"One Last Breath"
Author: Pia Pedersen

Rating: R for subject matter.

Author's note: This story is the result of a challenge. I was challenged to use all or parts of the lyrics to "One Last Breath" by Creed. Please be warned that this is a dark piece. It deals with the pain and sorrow following the loss of a loved one. This obviously isn't a pleasant topic, but it was a story that I had to write. It's multiple POV. The viewpoint changes after each text block in bold.

Dedication: This is for two people, who have known more pain in their lives than anyone should ever have to experience, and I continue to be impressed by their strength and courage.

Disclaimers are in force.


No one should have to experience this kind of pain. No parent should have to go through what we're going through. I look at her as she's lying here beside me, her eyes are closed in sleep, and I know she's right. I should get some rest, but I'm frightened, terribly afraid that she won't open her eyes again, that I will never get to see her smile again …

"I'm right here," she whispers, opening her eyes. "Please, Will …"

She has changed so much, literally overnight. "I'm sorry," I tell her, as if that's ever going to be enough. As if it means anything at all. But I am, and if there was anything I could do, I would. But there isn't. Not a damn thing. When she reach out, my lips cover hers, and we seek out each other for comfort once more, wanting to forget and trying to pretend that it didn't really happen. But soon reality intrudes, and she looks at me. Her gaze is powerful, and I feel it. I feel it when her spirit shatters, and I let out my breath in painful gasps, holding her close.

Please come now I think I'm falling

The sun is shining, and it's wrong. It's so wrong. My baby's gone. He's gone; the sun shouldn't be shining. I feel Will's hand on my back, and I don't have to look at him to know that he is feeling as helpless and numb as I am. He looks so much older than he did a week ago. A week ago, when we found him, when we found our son and realized that the young man we loved so much was so troubled and unhappy that he no longer wanted to live.

There is so many questions, so much doubt. We loved him, and he loved us. I know he did. But something happened to him, some-thing changed, and I should have seen it. I should have known, and I should have … I should have helped him. It's my job, and I was his mother. I am. I will always be his mother. Always.

I'm looking down now that it's over
Reflecting on all of my mistakes

I know she doesn't blame me. Deanna would never do that. She blames herself instead. I tighten my hold on her, letting my arm encircle her waist. It earns me a shadow of a smile.

"It isn't your fault," I say. Her eyes meet mine, and I want nothing else than to take away the emptiness I see there. But I know I can't, and it makes me feel helpless. She's slipping away, and I have to hold on. I can't lose her, too.

"I should have seen it," she answers, "I should have stopped it."

Stopped it. Her words keep repeating themselves in my mind. How many times during this last week have I told myself the same thing?

My son is dead, and I keep telling myself I should have stopped it, that I could have prevented it, if only I had spent more time with him, if only I had tried harder, If only … But sometimes I'm too much like my own father. I made mistakes with Alex, I know, but we got past it, and I always loved him. He knew that - I have to believe that. I need to.

I miss him so much.

I'm trying to escape

The memorial service was beautiful. They were all here, all our friends and family. I smile briefly as I greet a couple of Alexander's friends and thank them for coming. They tell me how much they appreciated him, and how shocked they are, and I'm grateful that I'm not the only one who didn't know how much pain he was in. It makes it just a little easier.

Will is over there saying goodbye to everyone, and I see the flicker of a smile on his lips as he looks up at me. Then he looks down again, and I hear the echo of his silent scream in my mind. I steel myself. He gives me an apologetic look, and I want to scream, too.

~ It will be over soon. ~

I know he's trying to reassure me, but I also know that he doesn't believe it, either. It may get easier with time, but it will never be over. I walk back into the chapel. It's cold in here, and my heart stops when I look at him. He seems so peaceful, and I hope he is.

"Deanna." I hear my mother's voice and turn to her. I haven't cried today, but seeing her puts an end to that, and she pulls me into her embrace. My mother is usually larger than life, and I don't always agree with her. But she is my mother, and I need her now. She knows that.

