As the plane touched down, Brianna sighed and began to gather her belongings. They had three days off and she was really looking forward to sleeping in her own bed for a change....and actually being able to sleep the whole night through without being called down the hallway.
"What have you got planned for your time off B?" David asked. Ever since the 'misunderstanding' - and the guys’ apologies - they had been slowly returning to their earlier easy friendship. "Got a hot date?"
Brianna nodded. "With a hot bath and my bed!"
"I hear ya!" Richie stretched. "Plus some of my mom's home cooking." He rubbed his stomach. "What about you Kidd?"
"Uninterrupted family time." He glanced at Brianna, who smiled sympathetically.
"Forward your phone and email to me. I'll look after it." She offered.
He considered it, but declined. "You deserve your time off." He glanced at Paul and Obie. "But I'm only answering emergencies."
The men nodded their understanding, although they were all more than a little surprised. Jon never went incommunicado, save for the few days of family vacation when Dot laid down the law. Definitely not in the middle of a tour.
When they left the plane, Brianna watched Jon walk to his car that Dorothea had arranged to have waiting for him. Pausing beside the door, he lifted his face to the night sky and his shoulders slumped. Knowing what he was facing at home, her heart went out to him. "Jon." She stepped closer so that she could keep her voice low enough the others wouldn't hear her. "If you and Dorothea need....anything, please don't hesitate to call."
He turned towards her and managed a slight smile, "Thanks. And I mean that Bri. Thanks for....everything."
Driving through the gate, Jon pulled up next to the house and leaned his head against the seat, his eyes closed. Come on man, don't be a pussy. You can deal with this. Wiping a tear from his cheek, he took a deep breath and climbed out of the car.
Inside, he set down his keys and glanced around the foyer, letting the silence of the house envelope him. At this hour the kids would all be in bed....and Dorothea probably too. Walking into the kitchen, he pulled the bottle of wine waiting for him - his wife knew him so well - out of the fridge and poured himself a glass.
In the den, he turned on the gas fireplace and sat in his favourite chair. As he sipped he contemplated what to say when he finally gathered the courage to face what awaited him upstairs. It was one thing to talk to her about it over the phone, another to have to look at her. Stop being a pansy assed coward! She's supported you for the last 20 years, now it's your turn.
Sighing, he emptied his glass and stood. He started for the stairs, then detoured to the kitchen to but his glass in the sink. He was almost out the door, but turned around, rinsed out the glass and put it in the dishwasher. Quit stalling! Grimacing at himself, he slowly climbed the stairs, dread dragging at each step.
Entering their bedroom, a shaft of moonlight bathed the lone occupant of the bed in a soft glow, turning her skin to pearl velvet and her hair to shining ebony. She lay sleeping quietly.....so beautiful.....so still....as if....NO! Don't go there! Pushing away his dark thoughts, he stripped off his clothes and slid in beside her. One hand reached out to skim over her cheek.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were going to sleep downstairs."
"Did I wake you? I'm sorry." He ignored her comment.
She caught his hand and held it against her cheek. "No. I heard the gate open. I was waiting for you."
"I was...." Avoiding facing you.
"Having a glass of wine." She could play the avoidance game too.
He had to smile. "You know me so well."
"Yes....I do." Her answering smile was bittersweet.
"Dotty..." Even after hours of planning, when the moment came, he still didn't know what to say. “I....”
"I know." She held out her arms. "Come here." When he moved closer, she closed her arms around him and pressed his head down onto her chest. "I know baby. Sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning."
With her fingers stroking his hair and her heart beating reassuringly under his ear, he did as he was told.
Dorothea leaned against the headboard and watched her husband pace their bedroom - which he'd been doing ever since she started the conversation. "Jon, I know it'll be hard, but we have to tell the kids. They need time to prepare too."
Jon sighed and bowed his head. As much as he dreaded it, she was right. "I know. But can you honestly tell me how?" How do you explain to four kids – well two really, Jake and Romeo were too young to understand...at least at this point – that they were going to lose their mother in a matter of months?
"We'll figure it out." She paused. "And you need to tell the guys."
"No! Not....yet." He couldn't lose the one cancer free area of his life....his last refuge....not until he absolutely had to.
"Jon you need the support system. You can't put all of that on Brianna. It's not fair to expect that of her all on her own."
He turned and stared at her, raking a hand through his hair. "How can you be so calm and practical about this?"
"What? You think I should be crying?"
He shrugged and moved to brace his hands on the window frame and stare out at the river.
"Don't you think I have been? I've spent the last two weeks crying. But what good does it do? Crying won't make the cancer go away and let me live to see my children grow up!" She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I have to be practical. I have to make sure that all of you figure out how to cope....and move on."
Jon just shook his head, his emotions wouldn't let him speak.
"Don't live in denial Jon, it will only make the inevitable worse."
His head turned to look at her over his shoulder, blue eyes wet and shadowed. "I'm going to lose you Dotty. How can it get any worse?"
He had a point.
That afternoon, the family gathered in the den. Dorothea sat on the sofa with Romeo on her lap, Jake playing with his blocks at her feet. Jon stood staring out the window – it seemed to be his favourite pose these days. Jesse and Stephanie sat in matching chairs opposite the sofa.
Dorothea took a deep breath. "Guys, Dad and I need to talk to you. There's going to be some changes happening with our family and we wanted to explain them to you." She stopped and turned imploring eyes on her husband. "Jon? Please?"
Stephanie had been watching her parents closely all day. Her dad was obviously upset......like her mom had been for awhile now. "Are you guys splitting up? Is one of you leaving?" It was one of her greatest fears.
Jon's hands clenched, but he still wouldn't - couldn't - answer.
"We're not getting divorced." Dorothea's assured her daughter, her eyes shooting daggers at her husband's back. Thanks for the help Jon! "I'm sick."
"Again?" Jesse asked. "Seems like you're always sick anymore."
"How sick?" Stephanie started to get a sick feeling in her stomach herself.
"Really sick. I have cancer." Tears burned behind Dorothea's eyes at the dawning awareness.....and devastation...or the faces of her two oldest.
"Are you going to......die?" Jesse whispered the dreaded word.
"Yes. I'm afraid so."
"But....there's treatments the doctors can give you, right? Medicine and stuff? You can beat it......right?" Stephanie wasn't ready to accept what she was hearing. This was way worse than anything she could have imagined. At least with divorce she’d still have both parents.
She's so much like her father. "I'm sorry sweetie." Dorothea's voice was shaky. "We've tried everything, but it didn't work."
Stephanie shook her head and stood to face her father for confirmation. "Daddy?"
The look in his eyes as they met hers spoke louder than his words. "I'm sorry Princess." He caught his sobbing daughter as she flew into his arms and held her close, his own tears close to overflowing. "Shhhh sweetheart."
Jessie's attention was fixed on his mother. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
"It's not too bad. The doctor gave me pain killers. Mostly I'm just tired."
He nodded. "When.......how....." He didn't know how to ask the question.
But his mother understood. "A few months....maybe a year. We'll have time."
"Time for what?"
"To make sure that all of you will be alright."
As Jon held his daughter, her sobs breaking his already shattered heart into tiny pieces, he looked from the stunned face of his oldest son, to Jake, oblivious and uncomprehending playing on the floor, to his baby, who, sensing the tension and sadness in the room was fussing on his mother's lap......and wondered if any of them would ever be alright again.