or couldn’t keep anything down for the last month – had cried when he started to lose his hair. Clare had woken up early one morning to hear sobbing from Peter’s side of the bed, and when she had turned over, she’d found Peter holding short blonde strands in his hands. The hair glinted in the minted early light, and Peter hadn’t been able to say anything. He’d just cried and cried. Clare hadn’t said anything either – but she’d taken a lock of Peter’s hair from the pillow after he had gotten up and put it in a blue china box on her dresser.

Clare had been hard-pressed to find something that Peter would eat – he threw everything up and now pushed nearly everything away, or ate a bite and then stopped. Clare tried to understand – after all, everyone knew what it was like to be forced to eat when you felt like crap – but Peter needed to eat to have the strength to endure the chemo. Plus, he had a cough that he just couldn’t seem to shake. Peter speculated that his stomach acid had burned her trachea, so that’s why he had a constant cough, but Clare was slightly more worried. However, she tried to stay cheerful for Peter. It was the only thing she could do, under the circumstances.

In the winter, she had fed, or tried to feed, Peter light, nourishing soups and soft, easy things to digest. Peter had especially enjoyed the carrot-ginger soup and chocolate-cherry ice cream. Sometimes, just to be sexy, he would entreat Clare to feed him the ice cream, licking it from Clare’s fingers or twirling his tongue around the spoon, which made them both laugh. Sometimes, Clare would lean forward and kiss the cherry bits and white chocolate from Peter’s lips, combining the taste of Peter with the delicious taste of the ice cream.

Clare had also kept up the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – before and after chemotherapy. Dr. McLeod had advised Peter to eat lightly the night before chemo, so Clare would make sure he had a light, clear soup or mashed potatoes, with lots of water and apple juice. Afterwards, when he was literally too sick to keep anything down, Clare would feed him crackers and dry toast, with a little bit of ginger ale. When Peter wasn’t eating, he’d drink – the chemo made him incredibly thirsty. He was constantly drinking water or ginger ale or tea, which was at least good for his bladder. The drugs she was on had the tendency to irritate her bladder if she didn’t drink before and after chemo, and receive IV liquids through the process. Twice, he had needed IV fluids in the hospital, because he had been so dehydrated from the vomiting. Despite all the care, Peter was becoming gaunt and pale, his eyes starting to develop hollows underneath them and his blonde hair almost gone.

Tonight, Peter wasn’t in the mood for anything. However, the fresh summer berries were ready at the market, so Clare had picked up some of Peter’s favourite strawberries and some fresh cream. She had made Peter a cold cucumber soup, but things tasted differently to him these days and he had barely touched it.

“Come on, Pete, sweetheart – you have to eat something,” said Clare, almost begging him. Peter’s eyes were closed and he had a cold cloth over his forehead. Clare spooned a little bit of the soup into his mouth. It was fresh and didn’t have much of a smell, which was good, since anything strong would make Peter throw up. Peter slitted his eyes open and obediently opened his mouth, wincing as he swallowed.

“That’s it for today,” he mumbled, turning carefully onto his side. “I can’t eat any more.”

Clare sighed and put the soup aside. “I have some berries?” she asked hopefully. Peter turned back over. “What kind of berries?”

“Strawberries,” Clare smiled. She took the dish from the tray beside the bed. “See? You’re favourite.” Peter sat up a little more and took the spoon into his hand. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” he said grumpily. “And don’t think I appreciate you treating me like a wayward two-year-old.” However, he spooned up a berry and popped it into his mouth. “Oh, my God, Clare . . . that’s just what I wanted,” he said, a little bit of cream falling onto his lower lip. He smiled at Clare and just for a second, he looked like the old Peter.

Between them, they finished the bowl of berries and cream, while Peter asked Clare about the station. He hadn’t seen any clients for at least a month, but he was still interested in their progress. Clare sat on the side of the bed, swinging her leg back and forth, telling him all the gossip from the Police Station. “Guess who I saw today?”

