Id like to thank some people, without whom this story wouldnt be, and they are many so be patient. First of all, Teresa, you gave me a name that I found a joy to work with. Kaz, one of the first to read this and encourage me in this effort, and Kim who made sure a lot of my facts were squared away. You wouldnt be reading this without the encouragement of CAPTSKIP01, he made me see that this story could fly. Thank you all, and grab your Kleenex!!
Fields of Gray
Morgan Scofield was tired, bone tired as she got out of her car. It had been a long frustrating day, but she grinned a bit as she headed up the steps, she had some treats for dinner, and couldn't wait to see her partners face when she saw what she carried.
Piper heard the car door close, and had just finished up her paper, "Damn it, Morgan, where have you been??" She was working on the last of her masters for History, and it had been a drain. The last six months had been very long for her, and she felt that Morgan had been getting short shrift, but her partner had never complained, even when Piper had spent many late nights with her computer. Morgan knew how much her partner had been through, and how important this step was Piper, and she had been thrilled when Piper had told her that it was coming to the end.
"Hey, is there a student in here??" Morgan put down the bags and headed to the study, pausing in the doorway, and studying the frazzled blond. "I got some stuff for dinner--- Oh, hi there, you must be. . .umph!" she sighed as Piper turned and saw her. Rising quickly from her chair, she did what she had wanted to all day, wrapping the taller woman in an enthusiastic hug and stretching up to meet her lips. "Hey, that was nice, do I take that to mean you had a good day?'
The smaller woman sighed, "You know Morgan, I think that I'm almost done, just two more sections to polish, and I can turn it in. Gads, this has been brutal, but I'm so glad I can see the end. Now, you said something about dinner?" Piper smiled into Morgan's eyes, she had been in love, but nothing like that could describe what she felt for her partner, the depth of emotion almost frightened her with the intensity. She raised her hand and pushed the dark hair out of the eyes that looked down on her, it had been so scary for the two of them, the challenges that they had faced over the past three years had tested them, but Morgan had never faltered. She knew from the first week that they had known each other that the smaller woman had a very firm grip on her heart.
Morgan smiled, "Ok, I want you to come with me, leave that for now and let's see about dinner, and who knows, there might be something for dessert that you like." Hand in hand, they left the study and went to the kitchen, and Piper busied herself with preparations. It was almost routine, but every now and then she would look over and see Morgan looking at her with so much true affection in her eyes that she'd become weak kneed. They sat down, and took care of dinner, and the treats that Morgan had gotten, much to Piper's delight, and talked about their day. It was something that they had really worked on, too many of their friends wouldn't work on this most basic aspect of a relationship and had broken up over it, but not Piper and Morgan.
After the dishes were washed, Morgan went to her desk in the study. Catching up on e-mail from various friends, and taking care of some business that had been left pending so she could make it to the shop before they closed, she smiled at the look on Piper's face when she had brought out the dainties that she knew the smaller woman loved. She checked her watch, and raised her arms over her head and stretched, "All right Morgan, time to go and get some sleep."
Piper had finished up in the bathroom, and changed into her sleeping clothes by the time Morgan walked in. "Hey, you are getting too thin, you know that?? I think that you need to take some time, I don't want you to be getting too skinny or sick on me. Gotta take care of yourself," then her lips were captured, and the night became hazy.
It was nothing spectacular, just a dull throb, but it was enough to wake Piper. She knew that it wouldn't go away by itself, but she really didn't want to wake Morgan, her partner was wrapped around her as always, after six years Piper knew that Morgan had trouble sleeping. Trying not to disturb her, Piper eased out of bed, and headed for the bathroom and what she knew would help. It wasn't good, she had been dealing with this for the past year, and she knew that it was only a matter of time.
"Are you sure Doctor, I mean, isn't it possible. . . ." Piper trailed off, the look on the doctor's face. It had that look that she knew too well, the results of her latest tests were not good. So here she sat, looking at the man who was telling her that due to some unknown fluke of nature she had a tumor growing inside her skull. She had gone to see him because of the odd things that had been happening, smells and tastes had become more acute, and just that morning she had scared the crap out of Morgan by missing her footing on the steps. Morgan had caught her, but she had insisted that nothing was wrong. So Piper was here, under duress, and found herself reciting lines out of an old Bette Davis movie.
Dr. Cox looked at the small woman before him, and felt his heart clench. As her doctor, he knew that he was almost too close to the case, but her father had requested that he take care of her, and he couldn't refuse him. He walked over to the door, and stuck his head out to gesture in the young man who had waited so patiently in the hall, "Piper, you are very smart, and I know that you have checked out what we were looking at. The mass is small at this point, but you know that its status could change quite rapidly. There are surgeons out there that could help, but it's a matter of time, and the placement makes what is ahead, to say the least, difficult. For now, talk it over with your family, and let me know what you decide. I'll be available, have your father get in touch," and with a friendly pat, he left Piper and Franklin alone.
Piper looked up at Franklin, her best friend and father of her godson, and smiled. "Sorry about that, pretty crummy way to spend your day, hunh?? I guess that it's going to be . . . ." and she was cut off as he took her in his arms. He knew that something had been wrong, and when she had called him to take her to her appointment he had just called in sick to do it. He looked over her head, and just held her, and Piper knew that she was drawing on his strength at that moment, they had been buddies ever since they met. "Oh come on Franklin, I'm not dead yet and could last a bit longer, now let me get dressed, and let's get out of this joint. I think that we should have some Chinese food, what do you think?"
