a story by
(c) 1999, 2000 by Chris Yost and James Bruner. Chapter 1 (c) 1999 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Tabitha, Sabrina the Skunkette, and Amy the Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Cindy Lapine, Clarence Skunk, and Wendy Vixxen (c) Chris Yost. Character Mark the cheetah created for Mark White. Character Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character James Sheppard (c) James Bruner. Character Iron Raptor (c) Himself. Character Psychofrog (c) Himself. The band "et al" (c) Chris Yost All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners. Story conceived by Mark White. Based on characters and situations created by Chris Yost and Eric Schwartz.Amiga (TM) Gateway Computers.
"I appreciate the ride, thanks," Chris said, not sounding as tired as he felt. This was more exertion than he was used to in a day and it was slowly sapping his energies.
"I appreciate the lunch," Dexter said as they drove down the highway. "Wow, there's an oldie!"
Chris looked at the Ford Thunderbird with the fox and giraffe that whizzed past in the other direction. "We don't get to see each other anymore," Dexter continued.
"Well," Chris said as he recalled those events from his memory, "when you left The StrongArm Group for that other company, I was amazed we ever saw each other."
"Hey, my leaving was the best career move you ever had."
"Maybe, but then I had no one to kid around with. I had to make a new best friend. Took me forever to break him in properly."
Dexter laughed. "We were always friends. Angel would never let me forget you."
Chris leaned back in the velour seat. It was comfortably cushioned and helped ease the aches in his back. He glanced over at Dexter. "That's true. Bright woman you got there."
After an extended pause, Dexter spoke again, cautiously. "The last several years, off and on Angel thought maybe you resented her."
"Me? Resent her??" Chris said with no small amount of incredulity. "Why in the world would she ever think that?!"
Dexter made a half shrug and kept looking at the road, almost as if he were trying to avoid eye contact with Chris. "Y'know ... because I still had my wife and you didn't have yours ... you know women; she knew better, but she wondered."
Chris shook his head. "You tell Angel for me that she's the last person on this world I'd ever resent! You guys did so much for Alan and me I can never repay."
"We love you guys, what can I say?" Dexter slowed for the intersection. "What is all that you're bringing back with you, anyway?"
"Apart from the groceries, a couple changes of clothes," Chris explained, "and some older home videos and MP7's. Tabitha's been showing a pretty keen interest in family history lately, and I thought she'd enjoy seeing these."
Dexter grinned as he negotiated the turn. "Home movies, nothing like 'em," he said. "Usually you bring those out if you don't like your relatives."
Chris snorted and then laughed out loud. "Well, not in this case. Tabitha is a very special relative. She even signed release papers to get me out of the nursing home for a few days."
"So you said," Dexter reminded him. "You're getting forgetful in your old age."
Chris nodded and said "Could be. Lessee, you're sixty-uhm-three? Or sixty-four? I can't remember exactly"
Dexter spun his head to look at Chris. "Sixty-one, upstart, and I can still whoop you in a fair fight!"
It was silent in the car for a brief moment before Chris spoke again.
"I'm only fifty-nine."
"Keep it up, smart guy," Dexter warned, suppressing a grin.
Chris pointed to his steering column. "You oughta turn your left signal off now, grandpa."
Dexter scowled and automatically said, "My signal's not on," before he concentrated on the heads up readout. He saw the blinking arrow on the left side of his display and pushed the lever switch up to the center. "Darned thing is designed for young eyes," he complained. Chris said nothing and Dexter continued after a moment. "Y'know," he reminded his longtime friend, "I remember a time when you vehemently believed that people our age shouldn't be anywhere near a vehicle as anything other than a passenger."
"And I still hold to that," Chris told Dexter. "Actually, I believed that until my mid-twenties, when a 70-year-old tigress blew past me on the interstate like I was standing still. Ever since then, I revised and said after a certain age you should be retested for your license at regular intervals." He folded his arms. "Now if we could just get the farm tractors off of the road, we'd be in good shape. If they want to be there and hold the works up, then let them pay the same tax I have to pay to register my car, put a license plate on them and then they can drive any damn place they want to."
