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Calvin laughed at the interaction between Ayden and Connor. Yeah - definitely like two love struck teenagers. He remembered doing similar things with Mary. The thought bringing him back to his reason for being here. The pain still sat in his chest like a knife wound and he felt for the wolves again, before reminding himself that he had to quit using them as a crutch.

Ayden left to take care of their orders and Calvin turned back towards Connor. "Cheese farmer!? It's dairy farmer now get it right!"
Calvin said returning Connor's laugh. "Anyways, you were asking about people I've met since getting here. I've only really been here for about a week, so not very many. There's you and Ayden, the guys at the garage, and a photographer and one of her friends. All of them have been extremely nice and friendly. Not what I would have thought of when I came here."

A brief smile came to his face when he mentioned the photographer and her "friend." He definitely wasn't ready to tell Connor he could talk to wolves and that the aforementioned friend was actually a wolf named Drifting Snow. The thought of Sierra made him smile and he was reminded of how pretty she was. The guilt added some additional pain to the sorrow he felt.

Ayden returned with their drinks and Calvin thanked her politely as she placed the beer bottle in front of him. Calvin raised his bottle in a salute and offered a toast.

"To new friends and new beginnings!"

Calvin's bottle met Connor's glass and both men drank before Calvin asked, "So how did you two meet?"
Connor sipped on his water as he listened. Water was good when you were thirsty- and the lemon helped- but man he would have loved an actual beer. Mentally shrugging, he tried to enjoy his drink.

"Photographer huh? What kind of stuff? Ayden and I? Actually we met just a few weeks ago."
He smiled at that memory. It was, of course, overlaid with all the emotion of the last few days- the fear and shock and surprise- but at the same time...well, while she hadn't been completely open with him, something she really hadn't owed a stranger in the lobby, he could see that Ayden had always been Ayden to him.

She may claim that Ayden didn't come into existence until they'd met- and maybe that was true from a technical and legal standpoint- the fact was the person she was inside, sweet and funny and driven, was always there. He had come to realize that people were capable of compartmentalization of stuff like what she did. She'd been trained as an army sniper. That's what they did. And then they went home to their wives or husbands and kids. He could see that a person learned not to empathize with their target. They trusted that the reasons given were valid.

From there to doing the job to protect her family was a short step. Once you had reached that level, though, well....he wasn't ok with doing it for money, but he knew that he hadn't been through everything she had. Perhaps she had felt trapped or like there was nothing else she could do. Or maybe something else. But he could see that despite all that, the person she was on the inside was always Ayden. He was willing to leave it at that. She had sacrificed for him and that was what mattered.

So he smiled as he went on. "We live in the same building and she needed some help. So I gave it and then she offered breakfast."
He paused, slight smile- it wasn't funny ha-ha but it was funny how quickly and emotional the last week or more had been. "Anyway, other than a little hiccup, we've been inseparable ever since."

He took another sip and looked at Calvin, wondering if he should trust his instincts. He was going to throw it out there, a casual question of family, and let Calvin do with it what he would. It was polite after all, to inquire....but no. Calvin would have to broach the subject. It wasn't his place to intrude. Instead, he said with a teasing smile, "So what made a cheese- no, sorry- I mean dairy farmer come all the way to Moscow? You looking for some special milk to create a whole new kind of cheese?"
Calvin smiled at Connor's banter. He had gotten fixed on the whole cheese idea, and Calvin actually did find it funny. Wisconsinites were usually thought of as cheese-heads - go packers!

Calvin answered his question about Sierra, "She does nature shots. Pretty good work from what I've seen."

The question he asked - what brought him to Moscow - was a problem, however. He couldn't tell Connor "Wolves told me to." Calvin himself wondered about his sanity when he thought about it. Perhaps his group at Liberty First was right and he was running away in grief. He hadn't thought so at the time, and Calvin thought he had dealt with it. But Mary and Benji kept coming back like ghosts to haunt him.

Calvin's smile faded as he answered, "To be honest, I'm not sure you'll believe me if I told you, but the short story is there's nothing for me in Wisconsin anymore."

Ayden came back to check and make sure they were doing well. Calvin looked at his beer bottle and drained the last of it.