“Who?” Peter coughed, sitting up a little more.

“Amanda Vale. She asked me how you were doing,” replied Clare, carefully looking at the floor. She knew how Amanda felt about Peter – the conversation had been awkward. She hadn’t spared details; she knew Amanda wanted to know exactly how Peter was doing. When she told him about Peter’s hair, she thought she saw a glint in her eyes. But she covered it up well, told Clare to pass along his regards, and continued on her way.

“Did you tell her I was as sexy as ever?” Peter asked saucily, smiling. It was like watching a shadow smile. Clare looked away. “I told him you were beautiful and vibrant.”

There was silence in the room for a moment. Then, it was broken by Peter’s harsh sobs.

Somewhere, over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly

Birds fly over the rainbow –

Why, oh why can’t I?


It had spread – Clare could have told Peter that, but she knew that Peter needed to hear it for himself. The cough had heralded a tumour in the lungs . . . and they both knew, even despite the recent radiation that this wasn’t going to go well. Peter had been on the toilet for days. His poor bottom was almost raw, and he used a cream meant for infant diaper rash to keep it from cracking open and bleeding. He said nothing, but Clare could see the spark in her eyes fading.

The weather had turned warmer. It was October, and the leaves were changing colour. Sometimes, Peter would ask Clare if they could walk, but he could never walk very far, so they spent a lot of their time sitting on the front porch. Clare always made sure that Peter wasn’t too warm. His face was so thin now; his eyes were huge and hollow, it was like looking at a mask. No one really came by to see him, anymore. Peter said nothing – he really didn’t say much, these days – but Clare knew it hurt him. She had tried to urge Dan and Leah to come over more, because Peter seemed to shine a little more when they played Scrabble or even just talked over a cup of weak chai tea, but she knew it was hard for them to see him like this. Leah was guilty – she had told Clare as much, one night after Peter had gone to bed. She felt like she had wished this on her. Clare hadn’t known what to say to that. Dan had simply held her hand and said nothing, but they all knew it wasn’t true. No one would wish this on anyone.

Tonight, Peter wasn’t talking at all. He stared at the wall, his eyes dull. Clare had brought him some of his favourite foods, all warming and rich. A chicken stew, with no spices, only potatoes and cooked carrots; a cup of warm apple cider, even though she knew that Peter wouldn’t want to drink much of it; and a fresh roll. Peter had picked at the food – gone were the days where he would refuse it. He moved like an automaton, spooning a little stew into his mouth, sipping a little bit from his cup. Soon, his hands, once so beautiful and shapely, stilled on the covers, and he just stopped everything.

Clare, watching him from the chair directly beside the bed, felt something sinking inside. With every leaf that fell from the trees, she felt like Peter’s spirit was fading. She knew that cancer patients sometimes went through this. The cancer had been too far along to ensure a good fight, but sometimes she wanted Peter to care more, to fight more. Didn’t he care about Clare? Didn’t he care about living? God, he was only thirty-nine years old . . . Clare, although she mostly kept her crying secret (or so she thought) from Peter, felt herself tearing up and she turned her head away, trying not to sniffle.

Peter roused from whatever daydream he was in and turned his blue eyes on Clare. His voice was a little hoarse, now, since he rarely spoke. “Clare?”

Clare surreptitiously wiped a few tears from her cheeks. “Yes, sweetie? Can I get you something?”

“Clare.” Clare looked up at Peter, met his eyes for the first time, and suddenly, she couldn’t keep the tears back. “I’m so-sorry,” she sobbed, gasping a little.

Peter’s eyes changed. He had always been one to spot someone else’s suffering, but when you’re incredibly sick, it’s hard to see into someone else’s world when yours is so hard to maintain. He moved his pale hand across the covers, grasped Clare’s warm one. Clare was amazed at how cold his hands were, and moved her other hand to warm Peter’s thin one. Peter started to speak, never taking his eyes from Clare’s.