Dexter rolled his eyes toward the ceiling of the vehicle as Chris railed against his favorite pet peeve.
Tabitha locked her workstation and hung her headset on the tiny monitor hook. Badger wanted to see her. Well, he's going to have to wait, she thought.
Reaching down, Tabitha opened a drawer and removed the time data module before getting up to leave the office. She touched the upper part of the doorframe and cupped it in her left hand, holding it close to her thigh as she walked down the corridor to the Temporal Complex.
Pausing for an instant, she giggled. Someone, Harvey, from the look of the printing, had taken a paper and black marker, and made a sign that said TARDIS and placed it over the doorway. "Cute," she said, and ducked into the room.
The equipment had been shut down and everyone was back in their respective areas. Against the far wall was a small room, almost a closet. And in typical fashion, and to Tabitha's good fortune, it wasn't locked. She snuck in and put a paw on the handle "If I get caught," Tabitha warned herself, "I'm dead." She touched the upper doorframe and pushed, letting herself into the equipment room.
On a table against one wall were three modules like the one she carried. She quickly checked and found the one with the same serial number as on the one she held. Tabitha felt her stomach knot, she listened intently, then quickly turned to convince herself she was alone. Slowly she picked the legitimate module from the table, and put the one she'd brought in its place.
"Now," Tabitha told herself, "as long as no one catches me carrying this back to my office, I should be in good shape."
The next order of business was the beacons. On the shelf lay six of them; small, easily carried in the paw. Tabitha picked one up. Again she looked over her shoulder, and she was still alone. With a twist she unscrewed the cover that held the small dry cell inside, and almost tightened it back down. She set it back in as close to its original position as she could get, and picked up the second one. Within a minute she had loosened all six covers and set them all back where they belonged.
"Now for some cash," she said to herself. Tabitha picked up the module and carried it with her to the recessed panel and keyed in her passcode. When the door clicked she pushed it open with her shoulder and tapped the upper doorframe as she let herself in.
This was a room only Tabitha and Badger knew about, apart from a very select few from Corporate. Drawers sat upon shelves, each marked with the name of a country, each filled with bank notes of varying denominations and depending on the country, of different times. SmartCards weren't introduced and used worldwide until a mere nine years ago, and to go backwards in time for extended periods meant a need for the local currency. The drawers weren't arranged alphabetically either; the one for United States was to the left, just inside the door, on the center shelf, near the table with the sign-out book. Badger was a bit of a nationalist, and he made sure that those two drawers were first.
Tabitha felt her heart thumping hard in her chest. She slid the drawer open and riffled through the banded bills. "Two hundred should be a safe amount," she thought aloud. Then, "No, maybe three hundred. Never know if something might go wrong and I'm there a while longer than planned. I can't look like a vagrant, can I?" Picking through the drawer, she assembled three hundred American dollars in varying denominations, folded them neatly with their heads all facing the same direction, and slipped them deep into a side pocket of her skirt. She slid the drawer shut and filled in the sign-out book:
Tabitha Mustelidae: $50.00 U.S.
"Just to cover expenses," she grinned, and set the pen back in the same spot in which she'd found it. Cupping the module up against her again, she went to the doorway and peeked out. Seeing the coast clear, she touched the upper doorframe and pulled the door shut behind her.
The corridors to her office were eerily empty, as if she'd prearranged it. Tabitha felt her eyes open wider, her heart thumping even harder as her pace quickened until she was at her office door. She tapped the frame and went quickly inside, running now to her desk where she dropped the time module into her bottom drawer and locked it.
She wanted to drop into her chair, heave a heavy sigh, and congratulate herself on her job well done while her bodily functions returned to normal, but with Doctor Badger waiting, she had to settle for the sigh and a big smile.
"I love it when a plan comes together," Tabitha told herself with an ever-broadening smile. "God," she continued, "it's almost here! It's going to happen!! I can't believe it!"