"Whiskey please..."
Calvin's eyes rested on Connor's glass of water, remembering that Connor had chosen it because of an issue with drinking. This could easily turn into one if Calvin wasn't carful. "Acutally, I'll take a glass of water instead. Thank you Ayden."

Calvin felt he could trust Connor and really needed to get help on this issue. The only question was how to bring it up. Calvin looked at Connor and sighed.

"Sorry man, I'm a little on edge since the train ride."

Ayden came back when Calvin had finished his beer. Connor was still...nursing his water with lemon. Mentally he rolled his eyes. But he knew a few weeks with a completely clear head was important. And to show that he was in control of it. He smiled at Ayden. Whenever she got close to him he just felt happier. Content. He hadn't felt that way in a long while. Seemed like he went out of his way to be unhappy. And then drown himself in alcohol. He looked at Calvin, remembered the look on his face on the metro, and made a decision.

"Yeah, whiskey sounds good. Course I'm mostly rum. But even a whisky will do in a pinch."
He took a breath as if confessing something. "But not too long ago I...suffered some loss. It was overwhelming."

He looked Calvin in the eye. "I, uh. I kinda started going overboard, trying to deal with it."
A chuckle. "Well, more than kinda. I was losing myself to it."

He looked Calvin in the eye, ready to tell him the point. "I wasn't dealing with the issue. I didn't process it. Instead I tried to escape."
He let out a breath. "It wasn't good. So,"
he said, lifting his glass. "Right now, it's water for me. At least for the time being."

Connor's story hit home. Calvin was on a very dangerous road. Connor still had the bruises that spoke of his mistakes. It could have been a lot worse. Calvin thought of the circumstances of his wife and son's death - a drunk driver. Calvin wasn't opposed to drinking, but going to alcohol to cover up your pain wasn't an extremely bad choice.

Connor let slip that he had dealt with loss...well, he had probably done it on purpose. Calvin remembered the hint on the train. Connor was helping Calvin to trust him by sharing a part of his painful past with him. Calvin was ready to share his.

"Are you sure you want to help me with this?"
Calvin asked, meeting Connor's gaze who nodded knowingly.

Calvin pulled his wallet back out. He hadn't closed down the picture, so he slid it across the table towards Connor.

"That's my wife, Mary, and my son Benjamin. We always called him Benji though."
Connor had picked up the wallet and was looking at the picture. "He was four and had just caught a baseball for the first time. I was so proud of him that day, and so was Mary."

A smile came to his face as he remembered which then faded as he continued. "About a week after that picture was taken, I was finishing evening chores when Mary came to tell me that she had forgotten to get something at the store and was heading back into town. Since I was working, she took Benji with her."
He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes as he relived the pain of that night. "I went inside the house to get a drink of water and as I was heading back out, the phone rang. I answered and it was the hospital. There had been an accident - drunk driver. I got into my truck and arrived just as the doctor came out to tell me they didn't make it."

Calvin had begun to breathe more shallowly during the speech. He paused for a minute, took and deep breath, and wiped the tears forming in his eyes.

"It was a nightmare, Connor, going into that hospital room to say goodbye, and I just kept wishing I would wake up. It wasn't until I picked up my son and help his broken body that I knew that it was real."
The tears began to form again. "No father should have to bury his child. And now, they are like ghosts haunting me. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to forget them. I just need to move on, but don't know how. I mean, this photographer, she's pretty, and I feel guilty for thinking it - like I'm unfaithful or something. Should I feel that way? Would Mary be upset if she knew? And the woman on the train. I can't see a mother with a child without hurting. I just want the pain to go away."

Calvin wiped his eyes again, feeling the contact move. Luckily, it moved back in place. Calvin wasn't sure if he could deal with revealing his eyes to Connor while he was in this state.

((with Connor))

Edited by Calvin, Jul 9 2014, 11:03 AM.
Calvin handed him his wallet and started talking. Connor looked at the picture. A pretty woman holding a little boy. He listened as Calvin spoke, laying bare the wound that he carried. Connor was still, just absorbing it all. The pain on the man's face was evident, his family having been violently ripped out of his life.

He knew it all too well. His own wounds from the death of Hayden were still fresh though they had started to scab over. With some help, they had. It was his turn now, his turn to pass on what he had learned and maybe help this poor man.

