The sudden light made Tamora squint as she ran out of the tower. She only made it a few yards before falling to her knees again; her whole frame shaking. They had made it, but she still didn't know what to do. She looked down at Felix, his condition reminding her why she had forbidden herself.
"Wake up," her voice was shaky and weak, and she shook him slightly again. Not knowing what she would do if he didn't. This was her worst fear, and she had thought she had had enough pain in her life and that there was no more room, but she wrong. There was room, so much room.
Felix's eyes somewhat opened and held her gaze, but they looked distant. Drained… almost dead, but she knew that if he had the strength he would tell her not to worry. Because that's what he always said when things went wrong. Don't worry… Calhoun bowed her head. How stupid had she been to think that bringing him out here would save him. It had done nothing.
She felt Felix move under her, and looked up to find his eyes slightly brighter than before. He looked around at the open space slowly and then back at her, "We made it." he breathed almost happily, if happy could sound dead. His response surprised her.
"Yes Felix, but it's not over," A sob escaped her as a feeling collected in her gut and slowly and painfully moved up to her chest, where it curled around and felt like a hook trying to be pulled out, tearing and ripping all the way. "It's not over." She clutched his shirt not caring as the tears spilled.
"No, Tammy," He sniffled back, and weakly held her fist. Tamora heard the bitter realization in his gentle voice and knew. Another cry broke through her lips. He couldn't be giving up could he? Emotions spilled over and the tears and wails began to fully come out, something she'd never done before. She placed her head against his chest and began rocking him back and forth not knowing what else to do. It hurt more than she could stand, because when you love someone that much, what do you do when you lose them? What happens when they leave?
Calhoun suddenly heard heavy familiar footsteps, the sound startling her. She hadn't expected anyone to come. Her own men were gone for the night, but then again it had been too long to be in Hero's duty, and she should have guessed Ralph would come looking for them. He worried too, not as much as her, but still. Calhoun stopped moving, cut the tears, and slowly straightened up; her eyes flickered to Ralph.
"What's wrong?" his voice urgent and followed by a cry of shock, "Felix!" Ralph circled to stand next to Calhoun. His voice trembled and was thick with worry.
Ralph saw his friend in Calhoun's arms and knew that if he was this bad it was because there was no way around it, and he didn't even want to analyze Calhoun. Just the fact that she was actually crying was enough. "Is he?" Ralph looked like he was about to collapse, his hands hovering over Felix in an attempt to help but he was too afraid to do anything; Felix looked so broken. He tried to see if he could spot his hammer, but it wasn't there and he didn't dare ask where it went.
"No." it almost came out as a growl and she stiffly stood up, tearing her eyes away from Felix to face the giant man. Felix was still conscious, but barely. His moist pained eyes moved to look at Ralph and it looked like he wanted to say something, but he was too drained to even smile. Ralph didn't need words to know what his brother wanted though.
"Calhoun, I'm sorry…" he fumbled while trying to stay calm for her. Even though he himself felt like collapsing and weeping too, "It's not your fault," He reached out to try and help her, but wasn't sure if he should, but one more look at Felix pushed him to try. He rested a gentle hand on her shoulder, trying to mimic Felix's gentle manner, "There was nothing you could have done."
Ralph's words suddenly infuriated her. "Don't!" She barked at him and shook his hand off. Her reaction caused Ralph took a step back, "DON'T!" she repeated, because she knew what he was thinking, and she didn't want him to do even that. Ralph felt a mixture of surprise, and anger build up, and his hands turned into fists out of habit. He didn't know what he had said to make her yell like that. "He's going to be fine!" She snarled, "Now stop babying him and shape up!" her volume made her throat raw but she had to yell, she had to be able to hear herself to keep from shattering into pieces.
Ralph saw how Felix winced every time she yelled, and wanted the argument to stop but his temper got the best of him, "No, he's not!" he yelled back, "How can you even say that?!" He stood over her, trying to be convincing, but she didn't back off, her eyes tight with some emotion he couldn't pinpoint. "Open your eyes Sergeant! He's dying!" His words tasted bitter and crude, tears slipping out as he spoke them, but if that's what he had to say to get her to snap out of it then so be it.
"Shut up!" she growled back, "Shut up! You don't know that!" lies, lies, lies. That's all they were and she knew it, but she wanted to believe them, and if no one was going to support her she would do it alone.
A small gasp broke the fight; the gasp of a little girl. Neither of them had noticed her as she took her place by Ralph. Ralph had left her outside of Hero's Duty, but it was taking too long for him to come back. Sad that something so hard had led her to them, and what she saw didn't make it better. Felix, or at least she thought it was Felix, was abnormally pale, and randomly splashed with red. Vanellope immediately looked away as soon as she saw him, and didn't understand, but the look of concern and tears in Ralph's features, and the torture in Calhoun's posture was enough to give her the hint.