Then, reality set in. "Right, got a meeting with Richard." Tabitha turned to her credenza and brushed her fingertip lightly over the glass covering her late sister Sabrina's smiling face.
A tear welled up in Tabitha's left eye. She smiled at Sabrina. "Tomorrow's the day, Sab. I'll see you then." She walked around her desk and with her subconscious tap, she exited her office.
"Hello Miss Tabitha."
"AAAUHHHH!!" Tabitha yelled as her tail shot up instinctively at the unexpected greeting in the dark and presumed empty hallway.
Iron Raptor leaned his head in toward her. "I'm sorry, Miss Tabitha," it said to her. "I didn't intend to startle you."
"No," Tabitha said quickly, hoping to hide the fact that her sudden reaction to IR was accented by her guilt conscience. "No, I should've been looking where I was going, it's okay."
The Iron Raptor cocked his head to one side. "Is everything all right, Miss?"
Tabitha nodded, feeling that she had to explain herself somehow. Thankfully, the nod was enough.
The mechanical beast raised an arm and extended it to Tabitha. In it was a small sealed envelope with a significant bulge. "Doctor Balzich asked me to give this to you," he said.
It was a prescription envelope. Tabitha smiled and accepted it. "Thanks, I.R."
"I did not know you were ill."
Tabitha shook her head. "I'm not. These are for - a friend."
Iron Raptor tilted his head. Tabitha again felt that nervous need to explain herself. "I had a problem with endometriosis," she started. "It's genetic, and someone I know has the same problem, but can't get, I mean afford, the medication."
"I see." The security system said before pausing. For Tabitha, it was an uncomfortable pause.
The moment was broken by a startled "Yipe!" as Harvey leaped over Iron Raptor's tail just before he tripped over it. He stopped and looked at it, then Tabitha, then the cyborg again. He waved a paw in front of the mechanical eyes. "Iron?" he asked.
Iron Raptor gave the impression of someone doing a double-take. "Harvey."
"I.R." He looked at Tabitha and raised an eyebrow.
A pause. Then a recorded mechanical voice issued from inside the security system. "Iron Raptor has performed an illegal operation and will shut down."
"What!" Tabitha yelled.
"Oh, no." Harvey covered his face with one paw.
Tabitha put the envelope in her skirt pocket next to the money already there. "Not again," she said.
"Dino O.S.," Harvey talked into his paw while shaking his head. "I said 'Dino O.S.'; not Windows28." Slowly, Harvey pulled his arm down. "Looks like I.R. is locked up again," he muttered as the mechanical dinosaur jittered in place while his servos switched on and off randomly.
"Ah nuts," Tabitha said with disgust. "I'll pay you to reboot him," she said hopefully.
"Nothing doing," Harvey replied, looking critically at the dinosaur. "Last time I did that, he almost tore my arm off."
"Well, I got an electric shock doing it," Tabitha retorted.
Barbara's door across the hall opened and she walked out. "What in the world is all the -- " She stopped short when she saw their stalled security system, then she saw Harvey and Tabitha.
Both heads turned toward Barbara.
Oh, damn, thought Barbara to herself.
She backed up, away from the three of them. "No way, no how! It really creeps me out reaching in there like that!" she said with a shudder.
"Look, he has to be rebooted," Tabitha said to them.
"There's only one way to pick the victim," Harvey said, looking first at Barbara, then to Tabitha. The two women nodded agreement.
Harvey, Tabitha and Barbara stood in a circle, leaned towards the center, and each placed one paw each behind their back.
"One, two, three, shoot!"
They all pulled out their paws at the same time. Harvey had two fingers extended, Tabitha and Barbara each had a fist.
"Okay," Harvey said, "scissors cut rock."
"No," Barbara corrected, "rock breaks scissors."
"They're really good scissors."
Tabitha shook her head. "Not that good. You're one down," she said.
Paws went behind their backs again.
"One, two, three, shoot!"
Everyone pulled out 'rock'.
"One, two, three, shoot!"
"Ha!" Harvey yelled and pointed at Tabitha. "I have scissors, you have paper!" He put two fingers together and smacked her across the wrist.