“Honey . . . I don’t want to have this talk, and I know you don’t, either. But if I don’t say it, I’m not going to, and I don’t want you to be angry at me after I’m gone.” Clare made to say something, but Peter cut her off. “No, we both know it. We both know it’s only a matter of time, now. It’s spreading, sweetheart – it’s not going to go away.” A tear slipped down Peter’s cheek and Clare picked up her hand, laid it against his cheek. Peter tilted his head to one side, a soft smile coming over his face.

“Don’t cry. We’ve had more happiness in one year than I’ve had in my whole life. I’ve known a lot of amazing things, more than some people ever get to know. I’ve got to come to terms with this,” – he swallowed a sob – "but I’m okay with it, I think. I need you to know that I’m okay with this.”

Two more tears slipped down Clare’s face. “I wish you weren’t okay with it,” she whispered. “I wish you would fight more.” A hurt look came over Peter’s face and Clare struggled to make it better. “You know what I mean. I just . . . I just don’t want to lose you,” she gasped, her voice breaking.

Peter looked at her for a long time. Then he opened her arms and Clare crawled into bed beside him, cradling his thin body, feeling his heart beat through the bones of his back. “It’s okay, Pete. It’s okay. It’s okay if you’re tired,” she whispered into the soft skin on Peter’s skull.

Peter’s breath hitched and he coughed, but he closed her eyes. “Okay. One day at a time.”

Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Away above the chimney tops

That’s where you’ll find me.


Christmastime had always been Peter’s favourite time of year. He would spend hours with Dan, poring over Scottish catalogs, shopping for hours in the classiest department stores, and always taking a weekend to decorate the house and his office. These days, Peter couldn’t get out of bed, but that didn’t stop Clare from making sure that Peter’s favourite holiday made him happy. They both were ignoring the fact that it could be any day now. They were determined to make it a good Christmastime, despite everything. Dan and Leah were invited over, as well as Flynn and Sally. Peter was nearly too weak to see visitors, but he had insisted. Clare knew why, but she said nothing.

A small Christmas tree was set up in Peter’s room, and it’s beautiful, twinkling lights cast a pink, blue, gold and white glow over Peter’s pale face. In the middle of November, they had realized that the cancer had spread everywhere, and no amount of chemotherapy or radiation was going to help. They had sent Peter home with palliative care measures, mostly pain medication to keep him comfortable. They had suggested that he stay in the hospital, but Peter had been adamant. He was going to spend Christmas at home. He didn’t care what they did with him after that.

His hair had started to grow back – it was about an inch and a half long, gentle, baby-soft blonde curls all over his head. Peter liked it when Clare sat in bed and played with his hair. He would close his eyes and hum gently, whatever was on his mind. A few times, he had asked to be taken to the piano to play something. He could never sit up long, but even touching the keys made him smile. At this point, Clare was willing to do anything. Anything for one more day.

Clare came up the stairs, followed by Dan and Leah. Even though the smell would bother him, he had made Clare light a cinnamon-apple-scented candle to cover up the smell of antiseptic and sick person. He had already thrown up twice, but he wouldn’t let Clare blow it out.

“Hi, Pete,” said Dan, coming over and kissing Peter’s pale cheek. He smiled at his brother, his eyes already slitting closed. He stroked his soft hair and smiled gently at him. “How’s it going today?”

“Oh, okay.” Peter brushed the question off. He smiled at Leah, who came over to hold his hand. Leah could never quite keep the tears out of her eyes, but she did well to smile and to act as normal as possible. Peter was extremely hard to look at if you weren’t used to him.

Peter sipped at a cup of weak ginger tea while everyone else had hot buttered rum. Leah had brought peppermint candy canes, and everyone dipped theirs into their drink. Peter, not to be outdone, demanded a candy cane and dipped it into his tea. Clare, sitting beside him, gently took it out and rimmed it around Peter’s dry lips. Peter carefully licked his lips, smiling when he tasted the sweet, minty taste. “Mm,” he murmured, leaning against Clare.

