"You were supposed to stay in school," she was saying, her eyes closed. "but you never did what you were supposed to do, did you?"
Quatre watched her face as she spoke, watched how she controlled the hitch in her breathing, clenched his hands into fists at the shallow cheeks and darkened skin around her eyes. But, his own voice was controlled, calm as he answered.
"No, I suppose I didnít." His lips lifted in a hint of a smile, though she wasnít looking at him.
She was quiet, and for a moment, Quatre thought she had fallen asleep. He let himself look at her again; his shock long resigned with the knowledge provided. Though she had been slender, and he thought she would work hard to maintain her trimness, she was skeletal now. Her arms had lost so much flesh, and her body too thin under the blanket covering.
Off to the other side of her bed, a heart monitor was beeping in steady rhythm. The IV stand was like some kind of demented Maypole - festooned with plastic tubing, plastic bags in various stages of fullness. The lighting dimmed to shadows with only a single low-wattage lamp behind her bed. The curtains were drawn to the outside, keeping the sunlight from causing more pain. But. He could still hear the birds in the tress in the small garden park adjacent to the hospital. He knew there were flowers growing, and the grass was still green, the sky blue and the sun warm and nurturing overhead.
"I am only going to tell you this once." Dorothy was speaking again, her eyes now opened and staring at him. "Nothing of whatís happened is your fault." She drew deep on her air tube, fought a cough and continued. "I do not apologize for what I have done, but I am sorry for how it turned out."
Quatre drew in a breath and exhaled slowly. His eyes were stinging and he was blinking rapidly. Fourteen years should have been enough time to not feel the pain any longer. There was nothing he could say now that would change what happened then.
Not even twenty-four hours before, he had been out on his deck, laying on a lounge with Trowa, when the call came. Four hours later, they were both on a flight back east. Dorothy was dying and needed to speak with him one last time. She had hours only.
She was struggling to keep her eyes opened and Quatre rose to his feet. He stepped closer to the bed, leaned over the rail and brushed with gentle fingers at the hair clinging to a sticky brow.
"If you have done anything to cause harm to me, I forgive you." And he gave her a smile with a kiss. Her eyes fluttered shut, but she was smiling.
He was sitting on a vinyl-covered plastic chair in the waiting lounge, Trowa was holding his hand and his eyes were watching his thirteen year-old son when she walked out of his life.