Henri had to stay in the hospital for quite some time before finally being allowed back home. I visited him in the hospital every single minute I was able to, bringing board games to play with him and sometimes snuggling on the bed and watching TV. I watched happily as color returned to his face, though he wasn’t gaining the weight back.
He told me what happened that night. Apparently he started coughing and then started coughing up blood, until he was flat out vomiting up blood. This weakened up so by the time he was able to stop, something inside his body was turning off. A little like what happened to me when I fainted, but on a bigger scale. That started a short of shut down process which was why they thought he might not make it till morning. Dr. Laroche said something about getting more oxygen in him to help stabilize what was going on, but other than that neither of us were sure what happened after he passed out.
But he was safe now, and he was okay.
“Stop fussing!” Henri complained as I put my arm around his waist. “I can walk fine.”
“You DON’T want my hands all over you? Psh, some boyfriend you are,” I teased.
Henri stuck a tongue out at me. “I can walk just fine.” I slid my arm a little lower so it was just right above his butt. I got a flash of what he was feeling, and I grinned. “Okay, you can keep your arm there…”
I helped him into the house where there was a ‘welcome home’ banner up, some presents on a table, and pizza ready for us to dig into. Henri complained about that too, but he was pleased. All my siblings made cards for him since they couldn’t come (we didn’t want to have him crowded) and then some of his relatives called via videophone. Henri sat at the computer and happily chattered away in French with them, while I helped Dr. Laroche put away what little remained of the pizza and wash the dishes.
“Thank you for being so loyal to him, Serenity,” the doctor said as I rinsed the pizza sauce off the plates. “I am glad he has someone like you to be there for him. I was always worried that because of his private tutoring it would be difficult for him to make friends.”
“I love Henri,” I said simply. “I know it probably doesn’t sound too genuine coming from a sixteen-year-old, but–“
“It sounds genuine coming from you,” he answered, dumpin’ some soap in the sink and turning on the hot water. “As I loved Christelle when she and I were fifteen, I do believe that teenagers can love and not just lust.”
My cheeks went red when he said that. Parents of the boyfriend should not be allowed to say ‘lust’ so casually like that. “Henri talks of his mother often,” I said, trying to change the subject then immediately regretted my choice. I didn’t want him to be reminded of his loss.
But Dr. Laroche just looked wistfully at the wall. “Christelle was a truly amazing woman. She never gave up. She never let me give up.” He looked back down at the soapy water. “When we found out Henri had inherited the disease, that was harder for her to deal with than her own death. I–” The water sloshed as his hands began shaking. I clutched a dish towel, breathin’ real slow, feelin’ like a complete creep for bringing this on.
“Mon amour, ma vie, ma vigueur,” he whispered. Then he cleared his throat, straightened his back, and began working on the plates. “She always told me it was I who helped her through the most difficult times. So I am happy that my son has… has someone.”
“He has you too, Mr. Laroche,” I said quietly.
The doctor looked sideways at me and then smiled. “A father is very different from someone to love, Serenity. You love your fathers, but would you put them in the same category as Henri?”
I shook my head quickly. “N-no. I suppose not. Um, Mr. Laroche, c-can I ask you something…? Henri hasn’t exactly… t-told me exactly… how long…” I gulped and then couldn’t finish what I was tryin’ to ask.
Dr. Laroche shifted a bit, scrubbing hard at the already-clean plate. “Going by family history and his progression, three years.” He said it outright without any hesitation. It almost made me kinda mad about how blunt he was about it, probably cause I couldn’t be, but he was practically drownin’ in sadness on the inside. “Why don’t you go watch a movie with him. I can take care of the cleaning.” He reached over and took the towel from my hands, then reached up and patted at my cheeks with the towel, patting away my tears. “No more tears now, my dear. He is home now, and that is something to be happy about.”
I nodded and took in a deep breath. It was happy right now, Henri was okay, he was home. No tears. Three years. A long time. Not today, I thought as I went in. It had become my mantra since Henri was in the hospital. It really helped me get through each day of seeing him in that hospital bed and I had the feeling it was gonna get me through the next three years until–until—… until.
As the days passed us by it was obvious what had happened to Hen had weakened him. Most the time we spent our time together inside instead of going out, and the few times we were out he got tired very easily. So movies, video games, and board games took up our days. Though when the weather was nice we’d sit in his backyard.