"Piper, if you want Chinese, then that's what we'll have. I'll just get the car," and he hugged her tight, and then left. He walked rapidly down the hall, until he was in front of the elevator, and then he leaned against the wall. He tilted his head back and looked at the ceiling, agony on his face as he thought of what he had heard, that his best friend could very well die soon. He rode the elevator down and got the car. Pulling up to the door, he saw Piper looking for him, and the wan smile as she spotted the car.
She remembered that meal, it had been like nothing was wrong, but she also remembered when she had sat down and told her family, the expressions of pain and shock were like nothing she had seen before. One year had flown by so fast, but Morgan was still the highlight of her life, Piper leaned on the sink and smiled at that thought. Morgan had stood by her, for the whole time that she had struggled through with her masters degree, and all the troubles that she had with the tumor, Morgan had been there. However, Piper didn't know if she wanted her partner to see what she had to go through next, it really was horrific.
Suddenly, she felt something warm on her lip, and looking up she saw that her nose had started to bleed. Tipping her head back, she reached for a tissue, only to have one handed to her. "You want to tell me when this started, Piper? I felt you get up, so what's going on?" Morgan held the tissue to her partner's nose, changing it when it became sodden with blood. She knew what was going on, she had lived with it as long as Piper had, and she saw how much her partner wanted it to be different. Piper leaned back on Morgan's chest, and she held on to the smaller woman as she waited for the blood to stop.
After a while it slowed, then stopped, and Morgan felt Piper go limp with relief, she picked her up, cradling her like a rare treasure, and put her back to bed. "Guess this means a run to see the docs again, right?"
"Morgan, do you really want me to do this? They gave us the statistics, and we both know that the chances are getting slimmer as I go along. It doesn't look like I'll be able to. . .", Piper looked at Morgan's face. There was fear in those brilliant eyes, and she hesitated. "Ok, Morgan, I'll see what's next with the doctors. Just please don't let go of me tonight, I really need to snuggle."
Morgan sighed, "Ok Piper, but I want you to know that you are the most important thing in my life, and we'll get through this together. We'll do whatever you need, you know that, and whatever you want."
Morgan sat outside of the doctor's office, Piper had been inside with Dr. Cox for about a half hour, and Morgan knew that the longer it took, the worse the news. Dr. Cox had always been very nice to Morgan, he thought that the taller woman was so sweet with Piper, and he knew that what the two of them were facing was terrible indeed. He listened as Piper told him what had happened the previous night, and heard the hidden fear in her voice. "Well, Piper it seems that we'll do what you feel most comfortable with, but you know that the chemo didn't touch the tumor over the last course, and that you couldn't handle the surgery. I do think that you should check into the hospital, you could learn about some of the pain management that will apply soon."
"I have to talk it over with Morgan, but you are right, the pain is starting, and I really hate this. Well, let's see what happens for now, we'll let you know what's been decided."
Piper pulled on her sunglasses as she stepped out to see Morgan sitting there, the light was hurting her eyes. "Hey there, you about ready to get going?" she reached out to brush the bangs back. She knew that her partner was hurting for her, but she didn't know what to do next.
"Let me find out what they want you to do, hey," Morgan didn't see any of the paperwork that a hospital stay usually entailed, and that concerned her. "It's ok Morgan, we have to sit down and talk, how bout we head over to the park, I think there's a bench with our name on it."
Morgan smiled, maybe it wasn't bad news, but that quiver in her guts just wouldn't stop. She wrapped her arm around the smaller woman, and headed out the door. "The park it is, let's get going and then we'll give Franklin a call."
Later on they sat in the spot where they always went to talk over the hard things, Piper had told her what Dr. Cox had told her, and Morgan was reeling. "Piper, he said that?? I don't know what to say to that, but what do you want to do? Another round of chemo, or . . . " she broke off as she felt her partner lean into her. The last time that Piper had tried chemo Morgan had seen the toll that it had taken, the hair loss, and the weight loss was such that she told Franklin that she thought Piper would die. Now she held the smaller woman, and sighed, Piper would do what she needed to do, and Morgan would help her, as always. Piper looked up at the taller woman's face, she saw that Morgan was struggling, facing what was to come, and Piper held onto her as a sob escaped Morgan's frame.
"It's ok, it's ok, you know that we'll get through it, it just takes time. Shhh, easy there, you'll make it, you always do, so shhh," Piper rubbed her partners neck, thinking that of all the people she met, Morgan was the person that she was happiest with. The taller woman just held on, letting her partner comfort her, she knew there would be times when she would have to comfort Piper, so she just inhaled the scent of love and sorrow, feeling all of Piper's strength and love. "Ok now, let's head out, there's something else that we have to talk about, and I don't want to do it here, let's go home, ok?"
Morgan nodded, and hand in hand they left the park. Piper got into the car, and leaned into Morgan's shoulder, she caught her partner's lips and sighed. When they reached home, Morgan lifted Piper out of the car and strode into the house, intent on reaching the bedroom before she did anything else. Piper knew that Morgan was afraid, but just then her hands clenched, she felt the pain increasing in her head. "Ah, oh honey, could you please see if you can find my pills, there should be some in the bathroom," she said as Morgan put her down on the bed. She curled up, almost into the fetal position, trying to ease the pounding. Morgan was at her side in a flash, pills in hand, and gently gave them to her. "Thank you darling, just let them start to work, and then we'll get thinking about some phone calls. Do you mind," she felt her partner curl around her, and she sighed. They would face what was coming, but for the moment they took comfort in each other.
