Sidney sat in the chair in the hospital room in silence. He wasn’t sure he’d said a word since he and Tanner had gotten into the car at the rink to drive here. There were just no words to express what he was feeling and going through right now. Pain. Excruciating pain. Anger. Confusion. They summed his feelings up, but didn’t do them justice.
He also couldn’t get the look on Tanner’s face when she’d whispered the two scariest words in the world to him out of his mind. It's back. She was terrified and yet resigned to her fate at the same time. She looked like she was giving up. Even when she’d told him the first time she found out about the cancer that she was done fighting, she hadn’t looked the way she had in the underbelly of the rink today. Today she looked defeated.
He glanced over at Tanner who was sitting up in the hospital bed staring out the window. With the exception of answering the doctor’s questions, she hadn’t said a word either. She also hadn’t turned away from the window except to face the doctors and nurses who were making their way in and out of the room. Her face was a blank canvass displaying no emotion whatsoever.
The doctors had given them no hope of it being anything else but the cancer returning. Their faces had been sad and sympathetic. Even though they all knew that there was a chance for it to come back, no one had really expected it. They’d lived their lives like nothing could ever go wrong again, and he was starting to question if that had been the right thing to do. Maybe they should have been more cautious, should have gotten her checked out more.
Another doctor with the same grim look on his face, like all the others, had came into the room. Sidney moved positions to hold Tanner’s hand. She squeezed it just as hard as she was squeezing her eyes closed as the doctor performed a spinal tap. He watched as tears fell silently down her face until it was over. God, he hated watching her go through this all over again.
A little while later Sidney left the hospital to drive home. The doctors had told them they wanted to keep Tanner overnight and he was getting some stuff for her. He called Mario and asked him to take care of Lulu and Gilligan for the night. When they bounded up to him when he walked through the front door he broke down.
Sidney literally collapsed to the floor in the foyer and began to cry. He couldn’t blame Tanner for feeling defeated. He felt defeated too. The entire time at the hospital he’d been trying to stay strong for Tanner, to be there for her, but now that he was home he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He let himself go, let his emotions take over. Lulu and Gilly seemed to sense that something was terribly wrong, and they took up post next to him and nudged their heads into his chest.
He finally got control of himself and got up off the floor to pack some stuff up for Tanner. Every picture he saw of her, every item that belonged to her threatened to bring the tears back again. He splashed some cold water on his face and then carried the bag out to his car and drove back to the hospital. When he arrived he could see that there was still no news. Tanner was still sitting in the same position and staring out the window, that same blank expression on her face.
She didn’t even turn to look at him when he walked in. He put the bag down on the small couch in the room and walked over to her. Sidney placed a kiss on her forehead, letting it linger. When he moved away he saw that her expression was the same, but her jaw was clenching, like she was trying to hold herself together. It killed him.
Sidney sat back down in the seat he’d occupied all afternoon. He sat quietly and watched Tanner. It almost felt like he was afraid to look away, like if he did she’d suddenly be gone. That thought threatened to bring the tears back once again, but he fought them and won. He wasn’t going to cry in front of Tanner. She didn’t need that.
“I’m lucky.” Sidney blinked in surprise at the sound of Tanner’s voice. It had been whispered and he almost didn’t think he’d heard her, but when he saw her expression had shifted, he knew he had.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m lucky,” she repeated. He couldn’t comprehend why she was saying that. How could she possibly be saying she was lucky?
“How are you lucky?” He tried to keep his voice under control, tried not to let her hear the anger in his tone.
“Most people don’t get to truly live their dreams. They go an entire lifetime dreaming of things and never experiencing them. I’ve gotten to live mine,” she explained.
“Tanner…..” he started, but he wasn’t sure what to say. She must have heard the tone in his voice, the tone that signaled he didn’t agree, and she turned to look at him for the first time since they’d gotten here.
“No, Sidney, I have. My whole life I dreamed of working with animals. I've gotten to do that for the last two years. It exceeded any of my expectations. And I’ve had you. I didn’t dream of falling in love and getting married when I was younger, but that’s what happened. Achieving my dream would have meant nothing if I didn’t have you with me.” He didn’t like what he was hearing, what she was saying.
“You sound like you’re saying goodbye,” he managed to choke out while he struggled to keep his emotions in check. Tanner turned and looked back out the window for a moment. Silence hung in the air between them for a while before she spoke up again.
“I’m not. If there’s any chance I can get through this, I’m going to fight. I’m not ready to stop my work, and I’m not ready to stop being with you. I’m not giving up, I’m going to fight. I just need one promise from you,” she told him.
“What is it?” he asked.
“If they tell me it’s too advanced or inoperable, I don’t want treatments. If that’s the case I want to live the rest of my life doing what I want and being with the people I love. I don’t want to be in and out of the hospital. I’m asking you not to beg me to. I’m asking you to respect my wishes. I’m asking you not to be mad at me.”
Her voice broke on the last sentence and tears welled up in her eyes. His reaction mirrored hers and he immediately stood up and closed the distance between them. He wrapped his arms around her as he sat down on the bed next to her. For what felt like forever they just sat there holding each other, tears falling freely.
“I promise, Baby. I promise,” he finally whispered. He then turned her face up to his and kissed her, long and hard.
They sat like that, wrapped up in each other, as they both watched night fall over the city through the hospital room’s window. He didn’t want to think about the second option she’d brought up. It hurt too much to think about, so he silently prayed into the darkness that she’d be able to fight and win once again.
Doctors and nurses continued their trips in and out of the room to check on Tanner, bring her dinner she didn’t eat. Eventually as the night wore on Sidney realized that Tanner had fallen asleep. He continued to hold her even as he lay awake all night. He was going to hold her and be by her side as much as he could from now on.
She stirred in the morning and groaned, putting a hand to her head. It didn’t take long for her to completely bury her head in the darkness of the pillows with both hands gripping the back of her head at the headache. Sidney went out to find a doctor or nurse to see if there was anything they could give her for the pain. When he got back into the room a nurse was holding a bucket, and Tanner was throwing up.
Sidney felt so helpless standing there watching Tanner get sick and seeing her in pain. There was nothing he could do to help and it was driving him crazy. He didn’t want to see her like this, didn’t want her to be like this. It wasn’t fair. So much of her life since he’d met her hadn’t been fair.
When the nausea passed, Tanner lay back in the bed and squeezed her eyes closed against the headache that was still present. He climbed back into bed next to her after turning out the light and just held her as she buried her head in his chest. He wanted answers, wanted to know what her prognosis was, and he wanted to know now.
Less than an hour later a doctor came into the room. Sidney got out of bed and helped Tanner sit up so they could hear what he had to say. He stood next to her, holding her hand, waiting for the news. He was hopeful for the best news possible, but bracing himself for the worst.
If the news wasn’t good, he had to be strong for her. He knew she wasn’t going to fall apart, because that wasn’t Tanner, but he had to be there for her. He had to be ready to do whatever she wanted and needed from him.
The doctor spoke and Sidney remained silent as he listened. When they were told the news he felt Tanner’s hand squeeze his harder than she’d ever done before. He felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. Was this really happening?