"Hey!" Tabitha yelled, jerking her paw back from the stinging slap.
"That's not right!" Barbara added.
Harvey pointed to Barbara's open paw. "You have paper too!"
Barbara yanked her paw back behind her back, and Tabitha followed suit.
"One, two, three, shoot!"
Tabitha and Harvey both put out paper, Barbara had rock.
"Two out of three!" Harvey crowed happily. "Tell you what. You reach up in there and I'll be nice and hold his tail."
"Gee," Barbara said frowning, "my heart's all a-flutter."
"You've got the better part of the deal," Harvey told her as she stepped past him and knelt to reach up behind the tail.
Tabitha thought of something. "Hey, wait a minute. I wonder... " She walked around to the stalled Iron Raptor's front and slowly lowered herself to her knees in front of him, straightening her skirt and smoothing it over her lap. She reached out below his midsection, tracing her fingers along his opening and sliding the codpiece access downward. Slipping her paws deftly within, she loosened and gently removed the raptor's glass memory tube and gingerly gripped it.
Tabitha leaned closer, inhaling a musky scent. Looking closer, she recognized the hint of fluid the thick opaque fluid from within its member. Holding it with one paw, she gently traced a finger over its eight and a half inch length, the fluid clinging to her fur as she slid up and down, around to the underside.
"You two want to get a room?" Harvey asked, from behind the dinosaur.
"Yep, I thought so," Tabitha announced. "It's not the op-system; he's got a hairline crack in his gelatin memory container."
Harvey sighed as Tabitha replaced the faulty module. "I can take care of that later." he said. "He still needs Dino O.S., I don't care what anybody says." When he saw Tabitha had closed up and backed away, he looked down at Barbara and made sure he had a good grip of the mechanical tail. "As ready as you are, lady!"
Dexter pulled up in front of the building. "Here you go," he said to Chris. "Home again, home again, jiggidy-jig."
Chris extended his right paw and clasped Dexter's. Thanks, m'friend. Wanna come up and take a look?"
Dexter shook his head. "Sorry, wish I could. Looks like a nice place, too."
"It is. Very comfortable. My sister-in-law's done very well for herself."
Chris opened the car door and fished everything out of the back. "See you next week," he said.
"Come hungry!" Dexter waited until Chris was inside the front door before he drove off.
Chris stepped off of the elevator and carried his packages to the door of Tabitha's apartment and keyed in the doorlock code. Once inside, he set the groceries on the kitchen counter and looked at the clock. "Still some time," Chris decided with a self-approving nod, and walked out to the table and zipped open his bag. From it he removed a small part of his collection of obsolete compact discs and mini-CD's and walked into the living room, his back very straight, his steps tight and metered, his tail steady, his lower lip anything but. He tried his best to remain as emotionless as possible as he picked up the remote control from Tabitha's coffee table and said "On." He touched the tiny white oval on the player that ejected an adjustable caddy, and he opened a jewel case and set the golden disc upon it. The caddy sensed the disc and slid itself back inside to identify and decode the old MP7 format. The wide screen came instantly to life and Chris fell slowly backwards onto the couch. He lifted his glasses and wiped the back of a graying paw over his eyes just as the picture came alive.
It was Christmas, year 2000; the first Christmas he and Sabrina spent together as husband and wife. Sabrina knelt by the brightly lit and decorated fir tree in her nightshirt and bathrobe, as young and as beautiful as Chris remembered her. She broke the bright red ribbon and unwrapped a box that gifted her with a new white sweater, a team of red knitted reindeer chasing each other around the circumference. She looked at the camera and said in a chastising voice "Put that thing down and come open your presents!" Chris then heard his own disembodied voice saying, "You have to try it on, first!"