His jaw was clenched and there were tears in his eyes by the time it was all over. He closed his eyes and swallowed. Then he opened them and said, "Ahh my friend. I am truly sorry for your loss."
His words sounded trite but he honestly meant them. "I really am Calvin. I know the pain of losing a son. It's's not something...."
He sighed. "It leaves a hole in you. I can't imagine also losing your wife in the same accident. My ex-wife is still alive back in the US."
He shook his head slowly.

"Man, this is hard. It's a hard thing to go through. It's not how life is supposed to be."
He snorted softly. "But life is never what we think it should be is it. Truth is, I came to Moscow to find out why my son died. He was sick and died in his mother's and my arms. He was 21."
Tears dropped from eyes at the memory. "He was in pain for much of it. It's just not fair. I died that day. Even while I was seeking answers, I started to drink away the pain."
He stopped, thinking back to the seeking of oblivion. He'd done the same with Ayden too. "It was such a childish way to deal with things- or not deal with them."

"I want to say that you're being smart about what you are doing,"
nodding to the water in his hand. "The only way you're going to get through this is to process it. It's gonna hurt man. To go through it, to arrive at a place where you can live again....well it's gonna hurt. But that's life."
He got a little pensive. "I guess its the price we have to pay for allowing people into our hearts. They get taken away from us and we have to pick up the pieces."

His eyes hardened and he spoke to Calvin earnestly. "But it's worth it man. The joys in life are worth the pains, even though we really don't want to experience them. It's not like there's some cosmic tally or something. Well, I don't believe in that anyway. I don't believe in fate or that all things happen for a reason. Sometimes bad things happen for no reason and it just sucks. It's not deserved or a lesson or whatever. It just dumb stupid chance. So don't think it was your fault or something."

He breathed heavily. He really wanted a drink now. But no. He had to face this, focus. "I know I'm rambling. But look, I do wanna help you. I think I can help you. I've been on this road you're on. And I've come out the other side. With bruises-"
He laughed at the fact that he had literal bruises on his face. "With bruises, but I came through. I miss my son desperately. I don't know if I'll ever see him again. Afterlife stuff I just don't really know about anymore. But I feel like I owe him, that I have to live my life in a way that would make him proud."
He smiled at the memory. See what your dad did there, bud? That cool? "I've found peace finally. So yeah, I'd like to help you if you'd let me."

He watched Calvin, struck by how much people all bottled up inside them, himself included. We all carry around such pain and sorrow that very few ever get to see. We carry this load ourselves when we should start helping each other.
Connor listened. He never interrupted Calvin, allowing him to say what he needed to say before he spoke. Connor shared his experience - the pain of losing his own son and turning to alcohol to suppress it. Calvin began to feel an instant connection to Connor. It didn't matter that Connor's son was twenty one and his own was four. No father should have to bury his child. They shared pain and Connor wanted to help him heal.

The joys in life are worth the pains.

Calvin had a feeling those words would be a part of his life forever. He couldn't live life being miserable all the time. He had to move on and he had to heal. The difference being now he would allow himself to heal instead of allowing the wound to remain open.

"I'm truly sorry for your loss...You feel like you owe your son - that you should live your life the best you can and enjoy it? They would want me to be happy, wouldn't they?"

Calvin sat back in his chair and thought about it for a minute. If they could have final words with him, what would Mary and Benji say to him? How would they want him to live his life?

"You're right, Connor, there is a hole. And to be honest, I'm not sure that hole will ever go away, but I want to heal. I owe it to them to try. You want to help me. I'll gratefully accept it. I don't think I can do it alone."

Calvin suddenly felt lighter as if a large burden had been taken from his shoulders. He felt a sort of peace in his decision. He knew things would work out, but it would take time. He had a friend to help him too.

"So, how do I do it? What's the next step?

Edited by Calvin, Jul 11 2014, 06:53 PM.
Connor listened. Calvin was quick about getting it. But the idea was easy, the concept. It was the doing that was going to be hard.