Ralph quickly turned to face her, deep grief taking the place of his anger. "Go home Vanellope," He was firm but not harsh, he was worried. Vanellope didn't need to witness this.
"What's going on?" softly she asked, and put a hand on Ralph her eyes still averting Felix. Not needing or wanting an answer, because she had heard what they said. Still she couldn't believe it, nothing bad could ever happen to Felix, because he was Felix.
"Nothing." Calhoun confirmed the lie she wanted, but was betrayed when Felix coughed again, this time a few specks of blood came out. He curled in pain and gripped her hand; the gesture made Calhoun feel something inside her rip.
"Go home," Ralph repeated more strictly, but not hiding the hurt in his voice. He stood in front of the sergeant and Felix to keep her from seeing more. It felt wrong telling her to leave, but she was nine years old for crying out loud! She didn't need this.
"No!" She clasped her hands together and fought the tears; her whole body pixelating. She'd never seen death, nothing close, but she loved Felix too and even though she couldn't stomach it, she wanted to stay. Her face turned red with emotion and she tried to look over Ralph but fear stopped her. She couldn't look at Felix, it made her too sick, but she couldn't just run away. Her vision blurred as her eyes flooded, "I'm not leaving!" She hooked onto Ralph's huge hand and pretended to be brave, but her whole body was quivering.
Ralph kneeled down and scooped her up in a hug protectively. Everything was wrong. This shouldn't be happening, but Vanellope was right, and if anyone had the right to be here it was her. "Alright kid." He tenderly agreed, and turned to face Calhoun and Felix again.
"Are we going to say goodbye?" Vanellope asked innocently and looked up at Calhoun while wiping a tear with her sleeve. She knew that's why Ralph had let her stay. If there was anything that could be done he would have told her. The tears continued to sting her eyes and her throat tightened like it did before she cried.
Calhoun felt something snap at her words. Everything constricting as she remembered the first time and how she had promised it would be the last. She looked at Felix, her determination growing. There would be no goodbyes, no remembrances, and no missing pieces. He was still breathing; there was still time.
Tamora took a step towards Ralph and he slightly leaned back almost afraid of what she would do. The sergeant was so hard to understand because she never told anyone how she felt, she just took action.
Calhoun got really close and her expression changed into something mournful. She looked at Ralph, her eyes speaking for her. She was going to finally come to terms with the reality that was set before them. Ralph put Vanellope down and waited for Calhoun to say something, but instead she slowly pulled Felix away from her and towards him.
"What?" He put his hands in front of him when he realized what she wanted, "No…I can't…I don't…" but Sergeant Calhoun didn't move. She just held Felix out, the same grave expression on her face. He noticed her arms shaking. He glanced at Vanellope, and she patted his arm and nodded, not sure herself of what was going on. With a deep breath Ralph held out his hands.
Felix didn't open his eyes, but the hold he had on Tamora's hand didn't loosen as she reluctantly handed him over. If he was going to die, he wanted her close. Tamora saw him grimace from her abandonment. She squeezed his hand, but let go.
Ralph fell to his knees after the exchange wanting to hold Felix closer to the ground so he didn't drop him. It all felt so awkward, Ralph couldn't care for anything, and Felix was so close to death he was afraid that if he breathed too hard he would kill him. He looked up at Calhoun for some kind of direction, but her hardened expression instantly returned after the gesture.
"Anything happens to him and you're next." She spat with full intention, and turned to leave, not wanting to wait for a protest, an explanation, or a rush of emotion to stop her, but instead she felt something weakly grab her hand. She turned back ready to defuse the pitiful attempt, but when she saw Vanellope she couldn't.
She was looking down, her candied hair covering her face, and her small body slumping. "Don't…" it was a simple plea, so soft it was almost inaudible. Vanellope knew what Sergeant Calhoun was going to do, because she knew her, and Vanellope didn't want Tamora to try and play hero all alone. She wanted her to stay, to help her through it, and maybe it was selfish, but she was afraid. "Please…we need you." it was a beg, a beg for protection that Tamora wanted to give more than anything, especially to her; but then she saw Felix from the corner of her eye; his face twisted in agony, his breath's choppy, blood still trickling out. The decision was made before she could feel anything.
Still, it was taking her too long to react and Sergeant Calhoun did something then that she knew she would hate. She ripped her hand away from Vanellope, harder than she needed to, and heard Vanellope give a gasp of disbelief and hurt from the harsh movement. It had probably taken too much strength to even ask her to stay. Tamora felt the hook in her chest again wriggling and sinking in and out of her flesh. "Not this time." She spoke to the ground not being able to look at her because if she did, she would stay. Tamora tightened her hand into a fist and ran away from them, back into the tower. Her eyes were still dry, but not for long. The only thought that kept her moving was that she was doing this for all of them; and because she loved them she was going to find that hammer.
"Calhoun, stop!" She could hear Ralph yelling and Vanellope's sobs, but she ignored them. Nothing was going to change her mind. Not this time.