Chris smiled. He watched Sabrina shed her robe with an "if I have to" look on her face. She pulled the sweater on and fished her arms through the sleeves, then flailed her arms around doing an impression of a headless person. Later, as Chris was recording her battling a slippery turkey in a roasting pan, she looked at the camera and was heard to say that someone should "confiscate that thing". As Chris watched his memories move before him, his mind rolled itself back ... back to a time in mid-January, a little over 19 years ago
The little vulpine nose peeked out over the windowsill at the large flakes of falling snow. It was going on 5:30 in the evening, no moon enhanced the night; only the nearby streetlamp from across the street lit the snow outside.
Alan turned and looked over his shoulder. "When's Mom coming home?" he asked.
"Soon, I hope." Chris handed Alan a hot chocolate and looked out the window himself for the fourth time. "Whatever possessed her to go out with the weather report as bad as it was, I'll never know." He looked at his watch, again. Alan blew on his cocoa and took a sip.
"We're not gonna have school tomorrow," he told his father. "Can I stay up tonight?"
"Alan, you already know the answer to that question," Chris reminded him.
Alan took another sip. "Play Snakes-n-Ladders with me, then?"
Chris looked outside at the snow, which looked like it was finally willing to taper off some, making him breathe a little easier. "Sure, I'll play. You run and get it." As he turned away a gust of wind kicked up, and the snowflakes fell heavier again.
For the next twenty minutes, Chris and Alan played and were nearly finishing their second game. The phone rang, and Chris' head jolted toward the clock.
He smiled at his son. "That'll be your mother," he said to reassure himself moreso than his son. He slid himself away from the coffee table and left Alan to finish the last of his hot cocoa. In the dining room, he picked up the telephone and said with a smile, "Hello?"
His smile faded. Not her. He made his voice firmer. "Yes, may I help you?"
"Mr. Foxx, this is Trooper Cormorant of the Pennsylvania State Police. Your wife, Sabrina, has been in an accident."
Oh, my God! Chris reached for the doorframe to steady himself. "Where? How?" Then, before the trooper could answer, "Where is she?"
"She's in Grove City Hospital Emergency," he was told. "She was in a collision with a tractor trailer."
Chris began to feel his world spinning. Thoughts left and his mind blanked. Words the trooper told him became a jumble in his head. Sabrina?? My Sabrina? "Is she ... uhm ... " It was the hardest thing he ever tried to say. " ... is she ... alive?"
"Yes sir, she is," he was told. "But she's in serious condition. The doctors are doing all they can "
Chris straightened his back. "Thank you for calling, officer," he told him, "I'll be right there." Still in a daze, Chris hung the phone up and took a few idle steps toward the living room, then picked up his pace and grabbed his coat and Alan's. "Alan!" he barked. Pointing his key fob toward the window he pressed the button to start his car engine.
Alan came running. Chris held his coat and slid it on him. "We have to go for a ride," he said, turning Alan around and squatting down to zip up his zipper.
"What about Mommy?" Alan asked.
Chris fought to keep his attitude high, for his son's sake. "Mommy was in an accident," he tried to explain. "We're going to the hospital to see her." Chris pulled the mittens out of the sleeves and pushed them onto Alan's little paws.
"Is she alright?"
She's in serious condition kept ringing in Chris' head. He smiled at Alan and pulled his cap out of his pocket. "Sure she is," he told him as he pulled his cap over his head and almost over his eyes. "Hey, this is your mom, big famous comic strip starlet. She's okay, you just wait and see."
Chris pulled his own coat on and grabbed his keys again. Alan led the way to the back door, Chris locked it and carried Alan across the ankle-deep snow to his running car. Once he was in Chris did a superficial job of cleaning the snow from the outside and climbed in, pulled on the four-wheel drive, and carefully pulled out onto the road, navigating a right at the corner.
Under ideal conditions, the trip should only have taken 15 or 20 minutes. Creeping along the way he was, even with the very slowly clearing snowstorm the trip took well over an hour. And the anxiety in the pit of Chris' stomach didn't help matters at all. When they were on potentially safer stretches of rode, he looked over at Alan. He was strangely quiet, not at all talkative the way he normally was. Chris smiled once and gave him a gentle nudge with his closed right paw, hoping to bring his spirits up. Alan looked up and gave him a small smile, which faded quickly as he turned to watch the passing scenery, what you could see of it. The closer they got to Grove City, the better the roads seemed. The snow had diminished here, and was plowed to either side of the road and some places hid the fronts of houses, and consequently the driveway entrances of the bemused homeowners. Chris drove around to the Emergency entrance and quickly found a place to park. He and Alan got out and Chris carried him over the slush to the sliding glass doors that let them inside.