"Well to be honest I'm not sure how a person starts really. I mean I know what worked for me."
He thought back to that night with Aria and Jensen and Giovanni. It was hard to think of Aria without feeling guilt or anger at what had happened, at what almost happened. Instead, he focused on that night. "For me, it was the realization that I had been there for my son. I had been with him to the end. He had his clear moments and knew his mom and I were there. But I believe that even when he wasn't lucid, somehow he knew."
He paused, thinking. Was it for Hayden or himself? "It's hard to describe. The bottom line was that I new that my son knew that I loved him. He knew that I was there watching over him to the end. In a way, it let me say good bye."

He thought about what could have been with Hayden, those that hunted people like him and Jensen, his dying in a cell or padded room or being put down like a dog. Anger welled up inside of him and it made him vehement. "I wouldn't trade all the happiness in the world for those last moments with my son. If the price I had to pay to let him know that I loved him was this gaping hole in my heart, I'd do it a million times over."
He stopped and breathed. "Sorry, I get worked up about it."

"It really comes down to being willing to suffer for those moments of happiness, that they are that precious to you. I didn't have a great marriage at all. But I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat for the sake of having my son. Of course I'd try to do it better, make better choices and decisions. But I'd never change the events that led up to his birth, just to shield myself from the fear of loss."

He stopped. He was just rambling, saying things that came to him. They were the truest truth that he knew, but he wasn't sure how to convey it in a clear logical fashion. Wasn't even sure he should try. He could just say what he knew and let the man take from it what he would.

"The biggest thing I will say is to let yourself feel what you feel. If you feel like crying, then dammit, have a good cry. Give yourself permission to experience the emotions you feel. Don't be afraid of them. I don't mean destructive stuff. I'm not saying hurt yourself."
His mind flashed to his fighting. In the end, it had accomplished nothing. "But you will go through the stages of grief. And the sooner you get started on them- that you don't avoid those feelings, then the sooner you'll come to terms with it."
He took a drink.

"You will never fill that hole. It will always be there. And that's a good thing. I don't want someone to replace my son, to pretend he was never there. I don't think you want to forget your wife or son either. So don't try to replace them. Instead, realize that they would want you to be happy. When the time comes- and believe me it's going to be a tough road, but you can do it- but when you finally have found peace with it, when you've accepted all of life's unfairness and have refused to let it destroy you, then you can start to move on with your life."
He remembered it all to well. "Living death is the worst thing, Calvin, to try to obliterate yourself."

He looked away from Calvin and say Ayden walking about serving other tables. She saw him and smiled at him. No, she can't replace Hayden or anyone else I have lost in my life. But she can be someone new to love, another reason for joy in this world. "Maybe you and this girl, this photographer will be something. Maybe not. But you will find things in this life to bring you joy. No one will replace your wife and son. No one! But they can join them as people you can love. Friends, family, another woman to love- even more children. Love is not finite. Loving them will not mean that you loved Mary or Benji any less."

Looking back at Calvin, looking him in the eye, he said, "So let yourself go through this. Don't fight it, don't try to avoid it. Give yourself permission. Think of them as watching you, wanting you to be happy. I promise you, you will get through this."

He took a long drink. "Sorry, I tend to ramble. I hope that some of what I said is useful."
He shrugged a little embarrassed. ", end of speech I guess. I mean, I'm happy to answer questions and to talk. I just mean that I'll just be silent for a little bit."
He grinned.
What Connor said made a lot of sense. In many ways he was unsure of why these ideas didn't come to him so easily, but grief and despair have a way of blinding people to the obvious. Put the information right in front of someone feeling those emotions and they are not likely to notice unless they are ready to notice. Calvin felt ready - actually - he didn't have a choice. He had to do this for himself.

He envied Connor in some ways. He got a chance to say goodbye while his son was still alive. Calvin had said goodbye while holding his son's lifeless body in his hands. If the price I had to pay to let him know that I loved him was this gaping hole in my heart, I'd do it a million times over. The words rang true with Calvin. He wished he had at least a few moments to really say goodbye.

Calvin looked down, deep in thought as he sipped his water. His thoughts drifted to Sierra. Guilt stabbed in his chest again, but he brought it to bear by taking another drink of his water. Mary would want him to move on. Calvin had enjoyed spending time with her and he still considered their hunt to be the happiest day he had since the passing on his family. He shouldn't feel guilty about liking her. He wasn't trying to replace those he had lost - he couldn't do that. Mary and Benji would always hold a special place to him, but neither could he use Sierra to heal his pain. He would have to tell her, but could he?