It was one of these days that we had yet another fight. And once again, because of me and my… abilities. It was another one of those times where he said he felt fine but I knew he wasn’t, and things were blown out of proportion. We made up right after but I could tell he was still annoyed at me. I couldn’t apologize completely because it really wasn’t my fault I could tell how he was feelin’. And part of me wished he’d stop getting so annoyed about it. I wasn’t purposely diggin’ into his feelings.
I wish I could control these things better, I thought the day after that fight as I drove into town to get some Chinese food and a movie to take back with me. Then a very tiny thought dug its way into my brain. What sort of control did he have over his powers? I shook my head and turned up my music, as if trying to blast the thoughts of that monster out of my head. I did not want to think of him.
He probably knew more about these abilities than you did, my stupid brain said. You don’t even know how he got these abilities, your mom never told you. You should ask your mom. You need to find out more.
NO! I was NOT going to bring up the subject of that bastard to my maternal dad. He was in the past, gone, far behind us, he had nothin’ to do with us now and never would again. And I did not want to dredge up any bad memories for my mom, which asking surely would do. But you need to understand more. NO, I didn’t need to understand ANYTHING! The past is the past, I thought, holdin’ onto the steering wheel tightly. I was not going to hurt Mom any by talking to him about this. I was strong. I could deal with this on my own.
I blinked and realized too late that Henri had asked me somethin’. I looked up at him and he was cheerfully waiting for a response. Crap, what did he say? No way around it. “What was that?” I asked, smilin’.
“I said that guy looks a lot like that one guy from ‘Appaloosa Chainsaw Massacre’. What do you think?” He indicated the screen at some guy who was being chased down by a blood-drenched ghost thing. I really wasn’t sure since I hadn’t been payin’ as much attention to the movie as I shoulda been.
“They do look alike,” I agreed, snugglin’ closer to Henri.
“What’s wrong, hun?” he asked out of no where, reachin’ down to run his thumb along my inner arm. “You’ve been pretty out of it since you got back.”
“No, I’m fine,” I assured him, snugglin’ even more and enjoying his touch.
He reached with his other hand to pause the movie, right as the bloody ghost was reaching into the living guy’s chest. “Normally during movies like this you’re clinging to me like there’s no tomorrow, and you’ve barely even whimpered since the movie started.”
I cocked my head and grinned. “What, you miss me being all ‘oh save me, Henri!'” I breathed out as I swung my legs around to sit in his lap. He blushed and got rather excited by me doing that. “I guess I have had some stuff on my mind but it’s nothing important, really. Let’s watch the movie. I’ll pay more attention and bury my face in your chest.”
He looked into my eyes and then frowned. “If it’s something that’s really bothering you, you can tell me.”
“It’s nothing, really,” I said and then looked away when he got all annoyed at me. Great, he wasn’t going to drop it.
“Sen, when I’m upset by something you know it and never let it drop until I spill my guts to you!” he exclaimed. “How is it fair that you can be all ‘oh never mind’. Tell me, how is it fair? Cause it’s not. I love you and if something is bothering you–“
“I’m not bothered right now!” I snapped out at him. “Except by you going on about how I am which I’m not! And now you’re getting all annoyed at me even more.” I pulled away from him and folded my arms, scowlin’.
“This is exactly my point!” He stood up, waving his arms around as if that would help him get his stupid point across better. “You always know how I’m feeling. I get a running commentary twenty-four-seven with you, and when I want to know about how you’re feeling you clam up faster than a politician being called out on something!”
I stood as well, arms still folded. “I’m sorry if my asking about how you’re feeling annoys you so much, I’ll try and make my powers go away!” In a perfect world he’d apologize, I’d apologize, and then we’d talk about our feelings. Like adults. But this wasn’t a perfect world, and we weren’t adults.
“I know your powers can’t go away!” he yelled. “I’m not–BOTHERED–by that! I’m just BOTHERED that you’re being such a hypocrite! I feel worried about one little thing once and you call me out and harass me about it until I tell you. You get upset and completely shut me out as if it doesn’t even matter to you that I’m your boyfriend!”
“THE HELL!” I shouted. “It means EVERYTHING to me you’re my boyfriend, Henri! DAMN IT! I’m sorry if I’m such a HYPOCRITE! It’s just I don’t exactly want to talk about what’s been bothering me, it’s really personal and not something you even know much about anyways!”
He reeled back, narrowing his eyes. “So you’re keeping secrets now?”
