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Say Grace To The Gates We Race

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Dirt hits the coffin and the numbness behind Mac's eyes threatens to break.

It's a pretty day. There's sunshine and a cool breeze out here. Enough to take away the heat and leave everyone comfortable.

Mac just stares down at the hole in the ground that's about to welcome his youngest daughter, and tries not to cry.

Awful as it sounds, he's always been sure that Robin would be the first of his girls to leave him. HIV is still a death sentence, mob-funded wonder drugs or not. Maxie was her own set of worries and fear, but heart-transplant patients had long, good prognoses. But Georgie. No health scares there. She'd been the baby. His little girl.

He'd laugh, but there's nothing funny about where he's standing.

The crunch and shuffle of eight pairs of dress shoes on gravel are loud in his ears, and it takes everything he is, absolutely everything he has left, to keep his eyes open.

He can feel the hitch in Maxie's breathing, her arms tensing around his own as the coffin and pallbearers come slowly into view. He's disassociating, and knows it. It's in the way that he can smell the sea that much stronger. Feel the sharp points of Robin's nails buried in the back of his hands, a slight sting intensified. Felicia's sobbing is loud in his ears from where she's wrapped around her white-faced grandmother on the other side of the grave.

He watches as the minister straightens, face solemn, before opening his prayer book.

Eight pairs of shoes drift to a stop, their silence unbearable.

Finally, finally, Mac closes his eyes, images from a life and future hitting him like hail in a hurricane. College. Fights about boyfriends. Girlfriends. Christmases. Watching her walk down the aisle. Listening to her rant about how marriage is a patriarchal institution and not worth her time. Grandchildren with Felicia's eyes and Georgie's crooked smile. Her first grey hair. A million and twelve possibilities and tiny moments that will never, ever come to be.

Hearts don't break, he knows. They compress. They compact until they can't work anymore.

He knows he'll move on from this. He has to. And god, if that isn't what hurts the most.

Carefully and deliberately, he squeezes Robin and Maxie. His girls. The only ones he has left.

He breathes once, twice, three times, then opens his eyes.