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I See Dead People by iiiionly

 

“Jack?”

“What?”  I answer automatically, hit the send key, glance at the new on-line balance in the checkbook, and move on to the next portfolio to check what the latest market conditions are forecasting.

“If I die, will I be with my parents?”

“What?”  That gets my attention. 

I look over at Daniel, on the floor beside the desk building something with Lego’s. 

“What did you just ask me?” 

We’ve been in my office here at home for more than an hour, me working on the computer and Daniel playing quietly on the floor.

“If I die will I be with my parents?” 

He doesn’t bother to look up, just keeps on building . . . a death glider from the looks of it.

This is so out of the blue I’m sucking air. 

“Uh . . . why?” 

Top that, Doctor Phil.   

He crowns his creation with a final piece that looks suspiciously like a gun turret, and leans back on his hands, looking it over critically.

“I just wondered.  Do you think they’re with Charlie now?” 

He adds a matching piece on the other side and picks it up to examine it closely.

He certainly has my full and undivided attention, which may have been his entire purpose.  He is occasionally sneaky that way. 

“I’ve never really thought about it,” I hedge, wondering if he really wants to know what I believe, or if he’s just looking for attention.

Which begs the question do I even know what I believe anymore?  Because explaining how I feel about God, death, and taxes to a seven-year-old may be a bit more complicated than I’m willing to tackle.

“Do you think they’re in heaven?”

“If you mean floating around on a cloud, playing a harp, kind of heaven?  Then no, I don’t think that.”  I’m careful to use his terms.  Don’t really want the word believe floating around out there.

“Where do you think they are?” 

The death glider zooms through the air, parts company with his hand, and launches into a spectacular death glide, smashing into various bits and pieces of Legos as it slams into the floor, nose first. 

“I don’t know, Daniel.  What makes you ask?”

He shrugs, shoves all the pieces into a pile and pushes up off the floor, coming to stand at the end of the desk.  He cups his chin in his hands and leans both elbows on the top, looking up at me as he asks, “What’s it like to be dead?  Does it hurt?”

“It’s never hurt any of the times I’ve been dead, at least not while I was dead, only before and after.” 

I remember the first time fairly clearly, when the Nox resurrected us.  I remember the first time with Baal more clearly than I’d like too.  

“I don’t beli -- think --” I restate, “I don’t think dead people feel anything.”

He catches me off guard, because I really expect the next question to be - you’ve been dead?

Instead he asks, “If I died and went to heaven, do you think my parents would be happy to see me?”

Now there’s a loaded question. 

“I think if they’re in any kind of state to know what’s going on down here, if Charlie and your parents are watching over us, they would be very sad if you or I died.”

“Charlie wouldn’t be happy to see you?”

Oh, yeah, my full an undivided attention. 

“Daniel, I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions.”

“So then, you don’t think my parents would be happy to see me?”

“Want to go for a ride?”

He gives me ‘the look’.  “Where?”

It’s not that Daniel is easily distracted, only that I can distract him easily.  He always comes back to whatever it is he’s driving at in the end.

“Let’s take a trip over to Charlie’s grave.  Maybe if he’s hanging around he’ll come talk to us.”

For a moment longer, Daniel eyes me.  “Okay,” he says, not in the least bit intimidated by the thought. 

Like I said, our Littlest Ancient is open to the universe in ways it’s difficult for the rest of us to comprehend. 

So now I’ve backed myself into a corner.  I’m not sure what I was after with that invitation - whether I wanted to scare him off, or motivate myself. 

It was adult Daniel who drug me to Charlie’s grave to make peace with the demons haunting my nightmares - what?  Six, seven years ago?  Before we were even really good friends.  I haven’t been back since Dr. Jackson chose to ascend.

As if by accident the finger slides into his mouth and I realize he’s not as copasetic as I supposed.

He’s chewing.  Carter says that means he’s anxious.

“Hey, it was just a thought, we don’t have to go.  I just thought maybe . . .” I push the chair back from the desk.  “You know what, Sport, I really don’t know what I was thinking.” 

Daniel scoots around the desk and sidles back up against my knees.  Without Carter’s help, I’ve figured out this means ‘hold me’.  It’s often accompanied by a look over his shoulder if I don’t comply fast enough. 

So I pick him up, swivel the chair around so we’re looking out the window into the back yard, put both arms around him and rest my chin lightly on his head as he leans back against my shoulder. 

“When Charlie first died, I often wondered where he was, if he knew what was going on down here.  Is this another one of those things you’ve been thinking about for awhile?”