Dan put a small, soft package on Peter’s lap. “That’s from Leah and me,” he said, smiling. Peter grinned, much like a little kid would when presented with a gift, and struggled to take the paper off. Clare helped him, and they revealed a soft white shawl, made of English wool. Peter smiled ecstatically. “It’s perfect!” he announced.

Clare draped it around Peter’s shoulders and Leah moved it into place. Peter closed his eyes for a moment, and they were all silent, listening to the soft sounds of John Tesh’s Christmas album on the stereo, watching the lights twinkle on the tree. Meredith stared out the window. “Hey, it’s raining!” she said, looking surprised. “It pretty much never does that here during the summer.”

“It won’t last long,” said Dan, shaking his head, but Peter shook his head back. “I want to see it,” he whispered.

The three exchanged worried gazes. “Pete, sweetie . . .” Clare started, but Peter cut her off. “Please.” His voice held a hint of tears, and Clare blinked back a few of her own. “Come on, Dan, help me get him to the window.”

Leah opened it and gently slid back the screen. A warm draft blew into the room, and Clare shielded Peter from it with her body, trying not to aggravate his condition. They wrapped him warmly in blankets and in his shawl, covering his head and part of his face. Even though it was a warm day, Peter could easily feel the cold. Then, Dan and Clare helped him walk to the window, where Leah had placed a chair. Peter sat and stared out the window, watching the rain fall. Peter reached a hand out to get wet.

The tears began to stream down Clare’s face as she watched Peter’s face change from tired to full of wonder. Peter began to hum again, something of his own making, and Dan stood behind him, his hands on his shoulders. Leah held Peter’s right hand. Clare kissed Peter’s left hand. They all knew that this would be the last time they’d get to do this.

After a few moments, they closed the window and Clare wrapped Peter in his blankets in bed. For a moment, they couldn’t see Peter’s face. When he weakly moved the covers aside, they saw that he was smiling.

Birds fly over the rainbow –

Why, oh why can’t I?

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Thanks guys :)


Clare finds herself back at the brownstone, finally, after a week of staying at Jack and Martha’s house, sleeping in her old room, and pretending that she didn’t have another life where she lived in a house that wasn’t the comfortable, quirky old Queen Anne that has so many good and bad and secure memories in it. She still can’t stand to be alone, though. And so she’s insisted on having someone stay with her, at least until the echoes of Peter’s laughter and the scent of his cologne fade from the atmosphere inside this house.

Everyone’s taken this request in shifts – Leah and Dan just left, so Sally and Flynn are staying in the guest bedroom. Jack has agreed to come in three days. Irene did her shift last week. Everyone’s been careful to handle Clare carefully.

Handling Clare carefully means holding her if she wants to be held, which she often does; sitting with her when she lies facedown on her bed, or listening to her talk about Peter. Mostly, these are just little memories, nothing huge – the way Peter used to laugh uncontrollably at the Simpson’s, or how he used to hold his beer can, with one finger slightly extended, the others gently cupping the bowl of the goblet. They don’t complain, even when it seems like Clare’s grief is going to overwhelm them all. They don’t complain, because they know it could be them. Life dealt them the winning hand this time; that may not always be true. So they stroke, they hug, they hold her hand . . . they try to give comfort to this broken soul.

Clare is curled in bed. The sheets have been washed, washed multiple times, actually. She’s tried to erase every remnant of Peter’s scent from the pillows – the cool, flowery smell of his hair; the slightly mint note of his breath; the warm, swelling notes of his cologne that are given an even warmer scent because of her body heat. However, Clare can still close her eyes and smell Peter right next to her. It doesn’t matter how much Febreze she uses – she can even smell Peter the way he smelled when he died; slightly medicinal, but more just a dry, cool smell, like a rose that you’ve pressed in a book for years and then brought to the air.

