Friday, January 6, 2017

End of an Era - Part 1 - Death and the Lady

Kaitlin Reinhardt steps off of the ferry at Alexandra with a single suitcase in her hand. She walks quite casually up the main street, occasionally sighing, but moving on at a steady clip. It is a lovely little town that she's always liked. Heinrich never got to see it, she realizes and she stops a the top of the first city incline to take a deep breath.

As she walks she takes in the town. It is a beautiful morning and morning is her favorite time of the day. So quiet and peaceful. She doesn't stop much, except to adjust her suitcase ad at long last turns onto Third Street, going two houses down. The house looks exactly like the pictures Colleen and Fiona sent her and she smiles as she climbs the steps. On a Saturday morning, the house may even still be quiet. She remembers her boys as teens and ... it usually was. Everyone sleeping in.

Taking a deep breath and planting an Irish smile on her face, she knocks on the door.

John had woken early and was savouring the rare quiet. He had kissed Colleen gently and left her to sleep and then used the bathroom and padded down the stairs in his bare feet. He had thrown on sweat shorts and an old grey t shirt with the 10 alarm chill logo on it. He'd won the shirt years ago in a town raffle. John put on a pot of coffee and puttered, trying to still set up their neglected from the move home office area. It was a boring project and he found himself procrastinating again as he started looking through old pictures instead of sorting them. He was about to pile them and there was a knock at the door. He left things back in a heap and went to answer. John looked down at his tiny mom and grinned. She was on her own to pop in which was always better "Mom." He said in an exhale and leaned down to hug and kiss her " I would have picked you up at the ferry."

Kaitlin sees her son and takes in a deep breath to collect herself. She puts her arms around him when he bends to hug her and suddenly she does not want to let him go. "I needed to walk. It's good for me." she declares. After much longer than usual, she lets him go and walks in, working to take her boots off and completely forgetting her suitcase on the porch. "Oh! I smell coffee." she bustles into the kitchen and grabs a cloth, beginning to busily clean what doesn't need to be cleaned.

John looks confused but brings her suitcase in, just noticing it as she walks away from it. He sets it in the hall and follows her "Mom? Are you Ok? Stop cleaning... let's have a coffee..." He hasn't seen this before and looks a little concerned. She's also in all black. Maybe one of her beloved cousins in Ireland died... or she's gone off her rails...

Colleen Reinhardt had rolled over into John's spot and found him up and gone, followed a knock at the door. She stretches and gets out of bed, uses the bathroom and heads down to see how John handled the Jehovah's Witnesses that dared to come so early only to find her mother-in-law cleaning her kitchen. "Kaitlin?" she watches her from the foot of the stairs, her eyes flitting to John.

Kaitlin looks around the kitchen. "Where is my stool? I can't reach the cups without the stool." she then opens the dishwasher. "Oh good, there cups in there." but she closes the dishwasher and looks at Colleen. "Hello Colleen. Oh you look so pretty. Did you forget to empty the dishwasher before you went to bed?" she asks and sort of titters before she turns, looking around the kitchen and, taking her newly claimed cloth foes to the island stove and begins to wash it. "These are so hard to clean, you know."

John looks helplessly at Colleen like he's totally confused by this and finally just walks to his mother and gently holds her by the shoulders "Mom?" He's searching her face. He notices a strand of grey hair that's new and looks back to her eyes "What's going on?"

Colleen moves into the kitchen and gets the coffee cups out of the dishwasher and pours three cups, bring them to the dining room table and setting them down, then coming back for the cream and sugar and the like. Then she moves and leans on the refrigerator, watching her.

Kaitlin stops cleaning the stove when John takes her shoulders. "I had to clean the house, John. The SPECIAL cleaning." she nods and swallows hard. "I'm selling it." she announces and then looks at Colleen. "Oh, you made coffee. Your so sweet, Colleen." she all but tears herself away from John and moves into the dining room and begins to make the coffee to everyone's liking because she remembers those sorts of things. "Oh the kids have so scuffed up this table." she sounds wistful.