Daniel says nothing, but he nods, almost imperceptibly, which means he’s been thinking about it for a long time and has very deep feelings about it.  I pull his finger gently from his mouth, dry it off on his shirt, kiss it, and tuck his hand into mine.

A very clear and sharp memory jumps up to bite me.  One of Sarah telling me all baby drool is just sugar water.  Yeah, right, drool is drool, whether it’s on a seven-month-old, or a seven-year-old.  I draw the line at kissing wet, drooly fingers.

“There are lots of different religious beliefs surrounding death.  Did you ever go to church, Daniel?” 

I know he didn’t, but I want this to be a conversation, not a lecture. 

He shakes his head.  I can see a slight reflection of us in the window and I know he’s paying attention, though he’s very still in my lap. 

“Some people think when a person dies, their soul goes to heaven, but their physical body decomposes.  Do you know what that word means?’

“Uh huh, like when there’s just dust inside the wrappings of the mummies.”

“Yes, like the dust left inside the preserved shell of the mummy.  Other people think death is like a very long sleep; both the physical body and the soul rest together in the grave.  Others think the body and soul are reincarnated in another life.  Sometimes even another life form.”

“Re - in – car . . . what?“

“nated,” I supply.  “Reincarnated.”

“What’s re-in-car-nated?”

“Well, it would be kind of like living over and over again, but without the memories of your past lives.”

“You mean like what happened to me?”

“Kinda sort of, only the people who believe in reincarnation believe you die and are born again into another body.”

“Oh.”  Daniel spots our reflection in the window and gives me a small smile and a wave when he realizes I’m watching us too.  “The ancient Egyptians believed your heart had to be weighed against a feather to see if you were allowed to go on to the underworld.”

“Yes, I know.  I’ve seen that ceremony.”

“You have?”  Daniel sits up interestedly.  “Where?”  He twists so he’s looking up at me directly.

Good one, O’Neill.  And the reason you didn’t see that one coming from a mile away? 

“On another planet, where the culture is similar to ancient Egyptian culture.”

“There’s a planet like Egypt?” 

Oh goody, at least it’s working as a distraction. 

“A lot like Egypt,” I reply, “the whole planet is desert.  It’s not as big as Earth, but the days there are a lot longer than our Earth days.”

“Why?”

“Because the planet’s sun is a lot closer than ours, which is partly why Abydos is desert.”

“But if it’s closer, wouldn’t that make it go around the planet faster?”

“Abydos orbits its sun, just like we orbit our sun, but that planet moves slower than Earth does in its rotation.” 

With any luck we can stretch out this conversation long enough to move away from death and dying.

“Did you know someone who died on that planet?”

Or not. 

Oh, well, it was worth a try.  Like I said, I can distract him easily, but he’s not easily distracted.

“Yes, I did.  I went to the funeral.”

“Was there a funeral for my parents?”

I can’t say I’m getting used to this channel switching thing he does, but at least I’m getting to the place where I can follow it fairly quickly. 

“You and I never talked about that when you were big, Daniel, so I don’t know for certain, though I’m sure there was.  I believe they’re buried in New York.”

“New York?  In the city where they died?”

“I was actually thinking the state of New York, not the city of New York, but I really don’t know.”

“Someday, can I go see where they’re buried?”

“I’m sure we can make arrangements for you to do that.”

“Okay.” 

He leans back again, grabs my hand with his other hand, and tries to work his trapped fingers free.  I let him pry one finger loose at a time, just not all of them at once.

He giggles infectiously and tries to wriggle his fingers out.  “Are we going to go see Charlie?”

“Yes, let’s.”  I stand, grab his other hand, and let him slide down my leg to the floor, his next favorite game to being whirled around by the ankles by Teal’c. 

I’ve stopped watching that game.  I feel like an overprotective mother every time they go into their routine.  I’m scared to death Teal’c’s going to drop him on his head one of these days, though evidently that thought’s never crossed Daniel’s mind.  So I close my eyes and wait for the final squeal – or alternatively the sound of Daniel’s brains spilling all over the ground.

“An adventure?”  Daniel asks brightly.

“Yeah,” I grin back. “Let’s make it an adventure.”

We’ve had several adventures.  Spur of the moment kinds of things where we pick up and go - just because. 

