Derringer's father was the type of man who was both tough yet tender, a rare duality that was split between the Aragon siblings.
Remington had always been the gentle one. Derrin could clearly remember him rescuing a bird she'd 'accidentally' injured with a BB gun, one of her first attempts with a firearm. He had taken the animal inside, and unsuccessfully tried to nurse it back to health. The small creature's death plagued him for weeks, and he walked around with a heaviness that was quite reminiscent of times when their father returned home from work, carrying guilt from victims he could not save.
But Derrin was the strong one, a fortress built by skinned knees and hard knocks. Even as life's gales blew and rattled its windows, she stood firm. This attitude made her precociously aware of other's needs, and she was often a problem solver, not easily manipulated by feelings as Remington could be.
"I hate hospitals." she muttered, readjusting the visitors badge that was affixed to her chest. The ward attempted to be cheery, with it's brightly colored walls and handmade decorations created by well meaning volunteers for the upcoming holiday. Still, there was something about the nature of the institution that could not be disguised, and it made the corridor's yellow hue almost sickly, the fact that the construction paper crafts were drooping, obvious.
Her guest heeded her two word command as Derrin knocked lightly at her father's open door.
"It's me." she replied, coming to sit on the edge of his bed.
"That's a good look on you." he remarked, touching the sleeve of her brand new auxiliary uniform. The statement brought a wave of unexpected emotion that she forced down with a cough.
Her father was not getting any better -- the words hospice and palliative care were thrown around a lot when the social worker described his condition. She knew that it was his dream that she, too, followed in her footsteps and join the NYPD. But it was painfully clear that there was a possibility that he might not even see her graduate high school, and with that fact in mind, Derrin quit rifle team, instead taking a position as a volunteer officer at their local precinct.
"Dad, Remy's here."
"Remington?" His face darkened. "What does he want?"
"To see you, silly." she replied, trying to lighten his mood.
"C'mon, that was six years ago."
"I said no, Derringer."
"Daddy - "
"End of discussion."
"I've asked him to come here." she began. "He's taken time away from his career, his family, to visit and end this animosity between you two." When he didn't immediately respond she added, "You know Remington was never into law enforcement. What you were pressuring him into was unfair."
"Unfair?" he repeated incredulously. "It's unfair that I was encouraging him to pursue something with stability? A respectable profession? Not to mention the money he took when he ran off?"
"You're mad about five-hundred dollars? He can more than pay you back."
"You're missing the principle."
"And you're missing out on time with your family. Time you don't exactly have."
"Derringer, please. "
"If you die before clearing the air between you two I'll never forgive you."
"I mean it." she said, rising and smoothing out her clothes. "End of discussion." Her boots smacked against the floor, as if adding emphasis to her ultimatum.
"Harsh words, daddy's princess." Remington teased once she had exited the room.
"Oh, shut up. I said it for your benefit."
"Our benefit." he corrected, adjusting a downy haired baby in the carrier he wore.
Derrin smiled, leaning over to kiss the sleeping infant's forehead. "More for him than you, to be honest."
"Ouch." he grinned. Then, seriously, "It means a lot either way. Thanks."
She waved it off, and left, giving the father, son, and grandson some much needed alone time.
Snowfall dusted the quiet graveyard, laying blankets of white over the sleeping souls. Derringer shivered, suffering quietly as Remington crouched down, placing a smooth pebble on the gray tombstone. He held that position for a moment, lost in his own prayers or thoughts before standing up and placing an arm around his younger sister.
"Ma, here's Derry, all grown up." He paused for a moment, as if waiting for an answer. "She used to call you that, you know."
"That or Celine."
"She loved the way it sounded. Derringer Celine Aragon. Something strong and soft at the same time."
She shifted her weight, now having to use the bathroom. "I know, Remy."
He picked up on the note of irritation in her voice but misinterpreted its origins. "I'm sorry, Der. I know you were too young to remember her...and this is probably more of an annoyance than anything else."
"It's not." she replied, putting her arm around his waist and squeezing him. "And I do remember a few things."
A sight smile. "Do you?"
She really didn't, at least she thought she didn't -- it was hard to distinguish what was truly a memory and what was created by anecdotes she had heard growing up. Still, she knew that Remington was very close to their mother, and this being her first memorable visit to her resting place pressed her into telling a white lie.
"I remember her coming to pick me up after her shift." she began. "And how starchy her uniform used to feel against my face as she carried me to the car. And the way her perfume always lingered on you after a hug..."
It was enough for Remington, who blotted his eyes with the sleeve of his coat. "I still miss her every day."
A silence settled over the two for a moment.
Then, "She wouldn't want you to go, Remy."
"I gotta, Der. It's either that or Dad's gonna put me out with the way things are headin', you see?" His Brooklyn accent smacked, heightening his matter of fact tone.
"Because he's tryna' live vicariously through me, and it's not gonna happen. He's had his glory days."
Her ten year old mind stumbled across the word, but she got his gist. "But I -- she'll miss you."
He looked down at his sister now, whose eyes were watering from the sting of the cold and emotion.
"I'm going to miss you too."
"Will you visit?"
"As often as I can."
He didn't - but his postcards did - colorful pictures with hasty sentences scribbled on the back. She'd reply with neatly printed missives, only to be disappointed when the envelopes reappeared, marked returned to sender. Eventually she'd given up, barely giving his long distance notes a second glance, tossing them in her schoolbag where they made their way to the bottom among crumpled doodles and broken pens.
Until the diagnosis.
After playing and replaying the message on the answering machine to make sure she had heard right, Derringer dropped her knapsack and sank to the floor, spilling its contents across the cold kitchen tile. Through blurry eyes she looked for Remington's most recent correspondence, finding it wedged in-between the pages of her Biology notebook. Tearing a clean sheet from the back, she began her message.
Dad's got cancer. she began, the sentence barely legible due to her shaking hands. I think you should come see him. She bit the end of the pen before adding, It's what Mom would want you to do.
A week or so passed, and Derringer checked the mail dutifully, half expecting her letter to boomerang back like it always did. After a month of playing the waiting game she threw in the towel, slamming the metal door of the mailbox shut with a mixture of frustration and disappointment. She trudged up the stairs, chucking her bookbag in the doorway on top of a pair of unfamiliar shoes.
Derrin did a double take.
Then calling out tentatively, "Remy?"
Separate names with a comma.