“MY MOM’S SECRET!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, glad that Dr. Laroche wasn’t there to hear all this.
Henri reeled back even more and he deflated. “Oh…” He looked very embarrassed and began rubbin’ his arm, avoidin’ my glare. “Oh. I d-didn’t know it was your mom, I’m sorry Sen. I thought it was…” He trailed off and stared down at his shoes.
“What did you think it was?” I asked, tryin’ to still sound as angry as I felt. It was hard when he looked so cute like that.
“I thought it was about me, okay?” he growled, whirling away from me. “Yeah, I’m arrogant, okay? The world revolves around me. But I thought it was, okay? I was worried it was my sickness that was bugging you so much, it’s not like you even–” Here he stopped.
“Even what?” I asked in a whisper, a bit afraid of what he might say. What did I not even?
“You won’t even say it,” he mumbled. “When I was in the hospital a few weeks ago it was the only time I ever heard you say out loud I was gonna die, when you said it wasn’t my time. It’s the only time I ever heard you say anything about the fact I’m gonna die, and sometimes it scares me you won’t even say it.”
I clenched my teeth and I knew he was waitin’ for me to say it, but I wasn’t gonna. How could he expect me to just say it when–there would be a miracle, there had to be a miracle. He wasn’t just gonna–well, he wasn’t. He was too sweet, too amazing, too wonderful to be taken away from me. It wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t.
“Sen, you need to face it,” he whispered.
“No,” I spat out. “Because it’s not going to happen.”
“Sen!” He turned back around to face me. “This isn’t something you can just be all stubborn about because it will happen!”
“No!” I stomped my foot and tried to glare at him through the tears. “You need to have hope and besides, I AM stubborn and will be stubborn about this! I’m not just gonna give up hope, Hen!”
“I’m not saying to give up hope,” he said, his voice breaking as tears formed in his eyes. “And I haven’t. Something might happen, there might be a cure found. But Watcher, Sen, you need to face the fact it probably will happen.” He was in front of me in the blink of an eye, taking my hands. “You know how much it hurts me seeing you like this? If you refuse to admit it, how are you going to deal with it when it happens?”
Tears and snot were runnin’ down my face and all I could do was whimper and clutch his hands. Don’t do this to me, I begged in my head. Then it dawned on me. I could use my powers to stop him being so pessimistic about this. I looked up at his very blurry figure and realized I didn’t know ‘xactly how to go about this. You will live, I thought hard, clutchin’ his hands even tighter now. You will live, you will live, you will live.
“Just say it, Sen. Once. For me.”
“No!” You will live, you will live, you will live.
“WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING?!” I yelled, lettin’ go of his hands and crumpling to the floor. “It’s not working!” I sobbed.
“What’s not working?” He knelt down, his arms tight around my body.
“You–have–to–live!” I cried. “I don’t want to lose you, I c-can’t lose you, Hen d-don’t leave me! Don’t leave me, don’t leave me!” I began repeatin’ it over and over, clingin’ to him as tightly as he was clingin’ to me.
“When you came back to me the night after I told you, I thought that it was going to give me the best remaining years I could ever imagine,” he said, rubbin’ my back and nuzzling my shoulder. “But I thought you understood what was going to happen, Sen!” He pushed me back a bit to look into my face. “You told me… that night… you wanted to be with me through it all but there will be an ending and I c-can’t b-bear it if y-you don’t accept that!”
I clutched at his arms, head spinnin’. That night seemed fuzzy right now. Runnin’ all the way to his house, the cold, sharp air, hugging him and crying and promisin’. I understood what it meant to stay with him. I knew what it meant. I did then and I still did. But why did I have to say it? “Wh-what’s so wrong with hoping?” I gasped out.
“Nothing,” he replied right away. “Nothing is wrong with hoping, but–“
“I know what’s going to happen,” I whispered, my voice hoarse now. I slid my hands down his arms and to his hands then twined my fingers with his. “What’s so wrong w-with not s-saying it?” I pressed my forehead against his, gettin’ lost in his eyes. For a second, a split-second, I wondered what the chances of us havin’ kids with grey eyes were. My grandpa had grey eyes.
Kids. My stomach was squeezed tight. No, there wouldn’t be any kids for us. Unless we got married as soon as we were old enough and–well, maybe he would be fixed, maybe he would be healed.