The scent, even that light, almost whisper, brings a lump to Clare’s throat, which brings the tears stinging to her eyes. The tears are so sore and Clare can taste that metallic salty feeling that you get from crying too much, but they fall anyway. It seems impossible that there are tears left to fall. She turns her face into the pillow and lets out a low, heartbroken sound, halfway between a wail and a moan. She knows that Sally and Flynn are sleeping in the next room, but she can’t contain it, she can’t contain the grief pushing out of her, roaring out of her.

In the next room, Flynn is oblivious to any noise, because he’s asleep and when Flynn sleeps, he’s practically dead. But Sally is lying awake, and she hears Clare’s tears. Without really knowing why she’s doing it, she gets up and pads to the door. Clare and Sally are not really friends. They pretend, for Flynn and once, for Peter, to be closer than they are, but they can’t really get past the fact that Clare and Flynn once had a thing behind Sally’s back, and that even though they’re friends and nothing more now, the past is still standing between them. Sally, however, feels for Clare, no less because when they both lost Peter, Sally lost one of her best friends. The grief almost seems to unite them. However, it’s awkward, and Sally’s really done no more than press Clare’s hand and murmur her condolences. Clare, somewhere in the back of her head, knows that this is almost as hard for Sally as it is for her, but beyond a few instances of sympathetic, honest eye contact, she hasn’t been able to offer Sally any comfort. And somehow, Sally is okay with that, because she’s not one to need holding and she certainly isn’t one to give that sort of comfort, either.

So she really has no idea why her hand is opening the door, or why she suddenly pushes open Clare’s door and steps inside the door. She can see Clare in a ball under the covers, her face pressed into the pillow. She puts a hand on Clare’s back, feels the girl start and then relax, turning her face up to meet Sally’s dark eyes. And it doesn’t matter now, what sort of problems they had or how much they may have hated each other in the past, because death is the great equalizer and Sally can’t stand the desperately lost look in Clare’s eyes. She sits on the side of the bed, her arms go around the girl, and Clare’s head comes down on her shoulder, her sobs and sniffles right next to Sally’s ear. Sally begins to rock Clare, trying to calm her, because doing this is calming Sally’s own grief. Taking care of Peter’s most-loved feels like a healing thing to do.

Clare is muttering something, over and over, and Sally can’t quite hear what she’s saying. “Clare? What is it?”

Clare raises her head a fraction from Sally’s shoulder and murmurs in a low, tear-clogged voice. “No tears.”

Sally has no idea what she means. “What does that mean, mija?”

Clare sits up and knows that if it wasn’t three am and she wasn’t this upset, she wouldn’t be telling this story. But sometimes a white night is a time of introspection and healing, and sharing this with Sally is giving her a gift, too. So she talks and as she does, Sally’s face smoothes out and her eyes become soft. It’s the only way to heal.

Little child, be not afraid

The rain pounds harsh against the glass

Like an unwanted stranger

There is no danger

I am here tonight

When Christmas was over and done with, and the wrapping paper had been folded neatly, all the presents put away, the tree was still sparkling on the table across from Peter’s bed. The lights still played over Peter’s white face and illuminated his tired blue eyes. It was three days after Christmas and Leah and Dan were downstairs, preparing dinner for Clare while she sat with Peter. Peter was fading in and out, but always with a smile on his face. Within the past day, he had almost stopped talking altogether. Clare didn’t mind. His smiles were all Clare needed.

This evening, Clare was spooning clear chicken broth into Peter’s mouth. He swallowed obediently, but his mind wasn’t on the soup and nor was Clare’s. Something hung in the air between them – something just wasn’t the same. Peter couldn’t get up at all, now. He slept for most of the day, only waking when he was in extreme pain. It was then that Clare had to gulp back the tears, because Peter cried like a little child, begging Clare to stop the pain, calling for his mother and for God. Clare knew the end was near, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch the only person she’d ever loved like this dying.

