"I just wish Dustil would've gotten the chance to know her."
The grass looked so dark and so green. Everyone was there, their names carved neatly in the little stone plaques in the ground. Gramps and Nana side by side, Granddad and Grandma were farther up the hill next to the uncle he'd never met. Down the hill, Tam was drunk and blubbering next to Arod. Carth was content to nuzzle his face into Morgana's shoulder while she ran a hand over her belly.
"How're you doing, baby?" she asked.
"Okay," he said. "How's that baby doing?"
She smiled. "He's great. Just fine."
"Yeah?" He gently turned her around to face him.
Morgana took a step forward, but her belly bumped into his and forced a distance between them. She laughed softly. "Yeah. But your brother's a wreck."
"He was the baby," Carth said. "He and Mom, they, well... yeah."
"She was your mom, too." She took his hands in hers. "You want to go talk to him?"
"In a little bit." Carth wished Tam hadn't chosen that week to cut all his hair off. It made it too easy to make out his brother's expression even as he tried to bury it in Arod's jacket. It was one thing to be able to hold everything together when you had your wife there holding your hand, but Carth had a feeling if he went down to his brothers, everything Tam was feeling was going to make entirely too much sense to him. He had no idea how Arod managed to be so stoic.
It wasn't like they hadn't seen it coming. Not like Dad, whose heart just gave out unexpectedly; who spent a day in the hospital braindead before Mom felt ready enough to stop the life support. She'd been sick for a long time. At first, it had seemed like a kinder death sentence. Spread out like that, she had time to give old photographs and holograms away to the proper family members and she could really spend time with the people she loved.
But as time went on, Mom's face would get grayer and more ashen. And the treatments made her lose her appetite so she wouldn't eat and regain any strength she may have lost. Near the end, Carth was sick of that hospital smell, of that asinine futility of just sitting back and watching someone die. When her hair started to fall out, Tam began to grow out his.
Tam, that poor bastard, he actually convinced himself that she was going to get better.
"She was an amazing lady," Carth said. He sure as hell wouldn't have had the strength to plan out his own funeral. He had to leave the room the one time she asked him what color fabric he thought should be on the inside of her coffin.
"Yeah, she was." Morgana gave his hand a squeeze.
He sighed. "I just wish Dustil would've gotten the chance to know her."
"He will," she said. She had that look in her gray eyes that said it was no use arguing. No use saying it wasn't the same thing.
Carth glanced over his shoulder and down the hill. "I think I'm going to go check on Tam."
Morgana nodded. "Good. Can I borrow your jacket until then?"
"Take it." He shrugged out of it and slipped it over her shoulders.
"Thanks," she said as she pulled it around herself. "This dress was a bad idea. I'm looking like a baby ronto in it."
He snorted. She was cute and fat and pregnant with his son. Their son. He wasn't sure where she got off calling herself a ronto, but he felt guilty for smiling.
Carth kissed her cheek. "I'll be right back."
"It's not- it's just not right," Tam was saying as Carth walked down. He seemed to be in danger of crushing Arod's lanky figure, but their older brother was talking it in stride. "I mean, it's like we're orphans, now."
"Maybe we should get you home? Sober you up?" Arod suggested as he shot Carth a relieved expression.
Carth forced a quick smile to his lips. "Hey. How're you holding up?"
"As well as can be expected, I suppose," Arod said.
Carth clapped a hand around Tam's shoulder. "Hey, Tam."
Tam rubbed at his face with the heels of his hands. "Hey."
"Nice day," Carth murmured. "Nice and crisp."
"Mom would- she'd want to be buried by Dad." Tam nodded like they had just decided on it. Like that wasn't what the past three days was spent arranging.
"She would," Carth agreed.
Tam looked over at him with red-ringed eyes. "I thought you would've been more upset by this."
"She's not hurting anymore," Arod said softly. "That's a good thing."
It was weird. After everything had dragged out for so long, all of a sudden it felt too fast, too soon. Carth could go through the motions, dress up nice, put on that dark jacket, trudge out into the eerie silence of the early afternoon. It felt just like any other day.
There was that feeling gnawing at the back of his mind that while everything was okay and fine today, it was because it hadn't hit him yet. That in a day or a week or even a month from now he'd find himself lying awake in bed and it would just dawn on him. He'd miss his mother and there wouldn't be a damn thing he could do about it.
Maybe Tam had the right idea about things.
"How about we, uh..." Carth cleared his throat. "There's a bar nearby, right?"
"Nips," Arod said.
"Why don't I drop Mo off at home after this and we can meet up there?" Carth said.
Tam ran a hand over his cropped hair. "I should head home."
Carth shook his head. "You should go to Nips," he said.
"I'll just get drunk and cry some more." Tam inhaled a deep breath and started to pat down his front pockets for a handkerchief.
"I know." Carth slung an arm around his brother. "That's the point."
"We'll probably make a scene," Arod said. He crossed his arms at the slight breeze.
"Better than doing it at home all by ourselves," Carth replied.
Tam nodded. "Okay."
"It's a date," Arod said. "First round's on me."
"First round," Carth snorted as he leaned close to Tam's ear and lowered his voice. "I think that's an open invitation to stiff him with the bill."
It didn't get the raucous laughter that it normally would have, but Tam smiled. Carth gave the other man's shoulder a quick pat before he headed back up the hill to his wife. It was a start.