Alan shivered when his feet met the floor. He pulled off his hat and followed his father to the leopard nurse at the check-in desk.
"Sabrina Foxx," he said. "I'm her husband."
The nurse keyed in the last name. "Through the doors, she's in Number Four." She indicated the rows of chairs beyond the doorway in the other direction. "Your son can wait in th -- Sir!"
Chris took Alan's hand and he walked him through the double doors into the Emergency Room. He looked at the numbers over the small curtained areas and found 4 up on the right. He navigated them past people and around trolleys. He saw a lion step out from the curtain of his destination and turn toward them. Seeing a father and son, he made the assumption and asked "Mister Foxx?"
Chris stopped. "Yes."
The lion extended his right paw and shook Chris'. "I'm Doctor Krank. I'm looking after Sabrina "
"How is she?" Chris asked quickly. "What happened?"
The lion looked down at Alan, and lowered his voice. "A tractor trailer lost control on the icy road," he explained. "Your wife was struck by the corner of the cab bumper broadside, pushed about 25 feet, and rolled into a drainage ditch. When the truck finally came to a stop she was lucky to have not been under it."
Chris' head began to swim again as a mental image painted itself. Trying to push it out of his head, he said "But she's going to be all right, right?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow; tilting his head to one side, he really didn't know how to answer the question. He felt a tug on his lab coat and looked down to see young Alan getting his attention. "Doctor," he asked, "is my mommy going to be alright?"
Doctor Krank smiled and ruffled Alan's hair. "We hope so, son," he told him simply. Quite frankly, he didn't know himself. Lowering his voice and addressing Chris, "I don't know how else to say it, but she's lucky to be alive." When Chris has time to catch his breath, he continued, "You can see your wife now, but I want you to be prepared for -- "
"Just let me see her," Chris said, his eyes looking past the doctor, his voice starting to waver. "Doc, you have no idea what I've been imagining for the last hour, just let me see her."
Doctor Krank nodded. "Your son will have to wait in the waiting room."
"The hell he will." Now Chris looked up, and opened his paw to take Alan's again. "This is his mother. He's coming to see her."
"I have to advise against it "
Chris took Alan in tow and made a path for Number Four. He walked up to the screen and pulled it to the side to walk in.
And there was his Sabrina Foxx, his loving and much-loved wife.
And Chris felt his heart crumble.
Sabrina lay on the bed, a sheet loosely draped over her body. Her left arm was in an inflatable splint. Dried blood stained her disheveled white hair. A ventilator tube was strapped into her mouth, the respirator forcing her chest to rise and fall to the rhythm of the machine. Two IV's ran into her right arm; one was A-negative blood, the other was what they had called a "KVO": a slow drip to keep a vein open in the event the staff needed to introduce an emergency fluid. A pulse ox on one finger measured her blood's oxygen content, a cuff around her upper arm connected to a Dyna Map and took regular readings of her blood pressure. Her broken glasses sat on the nightstand next to a plastic hospital bag containing her purse and the clothing the Emergency Room crew had to cut away from her.
The nurse by her bedside look at Chris with impatience -- how dare you bring a child in here?? When she looked again and saw the agony on Chris' face, the outright wide-eyed amazement and fear in the young kit's, her muzzle softened and she watched Chris walk slowly with Alan over to the other side of her bed.
Chris leaned over. Sabrina's head turned slowly. Behind the breathing tube, it looked as though she was trying to smile.
Chris smiled down at his wife. "Hey there, beautiful," he said to her.
Sabrina's heart monitor started beeping faster. The cheetah nurse took a look at the readout and stood to cup Sabrina's paw. "Shh-h-h " she tried to calm Sabrina, her soothing bringing her heart rate closer to where it should be where it was, however, was slightly lower.