Peter suddenly pushed away the spoon, its contents spilling onto the bedcovers. Clare looked at him, wondering if he needed to throw up, but Peter caught her gaze and held it. “Clare . . .” he whispered, his voice so weak that Clare had to lean forward to hear him. Clare’s eyes filled with tears. “What is it, sweetheart? What is it?”

“You . . . have to promise me.” Peter swallowed carefully. “I know . . . it’s going to be hard enough but . . . promise me you won’t cry . . . very long, okay?” he began to cough, turning his face to the side, the paroxysms bringing tears to his eyes. They spilled over and ran harmlessly down his cheeks. Two bright spots appeared in his paper-white face.

Clare took Peter into her arms, feeling the bones poking through the older man’s skin and leaned her cheek against Peter’s soft blonde curls. “Don’t say that,” she said, her voice cracking.

Peter closed his eyes, opened them, met Clare’s teary gaze. “The hardest . . . part about . . . this,” he gasped, “is that . . . I can’t bear the look . . . in your eyes right now.”

Clare felt awful and opened her mouth to apologize, but Peter’s cold finger against her lips stopped the words from coming out. Without breaking her gaze, Peter whispered, “For now . . . forget, okay? No tears . . . because I’m . . . ready, but I can’t accept it . . . when you cry.”

Little child

Be not afraid

Though thunder explodes

And lightning flash

Illuminates your tearstained face

I am here tonight

In the middle of the night, Clare, Leah and Dan sat around the drawing room fire. Each had a cup of tea, but no one touched it. Dan had his head in his hands and Leah kept stroking his hair, looking troubled. He hadn’t said anything, but Clare knew it was costing him to be here with Peter.

Dan swirled his tea, placed the cup with a muffled clink on the glass table. “It won’t be long now, you know.”

Clare felt the tears behind her eyes, but she nodded. “He’s ready to go.”

Leah had tears running down her cheeks. “God, is it always like this?” She had lost her mother, but it had been quick and painless, and Leah only forgave herself, Clare knew, because she had died with little pain and suffering.

Clare put her hand over Leah’s. “It’s not too bad, Leah. He’s not in a lot of pain because of the morphine. He’s just . . . tired.” Her voice broke on the last word and Dan raised his eyes to Clare, the tears gleaming in his blue eyes.

“I’m so glad he has you,” he whispered. And Clare leaned forward to catch his hand. “he’s lucky to have you still.”

And someday you'll know

That nature is so

This same rain that draws you near me

Falls on rivers and land

And forests and sand

Makes the beautiful world that you see

In the morning

When Clare went up to bed, something compelled her to crawl into bed beside Peter in the master bedroom, as opposed to sleeping on the futon next to the bed. Peter seemed to rest better when Clare wasn’t beside him, but Clare wanted to feel her lover’s warmth and listen to his breathing. She told herself it was because she wanted to keep a close eye on Peter, but the real reason was because she didn’t want to miss Peter as he was for the last time.

Peter barely moved as Clare climbed in beside him, simply sighed and cried out a little as a spasm of pain stabbed at him. Clare carefully gathered Peter to her, smiling a little as Peter whispered her name and settled into the spoon of Clare’s body. Peter smelled like a dying person, but Clare didn’t care, burying her nose into Peter’s hair and rubbing her hands down the sticks of his poor white arms.

Peter’s breathing was somewhat labored; it wasn’t that it sounded wheezy, but it seemed to cost him strength to fill and release his lungs. The cancer had spread there – Clare had an oxygen mask when it got really bad, but it didn’t really seem to help. Nevertheless, Clare drank it in – drank in Peter’s gentle warmth; drank in his breathing and smiled into his hair. When she fell asleep, she felt better, knowing that Peter was right beside her.