John follows his mother with wide eyes "You're selling the house? Did you finally kick Dad out?!" 

Colleen turns and listens as Kaitlin fixes their coffee and talks about cleaning. She doesn't glare at John ... leaving his fathers was both of her sons dream for her. She takes a step into the dining room. "Kaitlin..." she begins. "You weren't due back from Hawaii for another week." she reminds her mother-in-law. Where is Heinrich?" not that is was surprising that she'd showed up without him. That was an unspoken rule.

Kaitlin's head snaps up, not at John asking if she had thrown out his father, but at Colleen's mentioning his name. "Germany." she replies, simply. she looks into the cups of coffee. "Hawaii was wonderful. But .. on Tuesday, Heinrich got into an argument with some people about that wretched Putin man. Heinrich admires him .. and that Trump fellow." she sighs and picks up her coffee and sips it. "Well, I thought things would come to blows. They always do, you know. But ... well...." her hands begin to shake. "He turned all red ... and ... he ... " she blinks and sets her coffee down. "He told me, if he ..." she seems to skip a word. "I was to have him cremated and sent back to Germany." she takes a deep breath. "I ... did what Heinrich wanted. I always do." she looks as if she is fighting tears .. which she is.

John hears the words as he's standing beside his mother. The breath leaves him entirely as if no air was ever in his body before. He sways in his spot, literally reeling from the shock. Eventually he gasps for air like he's come up from being underwater and then looks at his mother like he's seeing her truly for the first time in years. The filter of working around his father's rage and abuse is lifting. It's a freedom he can almost see around her, around both of them. It's beautiful but suddenly so painful. There's layers to it, anger for waiting this long, guilt for feeling so grateful a man he should love is dead, and frustration about living a lie for most of his life. He reels again, it washes over him like rain, pelting into his being. He reaches a hand slowly to his mother, knowing her pain, knowing her joy and confusion and lets out a loud unexpected sob, pulling her too him and holding on tight. The sobbing continues from a deep place in him he didn't even know existed. He's shaking, fighting for breath and crying like she probably hadn't seen since he was a very small child and Colleen has never seen at all or imagined. They are free.

Colleen stands in shock as it hits her. Heinrich is dead? She almost wants to confirm it, but Kaitlin DID use the word, cremated. Reeling, she stands beside them as John pulls his mother to him. Words fail her. She is torn between many emotions. And watching her husband react ... is very telling.

Kaitlin holds her son and begins to cry a bit herself. Then she pulls herself together, allowing herself to cry a little, but giving the bulk to John. "I know how you feel." her voice is like a guilty whimper. "I really do."

John's sobs were quite loud, at the start and even as he calmed a bit into muted hysterics, just hanging onto the small woman who carried him and raised him. The noise woke Fiona with a start. She could tell it was crying but she couldn't figure out who or where. She ran to her parent's room but it was empty. With a look of alarm she burst into her younger brother's room "Owen......Shay...." going to the bottom bunk and then climbing on it to look at Owen on the top. Owen stirred as she stood on the bed and moved it and looked at her. He could sleep through any sound but shaking him always woke him. Neither of them looked hurt. Worried she walked to Logan's door from the hallway and knocked "Logan? Are you hurt?" She thought someone was having some kind of medical emergency.

Shay wakes with a start. "Wha?" but his sister is gone. He considers going after her, but he was up late and fall back down onto his pillow.

Logan was already awake and trying to decide what the hell was going on when Fiona knocked on his door. "Kurt. Wake up." he shook him once then sat up, reaching for the pair of sweat pants he kept beside his bed for just such a time. Fiona wouldn't know for no reason ... and asking if he's alright? He goes to the door and pokes his head out, his hair a sleepy mess. First he looks at Fiona and then lifts his head. "Is that ... Dad?" he sounds confused. His father crying was not a sound he was familiar with.

Kurt wakes confusedly, mumbling in German and pulls on the sweat pants on his side of the bed. He stumbles to the door behind Logan, tiredly putting a hand on his back. Something seemed amiss. Logan never used this door as far as he knew.