The first one happened kind of accidentally.  We’d had a rough couple of weeks - Daniel with nightmares and trying to get his allergy meds straightened out.  The rest of SG-1 had just started going off world again and we were still trying to work out what we were going to do with Daniel while we were gone.  He was being a cranky, whiney brat because he didn’t feel good, and not being particularly compliant for anyone we left him with.  In short, we were both exhausted that night.

I’d gotten him to bed, made sure he was sleeping soundly, and headed up to the roof to chill.  I’d lost track of all astronomical events.  Frankly, I’d lost track of the date at that point, so when the meteor shower began, it took me by surprise.  I wasn’t even using the telescope, just laying back in one of the chairs watching the sky when it started.

While we don’t have Daniel’s spectacular desert panorama, it was still a spectacular event.  So I went and got him out of bed.  We sat out for an hour, wrapped in his comforter, watching the sky fall and counting the star shower. 

Isat for another hour, listening as the night fell asleep right along with Daniel.  The hum of the crickets faded, the birds stopped twittering, the breeze died away, even the rustling of the branches stilled as all the little day creatures settled in to sleep before the little night creatures woke and ventured out. 

In the witching hour, just between sleeping and waking, I listened to Daniel’s dreams, felt the beat of his heart slow and stretch to match mine, and realized all over again we’re connected in some uniquely powerful way.

I fell asleep too.

Usually our adventures are spontaneous.  One afternoon we followed the mate of an anxious Killdeer, during a break at the top of the Cheyenne Mountain complex; then back tracked to see if we could find the nest.  It was well hidden in the tall grass, just at the edge of the clearing where the picnic tables are ensconced.  Mamma Killdeer appeared to be very unhappy her spouse’s excellent broken wing impression hadn’t fooled us. 

One Sunday morning I had an urge to fly, so we kidnapped Carter, Pete, and Teal’c, rented a small prop engine plane, and spent the day air touring Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.  

For some unknown reason the Aeronautical Board doesn’t recognize space flight hours, so it killed two birds with one stone.  I got hours toward keeping my pilot’s license current and Daniel got to see the world from a different perspective. 

Another time we pulled over next to a stream we were passing, got out the fishing tackle I keep in the back of the truck, along with a couple of camp chairs, and spent the afternoon fishing.

Mostly it’s been things we would never had taken time to do when Daniel was an adult.

So we’re off on another adventure.  I’m curious to see what tonight will bring. 

“Go get a jacket.”

Daniel scampers from the room, shooting a look of pure joy over his shoulder.  “This is gonna be so much fun,” he hollers gleefully.

Going to a graveyard at night?  I wasn’t really equating this adventure with ‘fun’ so much as . . . well, here we go again; I don’t know what I was equating it with, but I guarantee it wasn’t fun.

Dusk is stealing over the graveyard as we park in the church parking lot.  Sarah and I purposely picked a place where cars aren’t allowed.  It’s not a large cemetery, you can walk from one side to the other in about fifteen minutes, probably not even a mile square, but it’s old.  The good kind of old, not scary old, and grassy, especially in high summer like this.

Ancient, knurled trees form archways over many of the paths, spreading branches that tonight shelter thousands of softly twittering birds so the air is full of sound as we wander along the path leading to Charlie’s grave. 

Large patches of wild flowers have been cultivated and family members are encouraged to harvest their bounty so you see very few cellophane-wrapped, super-market offerings decorating the holders and vases attached to many of the headstones.

Daniel pulls at my hand, stopping to wade into the middle of a patch that comes nearly to his waist.  He picks a flower here, another two feet over, then several more with apparent randomness, before wading out to latch onto my hand again.  We do this several times before he has to let go of my hand to contain the bunch he has.  He still wants to stop, though, and add more.

“Don’t you think maybe we should leave some for the other folks who visit here?”

Daniel contemplates his armful of flowers and the nearly denuded bed around him.  “Won’t they grow back by morning?”

“It takes a little longer than that, Sport.  Want me to take those?” 

No way we could have done this if we hadn’t gotten his allergies under control.

“No,” he says, watching his feet as he detours off the path toward a large ornate headstone almost as tall as he is.

“Harold Rathborn Bailey.  Rathborn,” Daniel repeats.  “Sounds English.  1902 - 2000.  Hey. Jack, this man was almost a hundred years old.  That’s pretty old, huh?” 

Daniel squeezes the flower stems into one hand so they bleed sap and reaches to trace a small finger in the groove of the writing. 

“Beloved Father and Grandfather.”

This is a very tactile child. 

Did I just hear a duh? 

I could wish he wasn’t quite so curious, but at least at seven I have some control over where he goes and what he does. 