Little child

Be not afraid

The storm clouds mask your beloved moon

And its candlelight beams

Still keep pleasant dreams

I am here tonight

Dan and Leah were staying in the guest room, next to the master bedroom. They lay with their arms around each other, listening to each other’s breath, thanking God that it wasn’t them with a dying lover. Dan had been doing a lot of crying. Leah had tried to comfort him, but she knew that it wasn’t something she could fix, this time. This was a relationship. And to lose it for good was something beyond her understanding. She tried to kiss it away, but the tears kept coming back, and for the hundredth time, she wondered what it was about Peter that made the tears fall from even her eyes.

They both looked up when they heard Clare’s crying – she was calling their names and crying, and Dan grabbed Leah’s hand as they ran into the master bedroom, knowing that if it wasn’t it, it was so close. Peter’s not waking up, came the call – and it was a relief and a nightmare – who knew they could mix so irrevocably?

Little child

Be not afraid

The wind makes creatures of our trees

And the branches to hands

They're not real, understand

And I am here tonight

Two days later, Peter was still unconscious and it was killing Clare. He may have stroked out; he may have slipped into a coma because his body just couldn’t handle the energy and commands that it needed to live. Dan wanted to call the hospital, but Clare forbade it. Peter wanted to die at home. He was going to die at home.

They took turns sitting with him – well, Clare wouldn’t have moved from Peter’s side if Dan and Leah hadn’t made her – and it was always the same. Slow, labored breathing under the oxygen mask. Blue eyes closed; blonde hair shining weakly on his forehead, face smoothed out in peace. It was a waiting game, like all of life is, but this time; all three would have waited forever, if it only meant that Peter wasn’t going to slip away.

And someday you'll know

That nature is so

This same rain that draws you near me

Falls on rivers and land

And forest and sand

Makes the beautiful world that you see

In the morning

At one point, Dan came to sit beside Clare, who was holding Peter’s hand and staring into his face with a desperate sort of hope. “Clare, sweetheart . . . you’ve got to let him go. He’s trying to go,” he whispered, rubbing Clare’s tight shoulders.

Clare whirled around, ready to bite his head off, and then met his empathetic eyes. He knew, more than she did how much she ached for Peter to smile one more time. “There’s no chance?” she asked, even though she knew the answer.

In response, Dan wrapped his arms around Clare, holding her securely. When he let go, he shook his head, almost imperceptibly, and the tears spilled down his cheeks, but he was ready. Leaning down, she whispered, “Go on. Go to sleep, sweetheart. I won’t hope anymore.”

It was the first time that Clare regarded hope as a hurt.

For you know, once even I

Was a little child

And I was afraid

But a gentle someone always came

To dry all my tears

Trade sweet sleep for fears

And to give a kiss goodnight

Well, now I am grown

And these days have shown

Rain's a part of how life goes

But it's dark and it's late

So I'll hold you and wait

‘Til your frightened eyes do close

When the time came, they were sitting in Peter’s room. His breathing had become wheezy and hard to listen to – they all knew it was time. Clare, her face twisted in pain, held Peter in her arms, cradling him like a child, stroking his cheek. Her chest hitched with the effort of keeping the promise, keeping the tears back. No tears. No tears.

Dan had Peter’s hand; he kissed it every so often, his mouth quivering. Leah sat like a ministering angel, calm and serene, holding Peter’s other hand. They knew that of the three, Leah could keep it together. She would fall apart later, but she’d sat at enough deathbed-sides to give the dying the dignity they needed to go.

Peter’s breath hitched once, twice, and then, much as the wind breathes out before a storm, they felt the life leave his and his chest still. His mouth slackened a little; his eyes became absolutely still. And the only sound in the room was Clare’s unchecked crying as she fulfilled the end of her promise.

And I hope that you'll know

That nature is so

This same rain that draws you near me

Falls on rivers and land

And forests and sand

Makes the beautiful world that you see

In the morning

Everything's fine in the morning

The rain will be gone in the morning

But I'll still be here in the morning.

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