Franklin held tightly to the phone, his wife watched his knuckles grow whiter and whiter, and she came up behind him to hear what he was saying. "Ok Morgan, tell her I'll be there, yes, I remember what she said, and what do you need?" Sarah sighed, she had known Piper for the past six years, married to Franklin for the past five and a half, and she understood that her husband was devoted to her, but Piper had known him longer. Piper and Franklin, it was a very strange friendship in Sarah's opinion, but she understood that the two of them couldn't not be friends. How many times, she wondered, how many times did he go rushing out to help her? Piper had been with them both while Sarah had been in labor with their youngest child, and Franklin had been so happy to share it with her, Sarah smiled. Nope, she knew that her husband couldn't refuse Piper, but Piper had finally found happiness with Morgan, so the four of them had become firm friends.
"Sarah, Morgan wants me to come over, they had an incident last night, and Piper needs to talk to me. You want to come, or will you stay here? It might take a while, but at least she's still at home."
"Go on Franklin, she needs you now, I'll stay with the kids and just let me know when you leave there. Love you sweetie." Sarah watched him go, and she recalled the last time that Piper had become ill, Franklin had spent hours waiting with Morgan.
"Here you go Morgan," he handed her a cup of coffee. The tall woman smiled at him, but her focus was on where she was not permitted to go, and that was where her partner was getting another scan. Morgan sighed, the hair loss wasn't unnerving at this point, but seeing Piper dropping all her weight had been a shock. She had always been slender, but Morgan was almost frantic as she became wraith like. Franklin studied her, the tenderness that she always showed with her smaller partner had surprised him, and made him glad. Piper had taken some hard knocks in life, and he had always been protective of her, but Morgan had always been almost over protective of her. He watched Morgan, trying to let her know that he was there for her too.
Morgan's thoughts were far from peaceful, she ached deep in her gut due to the stress over the past month. Piper had been so sure that the chemo would work, and she gallantly fought with everything she had, but Morgan could see that she was becoming tired. Before Piper had started the chemo she had told Morgan that she had appointed her her primary custodian, and given her a durable power of attorney, in case there came a time when Morgan had to make the toughest choice for her. Morgan had never realized the depth of her partner's love, but when she saw that she was being entrusted with her life, she knew right then that Piper was far too precious to her. She got up and stretched, "I'm glad you're here, Franklin, she's had a rough patch this week, but we'll get her home yet. Did she tell you that she wants to take a trip, somewhere nice, but. . . " she trailed off as Franklin took her hand and held it. She looked up to see Dr. Cox coming down the hall, heading right for them.
"Well, she's back in her room, I wanted to tell you about what happened this morning so you'll be ready. Apparently the tumor is starting to impinge on the optic nerve, her vision is being affected. She's pretty upset over it, but there's more, and this is something that we discussed before. She had a seizure today, and it looks like there could be more. She's fairly medicated, but she wants the both of you to go in and see her, just know what's going on and help her, I'll be available if you have any questions."
"Doctor, are you going to continue with the chemo, will that help with the pressure on the optic nerve? I mean, she's already been through so much, what's next?" Morgan was almost pleading with the man.
"Morgan, you know that Piper is strong, but you should find out what the two of you can do. It's almost too much for her, but talk with her and find out what she wants." And he left the waiting room.
Franklin felt a hand on his shoulder, "Morgan, would you mind going in first, I need to make a phone call," and he did what he could to give the two of them some privacy, his time would come, and Morgan understood this. The tall woman nodded, and headed for her partner's room, easing into it with the skill of too many visits. Piper had the usual hardware, IV's, monitors, and something new. It was a PCA pump, which allowed her to control her pain meds, so Morgan knew that it was becoming intense. She smiled at Piper, who reached out to her with a wistful gesture, and she felt the pain vanish for a wonderful moment as Morgan leaned in and kissed her.
Franklin walked in a little while later, to see the two of them fast asleep, Morgan holding onto Piper's hand. "See you later you two, hang in there kiddo, you have all of us pulling for you."
Franklin thought about what a cute picture that had been, and how Morgan had stayed there until a miracle happened and the tumor had reduced a bit. Piper was thrilled, and Morgan had been jubilant, and they had all celebrated by going out to dinner. It had been a golden evening, and he had embraced Piper, thinking that they deserved this. He wasn't there later that night when Morgan had been shocked out of sleep by her partner shaking and seizing. Morgan gave her the medicine, and spent the rest of the night holding Piper so that if she seized again she wouldn't hurt herself. It was just the first of what they would go through, but Morgan kept her head, and Piper just loved her more.
He walked in the door, after all, Piper had told him years ago that since he was family to forget about knocking. Morgan was sitting at the table, her head bowed, but she raised it upon hearing him enter. "How is she doing? Has there been any growth to it? Hey, how are you doing kiddo?"
"Me, I'm just dandy. My vision is great, and I don't have to worry about not being able to drive. I can probably beat you at arm wrestling, but my stomach is in knots, and I'm terrified. Dr. Cox told her that it's almost to the end, it's either another round of chemo, or pain management. God, Franklin, I don't want to lose her," and he stepped up and held onto her while she cried, feeling so helpless at her pain. "Thanks buddy, don't know what we'd do without you. She's upstairs, go on up while I make some coffee, she can't have any, but we'll indulge." She nudged him out of the kitchen, and towards the stairs.
