He was tired, so very tired. In his heart of hearts, he knew that his time had come... He turned his head to look out the window of the tiny bedroom in the small, warm house that has been his refuge so many times in his long life. There were so many memories here. Memories of a secret part of his life that had sustained him more times than he could remember. A secret part of his life that until recently, no one had known of. No one at all.
He had just recently told Robert, Kittle, and Rose of this place and the woman who had shared the secret this many years. It seemed as if sharing the secret had freed him from that final part that had kept him close to this world.
The leaving would be easier, now that he had shared it with those that remained close to him, of all those many that he had loved.
He closed his eyes, and saw the faces of his children, and their mothers...
Robert, his and Cathy’s son. Such a man... a leader, a wonderful father... he would feel easy leaving Harriman Nelson’s continuing dream in his care, along with Nelson’s son Sean ... and Rose, his lovely, beautiful Rose... so new to his life, yet so familiar...the child he never knew he had had until the day that the Nelson was commissioned...
And their mothers... Cathy, the wife, and love of his youth, the mother of his son. Neither he nor Robert ever really recovered from her sudden death, the pain and emptiness that it had left in their lives... and Caitlin, his ‘Little Girl,’ the wife of his heart, and the heart of his life, who coming into his life, had become a mother to his son, as well as his loving companion. He still missed her every day... and Alyisha, the lovely exotic woman, he had known too briefly, and who had kept the treasure of their encounter so private for so long. He looked forward to seeing them all again...
The hardest part of leaving was going to be leaving Anne...his rock, his strength, his friend and lover and so much more. She, who had always been there for him, never questioning, always giving, there for him when ever he needed her, and even those times when the only need had been a physical one. Truly, her love for him was an unqualified one. It was here, to this house, her house, their home, that he had come more times than he cared to count. And it was here, that he had come to take his final leave. He had left his ‘Lady’ many years earlier, when she had come to rest at the Institute. This was his home now, these last years, and he would leave from here. He hoped that his children would honor his wishes, and care for Anne, now that they knew her. He knew his leaving would be hard on her, but he also knew that he would see her again…
He sighed again , and moved, restlessly in the bed. There was a light tap on the door, and Anne entered, smiling.
Softly she asked him how he was feeling, and he smiled back at her, whispering, "I’m all right now."
She saw the look on his face, and she knew... She smiled again, at him, and sat next to him, his hand reaching for hers and grasping it tightly.
"I love you." he said firmly. "I have always loved you."
"I know," she replied, "As I have always loved you."
"I’m leaving now, Anne. Take care of the children... please.. they love you."
She laid her other hand atop his, her grasp tightening. "I will… my love… I will."
Suddenly, the room was filled with bright light, and many, many people. Sharkey and Kowalski, Cathy, Caitlin, Alyisha, his mother, Karen and Matty ... and in the front of the group, Harry and Chip. All those who had gone before, and whom he had loved.
She saw the smile on his face, and was glad for him that this reunion was going to be a truly joyous one...
He looked at Anne, and held her hand more tightly. She held his as well, and watched his face. As his friends surrounded him, he rose from the bed. He felt young again. Full of youth and strength. He whispered to her, I love you , and then followed those he loved to the door. Turning, he blew her a kiss, and left.
Anne felt his grip slacken, and fall from hers. She leaned forward and kissed his now peaceful face. "Goodbye, my love, My heart is with you, always and forever. Be happy." She caressed his face a final time, and she slowly rose, and left him to tell his children of his leaving...
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