Calvin pulled out the business card that Sierra had given him and gave it a look, contemplating his next move. He had her number right there, all he had to do was call and ask her to dinner. That should be easy enough right?

"I think...I want to call her."
Calvin said looking up at Connor once more. "I like spending time with her and we have a lot in common. Do you think...I should tell her about this?"

Calvin took another sip of water. He didn't want to use her. That wouldn't be fair to her. Calvin wasn't even sure he remembered how to do the whole dating game. It had been a long time since he had gone on any dates, and that teenage fear of getting turned down began to fill his gut again. One thing was certain, he was happy when he was with her. Was it worth a shot?
"Do you think...I should tell her about this?"

Connor's heart sank. He hated it when I had to say something he didn't want to. But Calvin wanted the truth. And he was a man, like him. You don't tell other men what to do. Every man had to make his own choices. He had to show the man the respect he deserved. Bu at the same time...Connor thought for a moment, figuring out how to do it.

"You know, when I got divorced, it devastated me. I had been part of a couple. Not happy, definitely. But your mind gets used to it. This is your life. You become somewhat psychologically dependent on the other person. You know what to depend on them for."
He paused, thinking. "When Jamie left, I had to rebuild myself. Had to redefine who I was now, as a single person, as a single dad. I had to rebuild my damaged psyche. I'm not sure how well I did. For years I have kept women at arms length. Honestly, it hasn't been til Ayden that I was finally able to let someone in again, to trust."

He was rambling again. "Anyway, a year later, I went out on my first date. By the end of it I was shaking. It was just too soon for me. For me, you understand. It was all new and I hadn't yet gone through it all."

He looked at Calvin. "I can't tell you what to do. I wouldn't. You're a man and I respect you. So you have to make your own decisions. All I will say is that you need to make sure that you are ready, that you've gotten through your stuff. You seem like an honorable guy. I know you don't want a rebound or to use someone. So I know you'll be careful. Those holes will never go away, so I'm not saying wait till they do. You'll be waiting forever. But make sure that you have come to terms with those holes, have made your peace with them. That you've said goodbye."

He remembered Hayden. "You know my son Hayden was in an accident and that's why his mom and I were there for his getting sick."
He wasn't going to go into details. The man didn't need to know. "He could have died without us there, as your son did. But that doesn't mean that I loved him any less. Or that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Truth is, the goodbye stuff? That's all for us. If our loved ones are alive somewhere they already know we love them. And if not, well...they don't know anything. Either way, the goodbye is our knowing that they knew how much they were loved when they died."

He looked Calvin in the eye. "I have no doubt that Mary and Benji knew that you loved them. So you can rest easy on that bud. They knew."
After a moment, he went on. "So just make sure that you have made peace with things before you get involved with someone else. At least, that's what I'd tell you if I was telling you what to do."
He smiled at Calvin, shrugging and feeling like he was overstepping. "I'm sorry. Guess I'm in an advice giving mood. Sorry. No disrespect."

<small>[[continued in Best of You]]

Edited by Connor Kent, Aug 27 2014, 03:54 PM.
Calvin didn’t hold a grudge for Connor’s advice. Not only had Calvin asked for it, but needed to hear it.

”No need for apologies. You’re helping. On that note, I have a lot to think about and should probably start heading home.”

Connor and Calvin left Chesterfield’s. Calvin felt optimistic. The two men exchanged information, and Connor said he could call anytime he needed anything. Calvin thanked him, and they shook hands, said their goodbyes, and parted ways. They weren’t too far from Calvin’s apartment, so Calvin walked the rest of the way, keeping check of his thoughts.

Connor said he had to find closure. He wasn’t really sure how to find it, but he assumed that he would know what it was when it happened. The pain still ached in his chest, but it felt easier to bear. Calvin arrived at his place removed his shoes and contact lenses; he wasn’t planning on going out again that evening. Going to the fridge, he grabbed a beer and looked at the bottle before returning it and grabbing a Coke instead. Tonight wasn’t going to be a good night to drink.