He leaned on the doorjamb, until Piper saw him, then he did what they always did, he went and hugged her, and sat down on the bed, "So, what's going on kiddo, you have some people worried."
"Ah, Franklin, you do know what's going on, and the worst of it is how hard it will be for Morgan, and I can't do squat to help her with this. Any ideas, suggestions, I don't know if she'll . . . no, she will be able to do this, I just hate the fact that it has to be done. You know, I really wanted more time, with her, with you and Sarah, but I guess that it's not in the cards for me. Let's see what I can do, and just hold on."
Morgan joined them, handing Franklin his coffee, and the three of them sat and talked. Hours later it was decided, Morgan and Piper would take that trip, just a small one to the coast, and try to relax. After Franklin left, Morgan joined her partner in bed, after giving her the medicine to get her through the night. "Honey, it's been going on for a while, hasn't it? All the late nights, and your weight loss, you didn't tell me, why?"
"I have thought about that a great deal Morgan, and I think I was just trying to finish the degree. I really put all the headaches down to the strain of the paper, and you know how I get when I'm on a roll, but I want you to know that I love you with all my heart. I hate what this is doing to me, to us, and if you can't take it then just let me know. No blame, no shame, you hold my heart, and I don't want to hurt you with this." Piper felt the shudder run through her partner's frame, but Morgan looked at her with clear eyes.
"Piper you know what I feel, you have done so much for me that I can't begin to tell you. I just need to be there for you, because it is my privilege. I want to be there, through it all, you hold my heart, and nothing will break that. We'll take what comes, just believe that I love you with all my being."
Piper sighed, she was so comfortable, Morgan had insisted that the plans be followed through and they were at the beach. Not a flashy, touristy type place, where the nightlife was raucous, but nice and peaceful for the two of them. They didn't socialize much, they were too wrapped up in each other to be desirous of other company, but when people saw them there was much speculation as to what could be wrong with the smaller woman. Her larger partner was so careful of her, and couldn't be bothered with anyone but her. Morgan had installed Piper that afternoon in a large hammock for her nap, and the two of them swung there, Piper resting, and Morgan enjoying holding her. "Hey Morgan, do you know what I think?"
Morgan smiled lazily, Piper had seemed better, but it was just a reprieve of sorts, the nights were still hard, but she wanted Piper to tell her everything. "What is it honey, a bit chilly for you? I have------umph," she sighed as her lips were taken over by the smaller woman, and she gasped as she felt the hands moving along her back, it had felt so wonderful. Piper had always known right where she needed to be touched, and the two of them felt emotions building up between them. Never letting go of the lips that were devouring her soul, Morgan scooped up her smaller partner, and eased into their bedroom. Piper was working at the confines of her clothes, a deep need for flesh on flesh contact driving her actions. Morgan held her tightly, and sat down on the bed, her lips finding tender spots on her partner's throat, and groaned as the feelings swept over them.
Later on that night, Morgan was awake. She eased out of bed, and gazed at Piper, there was such a sweet look on her face that Morgan almost came apart. Brushing her forehead with her lips, Morgan left the room, intent on getting some food. She felt secure leaving Piper sleeping, she'd be within earshot, and she needed food. In the kitchen she found that there was someone else that couldn't sleep, and she almost regretted coming down, but the woman who was sitting there seemed nice, and she surprised herself with an overwhelming need to talk.
"You're Morgan, right? Hi there, I'm Alex, I work here. Is there anything I can get you, there's some nice muffins here that we'll be serving tomorrow, want to try them now? I'll make some coffee, you look like you need it," and brushing off the taller woman's protests, Alex pushed her into a chair and started buzzing around the kitchen like a demented bee. "I am so glad that you came downstairs, I wanted to talk to you for quite a while, but never seemed to be able to. You have to admit, it is quiet here this time of year, and not too many people find their way out this far, but you look like you needed quiet. Here you go," and a steaming mug of coffee appeared beside the muffin.
"Yeah, we are looking for quiet, it's been quite a time. This is great coffee, thanks for that. You say that not many people come here, it's nice out here, unexpected."
Alex studied her, "Unexpected, that's a fair description of it I guess. Do you work in the area?"
"No, we live in the upper part of the state, just down for a breather. Do you live here all year round?"
"Yep I stay here and keep it running. Sometimes I just love it here, other times I want to yell at the smallness, but I don't know anywhere else that makes me so content. Are you done with that, want a refill, or are you heading back upstairs?"
"Thanks again for the coffee, the killer muffin, and the company. I needed it more then I can say at the moment. I'll see you in the morning," and Morgan vanished into the night. Alex watched her go, and cleaned up thoughtfully, she could see the strain that even five minutes away from the smaller woman had put on Morgan. Breathing a quiet prayer, she snapped off the lights and headed for bed.
Morgan slid back into bed, and smiled as she felt Piper nestle closer to her, it was something that always filled her with wonder, how they found their way to each other while asleep. She let the wonder carry her down to the deep levels of sleep, content for the moment.
It had been subtle, but on the way home from the coast Piper knew that she had to tell Morgan what had happened. She had tried to deny it to herself, but she couldn't do that anymore, and she told her partner that there had been some dimming of her vision. Not a lot, but she couldn't see the large signs on the road with the same clarity. It had become grayish, and that was enough to let her know that there had been growth during their time away.