"I can't go back."

"You don't have to," she says, "not yet. Take time to say goodbye, Little One."

"But …"

"I will take care of everything, Deanna."

Suddenly Will is here. I didn't even hear him come in. He looks awful. The fact that I can sense his pain just makes it worse, and he must have realized it, because now he's attempting to block me.

"Will …" I say, but he just smiles.

"I know," he nods, his eyes traveling. He's avoiding looking at me. "Everyone is … they've all left."

"Will, you don't have to do this alone. You don't have to do it now. It can wait."

"No. No, it can't."

He's distant, withdrawn. "Stay," he whispers, and then he's gone. I stand frozen, whishing I could escape this nightmare, and wonder if this was how Alex felt? Did he feel trapped this way?

I'm down to one last breath

I told her I would take of it, and I thought I could. I can. But it's so final, and when I step through the door to my son's room, I sud-denly can't breathe. It's not true. It can't be true. He's going to walk through that door any minute now, flash me a grin and tell me it was all a nightmare.

How I wish he would.

I feel like I'm trespassing, violating his privacy. He treasured his privacy. I swallow hard. How could I not have known? How could I? I sigh as put his things away in boxes. It hurts too much. All the "what if's" and "could have been's" are swirling around in my head, and I stop to look around the room again.

There were no note, no letter - nothing, and a part of me wants to find something in here, some clue to why he chose to end his life so suddenly, so soon. Another part of me is actually afraid to find anything, but when I reach out for one of his PADDS to put it away, there it is. The clue I was half-hoping I wouldn't find.

I thought I found the road to somewhere
Somewhere in His grace
I cried out heaven save me
But I'm down to one last breath
And with it let me say
Hold me now
I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinking
That maybe six feet
Ain't so far down

I can't move, and I drop the PADD to the floor. I broke down in tears when we found him here. Poison. It was poison, and he was so pale. He's eyes were closed, and he was lying on one side. At first I thought he was sleeping. When he was a child he always slept in that position. I breathe deeply. He was still a child. My child. My son. I try to stop the tears. But I can't, and what does it matter, anyway?

Nothing matters anymore. I let him down, and I'm pretty sure that I'll let down his mother, too. Eventually. I can never take away her pain, and I wonder if the love we share will be enough for us to move on from here. Are we strong enough? I think so, but I'm not sure that I am.

I'm holding on to all I think is safe

When I get back to the house, Will isn't there, and I stand in the doorway to Alex's room for a long time. It's almost empty already, and I can't blame him for needing to get out of here. I just wish he wasn't still blocking his emotions from me. It isn't fair. I can't help who I am.

I find him on the beach. He has a faraway look in his eyes when he turns to me. I don't know what to say. He isn't a patient, and I'm not a Counselor. Right now we're parents. Nothing more. Nothing less.

"He's really gone."

It is as if he is trying to convince himself. I know the feeling.

"Yes." I sit down next to him and reach out to touch. He lets me, but he doesn't move. He isn't really here. He's with Alex, wherever that may be, and I wish I could join them. But I can't, and I hold on to Will. We can do this. Somehow we will do this. We will live on.

I still believe there's something left for me
So please come stay with me
'Cause I still believe there's something left for you and me

She's touching me, mentally pulling me back from the void, and I know I have to let go. I have to go on. I look at her, and I know I will miss him for the rest of my life. But she is here. Deanna is still here, and she doesn't blame me. I can see it in her eyes. There is pain there, so much pain, but the love is still there, too. I'm not sure I deserve it, but it's there, nevertheless.

"Can we do this?" The question hangs there for a long time, floating around. But finally she smiles a little. Just a little, but it's enough.

"We have to," she says, and I nod. Suddenly the vulnerability is back in her eyes and voice, and this time I'm the one reaching out to her. None of us speaks, there are no words to say right now, and as silence settles between us once again I can hear her breathe.

It may be single most wonderful sound I will ever hear in my life, and I will not let her down.

I can't let her down.