That was a lot more difficult at forty. 

Which, of course, is what led to Dr. Daniel Jackson’s year long-ascension.  And now to his being seven instead of forty. 

It occurs to me a healthy dose of fear might not be a bad thing to instill in Daniel Jackson.  Or perhaps, more accurately, a healthy comprehension of self-preservation. 

Now. 

While he’s still little. 

And maybe if we can figure out how to counteract this Fountain of Youth thingy he got up close and personal with, it will stick with him this time around and I won’t have to worry so much about Dr. Daniel Jackson. 

Yeah right.  Beautiful dreamer . . .

“Look,” he says now, bending at the waist to peer at a moss covered stone embedded in the grass.  “Oh.”  He folds at the knees, holding the now somewhat squashed bouquet out to the side as he squats, knees to chest, ass to ankles, and brushes away debris from the top of the stone.  His finger traces the raised brass lettering.   “This is a little girl, Jack.  She was only four when she died.  See, it says Eloisa Carrera, our Precious Darling.” 

He rises effortlessly, studies his bouquet for a second and pulls out something pink and dainty. 

“Here, Eloisa,” he says, probably exactly like it’s supposed to sound.  “Even though you died a long time ago, you deserve a flower too.” 

He lays it carefully over the gravestone where no one will step on it accidentally, transfers the mass of flowers to his other hand, and reaches up to take my hand again.

Hope there are some Wipes in the car, ‘cause now we both have sticky, sap covered hands.

“Are we almost there?”

“We have to leave the path in just a few more feet and cut across the grounds right . . . over here.”

We duck under the branches of a weeping willow and find ourselves momentarily enclosed in a leafy bower where dusk has become deep twilight. 

Trapped, or maybe living, inside the bower are thousands of fireflies.

“Oooo,” Daniel says, pulling on my hand.  “Faeries!” 

He stops, lets go, and turns slowly in a circle, head back, gazing in awed fascination at the twinkling specs of light. 

No concert laser display, no fire works, or light show I’ve ever seen can compare to the dizzily twirling, turning, twisting, complex patterns pulsating with light here in the depths of our bower tonight, where Mother Nature, - and I don’t mean Oma Desala -  is putting on a private exhibition for just the two of us.

“Then we’d better watch out for orcs and goblins.”

“Oh, no, orcs and goblins live in caves and other places deep inside the earth,” Daniel answers seriously.  “They can’t come near a place like this, there’s too much magic here.”

Too much magic here?  It’s not magic, it’s the ancientness of the Earth swelling up to enfold one of its own, drawing him into the enchantment. 

Me?  I’m just a bystander, a lucky sonuvabitch who just happens to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right companion. 

This wouldn’t have happened if I’d come alone.
 
A squadron of fireflies light on the back of Daniel’s closed fist.  He lifts it reverently to his face, as if to breathe a blessing on them, slowly opens his hand and spreads his fingers.  On cue, the fireflies choose their individual runways and like fighter pilots, launch themselves from the ends of the slender fingers. 

Moats of dimples crease Daniel’s cheeks as he turns to me with a very gentle smile.  “Oooo,” he says again, eyes wide.

I know he eventually grows into the dimples and the eyes, because I know what he looks like grown up.  I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take, because no one can resist him when he turns those eyes and those dimples on us.  Fortunately, for those of us in charge of his welfare, his needs are simple and usually easily met with a hug or a kiss, or sometimes just a smile of understanding. 

I smile now, hold out my hand again, and we meander on, pushing delicately through the trailing branches, raising swarms of fireflies that form into miniature lanterns that wink out behind us.

Charlie’s grave is set apart from the others, partly because we have two additional plots, partly because we chose this remote corner so we would have some privacy to mourn the loss of our child, and eventually, our dreams, though neither Sarah nor I saw the road we were headed down. 

I was too busy being pigheaded about my own guilt and grief to realize Sarah was trying to reach out to me; that she needed me to share, to mingle my grief with hers.  Too busy hiding behind the macho Air Force Colonel facade to understand the grief inflicted on our marriage needed an outlet as well.  

Charlie’s headstone is neither large, nor ornate.  Daniel takes a moment to arrange his bouquet in the vase that sits on the base of the stone, wipes his sticky hands on his jeans, and bends down to pick up the worn leather baseball glove also gracing the base of the stone. 

After nine years of exposure to snow and ice and rain and sleet and hail, you’d think that glove would have disintegrated. 