Alan stood on his tiptoes at his mother's bedside. His mind was blank, unsure of how he was supposed to feel. He was definitely scared, of that he was certain. But his mother was hurt was it all right to feel scared for himself? He gripped his father's paw tightly, as if someone were going to yank him away from him.
Chris watched the nurse comfort Sabrina; his heart wanted to tear itself out of his chest. He bent and lifted Alan again. When he saw Sabrina Alan squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head away, then slowly turned back to look as Chris said "Look who else came to see you."
The cheetah was again running a paw over Sabrina's as the blood pressure cuff began to inflate again.
Chris stood Alan in a chair and took Sabrina's other paw. "The things some people won't do to get attention," he teased. The strap holding the breathing tube moved a bit, making Chris wonder if he got her to smile under that thing.
"Sabrina, I hate to tell you," he said, "but Alan and I are hungry, and you really have to come home and get dinner going."
It looked like Sabrina was smiling again, despite her eyes rolling upward. What may have been a laugh came out more as a muffled cough past the breathing tube. The poor nurse, never having met Chris before, didn't know whether to smile or chew him out for being so insensitive. She decided he was kidding and turned to make a note on the chart, then slipped out to allow them a few minutes of privacy.
Chris interlaced his fingers with Sabrina's. With his free paw he gently stroked her hair, carefully, as if it would break if he weren't careful. "You okay, Kitten?" he asked quietly. "I know, stupid question, but I'm really new to this."
Sabrina slowly nodded, and tried to make a noise past the tube down her throat, wanting to talk. Chris shook his head, and looked up at the equipment she was plugged into. He watched the heart monitor; watching the trace peek in time with the beeps.
"Can you get any other channels on that thing?" he asked.
"Dad?" Alan asked, "can I take my coat off?"
Chris wasn't even aware of how warm it was in the hospital until Alan had spoke. He shrugged out of his overcoat and draped both coats over the chair back. Alan turned to the bed and found the courage to walk up to it again. He stood on his tiptoes to see better. Sabrina's monitor began beeping just a bit faster. Looking down at him, she raised her paw at the wrist. Alan saw it and understood; he put his paw against hers and felt it close around his, and Sabrina managed a weak squeeze.
"Mom?" Alan said, "you're gonna be alright."
Sabrina squeezed his paw again, weaker this time. Chris watched her twist as her arm punished her for that tiny display of affection to her son. He moved in behind Alan and placed his right paw over both of theirs; with his left he ran a finger over Sabrina's cheek. Inside, he felt as though he should be more concerned, but it was only a car accident. She'll be okay. He stroked Sabrina's hair and leaned in to whisper into her ear "I love you, Sabrina."
Sabrina was intent on answering. She tried to at least make a noise that sounded like "I love you", her mouth wanted desperately to make the sounds just then her body contorted! Her heart monitor sounded like a video game as it beeped out of rhythm and the display trace jumped!
Alan froze. He stared his mother, still holding onto her, his blue eyes wide. Chris felt his own heart beating faster, his muzzle dropped open, his brain trying to make a decision on what to do. He picked up someone shouting "Number Four, crash cart!", and the next thing both foxes were pushed out of the way as white- or blue-dressed bodies surrounded the bed. One of the staff, a young skunk, yanked the sheet from Sabrina and tore her gown open while the capacitor charged in the defibrillator. With a skilled motion he quickly pulled a cordless shaver through the fur over and around the left side of Sabrina's bosom while a young lion and a wolf held her as she writhed from the severe stabbing from beneath her chest.
The whistle sounded as the large mink greased the paddles.
He pressed the paddles on the bared area of Sabrina's chest and discharged! Her upper body jumped a half foot off the bed.
Alan hugged his father's leg as tightly as he could. Chris held a reassuring paw over his head as he hid his face as much as he could, his sensitive canine hearing picking up the commotion behind him. Chris felt as helpless as anything; he stayed as far back as he could as the shout of "Clear!" came again, and again the thump as they tried to settle Sabrina's heart into its normal rhythm.