Morgan pulled the car over carefully and turned to look at her, she saw the same eyes that she loved, and she pulled the smaller woman over into her arms, "Ok, you know that I love you. Is there any pain for you?" and Piper shook her head. She thought about what Morgan had done, the time at the coast, and all the tenderness that this woman had shown her, and she started to cry. Morgan just held on, whispering into her hair, and stroking her back and shoulders, the tears were a sign that her hopes for a miracle had passed, nothing could stop what was happening, no more tricks from the medical world, just the meeting of two hearts and the soothing of one lover to another. Finally, the tears stopped, and she searched for a tissue to wipe up her partner's face, and she pledged that there would be nothing that would keep her away.
When they got home, Morgan called her job and took emergency leave, she had been saving up her sick days for this, from the time that Piper had told her what was happening. Piper had gone upstairs to lie down, the trip had drained her, and she wanted to sleep a bit before dinner. Morgan wandered into the study, looking at the two desks, and all the notes that still sat out waiting for Piper, and she sat down at her desk and wept. The final paper would go unfinished, her notes would stay unread, and Piper would not get her masters. Morgan sat up and saw that her hand was resting on a paper covered with her partner's handwriting, and she read it.
Notes for Morgan-
Hey there lover, I got tired of trying to write this paper, so I thought I'd put some stuff down for you, first being that I love you. Are you grinning yet, because I am, and I'm so glad that we have had this time together. I'm sorry I've been caught up in the degree, I think that I'm so lucky to have you in my life, and I can't say that enough.
Remember that time that I couldn't believe that you loved me, I can't tell you how much you have taught me, more then anyone I know. We are so lucky, so lucky that we were able to find each other, how many people can say that? You are my heart, my soul, and I love you, your honesty, integrity, and your strength, how else would I be able to face this? Walk beside me and know you hold my heart and soul,
Morgan clung to the bit of paper, wiping her eyes she tucked it into her wallet under the picture of the two of them that had been taken when they moved into their home, Piper leaning back against the laughing woman and smiling for the camera. She gathered her composure, and went upstairs to check on Piper.
Dinner was quiet, not much was eaten, even though Morgan had insisted that she eat, Piper just pushed it around. The smaller woman looked drawn, but she still smiled when she felt Morgan's gaze on her, "So, what do you want to do tonight honey? I checked the mail, Franklin sent a note every day we were gone, shall I call him and let him know we're back?"
"Tell you what Morgan, how bout we just stay here and see what's on the tube? I don't feel like company tonight, and just want to sleep."
"Ok, we can do that. Now let's get you upstairs and then I'll clean up here, want some ice cream? I think there's a bit in the fridge," Morgan stood up and moved the dishes to the sink. "Come on there, you want watch a movie, or just snuggle?"
"Always snuggle with you, I think you know that," Piper smiled at her. Morgan couldn't help herself, she picked up the smaller woman and cradled her, "Now this is service, just don't drop the goods, otherwise you buy them!"
"I bought them the day I met you, now just relax, there you go darlin', safe and sound. I'll be back in a bit with the ice cream," Morgan loved it when Piper could tease her like that. She brushed the blond hair back off of her forehead, "How you doing love, what can I get you?"
"Just yourself, that works for me. Now go on, and let me rest for a bit, I'll be waiting for you."
Morgan headed down to the kitchen, her stomach was sore from the stress, but she cleaned up the kitchen and dished up one bowl of ice cream and retrieved two spoons. She returned the ice cream box to the freezer, and started upstairs when she heard a sound that nearly took her legs out from under her. Piper was groaning, and as she tore into the room Morgan's heart almost left her chest. The smaller woman had tried to go to the bathroom, but she didn't make it, her vision had almost closed down and she had smacked into the doorway, and was on the floor clutching her head in agony. Morgan forgot about the frozen treat she held, nothing was as important as her stricken partner, so she did what she had been taught, a cool washcloth for the forehead, and she pushed the small hands away so she could put it on the rapidly swelling lump. She pulled her so that she was resting on her chest, and she just let her know that she was there. Piper tried to turn her head, but Morgan wouldn't let her, she kept up a litany of whispers in her ear, and as Piper calmed Morgan was able to catch her breath.
"Oh honey, it just got so dark, I was trying to get to the bathroom, and all of a sudden, I couldn't make out where I was." Morgan listened as her partner sobbed out what happened, just holding her so that she could feel her. "It hurt, oh God, it hurt so bad, you. . .you came so fast, ohhh no!" Morgan looked down and saw the puddle that was forming, and her heart clenched again.
"No problem, let's get you cleaned up, nothing to worry about, you just let me know when you need to use the bathroom again." Morgan carried her into the bathroom, knowing that this loss of dignity was hard on Piper, but she did what she could to ease her into the tub to clean her up.
It was getting harder, but Morgan kept going, taking care of Piper became her whole world, knowing when the medicine was needed, lifting and turning her so that she could be more comfortable. It was at this point that Piper had told her that it was time to call in the other caretakers from the local hospice, she didn't want Morgan to be alone through this. Morgan argued with that, taking care of Piper was one of the most sacred duties that she had, and she was unwilling to surrender that. Piper had explained that it was better that they had help, not to close Morgan out, but to help her when she became too tired. So the hospice was called, and Morgan endured other people in their home, but Piper seemed more at ease. Dr. Cox came every few days, and equipment appeared in their bedroom, the IV stand, the commode, and the green oxygen tank. Piper had laid out her desire that she stay at home, and Morgan had been more then willing, "Anything you want sweetheart, you just let me know."