Calvin went through his usual dinner routine, cooking a small meal for himself. He went with chicken pasta as it was simple enough and watched a few TV shows from his DVD collection. His whole mind, however, was on how to find closure with Mary and Benji. Night came and episode after episode played, Calvin not really paying attention that much to the TV screen. Seeing that it was late, he turned off the TV and grabbed the picture of Mary and Benji off of the table. Connor had told Calvin that he should give himself permission to cry. Calvin wanted to, but the tears didn’t come.

Calvin walked to his room and grabbed a photo album with the word “Family” stylized in golden lettering on the cover from his bedside table. Returning to the living room, he lay down on the couch and opened the album. He hadn’t looked at the pictures inside for years. The first picture was his wedding picture. He was in his tuxedo and Mary was in her white dress. He smiled at the memories. More pictures – some at the wedding reception, some at vacations, and others that just had one or both of them being goofy. He kept flipping thought the pages until he saw the picture they had taken shortly after Benji’s birth. Mary was in a hospital bed, clearly very tired, but smiling and holding a newborn baby boy. Calvin was kneeling by the bed, his arm around her. The tears began to fall now. The pictures continued from there – baby pictures with friends and family. His eyes moved to the other picture on his table – the one of his parents. They had never gotten the chance to meet their grandson. The pictures turned into memories of Benji growing up. Calvin remembered all of the fun times. He spent more time with these pictures, his own family’s short life making him smile and cry at the same time. The last page contained only a newspaper article – Mary and Benji’s obituary. He stared at the clipping and the emotions he had bottled up for so long released as the pain in his heart intensified. He buried his face in his hands, his sobbing uncontrollable, until he cried himself to sleep.

Calvin awoke surrounded by…white. He seemed to be in an expansive room, nothing but white as far as the eye could see. A dream. Not THE dream, but a dream nonetheless.

a voice behind him said.

He turned around and Mary stood before him. He was too dumbstruck to speak and she smiled at him before standing on her tiptoes to kiss him. He knew this was a dream, that she wasn’t real, but he so wanted this to be real and he didn’t want it to stop.

The kiss ended and Calvin finally got a good look at her. She was dressed simply in a white blouse and blue jeans. He also noticed the chain that was held to her by a manacle at the wrist. The other end of the chain was attached to a metal belt around his own waist. A second chain went out into the distance.

”What’s this?”
Calvin said lifting the chain.

”We will get to that soon enough. Come, Benji wants to see you.”
Mary said, beginning to walk in the direction of the other chain.

”Benji’s here?”
Calvin said, following Mary.

”Of course he is. What kind of a mother do you think I am? I wouldn’t let him run around inside your head unattended.”
Mary looked back at him as she said it, a sarcastic smile on her face and a familiar sparkle in her eye.

”Ummm…we’re in my head?”
Mary raised her eyebrow in the look she always gave him when he said something that was completely obvious. ”Oh right, a dream.”

a young boys voice said and little Benji ran up to Calvin.

Calvin reacted by habit, bending down at the waist to intercept his child and spinning him around. Calvin and both dreams laughed, and a true smile hit Calvin’s face.

”Daddy, I wanna catch!”

Benji had a ball and glove with him and ran away from Calvin to prepare to play catch. Benji threw the ball, it bounced a few times, and Calvin bent down into a crouch and collected the ball. He tossed the ball underhand, just like he had so many years ago. Benji didn’t catch it, but it didn’t matter. There was clear joy on the child’s face and it was reflected in Calvin’s own. They tossed the ball back and forth a few times before Benji finally caught it and ran to jump once more into Calvin’s arms. Calvin allowed himself to fall backwards, forgetting that he was in a dream. Benji had always liked it when he “tackled” Daddy.

Father and son fell into a heap on the ground, laughing. Calvin heard Mary say, ”There he is. We haven’t seen this Calvin in a long time.”
Calvin sat up, keeping Benji in his lap and looked at her. ”Face it, Cal, you know why we’re here and what we are.”

”Just a dream…”

”More specifically, a construct of your subconscious to help you deal with your issue, but dream works too,”
she smiled that sarcastic smile again. ”We’re here to teach you two lessons, and then you’ll have to act on them. You’ve learned one lesson, so one more to go. I can’t answer questions, but can only guide you to the correct answer – I know nothing that you don’t. So what is the lesson you learned?”