Fiona looks at Logan and then down the stairs in complete terror. She had never heard her dad cry either. The first thought that came to mind was her mother. Something terrible had happened to Mom......Fiona gasped into a sob and tore down the stairs envisioning their mother lying dead on the floor and their father crying over her.

Owen had blinked as Fiona left but then heard her waking and talking to Logan. He now heard the crying too and then his sister's terror. He leaped down from the bunk and reached to shake his brother "Shay...something is wrong! Get up!" He practically yanked him from the bed.

John's sobs had just begun to quiet when he looked up from his mother and Colleen near them and saw Fiona running to them looking so very frightened. She stopped short seeing both her parents alive and well and closed her eyes, catching her breath, her hand over her heart. She blinked a few times and then stared at her grandmother and slowly exhaled as she figured it out "It's Grandpa....isn't it?"

Logan heads down, reaching behind himself for Kurt's hand. He sees his father, mother and grandmother. It seems as if Fiona might be right and he sighs.

Seamus gets up the second time, hearing that something is wrong. He gets up and heads down. "Coming ...." he murmurs.

Kaitlin holds her son in a way she hasn't since he was a very young boy and lets him cry. She doesn't see the others come down, but hears Fiona's voice and simply continues to stroke John's hair. "Colleen, can you call Michael? Please?" she didn't even own a cellphone.

Colleen sighs, hearing her children come down. She turns and moves to Fiona, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Yes, Fiona. It is. He died on Tuesday." there just didnt seem to be a gentle way to present death. "I have to get my phone. Call your uncle." she goes upstairs to get her phone, thinks better of it and gets John's phone instead, then comes downstairs and moves to sit beside John, setting the phone on the table a moment, delaying calling Michael until she can put an arm around her husband.

Kurt is still holding Logan's hand when they get the news. He stands slightly behind him but squeezes the hand, offering support. He hasn't heard Logan speak a lot about his father's father but assumes this will be very hard for them all, especially seeing how emotional John is.

Fiona just looks stunned and nods. She watches her father and grandmother and puts her hand on top of her mother's as she confirms it. She doesn't cry, she just breathes, digesting the news slowly.

Owen skids to a stop just behind Logan and Kurt but then steps around the two of them as he hears his mother confirm their grandfather has died. He knows how much his paternal grandfather hurt their dad and just frowns, watching his father hurt even more, not knowing what to say. He was really close to his Murphy grandparents but felt a little distant from both his Reinhardt grandparents because of how his grandpa was.

John lets go of his mother with one arm as Colleen comes back with her phone and puts his other arm around her. He sniffs and then asks "Do you want me to?" Meaning call Micheal.

Logan swallows hard. None of them were close to the Reinhardt grandparents. He remembered as a child that, when they DID see their grandmother, she had seemed happy enough, but that was when she was not with her husband. His grandfather he remembers as unsmiling, cold with a deep voice that had sounded evil to him. Around him, his grandmother seemed always to walk on eggshells and visits were usually short, because it was never long before his grandfather would go on some anti-something tangent.

Seamus bites his lip, unsure what to do. He remembers his grandfather as a cruel man. Why his father is crying is a mystery to him.

Kaitlin nods. "I .. I can't .. John. I can't. They .. were so ..." she knows she is understating. "Strained."

Colleen nods and slides the phone closer. Strained was a severe understatement. Michael hated his father with an incredible passion. If John's reaction was crying ... what would Michael's be?

John inhales deeply and takes the phone, wiping at his face. He kisses his mother's forehead and then Colleen on the lips and steps away looking like he's psyching himself up for the call. He pulls out a dining room chair, flips it the wrong way around and sits down on it backwards. He finds Michael's contact info and presses to call, closing his eyes as it starts to ring.

