by Red Monster
#Ring, ring, ring #
"Hello, is this the home of a Danielle Moonstar?"
"Yes, it is, but she’s not home. Can I take a message?"
"No, that won’t be necessary. This is the China Basin Hospital Trauma Center. Ms. Moonstar has been in an accident and she’s here. Are you in her family?"
"No, I’m her…I’m her friend. Her family lives in another state. Is she okay?"
"She’s currently being treated. Could I have your name please?"
"Yes, it’s Theresa Cassidy."
"And, would you be willing to come to the hospital?"
"Yes, I’ll be right there."
Dani Moonstar and I fell in love quite by accident, really. When Dani first joined X-Force, she and I were just kind of putting up with each other, me being left out of the loop of their bond as former New Mutants, her being left out of the loop of the rest of us being in X-Force for so long while she was away. And, of course, we both had some experience as the leader of some form of this group. So we were doing the peaceful coexistence thing, just trying to get along, and then we found ourselves hiking off into the woods together.
Now, before I go any further, I’m sure most of you are thinking "So, are all your friends lesbians, too?" There, I said the "L" word, now shut up while I answer the question. No, they’re not. She and I are the only ones who’ve admitted an attraction towards our own sex. And, we weren’t at all open about it until after we got together. I have slept with (too) many men and been in love with one or two of them. Dani’s been in love with a few men but hasn’t slept with anyone except me.
"Hello, I’m Theresa Cassidy, Dani Moonstar’s friend. I got a call saying she was here."
"May I see some ID, ma’am?"
I hand her my driver’s license. She looks
at it, glances up at me, and hands it back.
"Would you fill out these forms, please, Ms. Cassidy?"
"Well, can I see Dani?"
"You’ll be able to see your friend just as soon as we have this information, ma’am."
"Can you at least tell me if she’s okay?"
"I don’t have any information on her condition, we just need you to fill out these forms."
Dani brought home a tent that someone had dropped into her cart at a clearance sale. So she asked all of us if we’d like to go camping with her, and I was the only one that didn’t shy away from retreating from civilization just for the heck of it. So we spent the weekend in the woods together. There we were, the Odd Couple, out in the wilderness with no one to distract us from each other. First, we struggled with the impenetrable maze that was the Tent until it was erected and in the right place. Then, Dani punished her foot with the shovel while she was digging a pit for the fire and I was gathering twigs for kindling. So, then I parked her next to the Tent with an ice pack wrapped around her ankle, and went about finishing my earlier task. While I picked up some more twigs, Dani put on a silly smirk and limped down to the river near our campsite. I caught her in the water while her clothes sat on the bank, and I followed her example.
"Patient’s Name—Last, First (Please print)," the form says.
"Moonstar, Danielle," I write.
"Address, phone number, date of
I fill in a bunch of numbers and words, as if they’re the link between injury and wellness.
"Insurance company, policy number."
Ah. So that’s what they want to know before they’ll let me see her.
So, we parted company with our clothes and stood together in the river, making fun of rich women who pay way too much money in a spa to do exactly what we were doing. After dinner, we got to talking about our previous sex lives, (or, more accurately, I told Dani about my previous sex life while her mouth hung wide open) and, she asked me if I’d ever slept with a woman before. I told her about a time when I almost did. She started to ask me if I’d do it with her, but then got embarrassed and took it back. But, I’d understood the question and answered it to taking off my clothes in front of her.
"Here, they’re all filled out. Now, can you tell me what’s happened to Dani?!" I demand while handing the forms to the nurse at the desk.
"Thank you. You’ll be notified when news of her condition arises," she says, taking the forms and ducking back into her nurse-territory.
"No. I’ve been here for a half an hour, filled out a bunch of crap so you guys can bill my friend after you treat her for some injury that you won’t even tell me about, now I deserve to know what’s going on. What’s happened to her?" I practically shriek, grabbing onto the nurse’s arm and pulling her back to me.
"Ma’am, if you let go of me I can look for a doctor who’s working on her case."
With Tori Amos’ "Hey Jupiter" playing in the background, Dani and I retreated into the dark coziness of the Tent, where our bodies came together like a pair of living magnets. It was the first "time" for her, and the first time for me worth remembering.
So, after that weekend was over, we decided, "We’ve had sex, and we don’t have anyone else on a waiting list, so why not give it a try?" "Sure, let’s go for it." And we started dating on a regular basis. At first our friends thought it was hilarious that we were a couple. They teased us whenever we were careless enough to snuggle in front of them. One time we started smooching on the couch in front of Tabitha, and she shouted, "Hey, guys, come out here, they’re gonna do it!" So, of course James and Roberto came running into the room saying "Let’s get it on, girls!" and "No, wait, let me get the camera first!" But I don’t blame them. Like I said before, we were the last people they’d expect to get together. If anything, their teasing just made us fall for each other faster.
That camping trip was eight years ago. More recently, we were planning to get "married." The president of our local gay-lesbian-bisexual support group had offered to preside over the ceremony, and our parents were flying over to give us away to each other. It couldn’t be a legal marriage, but it was enough for us. Our teammates were going to be our ushers and bridesmaids. The other X teams were invited to the wedding.
"Ms. Cassidy, I’m Dr. Williams, I was assigned to Danielle’s case," says a tall, silver-haired man as he walks hurriedly up to me with the nurse in tow.
"So, can you tell me what’s going on?" I ask.
"Here, come with me," he says, pulling
me by the arm out of the waiting room, into a hallway, and into an empty room
"What happened?" I demand, with more than a little annoyance in my voice.
"What I heard from the paramedics is that Danielle’s car was hit by someone running a red light. And, in swerving to avoid that particular car, she hit someone else head-on…" he begins.
