Summary: "Yeah, you had a lot of close calls. I was getting pretty worried. I really didn't want to take you."
Authors' Notes: Last chapter! This is the one I was most excited to write. Honestly, if I could think of a workable way to keep this story going, I would. I've had more fun with it than anything else I've ever written.
Disclaimer: Don't own, didn't happen.
Chapter 5: Living
Bob has, unsurprisingly, grown to hate doctors' offices. Right now, he is busy hating the way doctors make him wait in the office before coming in and getting the checkup over with. He is about two more minutes of boredom away from counting the little holes in the ceiling tiles when the door creaks open.
The person who enters is not the doctor. It is a petite, casually dressed woman who looks more than a little bit like Siouxsie Sioux. At the sight of her, Bob's eyes widen and he is speechless with fright for a moment before managing to sputter out, "Holy shit--you're--"
"You remember me, huh?" She gives him a friendly smile. "Long time no see, Bobby."
He wants to say that nobody calls him Bobby, but somehow it doesn't seem right to contradict Death.
"Am I...." He tries to think of the right way to word his question. "Is it for real this time?"
"No, your time hasn't come yet. This is just...let's call it a routine checkup." Bob laughs, more out of giddy relief than anything else. Death continues, "When was it that you figured out who I was?"
"In the hospital, you always seemed to appear just before I blacked out, and I was the only one who could see you. And you were always gone by the time I woke up. I think I worked it out after about the third time that happened."
"Yeah, you had a lot of close calls. I was getting pretty worried. I really didn't want to take you."
"How come you didn't?"
"Some might say it was the miracle of modern medicine, but personally, I think it was all you."
"Me? What did I do?"
"Fought me off. Held onto life with every bit of strength you had. I think you're more of a fighter than anyone I've ever met. Which is why it just about broke my heart to see you lying in that hospital bed...."
...weak and helpless, tubes stuck in places where no tubes were ever meant to be, needles in your fucking face, no company but the steady stream of doctors who relentlessly poked and prodded with clinical disinterest, who gave you the feeling that if you died, they'd care less about the loss of human life than the blemish on their professional records....
"I was scared," Bob says quietly. He doesn't like admitting this sort of thing to anyone--except for Death, oddly enough.
"Who wouldn't be? That's what makes you all the more brave. Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's the ability to work past it. And I think it's your duty, as someone endowed with such strength, to...sort of give it away. You know what I mean?"
"Help Gerard keep his addictions at bay. Help Mikey hold onto sanity. Help Ray live in the present and not worry about the future. Help Frank deal with his fears. Hell, just try to keep the five of you together."
"I try," Bob replies. "But it's a little too much to handle sometimes, bearing the burden of four other people's problems along with my own."
Death places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to carry them all on your shoulders, okay? Just lend them a hand once in a while." She leans in, kisses him softly on the cheek, and is gone.
"I will," Bob says to the empty room. "I will."