Michael is lounging in bed, Stephanie beside him. He is mostly awake, but not moving. It is so warm under the covers, he thinks he could stay there all day, even though he knows he has to work in the afternoon. But it is far from afternoon. He and Stephanie are absolutely alone at his apartment, the only other living being is April, his cat. The phone in his jeans rings and he reaches out of the warmth long enough to grab his pants and fish his phone out. He looks at the caller ID long enough to see it is his brother. "Hey John. What's up?" his voice is only slightly confused, as his brother isn't much for phone calls without reason.

John leans into his hand, elbow on the table, pinching the bridge of his nose "Dad's gone." is all he says. There's not point in a long explanation. He has no clue how Micheal will take it.

Stephanie is mostly asleep beside Micheal but the sound of his voice talking after the phone is drawing her from her slumber, she rolls and slides a hand to Micheal's arm, stretching her fingers on it.

Michael blinks at the two words. About 80% of him knows exactly what it means, but for the first five seconds he is quiet. Then he barks a laugh. He feels Stephanie touch him and another laugh comes from him. "Gone as in .. dead?" and, inanely, another laugh bubbles from him.

John holds the phone out from him and looks at it after the question and second laugh. The first one could be heard through it. He looks around at the family watching him awkwardly and clears his throat "Yes, dead. Mom's sent the remains to Germany for cremation already. He died on Tuesday in Hawaii."

Stephanie's eyes open at the bark of a laugh and then she sits up as Micheal says gone as in dead and laughs again. She pulls the sheet up over her upper body and wraps it slightly around her to hold in the warmth but looks totally confused. Who has died in a way that's making him laugh? How is this funny?

Michael is quiet a moment. "Good." he almost growls, but then his voice softens. "How IS Mom?" it is then that emotion enters his voice. "Is she .... relieved? Shattered?" at last his voice cracks. "Sad?" he isn't sure what to think.

Stephanie's eyes widen and she quietly gasps figuring out who it is. She slides an arm around Micheal's back and gently rubs it and leans her head down to lightly kiss his shoulder and then lean into it with the side of her face.

John looks up at their mother as Micheal asks and he nods saying "All of those and us Mikey. She's you want to talk to her?"

Michael considers the question, feeling Stephanie on his back and putting his arm around her. "I .." he clears his throat ... twice. "Yea ... you probably can't figure out the goddamned speaker phone." he sniffs and clears his throat again.

John laughs now "Nope. Hang on...let me pull set her up here." He stands and pulls out a chair for his mother and then holds out the phone to her with a kind look on his face.

Stephanie just stays close for whatever Micheal might need to do.

Kaitlin takes the phone. "Michael." her voice is shaky and cracking.

Michael closes his eyes and the tears begin to fall. His thumb turns the volume up without meaning to, so Stephanie would be able to hear. "I'm sorry, Mom." he cries. "I'm ... I'm really trying to be sad. Really I am."

Kaitlin sniffs. "He wasn't very good to you boys." she manages. "It wasn't your fault. Maybe it was mine, but ... that doesn't matter now. I ... I don't know what to do, boys."

Michael pulls the hone away from his ear a bit as the volume is up, but doesn't bother to turn it down. "It was HIS fault, Mom!" he growls and sniffs again. He sighs. "I ... we'll figure it out, Mom. I love you, okay. Give me back to John, please." he drops his head in his hand and then leans it towards Stephanie, more tears escaping.

Stephanie wraps both arms around Micheal and squeezes him tightly, just letting him lean into her. She hears it all of course and feels for the man she loves.

John had sat back down and reached to take his mother's free hand when she was struggling to talk to Micheal. He takes the phone back from her when she offers it back. His head had been shaking and his eyes filling up again as his mother spoke like he was disagreeing with her silently. When the phone is back on his face he croaks out "I should have protected you...both of you...I'm so sorry....."

Kurt looks down as the conversation goes this way. He had no idea. This family would need many of his hugs. It also dawns on him he's shirtless in front of his beloved's relatives right now, not the time for hugging them.

Fiona swallows as she hears her grandmother and then her Dad, silent rears running down her face. She had just been listening. Uncle Mikey's laughing almost made her do it too but she had forced herself not to.