Curious that it hasn’t.

It was already well worn when adult Daniel handed it to me when we got out of the car all those years ago.  He never gave me any explanation for where he’d found it, or why he’d brought it, just handed it over and said, ‘I’ll be back in awhile,’ plucked the car keys out of my hands, got back in the car, and disappeared for two hours.

I wanted to be furious with him; wanted desperately to be mad as hell.  Any emotion, to fill the empty space that welled up in me when he turned and left me standing there, would have been good.  I could cheerfully have murdered him in that instant.  Fortunately for both of us, I had no weapon but my bare hands and I was sane enough to recognize his death was not worth spending the rest of my life in jail. 

While I wasn’t exactly ready to thank him when he sat down beside me here at Charlie’s grave, I had managed to work out that some of the emptiness I was hanging on to needed to get packed up and donated to the Salvation Army.  I was holding on to it because it was familiar and comfortable, and like every other red-blooded American male who can’t let go of that worn-out shirt in the closet, couldn’t imagine being without it.

“He needs a ball, Jack,” my pint-sized Daniel says now.  “It’s hard to play with just a glove.” 

He smacks a fist into the glove, tries to squeeze it shut and finds his small hand unequal to the task.

“Next time we come we’ll bring a ball, okay?”

“Okay.”  Daniel plops down in the grass next to the headstone and reaches to finger the script here as well.  “Charles Jonathan O’Neill, 1983 - 1994.  How come there’s nothing else written on here, Jack?”

I lower myself carefully to sit on my heels and reach a hand, like Daniel, to trace the script on the headstone. 

“I didn’t know what to say,” I hear myself respond in a tone even to me sounds dull and lifeless. 

“What would you say now?” Daniel prompts after a moment.

It takes me a minute to pull it out.  “We miss you.”

“Charlie would have liked that.”

“Ya think?”  I look up at the change in voice, blink, shake my head, rub my eyes, and drop back on my ass. 

“Hey, Jack.”

Despite the fact he looks real, and solid, I know he can’t be.  He’s sitting on the relatively insubstantial headstone, dressed in that damned cream sweater and khaki slacks.  Not to mention the fact corporeal little Daniel is sitting two feet from where I smacked down in the evening dew-spangled grass.

I get up, shake my head again, ineffectually swipe at my damp ass, and look over at my kid. 

Little Daniel has what looks like an old bottle of conditioner and is engrossed in trying to rehab the weather damaged glove.  He’s no longer paying the least bit of attention to anything around us and I look back at adult Daniel, who’s also watching little Daniel.

“You’re not dead!  What the hell are you doing here?”

“No . . . no, I’m not.”  Daniel glances at me, then back at himself with the baseball glove and smiles.  “Thanks.” He looks back at me, still smiling. 

I blink again, certain I’m hallucinating, and as positive as I was that day in the elevator that all I took was some aspirin. 

“For what?”

He shrugs.  “For . . . you know . . . this.”  He nods in little Daniel’s direction.

For the moment I ignore ‘this’.  We’ll get back to that. 

“If you’re not dead, how the hell are you doing this?”

“I’m not.  He is.”

“He is?” I parrot dumbly.

“Parlor tricks for an Ancient, Jack.  He doesn’t even know he’s doing it.” Daniel frowns.  “Or would that be I don’t even know I’m doing it?”

“I’m thinking the more pertinent question would be ‘why’ are you doing it?”

“I told you, I’m not.  I don’t know why he’s doing it, but I should tell you while I can, it’s okay if you guys can’t figure out how to fix it this time.”

I feel both eyebrows hit the hairline.  “You’re good with this?  The adult you is okay with this?”  I repeat incredulously.

Daniel shrugs.  “It’s incredibly freeing actually.”

I borrow a Daniel mannerism; cross my arms over my chest, close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. 

“How so?” I inquire as mildly as possible.

“Well, for one thing he’s got so much less baggage he’s carrying around.  He feels . . . no . . . I feel a lot lighter.”

“We noticed that.”  I drop my hand and open my eyes again.  “And?”

“And what?”

“And what else?  Surely that’s not enough to make this okay.  Daniel, you’re seven!”

“Kinda cute, huh?”

Little Daniel chooses that moment to look up and smile at me.  Swear to God it’s the exact same smile on his counterpart’s face.  And then he’s immersed again, uselessly trying to work conditioner into the ruined leather. 

“Can you get to the point here?”

“There is no point.  I don’t know why he’s doing this.  Wonder how long he can keep it up?”