Franklin kept coming over, sometimes Piper was able to talk with him, other times he kept her company while Morgan tried to get some errands done. He also spent time with Morgan, more often just holding her and listening while she tried to put into words what she was going through. He saw that she was hurting, and he was hurting too, so they were able to share what was going on, and be comforted by that. Piper just held onto Morgan, trying to comfort her, but one night she couldn't do it. "Hey, hon, I have to tell you something, do you want to hear?"
"Sure, what's on your mind love?"
"I want you to know that I love you, and that you have been so wonderful to me. Truly, a gift that I never deserved. You have so many things in your heart Morgan, I watched you through all this, and I'm blessed with you. I want you to remember that no matter what, we will be together again, and I know that it's hard and scary, but all I do now is get your place ready for you. Someone always has to go ahead, and though it's hard, I can almost be glad its me, I wouldn't have your strength to stay behind. Just hold on for a while, I'm really tired, and you need sleep too, ok?"
Morgan nodded, she couldn't speak around the choking feeling in her throat. She wrapped herself around her frail partner, careful not to move any of the lines that were running into Piper's arms, and tried to see a future, a future without Piper in it. She shook her head, and just nestled closer.
After that the calm moments became scarcer, and Morgan felt more anguish, then she called for some home nursing, she had reached the point where Piper needed more then she was capable of. She heard the doorbell, and went to answer it, and let an angel into their home. Kaz was a gift, she came in and Morgan just let her in the door. "I'm Kaz, and you would be Morgan. Now, I don't know what you expect, but I'm here to help. They told me that your partner is ill, and you need help with her care, so that's what you will get. Don't worry, I'm just the muscle that you need, and I've been doing this for a while, so you let me know what you need. Let's sit down for a bit, and then I'll go up and see what needs to be done."
Morgan slumped down in her chair, this woman was incredible, and she seemed to know just what to do, but that didn't help the jealous feeling that Morgan was experiencing, after all she had been Piper's choice, but she also quelled it knowing that Piper needed the 'end care'. So they talked, Kaz listened as all the anxiety and strain poured out of the tall woman, and she reached out and patted her hand. "I know, I've been there. Right now you need to do what you can, and I'm not here to take your place, just to help you and Piper. Since we'll be working together in this, you have to tell me what you both need."
Kaz stood up, and Morgan led her up the bedroom where Piper was, and just watched as Kaz examined her partner. Brisk and efficient, she checked out the equipment, and then she asked Morgan to leave the room. "Don't worry, I just have to get the catheter started, then I'll show you what you need to do for her. Just try to relax, she'll be fine, Dr. Cox has given me all the details, and you are helping."
Morgan turned and fled, she couldn't take the idea of what was to come, but as she was heading out the door, she ran right into Franklin. "Oh, sorry, Franklin, you can't go up there now, Piper's with the nurse, and she's being catheterized. I couldn't do it, and had to leave because . . ." she bowed her head and sniffled. Franklin was stunned, but as he stood there he saw the pain shimmering off of Morgan, and he reached out to the woman that his friend loved. They stood there until he felt the tremors ease off, and he looked at her strained face.
"How long have you been here, three weeks without a break, right? Come on, Piper would hand me my head for letting you half kill yourself. Let the nurse know that you are going out for a little bit, and that you'll be back, ok?" he coaxed her. Morgan sighed, he had a point, and she knew that Kaz would be there, "Ok, you win this round Franklin, let me go tell Kaz, she's the nurse and I'll be down in a sec."
Morgan hurried upstairs and saw that Piper had indeed been taken care of. She told Kaz that she would be out for a bit, and that Piper would understand. Morgan rejoined Franklin, and they left the house to take care of some things, and when he dropped her off, she was feeling a bit better. That had surprised her, and made her feel a bit guilty, but Franklin had told her that he was keeping a promise, so she had better cooperate, or he would be in trouble.
She smiled at the idea of the big man afraid of her tiny partner, and as she came in she had all intentions of telling Piper about it. Kaz met her at the door, and smiled, "You look better Morgan, so getting out help, hmm? I was going to suggest that myself, but I didn't want to seem too pushy. Piper's sleeping, we had a bit of a talk, and I think that she knows what's happening."
"Yes, she does, I don't know how she does it, but she's been right on it, even when she can't talk. So, what do you have to teach me," and the two women went over what Morgan would need to know, how to tend the catheter, and give Piper injections for the pain. Finally, Kaz asked her if she had given any thought to what needed to be done at the end. Morgan told her that they had already talked about it, and that the instructions were in the study. So Morgan went back upstairs, and took up her position to aid her other half. Kaz stayed with them, and the strength and gentleness that she saw Morgan use with Piper was truly amazing.
The tumor had never bowed to the will of man, it's own destructive destiny had been laid out when it started to grow. Much earlier, Piper had told Morgan that she had thought about it, and heroic measures were just not what she wanted. Morgan agreed, she didn't know if she wanted others trying to shock and beat her partner's heart into functioning again, the pain was too much. So they let others know that a DNR was in effect, and that was that. As it so often happens the last day was like so many others, and not at all remarkable for a good portion. Piper was sitting up and trying to eat when Morgan noticed that her left hand had started a drumming pattern all by itself and Piper didn't seem to notice. Kaz and Dr. Cox had told her that this would happen, but Morgan still couldn't bring herself to mention it. Morgan brushed back her bangs, and stared into her eyes, and saw that there was still a look that made her heart contract.
