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When all that's left is pain

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Everything seemed to happen all at once. The move to get away from the misery, the oncologist telling her the cancer was back, meeting Gary, meeting the rest of his friends, getting sucked into their world. They had already lost so much and Maggie knew she had to draw back, had to think and stop before she subjected any of them to more pain.

How do you tell someone who has just lost their friend that you are dying? Again?

She needed a clear head, needed to get out. She closed up her apartment and started driving, having no idea where she was going but trusting her gut would take her where she needed to be. She ended up at the cemetery, because of course she did. She got out and took a deep breath, feeling her own dying body pressing down on her thoughts, as if it recognized that it would soon be laid to rest.

She wanted to shake off the morbid thoughts, wanted to deny what was happening and pretend nothing was wrong, but she'd been a therapist for long enough to know that way lay only more pain. So she forced her feet to walk the steps from the car to the opening gates, and through the gates, and passed the graves that were there as reminders to the living that the people lying underneath them had existed, once upon a time.

Some of those survivors seemed to need those physical reminders more than others; she found some graves with fresh flowers, even for someone who had been dead for over five years and she felt a tug of despair at her heart. She didn't want to do that to anyone, make them grieve her in a way they would never get over. Again she determined to stay away from Gary, now it was still possible to safeguard him against the inevitable hurt.

There was a funeral going on and she knelt down at a random, unattended grave. She felt tears coming on and she allowed them a way out; if there was ever a place to cry where no one would bother you with inane questions as to why, it was a cemetery. She could vaguely hear the priest committing the body to the ground, could hear the tearful snuffles of the mourners, the confused wail of a baby (at least she wouldn't have that at her own funeral, no children to leave behind to fend for themselves; if she played it right, no one really to leave behind at all aside from her parents, which was bad enough in itself. They had already lost a child, did the universe really hate them this much?).

Maggie stayed there long after the funeral had ended and the last mourners had left for the coffee table, holding on to each other to deal with the pain. She knew she had to find her own support system, but she didn't know how to do that without exposing them to the hurt of losing her. That was what the support group had been for, to have a place to talk where people expected you to die, and where people were too busy with their own illness and recovery to really get invested in someone else's.

But of course, then she had met Gary and everything had changed.

She still didn't want to fight this. She had made up her mind before moving to Boston, well aware that if her breast cancer returned this quickly, it meant her prognosis wasn't great. She could still survive, of course, but chances were quite high she wouldn't. And she had hated every minute of treatment, how the chemo had turned her into a wreck, how she had had no energy left to enjoy even the littlest things in life. That's not how she wanted to live her last year. She'd hold her head high and hold her body together for as long as she could, and she would live.

There was no way anyone would let her do that if they knew. Not this group, who rallied around each other like a pack of wolves, who propped each other up when they were feeling down. They would see this as another way of suicide, as someone else willingly stepping out, and they wouldn't be able to see the nuances, not now. Maybe not ever, but definitely not now, not this close to John.

That left her with nobody. With a wall she couldn't breach between her and the rest of the world. That was the part that hurt the most, more than the fact that she was dying again, more than the fact that she'd leave her parents with no children.

"Ma'am?" A guard hovered uncertainly nearby, as if scared her tears would somehow come alive and attack them. "The cemetery is closing."

"Oh, okay." Maggie stumbled as she tried to get up, her legs stiff and uncooperative after almost an entire day of sitting on the grass. She only now noticed how cold she was, and she shivered as she made her way back to her car. It took a few tries for it to start, but eventually she made her way home and parked her car, staring blankly at the apartment building in which she had taken up temporary residence.

It took a moment for it to register that someone was sitting on the building's steps, and she let her head fall against the steering wheel when she recognized Gary.

Having sex with him had seemed so harmless, just another way to remind her body it was still alive. How could she have known it would turn into this? Surely she wasn't the first person from the support group he had slept with, that had been part of the appeal. And then she was dragged to a funeral, and her carefully constructed narrative fell apart.

She couldn't face him today, not with all her emotions so close to the surface. He would read the truth from the tear tracks on her face or the hiccup in her voice, and would badger her until she gave in to treatment. No matter how much she needed a hug right now, someone to cling to, Gary would not be able to be that for her.

She started the car again, and left her street behind.

Surely she could find someone who wouldn't ask questions.