“Oh Sen,” he breathed out, kissing the tip of my nose. “It just scares me you won’t say it.” Say what? I wondered wildly as my mind had been taken up with the idea of weddings. Oh, right. “I am so happy you’re as optimistic about this as I wish I was, but it’s not something you can just file away and pretend–“
“I’m not pretending anything!” I whimpered. “I know what’s going to happen! Just because I don’t want to say it, just because I want to focus on you living and not–” Here I stopped and pressed my lips together.
“Say it,” he said firmly, gripping my hands.
“Say it, Sen! Please!” he begged, holding my hands even tighter. “Please.”
I looked into his eyes then quickly looked downwards. “I d-don’t want to focus on… you… your…” The words just wouldn’t come out but Hen kept givin’ me that pleadin’ look. I couldn’t see much of it through the tears, though. But I knew he was doing it. “Your death,” I finally forced out, in a barely audible tone.
Then he was kissing me, as soon as I said it. I squeezed my eyes shut, tryin’ to kiss back but not doing a very good job of it as I was trying not to cry even more. His hands moved to the back of my head and I leaned into him, letting him kiss me harder. It stretched on for eternity, but ended far too soon.
“I love you,” he said, putting his head on my shoulder.
I leaned my head against his. “And I love you.” Until the day… I sucked in air and made myself think the word. Until the day you die. It was like breakin’ through some sort of barrier. The word popped up in my mind, repeatin’ over and over, overlapping itself. That night I ran to him seemed to sharpen and come into focus. The feelin’ of sadness, of loss, of knowing I wanted to stay by his side. That kiss we shared that night. The then-unspoken words of love.
“Your dad told me…” I trailed off and then turned my head so I could nuzzle his hair. “You had three years.”
“That’s what we think,” he answered. “There’s always the chance of longer. There’s also a chance of not quite so long.” Now he turned his head, pressing his lips against my neck. “But as long you’re here with me, I know it will be the best three years I can ever imagine.”
“I will be here,” I promised. “Even if we fight.”
“IF?” He pulled back and raised an eyebrow, smirking at me. “More like when.”
“Oh! Oh!” I smacked his arm gently. “You’re so certain, eh? I see how it is.” I stuck my tongue out at him. “But I will do my best not to, you know…”
“It’s not something you can help. I know that, okay hun?” He stroked my cheek then kissed me again, nipping lightly at my bottom lip in a way that sent shivers through my entire body. “Mmm, but you should use your super powers for good.”
I giggled. “Super powers? More like annoying ability. Besides, I don’t even know much about them.” The beginning of our argument came back into my mind and I sighed. “Actually, that’s what was so distracting for me earlier.”
“I thought you said it had something to do with your mom?” he asked.
“It does…” I shifted my weight and stretched out in his lap, looking up at him. “It’s both. You see, my dad–Hal–isn’t my birth dad.” The words were out and not completely intentional, but once it was said I felt better. Hen deserved the truth.
He was starin’ down at me in shock. “He’s not?”
I shook my head, tryin’ to be careful since my head was almost completely in his lap and I didn’t want to turn him on. Not at this particular moment, anyway. I then explained to him that my maternal daddy had been with someone else though had gone to Hal before I was born. I told Hen that I got my powers from my birth father, and explained that that was why I didn’t really know much about my abilities.
“…and that’s what was so distracting because part of me wants to talk to my mom about my abilities and my birth father, but I don’t wanna bring up bad memories for him,” I finished. “I don’t even know how my birth dad got his abilities, if it runs in the family or if he was around radiation or what.”
“You need to talk to him,” Hen said, runnin’ his fingers along my shoulders. “I know you don’t want to bring up memories,” he added when I opened my mouth. “But it is something that is part of you and you really should talk to your mom about it. I think talking to him about this is better than holding it in. You need some answers.”
I pouted and he bent forward while pulling me up a bit so he could kiss me. “You’re adorable when you pout, you know that?” he teased after the kiss. “Very irresistible.” Then we kissed again and again and, well, makin’ out with Hen was definitely something that always cheered me up. He was a great kisser. Not that I had anyone to compare it too but I didn’t want to compare it to anyone. His lips were perfect to me and I couldn’t imagine anyone else ever havin’ better lips.
We continued to make out on the living room floor until his dad got home. As soon as his car pulled up, we sprang apart and turned the movie back on, actin’ as if we had been sittin’ on the couch the whole time, completely innocent.