Owen sighs heavily and quietly walks to the hallway grabbing a box of tissue from the table by the front door and setting it on the dining room table before stepping back. He hears his Dad apologize to Uncle Mikey for stuff that was way harder than the stupid stuff he and Shay have been scrapping over and fights a lump rising in his throat.

Logan releases Kurt's hand and puts the whole arm around him, pulling him close. Some welcome to the family.

Seamus hears his uncle and his father and swallows hard. He had no idea what to so. What to say.

Colleen hugs John, swallowing hard, a tear daring to escape. She can only shake her head at all of it.

Michael sighs deeply and then snorts. "You did all you could do, John." he tells his brother. "Me and mom made it out alive. That's what matters." he sighs. "Listen ... I know you have a houseful. Mom can come here, if she wants. I have an extra bedroom. And a cat." he offers.

Kaitlin looks around, as if she just noticed her grandchildren. She stands and sniffs. It takes a few seconds for her to move, but she heads into the kitchen. "I'll make breakfast." she announces. She pauses and stops, looking past Fiona at Logan with his arm around a man she doesn't know. "You are with Logan." she says to him. Her voice is slightly confused, but not judgmental. And it isn't a question. It's a statement. She can't deny her own eyes. "Well thank God Heinrich can't drive you off." and she moves to the refrigerator, opens it and stands staring into it.

Kurt wraps his arms around Logan's waist. What a sad day for this family, sad and with demons so hard to face. He looks down at the small older woman and smiles sadly at her, nodding at her words and then leaning his head on Logan's shoulder.

Owen looks ancy, finding it hard to just stand there. As their Grandmother moves he starts walking around too, wavering between going to help her and just wandering away for a second. He walks by Shay while he's thinking about it and gives him one soft pat on the back. He wants to hug him or say sorry but that's all he's able to do for now.

John puts his free arm around his wife, still talking to Micheal "I'll tell her.....I love you Mikey." He says clearly. He's cried out for now and coming back to himself.

Fiona walks to the kleenex box and pulls one out and then blows her nose. She looks at her two younger brothers and smiles as she crumples it up. She has been watching Owen's struggle. Fiona walks right up to Seamus and hugs him, beckoning Owen who's lightly pacing the living room to come over. When he does, she pulls him into the hug too, sandwiching Seamus a little bit but not unkindly.

Logan blinks at his grandmother and then smiles. She'd figured it out. The one he would have thought would have been in the most pieces, she seems to be on the ball. He hugs Kurt and then moves over to the sibling circle, wrapping them in his embrace as best he cen.

Seamus in in the middle and doesn't mind it, for a change. He whispers. "What do we DO, guys?" he asks, because he has no clue at all.

Colleen looks up from comforting John when Kaitlin speaks. Then her eyes move to Kurt, who she hadn't even known was there. She pats John on the back and stands, heading for the kitchen. "Can you help us with breakfast, Kurt?" she asks him. He'd be the most unaffected by all of this. Moving to the fridge, she looks over Kaitlin's shoulder. "How about something simple, Kaitlin?" she offers and pulls out a carton of eggs, glad she's done some grocery shopping for their brood only the day before.

Kaitlin is glad Colleen came to her. "I'd rather make the most complicated breakfast known to man." she murmurs. "Keep my mind busy."

Michael clears his throat again. "Listen, man." he tells John. "I can be there tonight, if you want. Earlier. I have to tell the Chief. Then we can talk to mom together. I don't know what she wants. To be smothered in grandchildren or catsit."

Kurt hugs Logan back and then lets him go to his brothers and sister. When colleen speaks he looks relieved to have something to help with and then looks down at his bare chest self consciously "Yes...I'll be right back to help." He dashes back up the stairs and gets himself fully dressed after quickly using the bathroom. He comes back in a t shirt with a German flag on it and a pair of dark blue jeans on as well as a simple pair of black socks. With a sigh he moves to the small woman "I am so sorry for your loss Mrs. Reinhardt." He holds out his arms offering a hug but more awkwardly than usual. Kurt was way more comfortable with happy hugging than sad, but this was not about him.