"Oh, no, her car doesn’t have an airbag…" I started.
"No, it didn’t. Her head slammed into the dashboard, and her chest hit the steering wheel. She suffered a brain injury and multiple rib fractures, which in turn punctured her heart. We tried to stabilize her, but the damage was too severe. She bled out in the ER."
What did he just say? "So, what does all this mean?"
"Danielle bled to death just a few minutes ago. Your friend died, Ms. Cassidy."
The whole room turns white and goes silent. Dr. Williams disappears, the nurses fade away, the ground under my feet vanishes. All the voices in the room dissolve into a buzz and get softer until they just go blank. My head fills with an eerie whistling sound, and my body starts to float on air, like I’ve just had my insides scooped out and my skin filled with helium. An image forms in front of my eyes, of my beautiful Dani lying on an operating table, her silky brown skin turning gray as her pulse goes flat. A pair of hands press paddles to her cracked-open chest, and her body jolts, but her heart doesn’t beat. They jolt her again, it still doesn’t beat. Eventually, a blanket goes over her head.
Next thing I know, the hospital reappears, but the whistling in my ears is still there, and I know my insides have grown back, because I’m no longer floating. I’m sinking, and Dr. Williams is holding me up.
"Do you live with anyone else besides Dani?" he asks. I guess I must have nodded my head, because he then says "Good." He yells into the hall for a wheelchair, and I guess someone pushed one in, because he lowers me into one and wheels me back to the lobby. "Nurse Baker, call her home again and see if you can reach someone else. This one’s a little shocked."
I sit in the chair and let the room spin around me for a few minutes, before I start to sink again. I take a deep breath in, and the room slows to a stop.
"Sweetie, how long had you two known each other?" I hear a voice say. I turn my head a little, and there’s a nurse from the station, standing next to me.
"five months, and four days."
"Poor thing. You two were really close, weren’t you?" says the nurse.
"Where is she, nurse? Where’d they take Dani?" I want to know.
"They took her to the morgue just after she died, dear. Would you like to see her one last time?"
"Yes, I would."
I follow her into an elevator, which takes us down a very scary number of floors and lands with an empty "thud" at the bottom. As the nurse leads me down a cold, dusty hallway, I figure out what’s really happened to Dani. She and the other crash victims spilled their wallets in the crash, and their ID’s got mixed up, so the hospital thinks the woman who died is Dani, but she’s really some soccer mom in a minivan that failed its crash tests. Meanwhile, my love is coming to in a recovery room, with a few bumps, a few more broken bones, possibly even an amputation or two, but with her pulse and her wits intact. I can still marry a woman who’s short by an arm or leg. Just as long as she still loves me, it’ll work. Our sex life won’t be the same, but, who knows, maybe it’ll be better!
The nurse leads me through a door, which leads to a room full of drawers built into the walls. There’s a desk stuck next to the wall, just to our left when we come in.
"Steven, could you show us where they left Danielle Moonstar?" the nurse asks the young man sitting behind the desk looking ready to fall asleep onto his issue of Good Housekeeping.
"Yes, come right this way," he says, getting up and walking toward a wall full of pull-out drawers, while I and the nurse follow him. He pulls out one of the drawers, and I expect to see a dumpy, middle-aged face and body lying on the slab. The slab comes out, and lying there is…
Long, shiny black hair; proud cheekbones; a strong, stubborn nose; gentle, full lips; and a sturdy jawline. Elegant, square shoulders, followed by the curve of two soft, round breasts covered by a sheet.
Only Dani could ever have a mouth like that set in such a face.
"That’s her, right?" the nurse says.
It’s her, but they made a mistake. They sent her down here too soon. I’m going to touch her face just the way I do every morning to wake her up, and she’s going to stir, and then we’ll all rush her back up to the ER to pump her full of O-positive blood and sew her heart back together. She’ll wake up, and we’ll still be together.
I lay one hand on either side of her face; her skin is cold. I rub her cheeks a little; she doesn’t do anything. Why isn’t she waking up? I tug at her hair a little bit, her head jerks around in the direction that I pull, and doesn’t roll back to its original position. I quickly press my fingers into the soft area in her neck where her pulse is supposed to be. There’s nothing but cold.
"Sweetie, she’s dead. Don’t you get it?" the nurse says.
I pull Dani’s eyelids open, and her eyes are nothing but a pair of big white ovals with little brown crescents stuck in the top of them. Her skin is cold…her pulse is gone…her head doesn’t move…and her eyes have rolled back into her head.
I lean my head back and scream, without using my
power, the sound echoes endlessly off the walls of the morgue, until I
collapse at the nurse’s and the clerk’s feet and cry. The clerk pushes Dani back into the wall and helps the nurse pull me back up to my feet. They drag me back to the elevator and back into the waiting room, where they sit me in another chair. I sit there and cry into my knees for the longest time, until my head dries up and I’m left with my head stuck between my knees, not caring about how much time is passing.
"Terry! Oh, thank God you’re still here." That’s James, my best friend on our team. I stand up to see him rushing in with Roberto and Tabitha behind him. "Terry, we heard what happened," James says to me, hugging me against his huge burly chest.
I want to tell him how she died, because I doubt that Nurse Baker told him the full story over the phone. I wish I could tell him that Dani bled to death while Dr. Williams tried to electrocute her heart into beating, but my lips won’t move. So while Tabitha and Roberto gather around me and James so we can all comfort each other, I see how far I can disappear into the cavernous space between James’ arms. Inside the warm, muscular circle formed by my three friends, I can hear the echo inside the space where my heart used to be.
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