Brother

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Hampton eventually returned Quinn's phone call, and then somehow managed to make it to the hospital almost immediately. Quinn, Toby, and Cass were in the waiting area when Hampton stumbled off of the elevator. He looked around wildly, his expression strikingly like the one their father had worn before he slipped into a coma.

"Where's Dad? Is he really dead from a parasite that chewed through his brain?"

Quinn stared at her feet. "I'm sorry. It happened so fast."

"I'm sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry..." Hampton pounded his forehead with his fist.

Quinn pleaded, trying to grab his hands. "It was just like any other evening. There was no way you could have known. I just heard him fall... It isn't like there was an announcement that everything had just turned to shit."

"I'm such a screw-up. He watched Mom screw-up, then me, and then he just up and dies? I wasn't even there..."

Cass tried to steer Hampton to a chair, but he protested. "Do I even get to see him?"

"They moved him to the morgue." Cass said quietly, adding gently, "I'll work with you and Quinn on a memorial service. Your father would have liked for you to help with that, I'm sure."

Hampton shuddered, a sob escaping from his chest.

Cass sat down with him. "Toby can take Quinn home in your car. You don't need to drive. I'll go with you when you're ready." She held her hand out in front of him. Hampton rummaged for his keys, limply handing them over. Cass gave the keys to Toby.

"I parked on the first floor of the visitor's garage." Hampton choked without looking up.

Toby steered Quinn toward the elevator. Getting off on the ground floor, they passed through a rat's maze of corridors before exiting in the parking garage. They were silent during the drive home.

Quinn stared out of the car window, feeling like she was watching the outside world from inside of a snow globe someone had shaken. It seemed as though everything should slow to a standstill, but cars sped past and people parked and went in places, and came out of them, unaware something in the universe had crumbled.

"Toby," she said suddenly.

He held her gaze with a mixture of curiosity and concern.

"I really am a God-damn stray." She said it so matter of fact it left him at a loss for words.

When they reached her house Quinn headed straight for her room. Toby followed, sinking beside her against the softness of her bed and the hardness of life. Quinn rolled over to face him, pressing her body into his as she tentatively brushed her lips against his mouth. Toby wrapped his arm around her, nesting his hand against the arch of her lower back, the boundary between grief and yearning dissolving in the touch.

#############

Toby woke in the middle of the night to find Quinn was no longer in bed beside him. It was still dark out. He made his way to the kitchen, registering the soft glow of 5:00 AM on the microwave clock. Quinn was sitting on the back porch, her bulldog Alvin lying in a heap across her lap. Toby made two mugs of hot tea.

Looking up at him as he handed her a mug of tea she said, "Just once, I wish you'd be an asshole."

"Now?"

"No, now isn't a good time." She stared at him for a moment. "When I'm with you, I feel like there are things we don't say because we both know... But because it goes unsaid, it gets really heavy."

"Then say it."

"What?" She asked gently, searching his face.

"Whatever needs to be said".

"Nothing you don't already know." Quinn sighed.

Alvin slept, his sleep punctuated by shivers and whines that made Quinn imagine he was dreaming all of the things she couldn't put into words. She sat silently beside Toby as dawn broke in subtle shades, lighting the sky by degrees. Morning dew hung on the air, a fine moist powder of blue.

#################

It was Tuesday. Cass called around ten in the morning. Toby answered, and Cass explained Hampton would be staying at their house because he wasn't ready to return home. Cass said she'd also called the high school to inform Quinn's counselor that Dennis Moore had died. Mrs. Martinez had reassured Cass that the school's priority was helping Quinn get through the difficult days ahead.

Cass came over to Quinn's house later that afternoon and made a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with creamy tomato soup. Toby and Cass ate slowly, not saying much, while Quinn picked at her food.

When they finished, Cass cleared her voice.

"We need to make arrangements for your father today, Quinn." She said gently.

Quinn nodded, without saying anything.

"Do you remember what kind of arrangements he made for your mother?"

"I know my mother was cremated. Dad buried her ashes with an oak tree he planted in the back yard."

"Do you feel your father would've wished to be cremated?"

"Yes, he told me one time when we drove past the cemetery that he had no desire to be anybody's pet rock."

Cass said gently, "It would be nice to have a small service, especially since Hampton wasn't able to be with your father when he passed."

"Where would we hold a service, and who would come?" Quinn hesitated, "My Dad didn't get out much..."

"There's a small Unitarian church nearby. It would be a nice location to celebrate your father's life. He may have touched the lives of more people than you're aware. I met with your father's attorney this morning. Your father named you the executor of his estate in a will he drew up around the time you turned eighteen. He seemed to think it best, in light of some of Hampton's difficulties. I can make the necessary arrangements with the funeral home and church. I'd like to schedule the service for this Friday morning, if that's alright with you."

"Yes." Quinn looked at Cass with wide eyes. "Thank-you."

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