Disclaimer: Buffyverse characters belong to Joss Whedon and their associated studio owners: Mutant Enemy, Fox, and etcetera. Any other characters in this one are mine.Twelve Black Roses...Arlington National Cemetary; Arlington, Virginia...
The sound of footsteps on the hard walkway drew the elderly man gradually out of his solitary thoughts with a frown. Arlington, Virginia was a long, long trip for him these days, and the rare times that he was able to come to visit the grave site of his grandson were precious to him. Even knowing it was foolish of him to expect to have this time completely to himself, he couldn't help a slight flash of resentment from having to share this brief time spent communing with his dead. Glancing up from where he knelt by the grave, he spied a young woman, possibly in her mid twenties, searching almost hesitantly through the headstones, pausing to glance briefly at the markers.
He pushed the uncharitable feeling away and nodded slightly to himself. Another person who'd lost a family member, or perhaps a loved one, to the seemingly endless chain of conflict that helped to populate this place with the bones of the honored dead. Drawn here by the need to speak one last time with the fallen, or to attempt to gain some final understanding of the loss. Something he could definitely understand.
The young woman slowly wandered through the rows of white tombstones, pausing on occasion to check a name before moving on. A vision in black: dark hair, black hose, and black leather dress jacket, skirt and dressy boots - she seemed almost to draw shadow to her despite the late afternoon sunlight. Cradling a tissue wrapped sheaf of flowers in the crook of one arm, her search brought her at last to a particular stone where she stood for a long moment, her head bowed slightly.
After a seemingly endless time, she knelt beside the graveside with what might have been a sigh, reaching out a hand to trace the lettering on the headstone with one finger. She didn't seem to notice his still presence some three or four graves over and one or two up from the one she'd settled beside - or else didn't care about the unintentional intrusion.
"Hey there," she drew her hand back, letting it fall across one knee. "Not completely sure why I'm here, guy... or what to say to you." Some trick of the still air carried the softly spoken words clearly across the short distance. He held himself very still, not wishing to draw attention to his inadvertent eavesdropping and possibly embarrass the both of them.
She was silent for a time, regarding the mute stone, before continuing. "Feels kinda funny to have a conversation like this, y'know?" She laughed softly, "I mean... I talk to dead people all the time these days, but.... this is kinda different. For one thing, you're not trying to take a bite out of me."
"Guess that doesn't make much sense to you, huh? S'ok. Wouldn't make much sense to a lot of people. No big." There was a brief moment of quiet before she continued. "You never knew me, and I never knew who you were. You were just a last name my mom stuck on my birth certificate for some reason... never knew why, and she never said."
"Kinda funny when you think about it. You're not
my dad. She was pretty clear about that
when I made the mistake of asking one time. Punctuated it pretty sharp, too."
The woman's eyes went distant for a time, and then she shook her head and turned back to the stone. "Guess you had some kinda connection, though. I wouldn't be here now, except... my grandfather died. Mom's dad. Never really knew him, either. Our family wasn't much for family
, if you get what I mean... Don't know if you ever met him? No big. Anyway... he had some things that she left behind - oh, sorry. Guess I forgot to say: she's dead, too. Well, you may know that, but maybe not. Don't know if people run into each other wherever you're at. Anyway... "
After trailing off, she picked up the monologue where she'd left it. "Yeah, well... there was this picture of her when she was young. Pretty sharp looking lady. Never woulda figured that from the way she was later." There was a silence for a moment, then, "Sorry. You probably don't know... mom was a drunk and a tramp and a hitter. Sorry to say, but there ya go. Don't know if you ever knew it. Never would have guessed she was some looker when you knew her, but there it was. Had a worn pic of her and you together, her in a nice dress and you all in your dress uniform. Signed on the back - that's how I finally found you here. She even had your service number on it in her handwriting, under your name and sig... "
"Damn. Don't know why my voice is getting hoarse here," the young woman paused and ran the back of her free hand across her eyes, in almost an angry gesture. "Not like she really meant much to me. You either, y'know? You were just a name I never could figure out... then again, at least you left me something. Not like pop ever did, whoever he was."
"Anyway... after grandpa died, it took awhile for the lawyer to track me down and let me know. I... travel a lot, you see? But they finally did, and I almost told them to go ahead and burn mom's crap, but I didn't. And there ya go. A cop friend of mine took the name and the service number and tracked it down, and here we are, finally."
She drew a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "I am not going to cry over you, ok? If that's what you need... just forget it. Ain't the crying type. Looks of things... it's a bit late for it to do either of us any good, anyway. But.... "
She laid the bouquet on the grave, and took a small rectangular object from the inside pocket of her jacket and leaning over, set it gently against the headstone. "I just wanted to say 'Thank you'. You never knew me, but you gave me your last name whether you knew it or not, whether you even wanted to or not, and that means something. Not sure what... but it means something."
"Not sure you'd be happy with all the things I did while wearing it, but that's the way of things." She rose gracefully and spent a long last moment looking down, hands clenched at her side. "Kinda wish we'd had a chance to find each other before this. Going by this... looks like you were a bit of a hero. There's a few folks out there that manage to delude themselves into thinking I'm one, sometimes. Heh. Maybe we'd have had something to talk about, hey?" She chuckled softly, "'Course, I'd of been kinda young in '93... "
"Anyway... " She shook her head, gently, and ran her eyes across the tombstone and the inscription one last time. "Just want to say 'Thanks', and to let you know that someone remembered you, even if she wasn't much." There was a short pause and then she added softly, "You take care of yourself, wherever you are. Rest ye gentle, sleep ye sound."
With that last, she stepped back away from the grave, turned and walked off back in the direction from which she'd come, her strides getting longer and faster with each step until she was lost from sight down the curving pathway.
The old man followed her curiously with his eyes until she disappeared, standing very still by the grave he'd come to visit. The attractive girl and her quiet monologue had piqued his interest in spite of the somber reflections he'd been wrapped in. Curious, he ambled over to the grave and spent a few quiet moments looking down at the headstone and the inscription, and the two items she'd let behind.
A simple inscription:Lt. Michael Lehane, US Army
1958 - 1993
Killed in Action
Posthumously Awarded the Silver Star
"He died saving others... "
Laying upon the grave was a small bouquet of a dozen Black Baccara roses with black ivy berries in red tissue. Resting at the base of the headstone and leaning against it was a small, gold framed photo of a young woman, dark haired and eyed. A glamour headshot, breathtakingly lovely - the photographer had managed somehow to capture both a dark fierceness and an underlying vulnerability in the subject. He had to kneel and lean forward to read the small handwritten inscription at the bottom right corner..."Faith Michelle LeHane. For the gift of a name... Thank you."
He straightened slowly, careful of old knees, and stood for a long time in the fading afternoon sunlight gazing in the direction in which she'd strode away. Wondering.