Calvin thought about the interactions he had since falling asleep, the most prevalent in his head being playing with Benji. He had felt truthfully happy again. His laugh hadn’t been faked and neither had his smile.

”That I can still be happy,”
Mary made a spinning motion with her hand, urging him to continue the thought. ”And you would want me to be happy.”
He didn’t care if they were his subconscious; they were still Mary and Benji to him.

her smile was replaced by a worried look. ”You’ll wake up soon. Time is against us.”

”What happens if I wake up? Will you come again tomorrow?”
Calvin’s voice was hopeful. He wanted this dream again.

”I hope not,”
Mary said and Calvin frowned at her. Her voice was grave, as if she didn’t want to say it, but she had to anyways. ”We don’t belong here, Cal.”

”So where do you belong?”

Her smile returned, ”I like it when you ask questions you already know the answer to.”
She walked over to him and sat down, placing her right arm around his shoulder and pointing to his head with her left. ”We don’t belong here. We belong here.”
Her hand moved and she pressed it over his heart. Benji’s hand met hers and Calvin covered both hands with his own.

They wanted to go home and Calvin had been keeping them from where they belonged. Lesson Two.

Calvin picked up the chains, ”So I’m keeping you here with these. That’s the action. I need to remove the chains and let you go.”

Mary nodded and Calvin started to look for a latch on the belt around his waist. His fingers came across a keyhole.

”It’s locked, where is the key?”

”You have it.”

Calvin patted his pockets, ”No, I don’t”

”You will when you understand. Come Benji, Daddy is waking up soon. We have to go.”

Benji stood and took Mary’s hand. Calvin stood as they began to walk away, wondering what he needed to understand. He raked through his memory, trying to find what would release them and what would bring himself and his family peace.

He could have died without us there, as your son did. But that doesn't mean that I loved him any less. Or that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Truth is, the goodbye stuff? That's all for us. If our loved ones are alive somewhere they already know we love them. And if not, well...they don't know anything. Either way, the goodbye is our knowing that they knew how much they were loved when they died.”

Connor’s words from earlier slammed into his mind, and with it came understanding. He had felt angry that his family had been taken from him and that anger turned to sadness. The one thing he could have wished for besides having them back was the chance to say goodbye. He patted his pockets again, searching for the key, but understanding what he needed to do wasn’t enough.

”Mary, Benji,”
Calvin called out to them and they turned to face him. Even in the dream, tears began to blur Calvin’s vision and his hands clenched in resolve. He had to do this. ”Goodbye.

Mary smiled at him and Benji pointed a finger to Calvin’s right hand. Calvin looked down at his hand and opened it, a old style key sat in his palm. Calvin took the key and released the lock on the belt, the chains and belt vanishing as the belt began to fall to the ground. As he looked up, Mary and Benji approached him, Benji removing his hand from his mother’s to run and hug Calvin’s leg.

”Goodbye Daddy. I love you.”

Calvin knelt down, hugged Benji, and kissed him on the head, ”Goodbye son. I love you too.”

He stood up and looked Mary in the eyes, ”Goodbye Mary. I love you.”

She smiled at him and placed her hand on his heart, ”Remember, we’re always here. Goodbye Calvin. I love you too.”

She stood up on her toes again and kissed him once more, before picking Benji up and walking away. Benji kept his eyes on Calvin, raising his little hand in farewell. Calvin waved back and as he did, his family disappeared from his sight.

His eyes opened and Calvin awakened in his living room. It was morning. There was moisture on his face; he had been crying. Calvin stood up and walked to the bathroom, washed his face, and stared at himself in the mirror, the lights reflecting off of his golden eyes. The pain was still in his chest, but it was different. It was like when he had cut his foot open a week before. After he got stitched up, the pain was still there, but it was diminished and Calvin knew it would heal. He might have a scar – the hole would never go away – but he would heal in time.

Calvin laughed at himself, feeling a joy he hadn’t felt in a long time. He knew they were with him and would always be with him, and if there was an afterlife, he knew he had granted them just as much peace as he now felt.

That laugh is for you guys.

He returned to his living room and picked up his Wallet. He sent Connor a quick message.

I said goodbye last night.

The message was short, but Connor would understand. Calvin understood though – and that is really all that mattered.

Edited by Calvin, Jul 12 2014, 06:58 PM.

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