Owen gives Shay a little squeeze with the arm that's around his ribs "This. We do this..."He leans his head back as Logan joins then onto one of his shoulders.

Fiona nods "Yep...until Dad's off the phone. Then we might need to do THIS...over there...."

John nods "I dunno either. But I wouldn't mind having you talk to that chief of yours. Bring Steph if she can come too, Tristan even. I know he's got school though..."

Stephanie stays right where she is, holding Micheal until he's off the phone.

Logan nods and begins a comic shuffle into the dining room, trying to keep the hug going while he moves them all.

Seamus sighs. "That seems like so much ... nothing." he may be forced to move.

Colleen cracks the eggs into a bowl and hands Kaitlin a whisk. The older woman begins to scramble.

Michael blows out a breath. "Yea. I'll call in and figure out what's going to happen. I'll be there this afternoon." he blows out a breath. "See you then, John." there's nothing to do now but cut the connection and turn to Stephanie. "Um ... yea ... my ... um ... yea ... Dad's dead...."

Stephanie runs her fingers through Micheal's hair and then pulls his head to her shoulder, hugging him tighter "I know."

While Kurt is gone, Kaitlin looks around at her family. She has brought them pain, but she didn't know where else to go. And it was surely an awkward death for her boys. It certainly was for her. Upon Kurt's return, she offers him a smile and does indeed take his proffered hug. "Thank you, dear. But it's for the best." she looks up at him. "DO you have a name, dear?" she asks, sweetly. "I can't call you 'Logan's boyfriend', now can I?"

Colleen looks over at them and smiles. Part of her is very glad it was Heinrich and not Kaitlin who had died and feels a slight measure of guilt. Considering Heinrich's personality ... it is very slight.

Kurt is simply delighted by this little lady granny of his love's "Well I'd happily answer to that too but my name is Kurt. Kurt Zimmerman. He lets her go and steps back, almost looking like he wants to pat her on the head or tie a ribbon on her "What can I help with for this food?" He looks around, smiling at Colleen too.

John looks suddenly tired when he clicks off and sets down the phone. He doesn't see his children moving towards him and presses at the bridge of his nose again, closing his eyes. It's a lot to process. He's still sitting backwards in the chair. Suddenly their many arms are around him and he start to laugh and then cry again.

Fiona reaches down to her Dad grabbing him around one arm and shoulder and leaning her head on the same shoulder. Owen was slightly behind Fiona already and hugged his Dad's back and part of Fiona's side, leaning the side of his face on his father's bald spot. Tears seem to be streaming from him suddenly and dampen the sparse hair and head he leans on.

Logan hugs with the rest, as best he can and can see Seamus doing the same. He's the oldest, so he feels he should be the one to speak for the kids. "Dad. We're sorry." he begins. "But ... we don't know how to react ... considering ... everything." he could tell by his Uncle Mikey's laugh that this was a sort of a mixed blessing.

Colleen watches Kurt with Kaitlin. "Well, you can get the plates out and set the table." she looks at her mother-in-law. "We may as well put him to work."

Kaitlin looks up at Kurt and then back towards Colleen. "Yes. Pile the plates up and the silverware and glasses, so you don't have to make so many trips." she agrees. "I bet you cook, don't you? Well not this time. And no touching the breakfast dishes either. I plan to wash them by HAND." she nods in finality. She needs to do things and, in this case, things is cleaning. Colleen kept a nice clean house so she had to improvise.

John feels the love of his children around him healing the holes in his heart from coming to terms with his own childhood, letting it go. The tyrant who had tormented him and scared him from birth to adulthood had left the world. He sniffed, hugged all of them back as best he could reach and then carefully stood up "Thank you....I love you guys. I'm the luckiest father that ever lived to have you as my kids." He properly hugged them all in turn and then said "Uncle Mikey's coming so let's all get dressed and face the day. He and Gran will need us too."

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