Everything from there on was a blur. No one had seen Doctor Krank come in; he was lost in the sea of bodies. The beeping of the heart monitor steadied itself, then picked up into a chaotic frenzy!
Chris was watching his wife, definitely more scared than Alan, who was now clutching his leg tighter. Chris began, quietly, to himself,
"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name ... Thy Kingdom come"
"Thy will be done, on earth ... sniff ... on earth as it is in Heaven."
The tears began to pour from Chris's eyes. As he prayed the background noise settled as only the steady tone of the heart monitor could be heard.
Alan was shuddering. He'd heard that sound before on television, and he knew what it meant. He was quiet, sobbing, gripping tighter, until finally he let loose with a howl and Chris bent to pick him up, hugging him hard, tears streaming through his facial fur.
Doctor Krank began CPR, carrying on until he saw that it just wasn't going to start on its own again. One by one, nurses and orderlies stepped around the curtain. Chris watched as the cheetah, tears in her eyes as well, turned off the equipment and removed the breathing tube. When Sabrina's lifeless head was rested against the pillow it rolled to one side, and it was too much to bear. Chris continued to watch, refusing to remove his eyes, blurry vision or no, as the doctor picked the corner of the sheet and pulled it up to Sabrina's neck.
The woman Chris loved so much and the mother to their child was gone.
Doctor Krank walked over and placed a paw on them both. "I'm so very, very sorry, Mr. Foxx. We did everything we could, everything."
Chris couldn't see for tears. He nodded, words choking in his throat. "I know you did ... " His voice trailed off, unsure of what else he could say ... the man did try his best to save her. "Can we ... just be ... y'know, alone for a few minutes with her?"
"Of course ... we have a minister, if you'd like I can call him."
Alan was bawling, hugging Chris and not daring to look back at the hospital bed. Chris nodded, and Doctor Krank left and tugged the curtain fully closed. He moved the seat with their coats next to the bed and blindly fell backwards into it. He pulled the sheet back again, taking one last look at Sabrina before joining Alan in the saddest moment of their lives ...
Chris was in tears on Tabitha's couch. It wasn't healthy for him to get worked up like that, but as he'd explained before to the people at the nursing home, "It proves to me she's not really gone from me. And never will be."
Taking his handkerchief from his pocket he dried what he could of his eyes, sore now from the crying. He looked back to the screen. It had ceased to be Christmas 2000 for apparently some time. Before him, Sabrina still appeared, in such size and clarity that it looked as if he were observing her through a window.
His throat felt as if someone were choking him as it tightened involuntarily. Chris forced himself to breathe deeply, but it failed to help as the invisible fist contracted even more tightly.
As he watched for what seemed the thousandth time, Sabrina nursed their infant son, stroking Alan's fur as she fed him. Chris could remember the day he captured this scene on video. Alan was only a mere two weeks old and had settled into the routine of newborn life as Sabrina and Chris doted on him.
Sabrina was unconcerned with Chris capturing this on the video by that time. She enjoyed having him around, attentive to her and their son. She looked up and smiled at the camera. On the couch, Chris' eyes filled with tears. He turned up the volume using the remote and Sabrina's voice was singing a lullaby to Alan as she rocked him in her arms. He yawned happily and closed his eyes to the soothing sounds and comforting motion of his mother and drifted off to sleep.
Chris heard his own voice come from the display. It was younger, more full of life than he sounded now. "You're a wonderful mother, Sabrina," he heard himself say as she finished her lullaby.
Sabrina smiled again as she looked up from her son. "I love you Chris," she replied softly, careful not to wake the baby. She returned her gaze to their son and crooned softly as Chris continued recording.
The scene and the disc ended and the remote slipped from Chris' limp paw. He couldn't see clearly from the tears in his eyes once more and he gave up trying to fight his way through his emotions. He balled his paws into fists and beat them against the cushions on either side of his legs as he convulsed in anguish. "I miss you Sabrina," he choked out between heaving sobs.