"Piper, hey, Piper come on, I need to take this away," Morgan tried to remove the plate, but she wasn't prepared when Piper grabbed her arm with surprising strength. The smaller woman was looking past Morgan, and seeing someone that wasn't there. "Piper, what is it?"
"I. . . . What do you want Jim? No, no, she can't come out today, I have to tell you this. . . ." and Morgan pulled away and ran to find Kaz. She returned to find her partner still having conversations with her phantom guests, gesturing as if they were talking in a coffee shop. Kaz took in what was happening, and she put her hand on Morgan's shoulder.
"Morgan, I think you should be ready, we've talked about this, do you want to call her family," Kaz looked at Morgan's face, seeing the pain there. "Or anyone else, priest or anything like that?"
"No, she and I talked about that, her family can't be here, but could you call Franklin and let him know what's going on, I can't talk to him now. He'll know who to get in touch with. She needs me now," and she went back to her partner. Piper had finished talking to the unseen guests, she was twisting her hand like she was using a mouse, all the time her left hand kept up the drumbeat on her thigh. Kaz quietly left the two women alone, with a sad feeling because she knew that the end was fast approaching. Piper stopped playing with the phantom mouse, and looked at Morgan as if she didn't remember that she was there, "Hey Morgan, I was just having the strangest dream, but now it's ok, you took out the trash, right," looking at her partner like it was the most important question in the world.
"Yes I took out the trash," Morgan said gently, she had known that there would be strange conversations, but this had startled her. She picked up Piper's hand, and gently kissed each finger, "You know that I love you, right? That you made me feel so lucky to have found you," she laid the hand down and reached for the water bottle, "Here, try and take a swallow, good girl."
Piper smiled, "Ah, that's better, thank you Morgan, I think I'll sleep for a bit, but could you see about getting a bit of heat for my feet, I'm getting chilled. You need some sleep too Hon, come on," and Morgan eased herself next to her partner. She brushed an errant strand of hair off of her face, and sighed. Morgan didn't get any sleep that afternoon, she watched Piper as the subtle changes passed over her, and tried to keep her warm. Finally, when the life cycle is at its lowest ebb, and the passage from life to another event is the easiest, Morgan felt her partner's breathing change. Morgan gripped her hand, and whispered, "I love you, it's ok, you did it so well, I love you so. Go, if it's time, I'll love you always," and kept up that litany until Piper had gone ahead.
An hour later Morgan tottered downstairs, only to find the last thing she needed to see at that moment. Piper's family had taken up watch in her living room, and Kaz looked at the tall woman, and quietly moved to her side, "Is it over Morgan, ok, I'll make the calls." Morgan nodded wordlessly, feeling numb to everything. Franklin came to her and put his arms around her, shielding her from the reproachful looks that Piper's family was directing at her.
Joe, Piper's father, stood and leveled his gaze at the tall woman. She was stunned to see her partner's eyes in a very different face, and she gulped as he led Betty, Piper's mother, past her to the stairs. "You've done all for now Morgan, let us go see her now." They left the room and Morgan started after them, but Franklin caught her and eased her down into a chair, "Easy there, I got ya, shhh, come on, easy," and he held her tight as she gasped for air.
"How could they?! All this time and they show up now, NOW?! Oh God, why did they . . ." and she sobbed into Franklin's shirt. He sighed, and told her that it had been too much for Joe and Betty, but they had abided by Piper's wishes until she died, then they came to do the final rites for her, and Morgan had no place there. She stared at him, shock written on her face. He gazed at her hands, and told her that in a bit when Joe and Betty came down, they were going to ask her to leave. "No way Franklin, they want me to leave my home, OUR HOME?! They can go get. . ." and she stopped when she saw their faces, "No, you will not make me leave, and I will not dishonor Piper by telling you what I think right now, just go, please," and she left the room.
Franklin followed, and caught up with her as she headed outside. He didn't say anything, he just paced along by her side, listening as she vented all the sorrow that she had been putting aside, he walked with her until the sun came up. They stood, side by side, and watched the start of the new day, and Franklin turned and looked at Morgan's tear streaked face. He wiped away a tear, and she stared at the colors in the sky. "Do you know that Piper didn't want you alone? She told me that she was so afraid for you, that I promised that you had to come over to my house for dinner twice a week?"
"Franklin, I really appreciate it, I do. I have a ton of things to do right now, but you have been so. . . I don't know how I'll get through this, but I'm glad you made that promise. We'll see what happens with her family, god knows its not going to be easy. I loved her so," Morgan said quietly. They went back to the house, and she went upstairs and sat down on the bed. Kaz had done what she could to straighten up the room, and Piper was lying there, at peace at last. Morgan pushed her bangs back, and spent an hour just holding her partners hand, and then she kissed the pale lips and left because she could hear the other people that would finish the details that she couldn't handle.