“Knowing you, indefinitely.  Are you telling me you want to stay little?”

“Uhm . . .”

It sure looks like he’s giving it some thought. 

“Not really,” he says finally.  “I’d be just as happy to be big again.”

“And?  So?”  I repeat, watching adult Daniel fiddle with the translucent woven fishing line that encircles the little finger on his left hand.

“Jack, I don’t have an agenda.”

“Are you doing this with Carter and Teal’c, too?”

“Hello?  I’m not doing this,” Daniel repeats emphatically. 

“Why here?  Why now?”

Daniel steals back his pose; arms crossed, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

“I really hate that you don’t listen to me.”  He looks up with that ‘oh, wow’ look of discovery.  “See, that’s another good thing going on here, you’ve learned to listen to him.”

“I listen to you,” I grumble, thinking ‘ouch’.

“Yeah, you did, for about two weeks after I got back.”

“That’s not true . . . it was at least a month.”

He shrugs, “All right, I’ll give you a month.  It didn’t take you a month to learn to listen to him.”

“Oh, for cryin’ out loud, Daniel, this is ridiculous. I’m arguing with a you that, for all practical purposes, doesn’t exist anymore.  And if you don’t want to be big again, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m guessing you won’t be.”

“If you’re thinking I have some magic secret I’m withholding from you guys to turn me back into an adult, guess again.  Because I don’t.”

“All right, all right, let’s not argue, period.  Think, Daniel.  Do you know what happened that day?”

“Uh, Jack, I think he’s losing . . .” Daniel becomes more insubstantial than the grave stone for a moment, then once again coalesces.  “. . . so anyway, thank you.”

We’re back to ‘this’ and there’s obviously not much time.  “Yeah, about that . . . thank you for ‘this’?”

He doesn’t even pretend to misunderstand.  “It’s different.  Maybe as adults we’ve spent so long convincing ourselves what we don’t need, we sometimes miss it . . . you know?  You guys all did it to me before, I just didn’t recognize it.  There were lots of, ‘Daniel, put that damn artifact away, it’s time to play; or Daniel, it’s time to eat; and Daniel, go to bed.’  More commands, less hugs and kisses, but I understand now they’re both the same thing.”

I squeeze my eyes shut on a sigh.  Why is it we have to learn everything the hard way? 

“We need you back the way you were, D.J.”

“I’ll try to let you know if I run across anything,” he says, glancing again at little Daniel.  “Think I’m . . .” he fades to a wisp of a shadow, but I’ve had lots of practice lip reading in our line of work, “going now,” he says, lifting a hand.  “See ya.”

For a minute I just stand, head hanging down, breathing deeply.  And then a small hand slides into mine.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Daniel?”  One more deep breath and I’m able to look at him again.

“Does coming here make you sad?”

“Yes.  And no.”

He looks up at me, waiting.  No doubt for an explanation I don’t have.

“You ready to go?”  I ask, turning us both in the direction of the path and starting that way without waiting for an answer.

“Okay,” Daniel follows.  He has no choice, I’m still holding his hand, but he tugs me to a standstill before we reach the path. “Jack?”

“What, Daniel?”

“Do you think Charlie would mind if I borrowed this?”  He holds up the glove.

I don’t have to take it to see it’s been restored to mint condition, but I reach for it anyway and slide my hand inside.  It’s a bit of a squeeze, Charlie’s hands were still much smaller than mine, but the glove over my palm is supple, resilient again. 

“Did you do this, Daniel?”  I don’t know if I’m asking big Daniel or little Daniel.

“No.  He did.”  Daniel glances over his shoulder.

My gaze follows automatically.  “Then, why don’t you ask him yourself?” 

A young man just on the cusp of adulthood stands beside Charlie’s gravestone.  He lifts a hand, smiles, and gives us a wink and a thumbs-up.

My kid’s grown up?  I have to admit that thought never occurred to me.  I blink hard.  The image is just slightly fuzzy, as though someone has applied a soft focus filter to a camera lens.

“I’ll bring it back when I’m done with it, Charlie,” Daniel promises.

The smile widens briefly and he nods, then turns and walks away.

When I open my eyes again every tree and bush in the park seems to be covered with winking, blinking fireflies, lighting the gentle darkness spread like a warm blanket over the cemetery.

Neither of us have anything to say as Daniel and I walk slowly, hand in hand, back to the car. 

Really, there is nothing to say.  It’s pretty much all been said tonight.

 

~*~

 

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