They buried Piper on a cold, rainy day in her family's plot. Franklin had driven Morgan to the church for the ceremony, and stood by her as Piper's mother raged at her. He kept holding her hand and murmuring that it was almost over, and she stood with him while the minister painted a highly inaccurate picture of the woman. She wanted to push him aside and tell everyone how Piper had been, but she couldn't move. She looked at the casket, and the flowers that she and Franklin had ordered, yellow roses, and she knew that she had to get through it. Franklin led her out of the church, and they went to the cemetery, and she almost fell getting out of the car. He took her arm, then embraced her, they stood that way for a while, then they walked over for the graveside service. She listened as Piper's mother wept, and then she heard another sound, and she almost collapsed. It was a single piper, standing on a rise and playing "Amazing Grace", her hands fisted and she tried to remain calm, but the haunting tones brought her back to a conversation that Piper and she had when they first got together.
"Piper, now that just strikes me as strange, how on Earth did you ever get saddled with that??"
"It actually has a neat story, my father's family, they had relatives that fought in World War I, and there was a moment one Christmas when there was an undeclared truce. The men came out of the trenches and sang together, and his relatives played their bagpipes. I've seen the pipes, and they are something, they were carried in both World Wars, and there's two bullet holes in them. So there's a legend in the family that every generation must have its Piper, and that's how I got my name."
"I know, Piper, it was always the piper that led the troops, and you just go ahead for now, but I do miss you so," Morgan murmured, "and you are the best, how you'd laugh at this, just howl at all of the faces, you are so missed."
Morgan felt the wind whipping her hair, and she huddled into her coat. Her head was throbbing, but when she looked up she saw that others had come, Kaz was standing on the other side, blocking the wind, and trying to shield her from the raw emotions that were pouring off of Piper's family. "Thank you Kaz, you are so kind. I have to get through this, somehow," and she wiped her eyes. Kaz saw the agony, she knew that Morgan would need support, or else she would follow her partner. Kaz hoped she would get that support, and she wrapped a long arm around the dark woman.
Afterwards, Morgan sat with Franklin at the gathering, he kept an eye out for trouble, and made sure that Morgan only saw who she needed to see, he was honoring his promise to Piper, and as he looked at Morgan he knew that Piper had been so right when she told him that she was in love. Morgan had loved her so, he was glad that his best friend had been so lucky. "Come on Morgan, let's go back to my house, Sarah needs to see you, and she made some of her pasta for you," he tried to coax her.
"Thanks pal, but I need to go home, I have to get used to being there, you know? How do people do it, how do they just keep going, I don't know, but Franklin, I have to keep going, right?"
"That's right, you just have to keep going, Piper picked a winner, and you can call on me, night or day, right?'
Morgan patted his hand, and he grinned, she was a winner, and Piper had been right. Later on, Morgan found another piece of paper, this one had fallen behind her side of the bed, and she read it with tears streaming down her cheeks.
Oh, how I know that you are the love of my life, the best part of me, and the one person that I can call beloved. I hope that you will not be afraid, I hope that the end is easy for me, and for you, because I know that you will be there, through it all you have been there. That is the sweetest gift you could have given me, the love that I will take with me will be so strong that I won't be sad at all. Remember, I love you with all my heart and soul, beloved. Don't be afraid, you made me so happy that all I can do is love you. All I have,
Morgan treasured that last note, she kept it in her wallet with the other one, and she kept on going. Piper had tried to tell her, but there were other angels in her life, Franklin kept coming and doing what he could, and Kaz stayed in touch, but Morgan's heart was too sore. Finally, she crept back into their bedroom, it had been cleaned up, returned to a seeming normality, but Morgan stood by the bed and talked to Piper.
"Hey darling, I can't believe its been one week since I've been able to touch you, I can't believe that you have gone ahead, but its true hunh? I mean, I try every day to keep going, but how I miss you. Kaz says that it's fine for me to feel this way, but all I want right now is to be able to touch you again, oh Piper," and she felt something brush by her forehead, feather light, but healing. She looked around the room, but no one else was there, just the empty bed.
She was almost there, she could hear her partner calling to her, but just as she was about to reach her, she woke up. The sobs that racked her body were painful, but someone heard her, and Morgan was able to take comfort in that she wasn't alone. It had surprised her when Piper's favorite aunt had asked to stay with her for a month, but she said yes, and at night she learned that other hearts were hurting, and comfort could be had when speaking in the dark. She was taught that she didn't suffer alone, and that Piper had known that she would need this teaching, she had made sure that Morgan wouldn't be alone for the first month, hence the message to her aunt.
One night Piper's aunt told her that a story that Piper had loved when she was a small girl. A simple story, but Morgan could see how it would spark her partner's imagination, and she smiled slightly. Piper had told her that her family had never had any idea about what to do with her, she had gone through the rebellious stage, and only her aunt had understood her, and loved her. Piper told her that when like speaks to like there is a far deeper communication, and with her aunt it was that way. Morgan finally understood that message, and she patted the other woman's hand, "Thank you for that story, I'm glad that you're here, we were so lucky, but now it's time to sleep."
Morgan always kept her promises, and on the one year anniversary of her partner's death she found herself again standing by her grave. She laid the yellow rose on the headstone, and sighed, "Its been a year, a whole year. I'm relearning how to do the day to day Piper, you wouldn't believe it. It still hurts, I feel like I've left half of my heart here, but I'm getting there, you told me that didn't you? I still love you Piper, always."
She looked at the headstone, and felt a gentle breeze against her cheek, much like Piper's lips, and felt a healing balm soothe her aching heart.
Well loved daughter, sister, friend
October 7, 1963-April 25, 2000
She went on ahead to pipe the way with grace and love
That's it for now, I'll polish it, and we'll see what else can be done.
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